I am following along with a score of Beethoven's first symphony. I came across two abbreviations, arco. and ten. What do those stand for?


Arco (which is not an abbreviation) means to return to bowing after pizzicato (abbreviated pizz.) or col legno. Pizzicato means you pluck the strings with your fingers instead of using the bow, col legno using the wooden backside of the bow instead of the hairs.

Ten. is short for tenuto which means holding. In Beethoven it probably means you should hold the note for its full length instead of leaving a little gap between the notes. In later music (and also in Beethoven when played in a more romantic style) it also often means that you hold the note for longer than notated (using rubato) and/or play the note a bit louder. In any case it's a sort of "slow accent".

| improve this answer | |
  • I've always understood tenuto to be midway between staccato and legato. – luser droog Feb 4 '13 at 7:00
  • 3
    @luser: Tenuto is not very well defined so it could also mean that in some cases, especially when used for every note in a passage. However, I would still associate portato or non-legato with that. – nonpop Feb 4 '13 at 7:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.