Ronald A. Roberts
Aerosp. Eng. and Eng. Mech., Iowa State Univ., Ames, IA 50010
Iowa State Univ., Ames, IA 50510
A current issue in marimba performance is the role of legato and staccato stroke techniques in controlling note articulation characteristics. Pedagogical tradition teaches that an arrested stroke produces a staccato (choppy) sound as compared to a nonarrested stroke that is used to produce a legato (smoother) sound. It has recently been suggested, however, that perceived differences in the mallet stroke attacks are purely contextual, that is, a note is perceived as staccato if it is significantly louder than its neighbors in time. It has also been suggested that if pedagogically correct legato and staccato strokes are played with equal loudness (equal mallet velocity) outside of a musical context, no differences are perceived. This paper presents a time frequency analysis of equal loudness legato and staccato strokes that indicates that there is indeed a physical difference in the sound pressure fields generated by the two strokes. In the staccato stroke, the broadband third overtone generated by the marimba bar is noticeably greater in amplitude relative to other spectral components, particularly when played with a softer mallet. However, it has yet to be determined if these differences are perceived. Procedures and results of ongoing experiments will be presented and discussed.