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Intro to Articulations & Bowings

How does it sound? What does it sound like? If you’ve ever been asked these questions you might have struggled a bit. You might use words to describe texture like soft/hard or used words for volume. But musicians have another set of words, articulations. Articulation are words that tell us the type of sound to produce. It is most similar to a comma, ñ, or é that we see in written language. In addition to this, stringed instruments

have words that tell us to do bowings that produce a desired effect or tone. Articulations are always marked in music and bowings are only sometimes indicated but otherwise implied by the style, tempo, and performance practices. Here’s a list of articulations and bowings that all violinists should know!


Legato - Smooth and connected sound with little to no break in between notes. Use slurs or other techniques to disguise bow changes.

Staccato - Short and clipped sound with a break in between notes. Stopping the bow in between notes to clip sound.

Tenuto - Tenuto means to play a note in its full length but it can also mean to add slight emphasis or separation to the note in a phrase.

Accent - Strong emphasis on a note, often used in a forte section. Bow will create a “click” and sometimes even a “crunch” sound at the beginning of the note.

Marcato - Strong and short note, almost exactly like an accent.

Sforzando - Strong and sudden emphasis on a note. Bow will create a “crunch” sound at the beginning of the note.

In between a bowing and an articulation

Slur - a slur is the act of connecting two notes into one bow stroke. This creates a smooth and connected sound and is often used when a phrase is played legato. Sometimes a slur will be accompanied by other articulations like a staccato or a tenuto to indicate breaks in the slur or emphasis.



Detaché - This is the word for bowing Down and Up on the violin. The bow is creating detached notes that all sound the same. You may have to add more pressure to up bow’s to achieve a perfect Detaché bow stroke.

Martellé - Martellé is a marked bow stroke similar to Detache but with space in between the strokes. You will use a fast straight bow and abruptly stop to achieve this bow stroke. It is often the first bow stroke students learn because the break in the sound allows students time to place fingers and switch strings!

Pizzicato - to pluck the string with the right hand finger. It can be done in playing position or guitar position. Special attention to pluck over the fingerboard where there is no rosin because the oils from your fingers shouldn’t mix with rosin.

Arco - to play with the hair of the bow. This happens after you have played a pizzicato section and they want you to go back to playing regularly.


Spiccato - to bounce the bow on the string and create a percussive bouncy staccato sound.

Col Legno - to bounce on the stick side of the bow. This achieves a light percussive sound.

Tremolo - Shaking the bow on the string producing a lot of notes! You sustain the shake for the length of the note. Used often in orchestral music. It can be achieved piano at the tip and forte at the frog. It is important to do this stroke with a loose wrist and a small amount of bow.

Portato - Slurred notes separated by a pulse, instead of a full stop

Sul Ponticello - to play near the bridge to produce a desired tone.

Sul Tasto - To play over the fingerboard to produce a desired tone.


Sauteille - A bounced fast stroke played in the middle of the bow (the bounciest part). We describe this stroke as “bouncing within the bow” as opposed to “bouncing off the string”.

Collé - To use the fingers of the hand to articulate the bow. We use the fingers to press and lift the bow on the string. This creates a click at the beginning of the stroke but the lift allows the string to ring. Similar to a martellé but with lifting off the string using the fingers.

Ricochet - Bouncing the bow in one direction producing many fast spicatto notes. You achieve this by dropping the bow onto the string and letting it bounce as you go down or up. You want to achieve 4 or more bounces!

Flying Spicatto/Spicatto Volante -To use a Colle movement to Spicatto in one direction. Sometimes like a ricochet

Double stops - To play 2 notes at the same time.

Chords - Play 2 or more notes at the same time. Can be played a few different ways.


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