I would like to ask two quick things.

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  1. If you notate a slur (legato, not a phrase slur) on a tied note, will this include the tie (1.1) or not (1.2)?

  2. If you notate a fermata on a tied note and want them to hold the note longer than notated, which of the three examples is correct?

  • 1
    Regarding 1.1 - why have two slurs? A slur line that connects from the E to the C would mean the same thing as slurring from E to D and D to C.
    – Peter
    May 13, 2019 at 21:01
  • Are these examples supposed to be for a solo instrument, or for one instrument as part of an ensemble. The answer will be different for each, unless they all are in unison.
    – Tim
    May 14, 2019 at 6:46
  • I don't recognize a use case for a fermata note tied over to something. Either a fermata sits on a rest (somebody else has a cadenza or improvisation), or on a note preceding a rest or a global break: (as end of movement/piece, a closing repetition sign).
    – guidot
    May 15, 2019 at 13:52
  • @guidot I've definitely seen the fermata tied to another note in two instances: 1) when strings are asked to sustain a chord during a solo or cadenza or 2) a work where two movements are played continuously so the composer notates a sustained chord to fill the space and link the sections.
    – Peter
    May 15, 2019 at 14:50

5 Answers 5


Unlike what some of the answers and comments state, there is a reason why one could include a slur within a slur (1.1). In jazz, it is common to combine "licks" into slurred sections. I play tenor saxophone and frequently encounter passages like that (one example that comes to mind is the Pink Panther theme). According to my teacher, it means that the first note within the sub-slur is slightly accented (through staccato-legato tonguing or a slight embouchure change).

1.2 looks wrong to me, but I can see how it could be used as well. If I were to see something like that, I would put more emphasis on C compared to 1.1 (in the case of saxophone, I would clearly tongue the note instead of doing staccato-legato tonguing or adjusting the embouchure).

2.1, 2.2 and 2.3 are all valid, depending on the intended message. In 2.1, the first C is sustained and the second is played for 1/4 of the bar. In 2.2, the first C is played for 1/4 of the bar and the second one is sustained. In 2.3, both C's are sustained at the discretion of the performer/conductor.


The textbook Music Notation: A Manual of Modern Practice by Gardner Read answers your first question as follows:

When slurs are placed over a passage that ends in a tied note, the slur sign should extend as far as the second note of the tie, rather than end of the first note. The principle involved should be obvious; the breath of the singer or wind instrumentalist, the bow of a string player, cannot stop at the first note if it is to be prolonged by a tie.

Music Notation: A Manual of Modern Practice, 267

So this would indicate that figure 1.1 is most appropriate.

  • @RosieF The image in the post has changed since I made that comment. I will remove that from my response.
    – Peter
    May 15, 2019 at 11:50

I'd go generally with 2.2. The fermata position is often dictated by what else is going on in the music. If everybody is to come off at the same time after the pause, then put it on the last note. But if there's something that needs to happen before everyone counts the crotchet a tempo (eg a bit of recitative, a breath, a bit of shady side-eye) then put it on the first note (as in 2.1). Ms Gould has a good deal to say on fermatas, but sadly declines to tell us where not to put them.

  • 2
    Who is Ms Gould?
    – Peter
    May 15, 2019 at 14:52

Number 1.1 and 1.2 would mean the same thing. At least I would play it exactly the same way. Number 1.2 is how it would most often be written.

Number 2.1 would mean you hold a fermata on the 4th beat in the 1st bar and then continue playing the C in the next bar.

Number 2.2 would mean you hold a fermata on the 1st beat in the second bar.

Number 2.3 would mean you hold a fermata on the 4th beat in the 1st bar and when continuing the C you hold another fermata on the 1st beat in the second bar.

So what matters is when do you want the fermata?


I don’t see a difference between examples 1.1. and 1.2. As you say there are only tied notes and no phrase slurs all notes have to be played legato.

The other 3 examples mean each something different. You can’t say that one of them is wrong. If this a solo without other musicians and no conductor you can’t hear any difference. I would prefer to notate the pattern 2.2.

But if there are other instruments or a conductor or this is an accompaniment of an act or a soundtrack of a movie - the fermatas will have all a specific meaning (as notated)

    1. note = a tempo, 2. note = hold
    1. note = hold, 2. note = a tempo
    1. note and 2. are both hold

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