Reading music sheets can be very tasking, especially if you lack a basic understanding of some musical terms. The marcato is one of those confusing musical instructions you will often come across. The question now is, what exactly is marcato in music; what does it mean?
To clear the surrounding confusion, a simple term for marcato is “a note stress”. It is an Italian mark that is used to give musical instruction on a particular note or chord. For instance, the marcato tells you to play a particular note or chord louder.
The marcato may be written above or below a note. It can also often be represented with this symbol (∧), to pass instructions across. Essentially, the marcato is a louder version of accent. The major point is that marcatos are used to pass instructions to the player through a music sheet.
What Does Marcato in Music Mean?
The vertical wedge mark (∧) symbolizes the marcato. Although, it is stressed in various ways. You can have the left side thicker than the other side. This indicates the side you should stress more. At times, it could be the right side that will be thicker, or you could just have it all in thin lines. All of these have their meanings.
Marcato in music is used to signify an alteration of a regular flow of a song. It often signifies a sharp attack, tampering with a song’s original dynamic. Authored by James Mark Jordan, he stated that the “marcato sound is characterized by a rhythmic thrust followed by a decay of the sound”.
The major idea you need to grab here is that marcato in music is used to create a sharp alteration. Then the part of the note or chord that is stressed indicates where the alteration should be.
In jazz band music, the marcato is typically used to indicate that a note should be shortened to approximately two-thirds of its normal duration.
Origin of Marcato
The origin of marcato can be traced back to the 18th century when composers desired that they could mark their songs the way they wanted them to be played. Several attempts were made but to no avail. Then, the likes of JS Bach began to make certain articulation, phrasing, and dynamics to his musical compositions.
Sadly, players were unable to read his exact thoughts through those articulations. Therefore, he left most of the decision to those players to determine what the articulation meant and to play it the way they understood it.
During the 20th century, composers started coming up with ways of articulating their musical compositions in ways that will be interpreted exactly as they wanted. Modern composers like Brian Ferneyhough began to articulate his music with an intricate direction that will enable it to be interpreted as he wanted.
One of such intricate directions is the marcato. Marcato is an Italian word that means “to stress or hammer”. This gives the direction on what exactly is expected of the player. That is; to stress or emphasize a note. Another way to describe it is by playing a note like a staccato.
This will already give you an indication of how a note with this mark should be sung or played. The note should be stressed or emphasized. A note with a marcato mark means the note is to be played with strong accentuation.
Things a Marcato May Connote in a Music Note
Finding marcato in a music note could connote that the note that is stressed is to be played for a shortened duration. This is when the marcato is played the staccato way, with a sense of urgency.
The marcato, unlike the legato, indicates that a note should be short-held. The legato on the other hand deals with long-held notes.
A marcato also means that a note should be played more forcefully than the rest of the unstressed notes.
To play louder
The marcato often sounds louder than the accent, and it is often used to emphasize a note that should be played louder than the unstressed notes.
What are Marcato and Legato – Types of articulations
There are several types of articulations that connote several things. The position of the marks on or around the notes determines how they are stressed. The articulation stress include the tenuto, staccato, marcato and legato.
It is a tempo mark used to hold a note for a full length. It could also mean that you should play a note louder.
Similar to a marcato, it signifies that you should shorten the duration of a note or that the note should be completely detached.
The marcato means that a short note, long chord or medium passage should be played louder. It could also mean that a note should be played more forcefully.
This articulation indicates that a musical note should be played or sung smoothly and connected. In music, legato is an Italian word for “tied together”. This indicates that the notes are to be played together. What this means is that the player will transition from one note to the other without an intervening silence.
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Marcato vs Accent
The marcato and accent articulations are often misunderstood to mean the same. However, these are some differences between them:
One of the basic ways to distinguish them is the symbol. While a marcato is identified by a vertical wedged mark (∧), the accent has a horizontal wedged mark (>).
2. Volume of Accent
The marcato is played louder than the standard accent. This is one of the major ways to differentiate the marcato and the accent.
Notes with the accent mark are less forceful, the marcato is delivered more forcefully. The attack on a marcato note is also more intense than the accent.
4. Shorter duration
The marcato and the accent also vary in the duration they last for. Although the accent note is short, the marcato is shorter than it.
The instruction an accent mark gives is to emphasize a note. It tells you to play a note with more emphasis. On the contrary, the marcato is used to cut a note short or to forcefully play a note within the shortest time. The concepts of the two articulations vary and indicate different things to the players.
6. Marcato plays differently on various instruments
How the marcato will sound on the piano is different from how it will sound on a trumpet. Also, how fast it will play depends on the type of instrument it is being played on. The tempo of the sound is also affected by the type of instrument. The accent on the hand may not really vary because they are played at a lengthier duration than the marcato.
Is Marcato louder Than Accent?
There are several factors that differentiate the marcato from the accent. One of them is the volume. Essentially, the marcato is a louder version of the regular accent. This answers the question on whether the marcato or the accent is louder. The marcato is louder and shorter than the accent. They are also used differently in a musical sheet.
The symbol may make them confusing because it is the same but with different positioning. However, they don’t mean the same instruction and are not acted upon the same way.
What is an example of Marcato?
The marcato is used in several ways as mentioned above. However, one of the general meanings of the marcato is to shorten a note. And an example of it will be to give a direction that each note in a song must be strummed intensely or forcefully. The marcato was used in The Gavotte in D major from J. S. Bach.
How Fast is Marcato in Music?
Marcatos are very fast, maybe even faster than you can imagine. Marcatos are not only faster than an accent, they are also faster than the human heartbeat. This could probably be in response to the way the note is played forcefully. You can picture it as you hitting a piano key forcefully within the fastest time to create a marcato effect.
According to a source, the Allegro Marcato is played at 129 Beats Per Minute, or 32 Measures or bars per minute.
I hope you now understand what marcato in music means. By now, you should also be able to identify its symbol as the vertical wedged shape (∧). Also, it is used to shorten a note forcefully.
You should also know that the marcato is completely different from the other types of articulations like the legato, staccato and accent. Do enjoy playing musical compositions with more ease.