Is this true? I can't help but feel it is not?

a slur does not connect two or more notes of the same pitch

Source: https://easypianobasics.com/ties-and-slurs/

Kind of makes sense, you may wish to only 'smoothly' play notes that are not of the same pitch, but it could be said that you could want to Slur notes that are of the same pitch, no?

Take this example (last few bars of Elgar's Nimrod — Variation IX of the Enigma Variations, Op. 36):

Nimrod final measure

These could easily pass as Slurred because they are over the notes with the stem down and under the notes with the stem up with an exception of the Cello because I think this is overcrowding?

How would he distinguish between a Slur and a Tie here? Or maybe that's the point? You just can't Slur two or more notes of the same pitch - but you may wish to play them this way as if they were Slurred (smoothly, if I wanted a better word :-).

How then would you notate this?

EDIT: Notice the Fermata too on the rest right at the end, that's strange. To prevent the audience from clapping right at the end of the piece, who knows? :-)

  • 5
    As to your add-on: yes, the fermata over the rest indicates the conductor (or the performers) should remain in playing position for a few beats. Commented May 4, 2020 at 17:35
  • 1
    @CarlWitthoft - makes a lot of sense. And we wouldn't want applause too soon - would we?
    – Tim
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 16:03
  • 2
    In this particular example, it's worth mentioning that Nimrod was never intended to be a stand-alone piece, and that clapping anywhere in the middle of the Enigma Variations would be unusual, so the fermata is more likely to allow for page turns, and a bit of a breath before the next movement (i.e. non-attacca). The fermata at the end of the Finale though? That's very likely to be applause-delaying!
    – bobajob
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 11:13

11 Answers 11


When the writer wants the music played with separated notes, he'll write staccato marks. Otherwise, the expected way is to 'join up' the notes, rather like we speak with words that follow each other without breaks in between. That's 'slurred'. On some instruments it's possible to leave no gap at all between notes, on piano, each succeeding note will have to be played again, even if it's the same note.

Ties (which these are) will only join two notes that are the same pitch and letter name. Often they get used, as here, to make notes longer, over bar lines. Obviously, the second note just carries on sounding - it doesn't get played again. easy to sustain on piano with the damper or sostenuto pedal.

Usually, a line over several notes will be a slur, meaning all those notes are played 'in one breath', in a single phrase. If they were all the same notes, there would be one line over all of them (however many), and one line can only mean slur, because, as said earlier, a tie can only join two notes. Slurs - I've never seen a slur that joined only two notes, that were themselves identical. But a good question nevertheless.

  • 1
    I think the only place you might see a slur joining only 2 identical notes would be in vocal music, where the 2 notes are different words or syllables within one word. Commented May 4, 2020 at 18:32
  • 1
    @DarrelHoffman: I wouldn't expect a slur to be used for that unless it was being used as a phrasing or no-breath mark. Multi-verse music, however, will sometimes use slurs in places where some verses would have a single note but other verses would split it.
    – supercat
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 18:48
  • @supercat I said "might". I don't think it's very common, but I've definitely seen it occasionally. Multi-verse is a good example, another might be where there are lyrics in different languages (where one language has more syllables than the other). It's semantics at that point to decide if that counts as a tie or a slur, though I'd favor the latter since, unlike a tie, you do (in at least some cases) change something from one note to the next, while a tie is just two notes joined into one and held for a longer duration. Commented May 4, 2020 at 19:23
  • @DarrelHoffman - chances are in vocal music, a different note value/s would be used with smaller dots rather than slurs - which get confusing.
    – Tim
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 6:07
  • @Tim How exactly would you distinguish a slur across the same pitch from a tie? They use the same symbol, and I always considered a tie to be a special case of a slur.
    – jpaugh
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 16:58

Given that it happens in all voices and all notes, it seems pretty clear, that a tie is intended here. Since the desired note length exceeds one bar and a decrescendo is intended thoughout, this is the obvious notation for it.

