Violin Articulation

Clayton Haslop

In the world of the violin articulation refers to the types of up and down bowing strokes used when playing a musical piece or it can be referred to the nature of the bowing action that is used.

On this page you will learn the key violin articulation methods used by violinists. You may not encounter some of these techniques as you start out learning the violin but it is useful to be aware of them for when you progress to more advanced levels.

Legato

The purpose of this bowing movement is to maintain a smooth flow while transitioning from one note to another, thereby eliminating gaps or breaks. On the music sheet a legato will be indicated with a slur. A slur can be seen as being written over a group of notes which indicates that all of the notes should be played in one bowing movement.

Detache

This is the normal way of bowing separated notes where the direction of the bowing changes for each note. When you have to play notes at a very high speed it is only possible to play them properly with half bow movements.

This type of bowing takes place when the music sheet shows no indication of a slur or legato. If you are playing in a concert the composer may indicate to you whether you should play the half bow with the point of the bow or the frog.

Staccato

This movement is very similar to the Detache as it involves short, separate strokes but they are shorter than the Detache. On the music sheet the notes will be marked with a character that is ‘clipped’. This is indicated with a dot above or below the notehead. A Staccato should not to be confused with a dot that is at the side of the notehead.

Loure

This refers to separating the notes ever so slightly while the bow is being drawn whether you are bowing up or down. Typically this refers to a group of notes on the same pitch. This is indicated by a sign called a tenuto. A tenuto is a short horizontal line below the notehead together with a slur sign.

Martele

Martele literally means hammered. It is the fiercest form of violin articulation. Each individual note is played with a fast, heavy, separate bowing stroke. This is indicated with accents which look like > and ^.
Spiccato

This type of bowing movement can be found in passages that are fast yet light and sometimes soft. This involves consciously bouncing the bow on the violin strings when you are playing the notes.

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