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What is the difference between (a) a series of semiquavers with a semiquaver rest in between every pair, and (b) a series of staccato quavers where sound/effect is concerned?

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    Depends on the instrument played too, and whether said staccatos are legato or not... – Pyromonk Mar 1 at 10:41
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    @Pyromonk - staccatos can't be legato. They are, in fact, opposites. Like hot/cold, wet/dry, sharp/blunt. But not sharp/flat... – Tim Mar 1 at 11:07
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    @Pyromonk Your linked resource is rather unreliable. What you describe (dots and a slur) does occurs quite often and you are right that the notation is composed of the symbol for staccato and the symbol for legato, but it is not called “legato staccato” as your source seems to suggest. Legato is when all notes are smoothly connected, staccato are when they are completely separated (and shortened). There is a spectrum in between and dots under a slur are somewhere in the middle. Yet it’s no more called “legato staccato” than grey is called “black white”. – 11684 Mar 2 at 9:10
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    @CarlWitthoft I don’t understand what you mean – I was only saying what it was not called, tenuto would be somewhere in the spectrum I mentioned (with an additional expressive connotation). In fact, I purposely side-stepped the debate about what dots under a slur actually mean. Tenuto is an option, but what would you call a horizontal line on a note then? And what if these horizontal lines appear under a slur? What is portato exactly? This is a real interpretative minefield I didn’t think was relevant to the OP. – 11684 Mar 2 at 17:45
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    @Pyromonk Generally it’s called portato but that has expressive connotations that aren’t always applicable. – 11684 Mar 6 at 10:13
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The staccato sign means make the note about half as long as it originally was. The 'about' is the criterion here. It's down to the discretion of the player as to how long 'about' is.

Writing semis, with semi rests between is far more accurate for timing - each rest is the same length as each note. i've often pondered on this one, and think it comes down to the composer allowing/not allowing some leeway for future readers/players.

Should a composer want to be more precise, there's always the options of mezzo-staccato or staccatissimo as alternatives to dots and rests - but the latter will always be more accurate.

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  • What exactly is "mezzo-staccato" or "staccatissimo"? – Pyromonk Mar 1 at 10:40
  • @Pyromonk - easily googlable. Mezzo-staccato is shorter by about a quarter, shown by a dot and a slur line. Staccatissimo is shortened by about three quarters, shown by a small black triangle under/over the head: a wedge. – Tim Mar 1 at 11:17
  • "Mezzo-staccato is shorter by about a quarter, shown by a dot and a slur line." - According to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mezzo_staccato (and the way I've personally always read that notation), it's not really staccato at all: "[...]successive notes are gently re-articulated while being joined under a single continuing bow stroke. It achieves a kind of pulsation or undulation, rather than separating the notes." – npostavs Mar 2 at 4:23
  • But even here, there's allowable judgement as to how to terminate the eighth-notes. You can cut them off sharply or let them fade gently. – Carl Witthoft Mar 2 at 16:46
  • @CarlWitthoft - partially true - although the rests need playing for their full value, which means the semis need to be smart. – Tim Mar 2 at 16:59
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Staccato quavers aren't necessarily the length of semiquavers (they could be in more of a 40:60 ratio with the rests right afterward, for instance). Semiquavers with semiquaver rests in between are strictly in a 50:50 ratio in comparison. Staccato quavers are flexible length-wise; semiquavers are not.

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