The fermata on the last rest of course relates on a short wait to the next of the Enigma variations and so contrasts with an attacca.

  • What does the Fermata mean on the second to last note? A pause yes, but you cannot pause here, can you?
    – cmp
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 17:10
  • A fermata over a silence generally indicates a stoppage between sections that does not have to be adhered to in strict time. basically the orchestra is stopping, watch the conductors cues to see when you start again.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 13:17

Take it with a grain of salt. Any resources described as easy, basic, for dummies, in 24 hours etc. will - by their nature - oversimplify and generalize, skip any subtleties. Often they will also be plain wrong - due to their economics.

Scores are a form of notation meant for humans, not for machines. Which is why we still don't have a computer program that would be able to transcribe a midi file into a reasonably looking score.

So, there is no music-police which would forbid you from having a two-note slur. But any composer writing such a slur would immediately know that it will likely be misunderstood by the reader - and would try to add some hints: dots under the notes, or even just writing "this is a slur, not a tie" underneath (yes, that's allowed!).

  • 1
    I have some problems to match this answer to the question.
    – guidot
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 12:57
  • Certainly has cofusing ways to show ties - dotted crotchet tied to a quaver, exactly where a minim would fit, etc.
    – Tim
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 14:02
  • 2
    @guidot there are multiple questions in the body of the question. The title is: "Can you not Slur notes of the same pitch?" to which the answer is "you can".
    – fdreger
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 14:23
  • @fdreger Im having a piano and singing background and having difficulties to imagine how to play or sing slur notes of the pitch. Are there instruments were this is possible? And are there instruments were this is necessary, because the result isn't covered by other notation?
    – Arsak
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 8:56
  • 2
    @Arsak The most frequent way I've seen this is when slurs are primarily used to indicate phrasing, and a long phrase includes two consecutive notes of the same pitch somewhere in the middle. On both piano and euphonium, my two instruments of choice, i played such lines by playing both notes at full length and making the re-attack on the second note softer compared to had there not been a slur.
    – Kevin
    Commented May 19 at 19:02

If it connects two same notes, it’s probably a tie.

But as with almost any general rule, there are (rare) counterexamples. Specifically, there are instances where it looks like a tie but the notes are to be played separate (first picture below). Also, there are instances (like in a modulation) in which one might tie two notes with different letter names, but that are enharmonically equivalent (second picture below).

Beethoven’s 31st piano sonata, 3rd movement, 5th measure Beethoven’s 31st piano sonata, 3rd movement, 5th measure

Beethoven’s 27th piano sonata, 2nd movement, just before the final key signature change Beethoven’s 27th piano sonata, 2nd movement, just before the final key signature change


In the example you give, it's a tie. Period.

There's a thing called 'portato'. Sustained but articulated. On a violin, the bow stays on the string but each note is given a 'push' (for want of a better term). Wind instruments can emulate this. It even gets written for piano, where it indicates a musical intention rather than a specific technique.

enter image description here

  • They are given a push anyway though aren’t they? What you are saying, maybe is that they are given more of a push? Correct? Or am I wrong?
    – cmp
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 16:57
  • That can (just) be achieved on piano using half-pedal.
    – Tim
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 6:09
  • 2
    Good answer, but portato is actually written with tenuto bars, not staccato dots. If you see ties over dotted notes, the bow is supposed to skip off the string and merely the movement continues. Commented May 5, 2020 at 13:23

Tell me with a straight face that the slurs connecting notes of equal pitch are to be played as ties in this excerpt from the Chaconne in Bach's Partita #2 for Solo Violin.J.S. Bach, Partita #2 for solo violin, Chaconne

Note that this is played across several strings and the string distribution is indicated by stems pointing in different directions (there are 3 groups of 4 16th notes each per measure). The "ties" are not even on the same string.

