Violin Bowing: Detache, Staccato, Legato, And Tenuto

Play it, then say it

Hi everyone! What I do here at Musilesson has a method to the madness. I like to teach you how to do things, then name what you’re doing. Right now, I’m going to talk to you about Detache bowing, Staccato bowing, Legato bowing, and Tenuto. It’s important to know these four techniques since we just learned how to bow on the violin.

Detache bowing

Detache simply means “separated” or “detached”. This bow stroke applies to any note/bow we use that is not connected to another note/bow. However, you’re going to find that it’s not so simple. There are a number of different Detache bow strokes for the violin because any bow that does not have an intentional “connected” feel or sound to it is technically Detache. Martele is an example of a Detache bowing. For this reason, there is no all-encompassing “detache” marking. There are marks associated with individual techniques.

Do you remember our “alternate bowing” that we talked about previously in Stage 1? Well, that’s an example of Detache bowing. Each note will be bowed with opposite direction bowing. It’s important to know this. Now, even though they are different bow directions, we want to make sure we are not accenting any of the bow direction changes. In other words, you don’t want anyone to know that you are changing directions, so you want to make this happen as smoothly as possible.

Staccato bowing

The next technique we are going to talk about is Staccato on the violin. The word Staccato and it’s meaning comes from two words in Italian, Staccare (to detach), and attaccare (to attack). Staccato is when each note intentionally sounds disconnected, signified by a shortened duration. Staccato markings appear as dots above or below each note.

Now, it’s important to note that staccato does NOT mean that we heavily attack the note. It simply means to play the note shorter than written. You’ll know you’re doing it correctly because there will be a brief moment of silence between each staccato note.

Legato bowing

Our next discussion is on Legato. Legato literally means “tied together” in Italian. When you play Legato, you want there to be no sound, accent, or distinction between notes or when changing notes. Legato can take on the form of slurs, or ties (when multiple notes are played in one bow direction).

The Legato marking can also be played over separate notes using detached (alternate) bowings, and the goal is the same: make sure no one can tell that you’re changing directions with your bow. With simple Detache, we want the strokes to sound smooth and the goal is the same for Legato.

However, the Legato marking means that we want the bows and the notes to have a completely connected feel. We do not want there to be any time between the notes. So, for example, a quarter note will end and the next quarter note will imperceptibly begin immediately. Main word: “connected”. That’s our goal for Legato.


This is where Tenuto comes in. Tenuto is a marking that is the opposite of the Staccato marking. It is designated by a short, horizontal line above or below the head of the note. While Staccato means “to separate”, Tenuto means “to hold”. This literally translates to our holding the note out for it’s full value. No shortening of the note here.

Tenuto works hand in hand with Legato. It compliments Legato and is simply another level of direction from the composer to you on how to play their music as they desire. Tenuto and Staccato work together to create variety in songs and you’ll find that you use them very frequently.

Admittedly, this has more to do with our reading sheet music. But that’s why I’m telling this to you now. Im going to show you how these techniques are played, so that you’re ready to learn their symbols when we step into sight reading sheet music, which is coming soon.

Final thoughts

I hope this helps you all out. Remember to practice using these techniques every day after watching the accompanying video. Watch and listen, then play. I’ve included the symbols for each of these techniques in this article, but they aren’t going to be a main focal point just yet. For right now, I just want you to play along and get comfortable with each technique. Have fun with these and try applying them to some of your favorite songs. See you all in the next article!

Facebook Comments
Enjoyed this video?
"No Thanks. Please Close This Box!"