Music Symbols

Articulation marks

Articulations (or accents) specify how to perform individual notes within a phrase or passage. They can be fine-tuned by combining more than one such symbol over or under a note. They may also appear in conjunction with phrasing marks listed above.

Music-staccato.svg Staccato
This indicates the musician should play the note shorter than notated, usually half the value, the rest of the metric value is then silent. Staccato marks may appear on notes of any value, shortening their performed duration without speeding the music itself.
Music-staccatissimo.svg Staccatissimo or Spiccato
Indicates a longer silence after the note (as described above), making the note very short. Usually applied to quarter notes or shorter. (In the past, this marking’s meaning was more ambiguous: it sometimes was used interchangeably with staccato, and sometimes indicated an accent and not staccato. These usages are now almost defunct, but still appear in some scores.) In string instruments this indicates a bowing technique in which the bow bounces lightly upon the string.
Music-marcato.png Accent
Play the note louder, or with a harder attack than surrounding unaccented notes. May appear on notes of any duration.
Music-tenuto.svg Tenuto
This symbol indicates play the note at its full value, or slightly longer. It can also indicate a slight dynamic emphasis or be combined with a staccato dot to indicate a slight detachment (portato or mezzo staccato).
Music-strong-marcato.svg Marcato
Play the note somewhat louder or more forcefully than a note with a regular accent mark (open horizontal wedge). In organ notation, this means play a pedal note with the toe. Above the note, use the right foot; below the note, use the left foot.
Music-pizzicato.svg Left-hand pizzicato or Stopped note
A note on a stringed instrument where the string is plucked with the left hand (the hand that usually stops the strings) rather than bowed. On the horn, this accent indicates a “stopped note” (a note played with the stopping hand shoved further into the bell of the horn). In percussion this notation denotes, among many other specific uses, to close the hi-hat by pressing the pedal, or that an instrument is to be “choked” (muted with the hand).
Music-snappizzicato.svg Snap pizzicato
On a stringed instrument, a note played by stretching a string away from the frame of the instrument and letting it go, making it “snap” against the frame. Also known as a Bartók pizzicato.
Music-harmonic.svg Natural harmonic or Open note
On a stringed instrument, means to play a natural harmonic (also called flageolet). On a valved brass instrument, means play the note”open” (without lowering any valve, or without mute). In organ notation, this means play a pedal note with the heel (above the note, use the right foot; below the note, use the left foot). In percussion notation this denotes, among many other specific uses, to open the hi-hat by releasing the pedal, or allow an instrument to ring.
Music-fermata.svg Fermata (Pause)
A note, chord, or rest sustained longer than its customary value. Usually appears over all parts at the same metrical location in a piece, to show a halt in tempo. It can be placed above or below the note. The fermata is held for as long as the performer or conductor desires.
Music-upbow.svg Up bow or Sull’arco
On a bowed string instrument, the note is played while drawing the bow upward. On a plucked string instrument played with a plectrum or pick (such as a guitar played pickstyle or a mandolin), the note is played with an upstroke.
Music-downbow.svg Down bow or Giù arco
Like sull’arco, except the bow is drawn downward. On a plucked string instrument played with a plectrum or pick (such as a guitar played pickstyle or a mandolin), the note is played with a downstroke.

Ornaments

Ornaments modify the pitch pattern of individual notes.

Music-trill.svg Trill
A rapid alternation between the specified note and the next higher note (according to key signature) within its duration. Also called a “shake.” When followed by a wavy horizontal line, this symbol indicates an extended, or running, trill. Trills can begin on either the specified root note or the upper auxiliary note, though the latter is more prevalent in modern performances. In percussion notation, a trill is sometimes used to indicate a tremolo (q.v.).
Music-mordent.svg Mordent
Rapidly play the principal note, the next higher note (according to key signature) then return to the principal note for the remaining duration. In most music, the mordent begins on the auxiliary note, and the alternation between the two notes may be extended. In handbells, this symbol is a “shake” and indicates the rapid shaking of the bells for the duration of the note.
Music-inverted mordent.png Mordent (inverted)
Rapidly play the principal note, the note below it, then return to the principal note for the remaining duration. In much music, the mordent begins on the auxiliary note, and the alternation between the two notes may be extended.
Music-turn-2.svgMusic-turn (principal first).pngMusic-inverted turn.png Turn
When placed directly above the note, the turn (also known as a gruppetto) indicates a sequence of upper auxiliary note, principal note, lower auxiliary note, and a return to the principal note. When placed to the right of the note, the principal note is played first, followed by the above pattern. Placing a vertical line through the turn symbol or inverting it, it indicates an inverted turn, in which the order of the auxiliary notes is reversed.
Music-appoggiatura.svg Appoggiatura
The first half of the principal note’s duration has the pitch of the grace note (the first two-thirds if the principal note is a dotted note).
Music-acciaccatura.svg Acciaccatura
The acciaccatura is of very brief duration, as though brushed on the way to the principal note, which receives virtually all of its notated duration. In percussion notation, the acciaccatura symbol denotes the flam rudiment, the miniature note still positioned behind the main note but on the same line or space of the staff. The flam note is usually played just before the natural durational subdivision the main note is played on, with the timing and duration of the main note remaining unchanged. Also known by the English translation of the Italian term, crushed note, and in German as Zusammenschlag (simultaneous stroke).