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Updated: Sep 30, 2023


Portato bowing is a bowing technique for stringed instruments, such as violin, viola, cello, and bass. It involves playing two or more notes in the same bow direction, but with a slight separation or articulation between each note. The notes are not completely detached, like in staccato, nor completely connected, like in legato. Instead, they are "carried" or "transported" by the bow, creating a pulsating or undulating effect. Portato bowing can be used to express different emotions and nuances in music, such as joy, sadness, tenderness, or agitation.

Portato bowing is indicated by slurred notes with dots or dashes above or below them. Sometimes there is no specific notation for portato bowing, and the performer has to decide whether to use it or not based on the musical context and interpretation. Portato bowing can be varied in speed, pressure, and length of the bow stroke, depending on the style and character of the music. Some examples of pieces that use portato bowing are Bach's Partita in E major for violin solo, Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor, and Brahms' Violin Concerto in D major.


Notation for Portato

Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor

Brahms' Violin Concerto in D major


Chris Caton-Greasley LLCM(TD) MA (Mus)(Open)

Ethnographic Musicologist, Teacher, Researcher

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