Portato ([por'ta:to]; Italian past participle of portare, "to carry"), also mezzo-staccato, French notes portées (Anon. n.d.), in music denotes a smooth, pulsing articulation and is often notated by adding dots under slur markings.
Portato is also known as articulated legato (Blood 2012).
One type of portato notation, also used for staccato and flying spiccato.
Portato is a bowing technique for stringed instruments (Anon. 2001), in which successive notes are gently re-articulated while being joined under a single continuing bow stroke. It achieves a kind of pulsation or undulation, rather than separating the notes. It has been notated in various ways. One early 19th-century writer, Pierre Baillot (L'art du violon, Paris, 1834), gives two alternatives: a wavy line, and dots under a slur. Later in the century a third method became common: placing "legato" dashes (tenuto) under a slur (Wall 2001a). The notation with dots under slurs is ambiguous, because it is also used for very different bowings, including staccato and flying spiccato (Walls 2001a; Walls 2001b).
Currently, portato is sometimes indicated in words, by "mezzo-staccato" or "non-legato"; or can be shown by three graphic forms:
- a slur that encompasses a phrase of staccato notes (the most common), or
- a tenuto above a staccato mark (very often), or
- a slur that encompasses a phrase of tenuto notes (less common) (Tsai 2008).
Portato is defined by some authorities as "the same as portamento" (Kennedy 1994).
- Anon. n.d. "Notes portées" (redirect). Grove Music Online, edited by Deane Root. Oxford Music Online (accessed 5 June 2016).(subscription required)
- Anon. 2001. "Portato". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
- Blood, Brian. 2012. "Music Theory Online: Lesson 21: Phrasing & Articulation". Dolmetsch Organisation (Accessed 19 December 2012).
- Kennedy, Michael. 1994. "Portato". The Oxford Dictionary of Music, second edition, revised. Associate editor, Joyce Bourn. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-869162-9.
- Tsai, Chia-Fen. 2008. "Articulation". The "Thirty Caprices" of Sigfrid Karg-Elert: A Comprehensive Study. AAT 3325459.ISBN 9780549808930.
- Walls, Peter. 2001a. "Bow, §II, 3. Bowstrokes after c1780, (iii) Portato". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
- Walls, Peter. 2001b. "Bow, §II, 3. Bowstrokes after c1780, (vi) Staccato". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.