Tenuto for Strings: Your Opinion?

We all learned that tenuto means to give a note its full value, but you will hear string instructors say various things, like:
“Slightly emphasize the note.”
“Play the note like you say ZOOM, building slightly and dropping off.”
“Don’t play tenutos as legato. Put spaces between the notes.”

If you play a bowed instrument, what do you do when you see tenuto bars over notes?

It could be all three. It’s emphasised, without being accented. It’s separated, but not with silence. Often used under slurs (loure/portato). As usual precise interpretations are context-specific.


I definetely did not.
It can be emphasized with regards to the dynamic, or its full value, or even more than its full value. It can also be used to create a ritardando. You can definetely play tenuto and legato at the same time, but it’s not usual for strings. Just like tenuto and detaché.
I agree with Janus, it’s context-specific so not seeing the surrounding music over those bars doesn’t give me enough clues.
If you don’t want players to have doubts, then add some text slightly accentuated or just remove tenuto markings and work with sf or something.

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I was taught to approach tenuto more like a pesante, but according to Gerou/Lusk dictionary it can be used for either duration or force:


Also this:


One mnemonic I have come across regarding alternative interpretations of tenuto, depending on music style and instrumentation, is “sometimes it is stress, sometimes it is stretch”.


Thanks, everyone.

@ebrooks , Nice reference material!

My own opinion is that it is duration-related, but it would be good if Dorico could let you explicitly choose one or the other or both.

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