Tenuto/Dash symbol

Sample score with this symbol: enter image description here Can anyone specify the name of the particular symbol above the crotchet in the top image and everything marked in red in the sample piece of music? According to Wikipedia it's called a Tenuto but my teacher said it's called a "dash". Which one is correct? Or are both names correct?

Second of all, how exactly do you play it? I read up on it in wikipedia and it was somewhat confusing. Could someone specify with examples exactly how notes with that kind of symbols should be treated? It would be helpful if you could explain in terms of the violin.

UPDATE: This same symbol is called not just Tenuto in some places but also Détaché porté and Portato/louré when slurred. What is the explanation between this discrepancy?

4 Answers 4


That mark is known as a tenuto and when it's over the note it means to hold the note for the full duration and make the transition between notes more legato than normal. You can think of a tenuto as the opposite of a staccato where you play the note slightly shorter than the actual value.

  • Um, does that imply you do not hold other notes for their full duration? My teacher said that this note is to be played with a longer bow- giving the impression of a longer time. Commented May 3, 2014 at 18:27
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    @Sazid_violin When you go from playing one note to the next, you usually end the note you are playing slightly earlier than the duration to get to the next note. When the tenuto is used it is instructing you not to take that pause so the transition between notes is more legato.
    – Dom
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 18:30
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    @Dom - do you mean that in a phrase of ordinary notes, each has to be played so there is an audible gap between it and the next? That's more like marcato than legato. I don't believe a gap should be included in any legato playing.
    – Tim
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 18:46
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    The precise interpretation has more to do with the style of a piece than what is precisely marked. A tenuto marking suggests that the player should treat those notes differently than normal, or at least differently than the notes around it, but the player still has quite a bit of leeway in his or her interpretation.
    – Kevin
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 22:21
  • Tenuto is one of the most disputed articulation marks, I believe, and its interpretation is just that: an interpretation.
    – user45266
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 15:55

I read tenuto ♩𝅽 as an accent where you put slight "pull" or "pressure" emphasis on the entire note; as opposed to normal accents ♩𝅻 where the initial attack is strongly emphasized but the remaining note rings out normally, or even marcato ♩𝅿 where the note decay is actively shortened.

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    Yes, agreed. I have always understood tenuto marks to have two meanings, and it isn't always clear which a composer means. It can mean that the notes have their full duration, but can also mean that there is a slight emphasis upon the note. Luckily, these two interpretations often go hand-in-hand; a note emphasised by being held for its full duration (all at the same volume as this answer points out) and by being played with slight emphasis of volume. Commented May 3, 2014 at 19:46
  • @leftaroundabout What do you mean by "pull" ? pressure I understand, or is the pull a means to execute that pressure? (as in moving your bow faster makes the note louder) Commented May 4, 2014 at 12:44
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    @Sazid_violin: I first wrote only pressure, but that doesn't quite catch it. There are multiple ways to execute tenuto with the bow; as you teacher says one of them is to use more bow (increasing the bow-speed and thus tone intensity, but not the attack). I think "pull" is a good description of how to do this. You may however amplify or replace this effect with some firm and steady extra pressure and perhaps move closer to the bridge, in particular if using much bow is not feasible for some reason (e.g. it's an upstroke and you're already close to the frog). Commented May 4, 2014 at 13:14

Tenuto (the correct name for the musical entity even if you may choose to call the typographic means to achieve that a dash) usually means an accent asking for emphasizing the note length instead of its start.

In bowed string music, this is often combined with slurs to indicate that you aren't expected to change bow direction between notes but aren't to play them staccato either while still keeping them detached. So in the context of slurs, this is more like a portato indication. Strictly speaking, a portato mark consists of both dash and dot, but this is not really used with string instruments: it's the normal expected articulation when changing bow direction, and otherwise you just combine a slur with tenuto marks. The execution should sound as if you did change bow direction between notes without a pronounced pause (like it would be in staccato) but also not as connected as a straightforward slur.

Outside of slurs, this means normal tenuto: detached but stressing the whole length of the note.

On percussive instruments like a piano, tenuto execution is finicky and basically has to rely on not releasing the key early but also very slightly detaching and accenting the next note so as not to give a legato impression.


Tenuto is a notational device to make it easy to add selective legato within a phrase. The tenuto mark indicates that the note is to be sustained as long as possible before the next note is articulated, in whatever way is appropriate for that next note. Legato just means "do that same thing for every note for the entire length of this phrase".

As an example, if you had a tenuto quarter note followed by a staccato one, you'd sustain the first up to the start of the articulation of the second, which would be shortened (daah dat); if you had a quarter note slurred to a staccato one, you'd not articulate the second note but would cut it off short (daah-at). A subtle but definite distinction.

As far as portato goes, it's midway between staccato and legato; the individual notes are distinctly articulated, and none of them are attached to the following note, but they are not as short as staccato notes would be.

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