The staccato refers to a musical term that instructs the performer to shorten the note values in a performance. Generally, staccato notes carry half of the notated note's value. This effect create spaces between the music and overall performance, making this technique counterpart to the legato articulation. Staccato notes or passages are usually notated by placed dots under or above the notes (depending on which way the note beam is set).
Here is an example of a staccato passage:
In some contemporary pieces, the definition of the staccato performance has been disputed. In order to avoid the ambiguity of the staccato, the composer can notate the actual note values, rather than placing staccato dots on the full-note value. An example of this alternate notation is illustrated below.
Staccato performance in reference to the clarinet or similar reed instruments requires the performer to individually "tongue" each note, thus creating space between each note.