Reading Music Lesson #40: Slurs And Ties

reading music lessonSlurs and ties can be easily confused with each other since they look very similar.

So, what’s the difference?


A slur connects two or more different notes together using a curved line.


This means we are to play or sing the notes very smoothly (or legato) with no break in the sound.  There should be no silence in between the notes.

Wind Players

Only the first note of a slur grouping should be tongued.

String Players

Slurred notes should be played with one bow.

Piano Players

Lift the hands at the end of each slur.


A tie joins two or more notes of the same pitch together using a curved line.


The note values of the two tied notes are added together.  Only the first note is played or sung and then held for the total length of time indicated.

Put It Into Practice

If you look at the example above and pretend there is a 4/4 time signature,  a whole note tied to another whole note (of the same exact pitch) would be held a total of 8 beats.

tied notes

We would count it “1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4”.

Any time notes are tied over the bar line, you need to restart your counting with the number “1” in order to stay organized and keep track of where you are at in the music.

What Do You Think?

Are you able to see the difference between slurs and ties now?  It can be tricky at first, but review this lesson as many times as you need until you feel like you’ve really got it down.

When you’re ready, let’s move on to discuss repeat signs…

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