I've been working on this piece by Sousa, and I came across this oddity:
Does this mean to play these notes somehow legato and staccato at the same time? If so, how would I play it? If not, what does it mean?
P.S., this is written for a Bb Cornet.
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I concur with @slim regarding this being a phrase marking, and not a slur or legato mark.
I think the reason for it being there at all is to indicate that the two groups of three notes (F, A, D) are not to be phrased as such - rather, the semiquavers are to be phrased together in such a way as to stand apart from the D that follows.
Without the phrase marking, the 'default' assumption would be that the semiquavers are merely passing/grace notes leading to the D, which would render them less significant than if they were played as marked, in a (short) phrase of their own.
That said, I find it curious that this is only marked on the first line and not in the otherwise identical pattern that follows on the second - I'd have expected to see a simile instruction or similar*.
*No pun intended
This could be an instance of portato. Via wikipedia:
Portato (Italian, past participle of portare, "to carry") in music denotes a smooth, pulsing articulation and is often notated by adding dots under slur markings.
Portato, also known as articulated legato or slurred staccato or semi-staccato or mezzo-staccato, that means "moderately detached". It is a style of playing between staccato and legato, and is also referred to as non-legato. Mezzo-staccato notes are held for a longer time than with standard staccato notes, but none of the notes is attached to the next.
This blog post describes the technique further, and mentions that this particular form of notation could also be interpreted as slim described:
Portato is sometimes called mezzo-staccato, and it can also be indicated with slurs over staccato marks. However, slurs over staccatos does not always imply portato articulation: sometimes a slur mark is not an articulation mark at all, but simply a structural indication of note groupings which might effect dynamic shaping and rubato instead of articulation. In other words, composers are allowed to group even very staccato notes (marked with pointy “staccatissimo” signs) under a slur to indicate where phrases begin and end.
It seems to me that a pair of notes cannot be both legato and staccato at the same time.
The only explanation that makes sense to me is that these are not slurs but phrase marks.
The slur is not to be confused with two other similar musical symbols. The tie is a curved line that links two notes of the same pitch to show that their durations are to be added together. The phrase mark is a curved line that extends over a passage which is visually indistinguishable from the slur, and indicates that the passage is to be interpreted as a single phrase.
So you should phrase such that the two staccato notes feel like a phrase on their own, rather than being part of a phrase including the preceding or following notes.
This is an articulation symbol called semi-staccato. It is meant to be performed exactly as its name implies; halfway between smoothly connected and detached, with only a slight disconnect between the notes. For any wind instrument, the semi-staccato notes in bars 2-3 would be performed with a very gentled tonguing on the notes indicated, such as using a "d" sound with the tongue on the back side of your front teeth, instead of a more pronounced "t" sound for regular staccato marks, as in bar 4.
You can find more information at this website: http://www.abrahamdevar.com/theory-grade-2.html
You've gotten some great answers about the specific piece of music - I'll answer the more general question.
Legato literally means "bound together" - the sounds are connected. Staccato literally means "detached" - there's a space between the sounds. So you can't have a phrase that is both staccato and legato.
But the symbol we use for legato, the curved line over a set of notes, is also called a "phrase mark". And phrases are not necessarily all legato. So you CAN find examples of staccato notes under a phrase mark. The notes under the mark are to be treated as a musical "sentence", and part of that sentence has a bit of a stutter in it.
Some composers will use a dashed phrase mark when it's a phrase, but not entirely a legato phrase. I've heard this began with Bartók, but I haven't done any research to see if that's true. But in my opinion that makes things really clear - and a composer can build a phrase that contains both legato bits and staccato notes while still giving the musician important clues about how to perform it.
I play the French horn and we see this sort of thing all the time in our music. Many of the answers mention phrase markings, and I think that's a fitting term. I've always been told that it meant to play them legato, but tongue them. If you're playing in an ensemble, you might want to check with the other members to see how they are handling it.
It is possible to play both legato and staccato at the same time. Legato means "tied together", and as Widor says you want these notes to be "phrased together"; those concepts are obviously closely related and, depending on the interpretation, may be considered one and the same. I'd disagree with Wikipedia — legato doesn't strictly mean that the notes need to be played with no intervening silence, though that is the natural interpretation in its most common usage. Try playing staccato notes smoothly; it's quite a fun exercise.
Yes. Legato is a matter of performance, and staccato is a matter of note articulation. To me, in terms of a guitar, this means I would play short notes, but I would hammer-on to the second note to obey the legato marking.
I'm not sure exactly how this translates to brass, but I imagine a single tonguing, or maybe two distinct tonguings with no gap between the notes.
I would guess that it's a string player artifact: with string players, the combination of slur and staccato is indicating detached notes played without changing bowing direction.
Now either this part is doubled by strings (in which case the slur is not interesting for the cornet), or it indicates similar articulation. What would that be? Staccato by just stopping the breath without tongue/lip action?