Above the note C5 at rehearsal mark (3rd measure below): is the line a part of the number 4 or part of the articulation (the dot on top of the note)?

First Line, 3rd Bar, Treble Clef, First Note


4 Answers 4


This means to separate the note, but not as sharply as with a full staccato. The tenuto line’s distance is just to avoid the staff line. It’s unrelated to the finger number.

An example of staccato-tenuto can be seen and heard in the below YouTube video of Kabalevsky's "Early Morning Exercises". The link is set to the beginning of the piece (1:42); the articulation first occurs at 2:20.

  • 2
    Source: Elaine Gould, Behind the Bars (p. 115).
    – Jos
    Apr 22 at 16:23
  • 1
    @Jos thanks. I’ll see if there’s a good quote to add once I can get to my copy.
    – Aaron
    Apr 22 at 16:25
  • @GratefulDisciple Cool. Here's a YouTube video with score. The piece itself starts at 1:42, and the staccato-tenutos first appear at 2:20.
    – Aaron
    Apr 23 at 3:39

It's not part of the number. Tenuto but staccato. Full length, but a space between notes. This has a specific meaning as a bowing instruction for string instruments. For keyboard, you might well ask yourself 'so how is this different to 'play normally?', and it would be a good question! Might make a bit more sense used on a series of repeated notes.

It wasn't used on the very similar phrase two bars earlier. A (very) subtle intended difference, or just sloppy notation? Don't over-think it!

  • I also noticed the normal quaver in 4th bar and the (almost parallel) triplet quaver in 5th bar. It makes me think the subtle difference you picked up is probably intended.
    – Peter
    Apr 23 at 3:05
  • What is the specific instruction for bowed instruments?
    – gidds
    Apr 23 at 21:16

It's almost a contradiction in terms. The tenuto mark means hold the note for its full length, or leaving a slight separation with the following note. But then the staccato dot means play the note shorter than written.

However, when both are displayed, it lengthens the note. Ref. Elaine Gould, Behind Bars. Named portato, and more generally used when playing bowed instruments, not so easy to execute on piano, which this music is written for.

  • 1
    You say portato… Apr 23 at 11:44
  • @BrianTHOMAS - it's so much more professional than 'spud'...
    – Tim
    Apr 23 at 11:48

This mark means the composer doesn't trust you to play the piece nicely but still wants to micromanage you from beyond the grave.

It's worth noting that the line symbol - tenuto - does not mean smooth as is commonly asserted. It means slightly detached, because if you really wanted the notes as smooth as possible you would just slur them together - any professional classical musician will tell you this.

  • This seems half-irrelevant because the "tenuto with staccato", as in the question, means something substantially different from the regular tenuto you mention.
    – Dekkadeci
    Apr 26 at 16:56

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