Are legato and slur one and the same? If the two are different, how do I tell which the piece is using? I know the gist of them (as opposed to staccato) but I need to know the specifics. They are notated the same (I believe). I am speaking of a wind instrument. Does this make a difference in the way they are played?

1 Answer 1


Legato is a technique, whereas a slur is a marking. As for what a slur denotes, Wikipedia does a pretty good job of handling the distinction between that and legato (see Slur and Legato). The most relevant quote from the legato article:

Legato technique is required for slurred performance, but unlike slurring (as that term is interpreted for some instruments), legato does not forbid rearticulation. In standard notation legato is indicated either with the word legato itself, or by a slur (a curved line) under the notes that are to be joined in one legato group.

The slur article notes that with some wind instruments, you should play each slurred note without using the tongue to rearticulate the note.

  • 1
    If the two are marked the same, how do you know which to play?
    – Luke_0
    Feb 29, 2012 at 1:30
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    @Luke Notation tends to vary considerably, so honestly you don't. One method is to refer to recordings of first-class musicians and see what they did, or see if you can find any notes on how to perform the piece. When in doubt I would play anything with a slur marking without rearticulation, and whatever you think fits best when you see the word legato. (Or take up an instrument where you always have to rearticulate like piano :P)
    – user28
    Feb 29, 2012 at 1:47
  • @Luke: The marking is a slur. Legato just means connected. Can you give an example of how you would play these differently?
    – NReilingh
    Feb 29, 2012 at 1:49
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    Also worth noting that trombonists, to avoid glissandi, develop a technique called 'legato tongue' that adds a soft articulation between two legato notes in the same partial. This is not necessary for other wind instruments making use of keys or valves.
    – NReilingh
    Feb 29, 2012 at 1:50
  • Interesting, thanks @NReilingh. I am obviously not very familiar with brass or wind instruments :P
    – user28
    Feb 29, 2012 at 2:14

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