What Is the Definition of Legato? Unveiling the Musical Technique

Uncover the meaning and application of legato in this comprehensive guide. Enhance your music with seamless and connected melodies.

Image of sheet music with legato articulation markings. Source: pexels

Ever wondered what makes a musical performance flow seamlessly from one note to another? Curious about the definition of legato and how it enhances your musical expression? Well, buckle up because we’re about to dive into the captivating world of legato and uncover this technique.

What is the definition of legato? Legato refers to playing or singing notes smoothly and connected without any gaps or pauses, creating a fluid and expressive musical phrase.

What is articulation in music?

Articulation in music plays a crucial role in conveying the composer’s intentions and bringing life to a musical performance. Similar to how written languages have punctuation rules, music has its own set of rules known as articulation. Articulation marks guide musicians on how to play each individual note, helping them understand how each note relates to those before and after it.

Image of sheet music with legato articulation markings. Source: pexels
Image of sheet music with legato articulation markings. Source: pexels

These marks allow musicians to convey the emotions and feelings that the composer had in mind when creating the piece. Without proper articulation, your music performance can become dull and lacking in expression. Articulation rules provide structure and clarity, ensuring that the music is not open to broad interpretation and enabling musicians to deliver a captivating performance.

Image of sheet music with legato articulation markings. Source: pexels
My favorite MIDI keyboard (at the moment):

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3

What is the definition of legato? Unveiling the musical technique | 717qmgla7zl. Ac sl1500 | audio apartment
My favorite MIDI keyboard (at the moment):

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3

I’m loving the AKAI MPK Mini MK3 for its compact design and the range of controls. It’s one of my essential tools. The velocity-sensitive keys and MPC-style pads are great for making beats, while the thumbstick and knobs give me precise control.

What is legato?

“Legato” is a form of articulation that instructs the musician to play the notes smoothly and connectedly, with no perceptible gap between them. This musical term originated from Italian and translates to “tied together.” In terms of performance, legato achieves a flowing, seamless sound, often creating a sense of lyrical melody or phrase.

Legato is a critical aspect of musical articulation that contributes to the expressivity and mood of a piece.

Legato is a critical aspect of musical articulation that contributes to the expressivity and mood of a piece. Playing or singing legato effectively often requires skill and control, as it involves maintaining consistent sound or airflow across multiple notes, and smoothly transitioning from one note to the next.

How do you notate legato in sheet music?

To notate legato, composers use a curved line called a slur. The slur begins on the first note of the phrase and ends on the last note, indicating that the notes within the slur should be played smoothly and connected without any breaks or pauses. This notation helps musicians identify when legato phrasing is required.

What is the difference between legato and staccato?

Legato and staccato represent contrasting styles of playing. Legato is characterized by smooth and connected notes, whereas staccato involves short and distinct notes with a clear separation between them. While legato produces a flowing and lyrical sound, staccato creates a more percussive and detached effect.

Image of sheet music with legato marking. Source: pexels
Image of sheet music with legato marking. Source: pexels

How does legato differ from tied notes?

Legato and tied notes can appear similar at first glance, but they have distinct differences. Tied notes connect two or more notes of the same pitch, combining their durations into a single longer note. The rhythmic value of the tied notes is combined, and there are no intervening notes of different pitches between them. Ties primarily affect the note duration.

On the other hand, legato or slurs connect notes of different pitches, emphasizing smooth and connected phrasing. Legato focuses on achieving a seamless transition between notes, creating a fluid and expressive musical line.

When it comes to mastering legato, there are certain dos and don’ts to keep in mind. Here’s a handy table to guide you:

Maintain a smooth and connected motion.Avoid creating audible breaks between notes.
Emphasize consistent note-to-note flow.Don’t rush through legato passages.
Focus on precise finger control.Avoid excessive use of the sustain pedal (piano).
Utilize appropriate fingerings.Don’t sacrifice clarity for legato expression.
Dos and don’ts of playing legato

How do you play legato on various instruments?

The Legato technique varies across different instruments. Here’s a brief overview of how it’s done on various instruments:

  • Piano: Pianists achieve a legato effect by making sure each note is held for its full duration, and the next note is played before releasing the previous one. The fingers should connect each note smoothly, creating a flowing sound. Using the sustain pedal can also assist in achieving a legato sound, but it’s important not to overuse it as it can blur the notes.
  • String Instruments (like violin, viola, and cello): Players use a single stroke of the bow to play multiple notes. This requires careful control of the bow to ensure it doesn’t lift off the strings, thereby creating a smooth, continuous sound.
  • Wind Instruments (like flute, clarinet, saxophone): Wind players use a technique called “slurring,” where they change notes while maintaining a continuous stream of air, without rearticulating with the tongue.
  • Brass Instruments (like trumpet, trombone): Similar to wind instruments, brass players also use slurring, moving their lips and valves/slides to change notes while keeping a continuous airflow without tonguing each note.
  • Guitar: Legato on the guitar often involves techniques such as hammer-ons and pull-offs. The player plucks the string once and uses the fretting hand to change the notes.
  • Voice: Singers achieve legato by connecting each note in a phrase with continuous, uninterrupted airflow and smooth transitions between pitches.

If you want even more great tips and information, check out the video below.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers! Here are some common inquiries about the legato technique and its application in music production:

Can legato be applied to electronic music genres like EDM or hip-hop?

Absolutely! While legato is often associated with acoustic instruments, electronic music producers can utilize legato techniques through MIDI programming and virtual instruments to create smooth and connected melodic lines.

Are there specific exercises to improve legato technique?

Yes, there are exercises you can practice to enhance your legato playing. Scales and arpeggios played with a focus on smooth and connected transitions between notes can help build finger strength and improve overall legato technique.

Is legato only applicable to solo performances, or can it be used in ensemble settings?

Legato is applicable in both solo and ensemble settings. In ensemble performances, musicians coordinate their legato playing to create a unified and seamless musical expression, enhancing the overall sound and musicality of the ensemble.


And that’s a wrap! We’ve explored the captivating world of legato in music. Remember, when it comes to creating fluid and connected melodies, legato is your secret weapon. So, go ahead and unleash the power of legato in your musical endeavors!

Did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production and audio engineering. Thanks for reading and keep the music flowing!

Key Takeaways

This article covered the definition and importance of legato in music production. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Legato involves playing notes smoothly and connected, creating a flowing musical phrase.
  • Legato can be applied to various instruments and genres, adding expressiveness and realism to performances.
  • Incorporating legato in home recording studios enhances the quality and emotion of your music.
  • Practice exercises can improve legato technique, enhancing finger strength and control.
  • Legato can be used in both solo and ensemble settings, contributing to cohesive and seamless musical expressions.

Helpful resources

Image Andrew Ash
Written by Andrew Ash, Staff Writer

Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I'm relatively new to music production, but I've been learning a ton, and documenting my journey along the way. That's why I started this blog. If you want to improve your home studio setup and learn more along with me, this is the place for you!

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Edited by Nick Eggert, Staff Editor

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