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In sheet music, composers use a slur to put together consecutive notes. There seem to be two kinds of slurs: one with a solid line and the other broken. My question is: when does a composer use a solid line slur, when do they use a broken line slur?


5 Answers 5


Composers may use a dashed/dotted/broken slur or phrase mark when it's optional (for example, when lyrics are irregular, as user25358 attests). It may also be used to indicate a hemiola, for example where a 3/4 bar should be treated as 6/8. That could be the case in bars 2-3 of your excerpt.

Editors may use a dashed/dotted/broken slur to indicate editorial material which has been added because the composer did not include such a phrase mark.

  • 1
    Composers rarely use dashed slurs to express their intent (they're a pain to write and make you look indecisive). If you find a dashed slur in a printed score, it's almost always either an alternate-lyrics caution or a caution to signify "added by the editor" (editor's additions are usually set in italics, but slurs can't be italicized, so you dash them instead). Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 7:57
  • What I understand is that it is used after the fact. I have the notation program Finale in the special tools menu there's the option of a broken slur, that means that it is used by editors to second guessing the composer. Or to put syllables together that are only in certain song lines.
    – Nachmen
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 8:22

Beyond that, even a solid slur curve does not always indicate notes should be slurred. The same notation is often used to indicate phrasing, in which case there will be shorter curves over a subset of the notes indicating a true slur. -- Or if all notes are to be articulated, there'll be dots or bars over the notes to specify the articulation.

I have to say that in most cases (cello music) where I see a dotted slur, it means that some editor suggests the original composer might have liked a slur there even tho' the manuscript doesn't have one.


Slurs with broken lines are usually employed when there are two notes to a syllable only in some of several stanzas of singing.

  • 2
    Can you elaborate? Is it only used in vocal sheet music?
    – Nachmen
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 12:51

I've seen dashed slurs used in wind sheet music to indicate that the player should play through the phrase instead of taking a breath.


I have seen (and use) them in my music to signify a legato or soft tongued phrase. Although this is only used by some composers/arrangers for big band/jazz orchestrations (a field where dots, dashes, accents and various other ornaments have different applications over the decades.) Gotta luv those crazy jazz guys! NO RULES!!

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