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!