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Posted by Robert Thomas on 9th February 2011

Slurs are curved lines to indicate legato – smoothly connecting notes of different pitch with no breaks between them. They are also used to indicate bowing and/or phrasing. Slurs should be placed near the note heads, but may go over stems, flags, and beams when necessary. A short slur will follow the rise or fall of the notes it connects. The ends of slurs should be placed at the middle of note heads. In cases where the figure or melody has both up and down stems, the slur is placed above the line, even though there may be only one down stem in the group below it1 – sometimes it is necessary to draw the slur from the stem rather than from the note head. Whole notes are slurred as if they had stems. The arc of a slur should not be too high, so as to keep the slur close to the notes, and slur crests should be kept clear of staff lines; the middle of the arc should be centered between any surrounding staff lines. Slurs should trace a smooth arc and should not touch any note head, tie, or other symbol. They should be exactly placed, so as to unmistakably define the first and last notes they encompass.

If there are two independent lines on a staff, their slurs must curve away from each other and be placed on the stem side of the note heads (a stem-side slur is placed at the tip of the stem). Often in these cases, the slur must be shifted slightly to avoid crossing a stem (crossing a stem with a slur should be avoided if at all possible). A single slur is sufficient for chords.

When ties are used, slurs are always placed outside the tie mark. When a passage begins or ends with tied notes, slurs are extended over the entire passage. When chords are slurred, the slur marking is placed according to the stemmed notes of the chord. A large slur does not affect the direction of a smaller internal tie.

22nd Post Slurred Passage Image

When slurs are used in conjunction with staccatos and tenutos, the slur marks should be placed outside the articulation marks. Accent marks or wedges should also be covered by slurs except at the beginning and end of the slur, in which case the slur should be between the note head and the articulation mark.

22nd Post Slurred Articulations Image

Slurs may pass through a bar line and may be extended over a system break. When extended over a system break, the slur ending the first system should not extend beyond, but appear to be continuing its arc beyond, the line’s final bar line; the slur at the beginning of the following line should be short and nearly horizontal if it ends on the line’s first note.

1 That is, slurs go below notes when all of the notes in the passage are upstemmed and above the notes when any of the notes in the phrase are downstemmed.

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