Chapter 5 of the book: “MUSIC NOTATION AND TERMINOLOGY” by Karl W. Gehrkens:
49. A dot after a note shows that the value of the note is to be half again as great as it would be without the dot, i.e., the value is to be three-halves that of the original note.
50. When two dots follow the note the second dot adds half as much as the first dot has added, i.e., the entire value is seven-fourths that of the original note.
51. When three dots follow the note the third dot adds one-half the value added by the second, i.e., the entire value of the triple-dotted note is fifteen-eighths that of the original note.
52. A dot over or under a note is called the staccato mark and indicates that the tone is to be sounded and then instantly released. In music for organ and for some other instruments the staccato note is sometimes interpreted differently, this depending on the character of the instrument.
On stringed instruments of the violin family the staccato effect is usually secured by a long, rapid stroke of the bow for each tone; in the case of harp and drum the hand is quickly brought in contact with the vibrating body, thus stopping the tone instantly. On the organ the tone is often prolonged to one-half the value of the printed note before the keys are released.
53. The wedge-shaped dash over the note (staccatissimo) was formerly employed to indicate a tone still more detached[Pg 18] than that indicated by the dot, but this sign is really superfluous, and is seldom used at present.
54. A tie is a curved line connecting the heads of two notes that call for the same tone. It indicates that they are to be sounded as one tone having a duration equal to the combined value of both notes. E.g., a half-note tied to a quarter-note would indicate a tone equal in duration-length to that shown by a dotted half-note; two half-notes tied would indicate a tone equal in duration to that shown by a whole-note. (See examples under Sections 49, 50, and 51).
Fig. 30 illustrates the more common variety of tie, while Fig. 31 shows an example of the enharmonic tie.
55. The slur is used in so many different ways that it is impossible to give a general definition. It consists of a curved line, sometimes very short (in which case it looks like the tie), but sometimes very long, connecting ten, fifteen, or more notes. Some of the more common uses of the slur are:
A. To indicate legato (sustained or connected) tones, as contrasted with staccato (detached) ones.
In violin music this implies playing all tones thus slurred in one bow; in music for the voice and for wind instruments it implies singing or playing them in one breath.
B. As a phrase-mark, in the interpretation of which the first tone of the phrase is often accented slightly, and the last one shortened in value.
This interpretation of the phrase is especially common when the phrase is short (as in the two-note phrase), and when the tones constituting the phrase are of short duration, e.g., the phrase given in Fig. 32 would be played approximately as written in Fig. 33.
But if the notes are of greater value, especially in slow tempi, the slur merely indicates legato, i.e., sustained or connected rendition. Fig. 34 illustrates such a case.
This is a matter of such diverse usage that it is difficult to generalize regarding it. The tendency seems at present to be in the direction of using the slur (in instrumental music) as a phrase-mark exclusively, it being understood that unless there is some direction to the contrary, the tones are to be performed in a connected manner.
C. In vocal music, to show that two or more tones are to be sung to one syllable of text. See Fig. 35.
In notes of small denomination (eighths and smaller) this same thing is often indicated by stroking the stems together as in Fig. 36. This can only be done in cases where the natural grouping of notes in the measure will not be destroyed.
D. To mark special note-groups (triplets, etc.), in which case the slur is accompanied by a figure indicating the number of notes in the group. See Fig. 37 (a)
The most common of these irregular note-groups is the triplet, which consists of three notes to be performed in the time ordinarily given to two of the same value. Sometimes the triplet consists of only two notes as in Fig. 37 (b). In such a case the first two of the three notes composing the triplet are considered to be tied.
When the triplet form is perfectly obvious, the Fig. 3 (as well as the slur) may be omitted.
Other examples of irregular note-groups, together with the names commonly applied, follow.
56. The combination of slur or tie and dots over the notes indicates that the tones are to be somewhat detached, but not sharply so.
This effect is sometimes erroneously termed portamento (lit. carrying), but this term is more properly reserved for an entirely different effect, viz., when a singer, or player on a stringed instrument, passes from a high tone to a low one (or vice versa) touching lightly on some or all of the diatonic tones between the two melody tones.
57. The horizontal dash over a note indicates that the tone is to be slightly accented, and sustained. This mark is also sometimes used after a staccato passage to show that the tones are no longer to be performed in detached fashion, but are to be sustained. This latter use is especially common in music for stringed instruments.
58. The combination of dash and dot over a note indicates that the tone is to be slightly accented and separated from its neighboring tones.
59. Accent marks are made in a variety of fashions. The most common forms follow. sf fz. All indicate that a certain tone or chord is to be differentiated from its neighboring tones or chords by receiving a certain relative amount of stress.
60. In music for keyboard instruments it is sometimes necessary to indicate that a certain part is to be played by a certain hand. The abbreviations r.h. (right hand), m.d. (mano destra, It.), and m.d. (main droite, Fr.), designate that a passage or tone is to be played with the right hand, while l.h. (left hand), m.s. (mano sinistra, It.), and m.g. (main gauche, Fr.), show that the left hand is to be employed.[Pg 21]
61. The wavy line placed vertically beside a chord indicates that the tones are to be sounded consecutively instead of simultaneously, beginning with the lowest tone, all tones being sustained until the duration-value of the chord has expired. This is called arpeggio playing. When the wavy line extends through the entire chord (covering both staffs) as in Fig. 38, all the tones of the chord are to be played one after another, beginning with the lowest: but if there is a separate wavy line for each staff as at Fig. 39 then the lowest tone represented on the upper staff is to be played simultaneously with the lowest tone represented on the bass staff.
The word arpeggio (plural arpeggi) is a derivation of the Italian word arpa (meaning harp), and from this word arpa and its corresponding verb arpeggiare (to play on the harp) are derived also a number of other terms commonly used in instrumental music. Among these are—arpeggiamento, arpeggiando, arpeggiato, etc., all of these terms referring to a harp style of performance, the tones being sounded one after another in rapid succession instead of simultaneously as on the piano.
62. The sign over a note indicates that the tone is to be begun softly, gradually increased in power, and as gradually decreased again, ending as softly as it began. In vocal music this effect is called messa di voce.
63. In music for stringed instruments of the violin family, the sign indicates down-bow and the sign up-bow. In cello music the down-bow sign is sometimes written .