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Topic: Articulation vs. Expression [musical speaking]

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  1. #1

    Articulation vs. Expression [musical speaking]

    What is articulation? Is that Marcato, Heavy attack, Tenuto, Legato, etc...
    What is expression? Is that Détaché, Martelé, Spiccato, Sautillé.... etc

    Or is it just the other way around?

    When I speak at a lower voice then I can express something lovely. When I speak aloud, then I want emphasizing things. So this is expression.

    When I speak "détaché" then I articulate like the military in "at-ten-tion". It can be soft (not likely in military) or with some heavy attacks on each syllable. But still it is an articulation.

    And now, the problem. Articulation can be legato, staccato, sforzando, and the way we express that articulation is expression. So the marcato notes can be played martelé or staccato, or other combinations.

    You see the dilemma?

    Raymond

  2. #2

    Re: Articulation vs. Expression [musical speaking]

    It sounds like you are working up some of your pieces in a notation program, Raymond, and want the score to be correct? And you want to know which tools to reach for as you work?

    I'm extremely far from being any kind of notation expert, I'm in Notation Kindergarten. But a summary of musical notation I found in a Wiki entry agrees with my basic understanding of what you're asking about. Here's my brief condensation:

    Expression is the term for Dynamics-the Volume of a passage of music: Crescendo, ppp to fff etc. It's all about the relative intensity/volume of a line.

    Articulations are the way in which individual notes are played: Staccato, Spiccato, Accent, Marcato etc.

    So, just as you're saying, the Articulation doesn't necessarily have to indicate the volume of a passage. String sections can pluck away at a Pizzicato passage quietly, or use Snap Pizzicato to be louder. A passage using Staccato notes doesn't necessarily have to be loud.

    But some terms, like Marcato, would always mean loud because the playing style is forceful - Marcato basically means "louder," so to have Marcato articulations in a quiet passage would only mean those particular notes are loud while the other instruments are playing softly.

    Expression=relates to whole passage.
    Articulation=relates to the mechanics employed on single notes.

    That's the way I understand it anyway, and this Wiki entry is in agreement:

    Wiki List of musical symbols

    Randy

  3. #3

    Re: Articulation vs. Expression [musical speaking]

    When in doubt try Dolmetsch Online.

    Articulation: http://www.dolmetsch.com/defsa9.htm near the foot of the page.

    Expression: http://www.dolmetsch.com/defse3.htm again near foot.
    Much less clear.

    Are they, to some extent, interchangeable?
    Regards,
    John.

  4. #4

    Re: Articulation vs. Expression [musical speaking]

    I might be somewhat off, but I think of articulation and expression as analogous to the function of constants and vowels in words. Like consonants, "articulation" seems more related to a note's, attack, release and the spacing between notes. "Expression" seems to related more towards the sustain of a note, say, how the volume, vibrato, pitch, and higher frequencies modulate as the note is "sung."

    In the same way the ideas are intertwined in much the same way you can't voice a consonant without a vowel hanging off somewhere. For instance, the articulation of a piano effects its expression (in midi terms its velocity defines its sustain) and the articulation used through a passage would affect the overall effect of the passage's expression.

    Hope that makes sense. Feel free to correct me if I'm off base.

  5. #5
    Senior Member tedvanya's Avatar
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    Re: Articulation vs. Expression [musical speaking]

    Let me agree with Randy, who is clearly and simply states the difference between Expression and Articulation. It is this simple, one is orange the other is apple. ( I am expressing myself now with this comment, and ( since I am a "two-finger" typist) articulate with my fingers hitting the letters.)

    Ted

  6. #6

    Re: Articulation vs. Expression [musical speaking]

    Good day, Daniel!- Thank you so much for your burst of participation over the last day. I see this morning that you've been very active on the Forum, joining in here on the General Discussion Forum, and listening as well as commenting on music members have posted in The Listening Room. Great! Make a visit to the Garritan Forum as part of your daily routine! And be sure to have the option checked in your user profile info to get instant email notification for threads you've read or responded to - that's the easiest way to stay in touch.

    I like your analogy of the articulation and expression of a musical performance to consonants and vowels in speech very much. That's a vivid comparison that makes good sense. Articulation is the nature of the "attack envelope" as we say about MIDI, and Expression is how the rest of the note's duration is performed, growing louder, growing softer, yelled, whispered, etc.

    In your reference to piano, you said velocity defines its sustain, but to be more literal, it's actually the sustain pedal or how long a key is held down that determines its sustain. The velocity will define its volume though, like all percussion instruments. In the MIDI world that's a big difference between percussion, both tuned and un-tuned, and the other instruments - We could play a note with a violin softly, giving it a slow attack, but the note could still swell to a loud volume - something that wouldn't be either possible or natural with a piano. But you're right that the articulation used through a piano passage determines the volume of a passage, while with most MIDI instruments, dynamic expression can be independent of the articulation at a note's onset.

    Thanks again for joining in!

    Randy

    P.S. Your reply came in after I'd composed this, Ted - hehe, thanks for the smile this morning.

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Bendshadler View Post
    I might be somewhat off, but I think of articulation and expression as analogous to the function of constants and vowels in words. Like consonants, "articulation" seems more related to a note's, attack, release and the spacing between notes. "Expression" seems to related more towards the sustain of a note, say, how the volume, vibrato, pitch, and higher frequencies modulate as the note is "sung."

    In the same way the ideas are intertwined in much the same way you can't voice a consonant without a vowel hanging off somewhere. For instance, the articulation of a piano effects its expression (in midi terms its velocity defines its sustain) and the articulation used through a passage would affect the overall effect of the passage's expression.

    Hope that makes sense. Feel free to correct me if I'm off base.

  7. #7

    Re: Articulation vs. Expression [musical speaking]

    The answers were very clear to me, thank you all. I have to print it all for further study. The analogy with vowels and consonants is great.

    Right now, I am busy programming some xml files for Overture, without any success. Don't know why, it has been a long time since I programmed anything.

    As always, greetings from The Hague - the center of the Earth

    Raymond

  8. #8
    Senior Member tedvanya's Avatar
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    Re: Articulation vs. Expression [musical speaking]

    Hello Raymond in the center of the Universe:

    Just could not stop rejoicing over this Forum. We are able to discuss, enjoy, learn, laugh, and cry even, because of this beautiful brother hood of like-minded, music loving people.
    If I could make this reply secret, I would, because I do not wish to swell some heads more, but name one guy, please, whose knowledge, help, understanding is at the base of this, randy-brandy.
    Have a nice day Raymond...

    Ted

  9. #9

    Re: Articulation vs. Expression [musical speaking]



    VSOP

    Raymond

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