Have you ever wondered what the term ‘articulation’ means in music theory? If so, you’re not alone.

Articulation plays a crucial role in how we perform and interpret music. In this article, we’ll explore what articulation is, how it affects our musical performances, and some common articulation techniques used in music.

What is Articulation?

Articulation refers to the way we play or sing individual notes in a musical performance. It includes elements like:

Each of these elements contributes to our overall interpretation of a piece of music. By manipulating them, we can create different effects and convey different emotions.

Why Is Articulation Important?

Articulation helps us bring music to life. Without it, even the most technically proficient performance can sound flat and lifeless. By using different articulation techniques, we can create contrast and interest within a piece of music.

For example, consider a simple melody played without any articulation. It might sound something like this:


Now let’s add some articulation:

C. D. E. C. G.

By adding staccato dots under each note (indicating that they should be played short and detached), we create a bouncy, playful feel. This is just one example of how articulation can transform a piece of music.

Common Articulation Techniques

There are many different articulation techniques used in music. Here are a few of the most common:


Legato refers to playing notes smoothly and connectedly, without any breaks between them. To achieve a legato sound, we might use slurs or simply play each note with a smooth, flowing motion.


Staccato notes are played short and detached. This can be indicated by placing dots under each note or using the word ‘staccato’ in the music notation.


Tenuto notes are played with a slight emphasis or stress. They are held for their full value (i.e. not shortened like staccato notes), but with a sense of weight and importance.


Accented notes are played with extra emphasis. They stand out from the surrounding notes and help to create contrast within a piece of music.


Articulation is an essential element of musical performance. By manipulating elements like duration, attack, release, dynamics, and tone color, we can bring music to life and convey different emotions. Whether you’re a singer or instrumentalist, understanding articulation is crucial for creating engaging and expressive musical performances.