Tell A Story with Your Music

One of the best ways to have convincing phrasing in your music is to create a story line that goes through the piece.  The drama of your narrative will be played out in your performance and help you establish the right feeling for each section.

The highs and lows of the story will be translated into changing dynamics, alterations in tone production, varying tempos, and rising and falling intensity.

Be sure to create a main character to add interest to your story and your phrasing.  Follow your character through the story line and take into account what your character encounters in each section of the music as you make your decisions about how to shape each phrase.

Having a story to go along with music is nothing new.  Ballets, music videos, and movie soundtracks all match the mood of music with visual imagery.

For any song with lyrics, the words themselves tell the story.  The melody and accompaniment support this story throughout.

But, you may be playing purely instrumental music and haven’t thought about what story the music could be telling.  If this is the case, let your mind wander as you play.  What visual images, characters, or conflicts are conjured up?

Don’t censor yourself as you create your story.  Let your imagination run wild.  You are trying to discover how the music truly affects you.  The story that will play out in your mind offers real insight into your sensibilities, and it’s important for these sensibilities to be included in your performances.

What’s interesting about this phrasing technique is that different people come up with completely different stories for the same piece of music.  I’ve had many students use this exercise to help them make their performances come alive.  Each player comes up with a unique interpretation of the music based on their storyline.  It’s so effective seeing the story come to life in sound.

This phrasing trick is much like following the yellow brick road: it gives you adventures as you go from one musical destination to another.  You want your audience to sense this adventure also.

The story you perceive behind the music is what will make your performance worth listening to.  Have a great time creating this story and letting it be expressed through your instrument.

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