Today I came across this symbol: (on top of the first four notes)

enter image description here

What is this symbol and how am I supposed to play it?

A friend of mine told me it's Marcato, but Wiki gave me this:

enter image description here

as Marcato, which isn't the same.

I have to play this on double bass with a bow, so maybe some more specific answers would be most welcome

Edit: I know what staccato is, I'm only asking for the little 'a'.

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    This was asked on May 3rd on this site. – Tim May 14 '14 at 10:16
  • Get thee to a website for musical notation: dolmetsch.com/musicalsymbols.htm is my favorite. – Carl Witthoft May 14 '14 at 11:40
  • Look at David's comment on my answer. You didn't think the 'b' was a flat did you?! – Tim May 14 '14 at 17:06
  • What? no, I know what 'a' and 'b' is. I have to play it one way or the other – Shevliaskovic May 14 '14 at 17:07
  • I just didn't know how to play the first one – Shevliaskovic May 14 '14 at 17:09

It's the tenuto sign. It means that the note should be emphasized, by either playing it slightly louder than the rest or holding it to its full length. Wikipedia explains it pretty well.

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It's a tenuto (the strip). But, there's a staccato (the dot) in the notes too.

Tenuto is the same as let ring.

Staccato is the same as the note being half note than it should be. (1/4 into 1/8, 1 to 1/2, 2 to 1, etc).

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  • Do you mean “laissez vibrer”? – Édouard May 14 '14 at 12:09
  • @Édouard it's the same with tenuto and let ring. – seseorang May 14 '14 at 12:10
  • If you mean one should let the strings vibrate until they stop by themselves, then I disagree with you wholeheartedly. – Édouard May 14 '14 at 12:14
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    Tenuto has a different interpretation for wind instruments than for strings, so be cautious. :-( – Carl Witthoft May 14 '14 at 14:30
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    Staccato is not as rigid a designation as you have it here. It simply means short and detached notes. The rest is up to a musician's (or sometimes a composer's) interpretation. However, what you say here about "half on, half off" is a reasonable rule of thumb. – BobRodes May 14 '14 at 15:35

As others have pointed out, it’s a tenuto mark. It generally means that you should play the notes detached, but to their full length.

And in this context, it certainly does, as the second part (the small b) of the exercise is to play the same piece staccato.

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Check out AGOGIC and ATEMPAUSE. However, the signs are somewhat contradictory, as the staccato says keep it short (about half length), while the agogic says different.

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    I read "various Examples and Combinations o" and "Practice this exercise with the followi" on the image, suggesting that we are talking about etudes, possibly to be played with a variety of different, optional phrasings. Dots and bars can be combined into a single "portato" sign, but then one would not place the bar above the note and the staccato dot below. Indeed, if you look closely, there is a small "a" over the staff and a small "b" below, suggesting that the exercise is to be played tenuto as the "a" variant, and staccato as "b". – User8773 May 14 '14 at 16:07
  • @David - well spotted - I missed what a and b were for.Staccato dots did seem odd placed where they were.If you are correct,and you most likely are, it probably does mean do the whole study one way or the other.It was odd that only the first four notes were to be played that way !Thanks. – Tim May 14 '14 at 16:26

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