Ties, Slurs, and Phrase Marks

With the rules in mind, one might wonder how to hold a note across a bar line, from one measure to another. If a note must be sustained from one measure across another, or if a value of a beat cannot be written by a dot, a tie is used in each of the above instances.

The rule here to keep in mind is that a tie is used only to illustrate notes of the same pitch. (A note of the same pitch is a note that is written on the same line or space on the staff). The tie always tells the reader that the note is to be held and not attacked. If the intention were for the note to be attacked again, the tie would be omitted.

The slur is a way to annotate a smooth transition between notes of a different pitch. The slur is not a way to illustrate attacking another note, but to show the notes are to be played legato (Italian for playing evenly or smoothly).

In order to illustrate the antithesis of a slur or legato, a dot is placed either directly above or below a note to indicate a staccato, or that the note is to be played for half the length written. This should not be confused with dotting a note to increase its value by one-half a beat.

To show the beginning and end of a phrase, a phrase mark is used, identifying a reoccurring phrase in a musical composition, called a cliché.

Phrase Mark