Fingered legato, sul G


I don’t know if this is a question regarding Dorico, or a general music theory question. But I’m sure I can find an answer in this forum.

I can’t understand if “fingered legato” and “sul G” (or “sulla corda”) mean the same, in practical terms. In both cases, the melody is played on the same string.

However, I can’t understand if the technique is in reality different. My suspect is that a “fingered legato” doesn’t contain any hint of portamento, while “sul G” implies some portamento/slide.

Can anybody try to make this obscure thing clearer?


As a string player, I don’t think they mean the same thing at all.

:Sulla corda" means play on one string. What string needs to be used would depend on the context. "Sul [string name or number] indicates that a passage should be played on a specific string. “Sul G” would therefore indicate a passage that should be played on the G string. For violin, it might also be notated as “Sul IV” or sometimes simply “IV.”

Neither of these indications have anything to do with articulation, they simply indicate what string a passage should be played on. You can play on a single string with legato, detaché, martelé, spiccato, slurs, or whatever you want on a single string. Likewise, you can use as much or little portamento/slide as you want. It’s all going to depend on the musical context and your taste as a player.

I’m not at all sure what “fingered legato” is supposed to mean. In my experience, it certainly doesn’t indicate that a passage should be played on one string. Is it perhaps intended to mean played without slurs but with as much connection between notes as possible?


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Stew, thank you for your answer! It clears up many things, but still leave me in the dark with others. First of all, I should have been more precise with the terms used in my question.

  • “Fingered legato” is a term used by some developers (like Spitfire) to indicate notes under the same bow direction. It is considered equivalent of “slurred legato”, because this is usually notated with a slur in scores (and this is how VSL calls this articulation).

  • What in English is “sul G” (for the violin) is, in Italian, “sulla corda”. I’ve personally seen it used for legato passages requiring much tension, avoiding a jump to the next string, and going instead to a higher position on the fourth string.

  • At least in Europe, I’ve seen notations like “IV” used in modern scores to indicate a preferred/necessary use of a score in harmonics or dense chords. But I’ve probably a limited knowledge of the literature, and this is also used in other cases.

Going more under the hood: if a strings library has a “sulla corda” legato articulation, should I consider it a fingered/slurred legato, or is this a totally different thing?


Sul I-II…, only indicates the string on which a note or passage should be played You don’t note it except for colouristic purposes or to force a technical realization, in which case it presumes you know better then the player. Forcing the high register on a string gives a different sound then if you play it in normal position on the higher strings. It’s the same thing with your examples in contemporary scores : harmonics can sound quite different depending where you play them.
The legato patches in Vsl are just normal legato, in one bow. But really, any decent string player will give you a perfect legato with bow changes. Contrary to keyboard scoring, the slur indicates the bow changes in string parts and breathing in the winds’, not the legato,. And yes it’s problematic with xmaps. Personally, when I want to specify a keyboard style legato, I use a dotted slur over bow slurs, but this is not standard.

Queb, thank you for your answer! VSL libraries have different types of legato. One is the “ordinary” one, in various speeds (slow, fast, trill).

Another one, from older libraries, is “sulla corda”, and contains a bit of portamento, a pronounced sliding between notes.

The more recent Dimension Strings also allow freely choosing a string. A Violin “sul G” legato is in the middle of the ordinary legato (with notes connected but clearly pitched) and the older “sulla corda” (there is sometimes a hint of sliding).

I can’t understand the difference between, and when to use, the older “sulla corda” and the new “sul G” legato. Maybe posting some audio examples will let me explain better the differences.


If you play on a forced string, you’ll get a portamento only if you have a legato between position changes or finger extension, unless of course it’s ask for.A string player does practice all his life to make the sound as clean and as tuned as possible. Try to find a video on basic violin technique and hand positions, you’ll understand right away.
In VSL’s old sul patches, it’s a bit like if there’s a finger or hand slide between each note. The Dimension strings forced strings are way closer to what it really sounds like. You can then add a bit of portamento where you want it.

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I can’t speak to the specifics of the patches you’re using, but I can affirm that string players spend an enormous amount of time working to make shifts between notes as inaudible as possible. Even if a passage is played on one string, portamento should be audible only if it’s desired.


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So, I guess that particular “sulla corda” patch is intended as a special type of portamento, that late-Romantic way of playing with the greatest tension. I can’t simply consider it as a “sul G” articulation.


Hi Paolo - at the risk of being unfair, I think you might be confusing the language of VST patches and technique - sul G in English means on the bottom string (tuned to a G). You can also have sul D, sul A, sul E…

Ed, I know it very well. This is why this is sometimes described as “sulla corda” (“on the string”), so that one is not forced to write the particular string for that particular instrument.

“Sul G” (or any other string name) is a practice typical of the English-speaking world. As far as I can say, in Italy I’ve always seen a Roman numeral (IV, III, II, I), that is immediately transportable to any other instrument.

I think this is not a recent practice, since quite old publication have “Aria sulla quarta corda” (“Air on the fourth string”) for the notorious arrangement of Bach’s Air from the Third Orchestral Suite (“Air on the G String” in English).


Paolo, perhaps we are all agreeing over a language barrier?

I agree with Ed.

“Fingered legato” is a term invented by the Sound Library creators to describe how some of their samples transition from one note to another (see SPITFIRE Solo Strings Manual page 11). It has no connection to a particular notation. And in that world “Sul D” patches are just all sampled from an instrument’s D-string.

In the notation world, Sul G, G-Saite, Sulla corda Sol, Sul IV or even just IV___ is an instruction to play on a particular string. Sometimes this is for the ‘tone’. More often it is to ensure harmonics sound correctly, or is an editorial suggestion to help the player with fingering. To see examples of all these uses I suggest you consult any edition of the Paganini 24 Caprices, Op1 (download from ISMLP).

Beware, the IV format is not “transportable to any other instrument”. Specifying IV on a Violin is the equivalent of specifying III on a viola. However, Sul G is transportable! Similarly Sul C is OK on both Cello and Viola, but meaningless on a Violin.

In my 50+ years of playing I have never encountered the instruction “sulla corda” on its own, without a string being specified (but I accept, that might be because I have led a very sheltered life).

More than a language thing, this seems to be a cultural one. The typical use of Roman numerals, in Italy, is to indicate the exact string in a particular instrument. So, IV will be the fourth string in a Violin (the G), and will be the fourth string in a Viola (the C).

I absolutely ignore how to use the Roman numerals in the way you describe (IV string on the Violin equivalent to the III string on the Viola), and would like to understand how this works. Obviously, the usual Adler and Piston, created in the English-speaking world, will help me.

I know “fingered legato” is a word of the sample libraries, but I can’t find a way to understand what it means in the real world. Explanation in the short manuals of these libraries are not very detailed on this issue. So – when and how to use the patches?


This is probably an unnecessary further complication of matters, but I’ve seen “sulla corda” on its own once or twice to mean “on the string” (as opposed to “off the string”, i.e. “spiccato”). Which basically just means keeping the bow on or close to the strings during a very fast non legato passage, vs. bouncing it off the string. But “alla corda” is significantly more common, and also, what term a sound library uses for its patches is obviously something that doesn’t necessarily have much to do with notation norms.

"More than a language thing, this seems to be a cultural one. " I think not. Players around the world will correctly interpret any version.

However, when I play, on Viola, a part that was originally conceived for Violin (as happens quite often) Sul G will still make sense, but IV would have to change to III, especially if harmonics are involved.

“…when and how to use the patches?..” I have no idea! (I produce dots for people to play)