When I was in a choir, a composer of a piece we'd commissioned explained
legato, poco staccato and staccato respectively as pah, pom, and pop.
For NSP, pah is a no-no, as notes need definite ends.
So the spectrum we work between is somewhere between pom and pop.
Occasional ventures into staccatissimo, as in Meggy's Foot, need a
But generally the notes should come out like peas, not lentils.
From: lute-...@cs.dartmouth.edu [mailto:lute-...@cs.dartmouth.edu] On
Behalf Of christopher.bi...@ec.europa.eu
Sent: 21 June 2011 09:45
Cc: rich...@lizards.force9.co.uk; email@example.com
Subject: [NSP] Re: Deaf/dead
Oops, outlook tells me I've already sent a reply. I wonder what it
Barry, et al.
Thanks, this is very interesting but unfortunately reminds me that
dictionaries are not infallible. (I have been working as a
professional translator since 1974).
May I point you to the Dolmetsch dictionary
And indeed that musicians and lexicographers cannot always agree on
the precise meaning of the terminology they use.
For example, here: http://www.winterkonzerte.de/fachbegriffe.html
I found: "spiccato: Deutlich, abgesetzt, mit gestoßenen Noten
(Bogentechnik bei Streichinstrumenten).
staccato: Gestoßen, kurz, abgehackt. Gegensatz:-> legato"
The terminology here is very vague, and doesn't explain the
fundamental difference between staccato and spiccato, i.e. that
staccato stays on the string and spiccato bounces. This is further
confused by the fact that French-speakers tend to call any bouncing
stroke "sautillé" even though this term more strictly applies to the
rapid bouncing of the wood of the bow unassisted, as it were, and is
related to tremolo. "sautillé" works well on fast semiquavers,
spiccato can be used on relatively slow notes. It is performed with
the upper arm and the bow reaches and leaves the string like an
aircraft landing and immediatly taking off again or like a stone
skimmed across water.
Back to Dolmetsch: it does give "staccare (Italian) to detach, to
separate each note" as the basic meaning. Then things get
complicated. For example, I can assure you that détaché means what I
described in my previous posting, as also found here:
http://www.violinonline.com/bowstrokes.htm "Détaché indicates smooth,
separate bow strokes should be used for each note (it does not mean
detached or disconnected). Notes are of equal value, and are produced
with an even, seamless stroke with no variation in pressure."
Not because I necessarily trust this source (for example, it makes
martelé and staccato sound like the same thing) but having been
trained in Luxembourg (where the system and terminology are very much
based on the French model) and Liège - and sometimes by
French-speaking teachers - this is what I have learnt that the
Back to Dolmetsch again: it implies that staccato is the same thing
as gestoßen (German), détaché (French), piqué (French).
Gestoßen certainly means détaché but piqué doesn't; it means
something more like staccatissimo.
So I wouldn't rely too much on dictionaries (for example, what is the
relevance of the reference to Monteverdi's use of pizzicato in this
Personally, staccato is a word I use for musical effects and
a piping style. I think it merely confuses matters.
Quite rightly. But it does have a technical meaning for string players.
Sorry if I sound like a know-all, but the above is merely a
distillation of what I have gathered over several decades to be the
consensus among practising string players as opposed to
lexicographers and musicologists and is offered FWIW.
Chris (wer übt, hat's nötig) Birch
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