Do you know the difference between ties and slurs? This is something I have noticed a lot people find confusing.
They do look similar, but there are some clear differences. We’re going to explore what those differences are right now.
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A tie connects two or more notes of the same pitch together with a curved line over or under the notes.
The rhythms are then added together. The value of the second note, or tied note, is added to the value of the first note.
Can there be several notes tied together? Yes, you can find multiple notes tied together. This makes for a really long time to hold one note.
Ties are always written on the opposite side of the note stems. They are drawn connecting the note heads, not the stems.
So, if the stems are mostly facing down, the tie is written above the notes. If the stems are mostly going up, the tie can be found below the notes.
How To Play Ties
To play or sing ties, you sound the first note and hold it for the length of both notes without replaying the second note.
For example, this tied note is held for a total of 6 counts. The whole note equals 4 counts plus the 2 counts of the half note.
However, you don’t want to count “1-2-3-4-5-6”. You will get lost as to what beat you are on. Instead, count “1-2-3-4, 1-2”.
Make sure you are keeping track of every beat going by, regardless of how the notes are connected.
A slur connects two or more notes of different pitches together by a curved line over or under the notes.
When you hear notes that are slurred, there is a connection of sound. No break or silence is heard between the pitches.
The term legato is used to describe how you play or sing slurred notes. Literally, it means “to unite or bind”.
To put it in simpler terms, it means a smooth connection from one note to the next.
Here’s an example of notes with slurs:
In other words, slurs are always written right above or below the note head, depending on the direction of the stems.
Usually, when you see a good mix in stem direction, the slur is written above the notes.
How To Play Slurs
If you play a wind instrument, only the first note of the slurred grouping is tongued. After tonguing the first note, keep the air moving leaving no break in sound between the notes.
Also, do not breathe in between the notes with slurs.
On string instruments, a slur means to play a group of notes with one long bowing.
For piano players, slurs tell us when to lift the hands.
Differences in Use
Ties are thought of as a part of rhythm in music. They have more to do with note values or how long you hold a note.
Slurs are more along the lines of articulation or how you play a note. Do you play it short, long, connected, accented, etc.?
In the case of slurs, you play using a connection of sound called legato playing. This is slightly different on each instrument.
While ties and slurs can be confusing, we’ve found some real differences that are worth remembering.
My hope is that now you will know the difference between these two markings and know exactly what to do when you see them.
Just keep in mind that ties hold while slurs are smooth. Ties use the same notes while slurs connect different notes together.
There you go. The tie and slur mystery is finally solved!
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