Dots & Dashes: Articulation and Emphasis in Baroque Music

Hi everyone! Ever wondered how to make sense of articulation in Baroque music? Join the session to get some ideas to get you started. The livestream will also address viewer submissions, so make sure to think of a few passages you might like to get some input on and make sure to post those down below!

Looking forward to seeing you there,

Emmanuel 🎶


‘Music as speech’ is one of the most quoted analogies to describe Baroque music. How does articulation help clarify our musical discourse? What’s the role of articulation and emphasis in dance movements? How does articulation affect our fingering decisions?

Join Emmanuel Sowicz for this livestream where he will present these questions and more through a variety of examples from the Baroque period. Don’t forget to submit your own passages in the dedicated forum for them to be reviewed during the livestream!


We are going to be using this thread to gather suggestions and questions!

  • What questions do you have on this topic?
  • Any particular area you would like me to focus on?

Forum questions will be answered first!

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  • An accurate graphic depiction for the topic. Kudos to the artist. 

    Like 1
    • Thank you, Michael Carlson !

      I passed on your compliments to the artist, my wife Yuko who kindly lent me a hand.

      All best!


  • Hi, Emmanuel. These days I can´t attend the livestreams, so I must watch the recordings. 

    As always, you have done a great job . My question is: would you apply these concepts to other ages/authors? In my case, I feel comfortable doing it wether it´s Giuliani, Brouwer, or whatever.


    Like 1
    • Hi Igor ,

      Thank you! Very glad you found the topic useful.

      Yes – these concepts are transferrable to other styles of music. They can be particularly useful with music from the classical period which is greatly inspired by many similar ideas of music as discourse or 'sound speech'. Composers in this period wrote (including Giuliani) with a heightened sense for musical 'punctuation', clearly delimitating phrases and ideas, and still thinking gesturally in many instances. Therefore, many of the same broader principles we applied for baroque music of performing music in the way an orator would deliver a speech (with clarity and clearly distinguishing ideas or phrases) can still apply.

      If you would like to know how we can apply this in practical terms, consider playing around with detaching intervals larger than a second and playing neighbouring notes legato. This usually opens many avenues!

      These concepts may be less applicable to romantic music which is composed following other ideas and principles. Romantic music is perhaps less 'speech music' and a bit more music of song which tries to imitate the human voice. So if you have a cantabile melody in romantic music, you might be focusing on playing legato and cantabile, rather than articulating intervals.

      Brouwer's music can range across many different styles, so the principles that may suit a work of his may not necessarily be the best for another work. One might benefit from determining what are the most prominent elements in a piece of music (is it rhythm, intervalic gestures, or cantabile lines?) and approach it accordingly.

      Hope some of this might be useful.

      All best!


  • As I´ve being today rewiewing articulation for fugues 997 and 998, this (old) question has also come to my mind: say you have a motive and you want to articulate it in a certain way, but as it turns up in the piece, it´s not always possible to articulate it in the same way due to other voices making it very awkward. I think tablatures seem to suggest baroque musicians didn´t care very much, but for me it´s sometimes quite irritating. What´s your opinion?

    Thank You!!

    Like 1
    • Igor Hi again!

      I agree that inconsistent articulation that arises from carelessness can be less than gratifying to hear as a listener. One can find evidence to suggest lutenists weren't preoccupied with articulation, even to the extent of not dampening basses at all. However, my view is that if one has the ability to do something reliably and consistently (in this case articulating to play not only short or long, but anything in between), then that becomes a tool that can be used for expression and enrichening the discourse. Morover, the sound of the guitar is a bit more incisive and slightly less resonant, making articulation (or the lack of it) perhaps even more apparent.

      I think avoiding articulation altogether simply because it wasn't a concern for earlier musicians (and we can't even be sure of that) would be similarly pointless to playing harpsichord transcriptions on the guitar at a single dynamic level simply because the harpsichord isn't able to vary its dynamics (with some exceptions).

      Each instrument (and player) has unique resources which he/she can put to use in order to bring out the most in the music.

      Regarding your initial point of if not always being possible to articulate a recurrent theme in a similar way – I'd say that's probably a matter of technique that could be studied to reach a reliable solution. Articulating reliably in a polyphonic texture is to a very large extent the responsibility of the right hand which will concern itself not only with the production of sound but with stopping sound as well, and for many strings at a time. I know developing this can be a long (and sometimes overwhelming) process, so I'd suggest using the technical tools available to you at this time to the fullest extent, and then trying to reach a little further every time.

      Best wishes!


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