Is there a term for the "default" articulation that is played when no articulation symbols are present? When the note is played for nearly its full duration value, but with just a tiny rest to separate it from the next note.

  • The middle is not notated - same for dynamic as discussed in this question -, therefore the reason to have a name for it is diminished.
    – guidot
    Dec 23, 2018 at 16:19

2 Answers 2


'Normal' playing is somewhat like speaking normally. Notes flow into each other - there doesn't need to be even that tiny rest you mention. Most times, notes can be given their full duration value, and if a writer wanted something different, he would write shorter notes and rests, or put staccato marks. Imagine a trumpet or sax player not joining up notes in a phrase? Sometimes it's necessary, due to limitations of the instrument or large jumps in pitch, but generally, legato is the default way to play.

  • Well that depends heavily on style. In the eighteenth century Viennese tradition there is a lot of talk about “regular touch” which is still slightly separated (of course the absence of articulation markings does not mean you shouldn’t play any - many are implicit).
    – 11684
    Dec 23, 2018 at 10:59
  • @11684 - taking all of music, not one specific genre, the answer is legato. The 'slightly separated' works for 18C Viennese, but that's not representative of much music.
    – Tim
    Dec 23, 2018 at 11:14
  • Well that’s not the only counter-example. I don’t claim non-legato is “the default”, I’m saying neither is legato, considering the amount of music before 1800 is larger than the amount of music after. Besides, the OP clearly describes non-legato; we can argue all we want about whether that’s “the default” or not, that’s what they want to know the name of.
    – 11684
    Dec 23, 2018 at 11:21
  • @11684 - what confuses me is that the OP mentions 'when no articulation symbols are present' which covers an awful lot of written music. OP seems of the opinion that default = detached, with no reference to any period. Ambiguous! +1 for your answer, which could be the one the OP is searching for...
    – Tim
    Dec 23, 2018 at 11:27
  • Good point, after re-reading it is more ambiguous than I thought.
    – 11684
    Dec 23, 2018 at 11:28

While Tim is correct that many players simply play legato by default, that is clearly not what you’re describing.

What you’re describing would simply be called non-legato (meaning not short but also not slurred).

What you describe would be the default in 18th century German/Austrian repertoire, at which time it was called “regular touch”. Note that the absence of articulation markings does not mean you have to constantly play regular tough; articulation was left up to the performer to a large extent.

For most nineteenth century London repertoire for example, I would say legato is the default.

In the twentieth century composers tend to be more explicit.

In conclusion, what you describe is not “the” default but would be called non-legato.

  • This answer is correct for the 'detached' style of playing described by the OP. However, the question itself is ambiguous. Default generally speaking is legato, and the style described is not 'default' - except to that particular style!
    – Tim
    Dec 23, 2018 at 11:18
  • As a (counter)example, string instruments use detache as a default, and the sheer absence of any articulation mark does not imply legato. Rather, the musical context dictate whether the detache is more of legato, or more of staccato.
    – Divide1918
    Mar 21 at 10:19

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