  • 1
    Stems pointing up are different strings than stems pointing down. Measure 236 does not start with a double stop on G and A string (that's impossible without sounding the D string also) but with a double stop on G string (finger 1) and D string (finger 4). The second note then is an A on open A string, like all notes in that measure with stem pointing up are. Basically all "off-eighth" notes here with stem up are an open A with the "on-eighth" notes with stem down being on the adjacent one or two lower strings. I've played this beast often enough, you can take my word on that.
    – user69245
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 13:22
  • Sorry @user69245 I’m a novice and confused. Are you saying that at the start of 236 these are ties?
    – cmp
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 13:33
  • @cmp: no. There is not a single tie in the depicted passage. All cases of A slurred to A involve a change of strings and thus a separately audible note attack.
    – user69245
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 14:10
  • wow, what a great answer. I tried to find an example in piano literature, but failed :)
    – fdreger
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 18:21
  • 1
    @fdreger You almost certainly won't find anything similar for piano, because on a piano there is only one key for any given pitch. On a stringed instrument it could be played on any string (depending on the pitch). For practical reasons it is rare (although not impossible) for hands to overlap and generally melodies will switch between hands if this happens, but on a stringed instrument it is very normal for two parts to overlap. Guitar arrangements in particular could be even more complex, with up to four independent parts crossing each other (or more if you want to add two-hand tapping).
    – Graham
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 10:42

So far as I'm concerned, the one and only difference between a tie and a slur is the absence or presence of pitch change. After all, a slur instructs you to effectively make the pitch transition in a way that the only thing that takes place is such transition.

Because of this, there is no need to make any additional distinction in notation, as the two are easy to tell from one another by looking at the vertical position of the notes involved.

I use Lilypond for music engraving. This software basically translates a description written in a specific language into a part. It will issue a warning (or an error, I can't remember which) if you describe a tie between notes with different pitches. The curved line drawn by the software is similar but not the exact same, though (see comment below).

  • 1
    Although the convention isn't always followed 100% of the time, ties should be placed between notes being connected, while slurs should reach above or below the notes being connected. If a tie crosses a bar line, and the first note has an accidental, that accidental will apply to throughout the entire extended note, but if a slur crosses a bar line, an accidental before the bar line will only apply to notes before the bar line.
    – supercat
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 18:46
  • Hey, thanks, absolutely correct so I've edited the statement I made at the very end of my answer. In fact, you need 2 curved lines to tie 3 notes together (placed between each two notes like you said), but only one slur (placed above or below the note heads of the set of notes, therefore reaching slightly longer too!).
    – Alex Lopez
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 7:10
  • Oddly, even though I was a music minor in college, I somehow managed not to learn the typographical difference between ties and slurs until I read a book about music notation conventions after I'd graduated college. I wonder if it's like many features of the English language, which aren't explicitly taught but people are expected to "just know" (although not everyone does).
    – supercat
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 15:36
  • Maybe the more intuitive a language or notation is (meaning that you needn't learn, but "just know"), the better it is, simply. Or perhaps even anything in life, for that matter :-D
    – Alex Lopez
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 6:33

It's unusual, but it's possible. Here's an example of a slur between two notes of the same pitch in the Tenor part of Francis Poulenc's Gloria III: Slur between two notes of the same pitch


Another example, from the piano literature this time, to show that rules are not so hard and fast. Here are the first 6 bars of Phillip Glass's Etude 4 for piano. enter image description here

I think everyone will agree that the initial chord is tied across the first four bars, but the chords in bars 5 and 6 are slurred. If we strictly adhered to convention, we have a tied D natural in bars 5 and 6, but nobody would play it that way. I think that Glass fairly consistently applies a convention in this piece wherein a chord is tied if all its notes are joined and slurred if only the highest note is joined.


Phrasing vs extended durations. You understand whether is by context and rhetoric.


I would conclude, that it depends on the context, that is:

  • if the notes are different pitch it is always a slur;
  • Otherwise, if there are measures in which is a slur, it definitively is a slur, otherwise a tie.

Like this: I would consider all these curves to be slurs, not ties. enter image description here

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