You can’t get what you want, ’til you know what you want.  Joe Jackson had a hit song based on this truth, and nowhere is this idea more important than in phrasing music.

Your phrasing is determined by your ideas about the meaning of the music.  The meaning then determines how you should phrase specific sections.

All of this decision-making happens before you actually play the music.  You must decide ahead of time how you want to sound.  First, you imagine the perfect phrasing that will capture the meaning you want to bring out.  You’ll actually hear this sound in your mind.  Then, you’ll play your instrument, copying the perfect way of playing that developed in your mind.

It’s never the other way around.  You very rarely will accidentally play something that is phrased just the way you want it.  And, if this does happen, you’ll have to somehow remember the phrasing idea for the next time you play.

Don’t count on this accidental process as you prepare your music.  It’s better to plan how you’ll sound.

Phrasing is really a three-step process:

1.  Think:  Conjure up the perfect sound for each section of music.  Hear the phrasing in your mind just the way you would like to hear it come out of your instrument.

2.  Plan: Decide what you will do technically to create the sounds you hear in your mind.

3.  Play: Begin playing your instrument, focusing on the technical issues that will bring out the phrasing.

It seems too easy, but this system really works.

Think.  Plan.  Play.

When you start in your mind and then move to your instrument, you will have more control.  You’ll be able to bring out phrasing in a new way, and you’ll have a heightened sense of how to play.  It’s a bit like playing along to a recording, copying another musician’s ideas.

Only, in this case, the recording is in your mind!

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