Most musicians focus on their technique when they want to improve their musical phrasing.  They try to figure out how to manipulate their instruments to create the right sound for each phrase.

This approach works, but it is very time-consuming and doesn’t allow musicians to be creative. 

There’s another way to go about creating expressive phrases:

Instead of thinking about how you need to play to make the phrase come out just right, focus instead on what emotion you are trying to create.

Thinking about a specific emotion will bring out its character in your playing.  Your sound will change to highlight the characteristics of the emotion you’ve chosen–even if you don’t consciously change your technical approach to playing.

It’s as if your technique suddenly becomes under the control of your non-rational thoughts.  This is an amazing thing to witness and takes many musicians by surprise.  They find themselves playing just the way they intended even though they had previously been unable to play so well when thinking about technical solutions.

I’ve seen this process many times with my bass students, and it’s fantastic every time it happens. 

One student was trying to shape a phrase, from piano to forte with a crescendo building throughout.  Even though this was their intention, they were unhappy with the results.  It sounded too mechanical.

So, we talked about the emotion hidden in the music, and they came up with a terrific scenario: The phrase portrayed someone who was at first fearful, then caught in a struggle which they overcame and emerged feeling courageous.

Hearing them play the music with these emotions in mind was like witnessing a miracle!  Their body language changed.  Their technique changed.  Their sound changed.

By putting their concentration on the emotion rather than on accurately playing the music itself, their execution improved immensely.  The emotion took over their technique, and their phrasing was changed forever.

This is a very powerful experience.  The student is amazed, and I’m amazed.  Better yet, when the music is performed, audiences are amazed.

Putting our focus on emotion somehow forces changes in our technique that takes our phrasing to new heights.  Give this process a try.  And, let me know how it goes by leaving a comment for this post.

One Response to “Use Emotion to Shape Your Musical Technique and Phrasing”  

  1. 1 john

    Musical phrasing relates first and foremost to the timing of a performance. And this timing must be creative and individual!

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