Ties & Slurs – What Is The Difference Between Tie And Slur In Music?

Lesson 9: The difference between tie and slur

Read about ties and slurs, playing methods to connect or sustain the musical note. Also, understand the difference between tie and slur.

What is a tie?

A tie is a musical notation represented by a curved line that connects two notes of the same pitch.

We have to play the connected notes as a single note with a duration equal to the sum of the individual note values.

Example 1:

Lesson 9 - Example 1 - Ties
Lesson 9 – Example 1 – Ties

In the first measure, the note E is played distinctly on the 3rd and 4th beat.

However, the sound is sustained from the 3rd beat to the 4th beat of the second measure. That means. you shouldn’t play the 4th musical note. The time duration in above tie is equivalent to a half note (addition of quarter notes tied).

The third measure starts with tie on note A and extended while note D and A# is being played.

Tie with accidental notes.

The note D# is tied on the fourth beat of the third measure and extends across the bar line. The general principle says that the effect of the accidental is nullified after the bar.

However, a tied note retains the note pitch for desired duration. After the tie completes in the 4th measure, the note D# returns back to natural note shown by the natural sign.

What is slur?

A slur is a music notation represented by a curved line that connects two or more musical notes of same or different pitch.

However, the musical notes aren’t sustained but played in a legato way.

What is legato?

Legato means playing a phrase or series of musical notes in a smooth flowing way, without breaking between notes.

Legato differs with staccato that means playing musical notes discretely. In Staccato you shall hear the brief pause in between the musical notes. We shall learn about Staccato in the Articulations lesson.

Here’s an example of the difference between tie and slur.

Lesson 9 - Example 2 - The difference between tie and slur
Lesson 9 – Example 2 – The difference between tie and slur

What is the difference between tie and slur?

#1 Are they connecting same or different notes?

A tie connects two notes with same pitch while a slur connects several musical notes with different pitch.

#2: Which side does the curve lie?

Tie: A tie may never connect the stem parts. It always connects the noteheads.

Slur: The slur embraces the noteheads from above if the stem points downwards and from the bottom side if the stem points upwards.

#3: What is the style of playing the phrase 

Tie: The tied notes are sustained and heard for the time duration equivalent to sum of tied notes.

Slur: A slur has to be played smoothly and shouldn’t sound discrete or robotic. Each of the notes in a slur curve has to be played. However, the transition from one note to another should sound continuous (legato) in a slur.

Thanks for reading my 79th article in the series 100-day music blogging challenge. Stay tuned for more informative lessons.

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Author: Bharat

Hi, I'm Bharat. An artist, blogger, musician and digital marketing professional dedicated to sharing musing and stories about music, art and mindful resonance! Follow me @bharatpc