How to Play Staccato on the Piano

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When you hear short notes – on almost any instrument – this is usually called staccato. We are going to be discussing two types of staccato notes – one is single staccato notes and the other is slurs which end in staccato notes such as two note slurs.

For the video example above, I chose the last movement of Mozart’s K331 Sonata in a major which ends with the famous Alla Turca movement. This is a great piece for staccato demonstration and if you have the chance you may enjoy following along with the video.

The most important technique in playing staccatos is using the wrist. If you rely on the arms the notes won’t snap like they should – it will sound limp. The arms are simply too big and ponderous to rely on for this technique. But how do you approach the staccatos with your wrist?

In the case of a single note, you will want to place your fingers over the keys and simply use your wrist to play the notes. You will want to move ONLY the wrist; do not involve your arms at all except to carefully place the hands over the right keys. By practicing this technique and relying on the wrist, you can develop incredibly speed and fluidity.

When it comes to slurs that end in staccatos, you will want to achieve this is one motion. In this particular piece there is a two note slur that ends in a staccato. For this example you will want to play down for the first note of the slur, and then up for the staccato. The video above provides an excellent example of this. It doesn’t matter how many notes are in the slur, you will always want to go down with the wrist on the first note then come up on the staccato note.

When you put this all together, you will notice a very big change in the sound of the music. Your short notes will have a nice crisp sound to them – they will delineate themselves from the slurred notes.

Now, staccato doesn’t always mean short. It technically means detached. There are examples of slower music where the notes aren’t short but are simply detached from each other. This is an entirely different technique I will cover in a future video but for today, the examples above will help you start playing staccato like a pro.

Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin (949) 244-3729