Musical Phrasing (Legato, Staccato, Legatissimo, Staccatissimo)
Musical phrasing refers to different techniques that can be used to play the
same notes in the same rhythm and still get slightly different feelings from them. Legato and legatissimo are techniques that are intended smooth out of the tone of a series
of notes. Staccato and staccatissimo create choppier tones with a series of notes.
Both techniques differ from the standard phrasing, when one note is played after another in a musical
Legato is used to tie together notes in a musical passage. A legato section is indicated by a curved line being
drawn underneath the section of notes that are to be tied together. The method of playing legato differs somewhat
from instruments that usually only play one note at a time.
In many other instruments, special techniques are used to smoothly transition between different notes. In the
case of the piano, legato notes are blended together by being overlapped. The previous note should only be about
half released when you play the next note in a legato section. The notes blend together as a result of this slurred
style of articulation.
Legatissimo is a more extreme version of the legato technique. A legatissimo section is marked by the same
curved line placed under the notes of the section. In addition, a line is drawn under each note of the section to
differentiate it from the legato technique.
The notes in a legatissimo section of musical phrasing are even more slurred
together than a legato section. When you transition between legatissimo notes, you should fully depress the
key for the next note in the section before releasing the previous key. As a result, you are going to have two
notes ringing together for large parts of a legatissimo section.
Staccato notes create a choppier, pluckier type tone when used as musical phrasing.
Staccato notes are marked by a dot underneath the note. When you play staccato notes, you release the note before
the entire duration takes place.
There is no precise length for a staccato note compared to the original note length. The most important aspect
of playing staccato notes is to be consistent with the length of each note. Using shorter or longer staccato notes
give a slightly different feel, so there is room for experimentation with this technique.
Staccatissimo is a more extreme form of the staccato musical phrasing. A staccatissimo note is indicated by a
triangle placed underneath the note in place of the dot used for staccato notes. Staccatissimo notes, like staccato
notes, do not have a set duration. However, staccatissimo notes are almost always released almost immediately after
This creates a note much shorter than a staccato note in terms of length. Staccatissimo phrasing is fairly rare.
Staccatissimo phrasing is not always marked with the triangle symbol. In some cases, the staccatissimo sections use
the same dot symbol used by staccato notes.
These sections have a note saying “staccatissimo” or an abbreviation of that word to indicate they are not
normal staccato notes. This style of phrasing is fairly rare in comparison to staccato.