Articulation – mezzo-staccato

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that this articulation marking, a tenuto line and a staccato dot combined, is the one that confuses people the most.

In fact it is quite straight forward if you think about it logically. The tenuto line is referring to the beginning of the note and the staccato dot is referring to the end of the note.

The tenuto is telling you to start the note with that little bit of weight I mentioned in my previous blog on tenuto.

The staccato marking is telling you not to connect the note to the following note; leave a space. How long that space has to be is determined by the music you are playing and your stylistic choices. What sounds good?

Try this process on a one octave ascending G major scale:

  1. Play the scale with normal, basic tonguing
  2. Play the scale with lovely staccato, remembering your detaché
  3. Play the scale tenuto with that little bit of weight at the start of each note
  4. Now play mezzo-staccato. So each note has a bit of weight at the start but is not connected to the next note.

Try this sequence on a few different scales exploring with the length of your mezzo-staccato notes.

When there is a row of mezzo-staccato notes, they are often placed under a slur. This can look confusing as the slur and the staccato seem to contradict each other. It is played exactly the same as when the note is written with a tenuto line and a staccato dot; slight weight on the beginning of the note but not connected to the following note. A half staccato.

The variations in Studies 1 and 2 of Moyse’s 24 Little Melodic Studies are good for experimenting with the length mezzo-staccato notes.  

The opening of the Faure Fantasie is a brilliant example of mezzo-staccato in our repertoire.

And one last thing, string players refer to mezzo-staccato as portato, which means carried and comes from the Italian portare, to carry. This can be a great image of how to play your mezzo-staccato notes.

Leave a Reply