Basic Finger Articulation







          Playing music involves more than just playing the right note at the right time. The way the notes are
          played, the articulation, is of equal importance as pitch and duration. Music articulation is in many
          ways comparable to articulation in poetry or acting. The way words are pronounced, sentences formed
          etc. are of the utmost importance. Without articulation a poem or text would sound very monotonous
          and boring. The same goes for music. When a player limits himself to just pushing keys,  his music
          will sound just as monotonous.

          In music we distinguish three basic forms of articulation;

  • Legato
  • Portato
  • Staccato

        On  instruments with bellows, like the concertina, these articulation forms can  be performed in 3
       different ways:

  • finger articulation:
  • bellows articulation
  • finger/bellows articulation

          In this section we will discuss the first method, finger articulation.


          Legato is indicated by either a slur over or under two or more notes of different names, or the
          word legato printed in the score.   Legato means: connected, in an even, smooth and gliding manner.
          To play legato, play the note until the next note starts, without creating a gap between notes.
          When playing finger legato, the movement of the two fingers, one lifting up and one pushing
          down, has to be executed exactly at the same time. It is not possible to play finger legato using
          the same finger, because the time needed to lift up the finger and push it down again always
          creates  a noticeable  gap between the notes.

          Always keep your fingers close to the keys. The finger 'speed' of both movements, lifting up and
          pushing down, should be the same, especially when alternating left and right hand.  Make sure the
          pressure points are even (see holding the instrument). If you use your playing fingers also to hold
          the instrument, you might find it hard to lift up your finger on time. This will cause the notes to

                          Legato slur                                                      The bar indicates the sound of the note.


          Portato is indicated by a short line over or under a note, or the combination of a slur and staccato
          dot. It can also be indicated by the word portato printed in the score.  Portato means: lengthened,
To play portato, sound the note about 50-75% of the length of the notated value. The notes
          should always be separated by a rest. Finger-portato is probably the easiest articulation form to
          perform. Because of the time between two notes, it does not require any special technique.
          Pay attention to the lifting up of your finger, which determines  the length of the tone you are
          playing. If you play several portato notes in succession, make sure they are the same length. 

          Again, make sure your pressure points are even (see holding the instrument). If you use your
          playing fingers also to hold the instrument, you might find it hard to lift up your finger on time,
          which results in an uneven portato.

                           Portato notation                                            The bar indicates the length (50%) of the tone


          Staccato is indicated by a dot over or under a note. It can also be indicated by the word staccato
          printed in the score.  Staccato means: detached, separated.
Just as with portato, the actual sound of a staccato note is shorter than the notated value. The
          actual length of the tone should be about 10-20% of the notated value.
          Finger-staccato is the hardest  finger articulation form to perform, because of the speed of the
          finger movement required, and the unevenness of the fingers, especially the weaker fingers 3 and 4
          (ring and little finger). When you try to play staccato by 'tapping' your fingers on the keys, you'll
          notice that it is impossible to obtain evenness between the fingers. Your index and middle finger
          will perform a 'crispier' staccato than the ring and little finger. 
          The best way to guarantee uniform staccato with all fingers, is to reverse the movement. When you
          pull away your fingers, instead of tapping,  you will use your hand muscles. Since these muscles are
          used for all fingers, this will automatically guarantee the required degree of evenness. The actual
          movement can best be compared to the movement you'll make when you touch something very hot.
          When you pull away your hand in this manner, the finger touching a key at that moment will first
          go down before lifting up. It makes a jumping movement. The finger itself does not do anything,
          it  passively follows the hand.

          In order to allow your hand the degree of flexibility required to perform this movement, make
          sure your pressure points are even (see holding the instrument). Again, if you use your playing
          fingers also to hold the instrument, it will be impossible to perform this hand movement.


                           Staccato notation                                 The bar indicates the length (10-20%) of the tone.


          The following example shows a variety of articulation forms used in a simple phrase.  Note that
          the last (second) note under the slur, 'a' and 'f ',  are automatically played shorter than the first note.
          This way the phrasing of two notes becomes audible. Also, note that the legato 8th note has the
          same length as the portato quarter note.