Four Steps to Musical Expression

When we hear people talk about phrasing in music it’s just another way to talk about expression. There are loads of different ways to get a message across in music and we should take advantage of phrasing to make things more interesting for the listener.

There are about four broad steps to developing expression within your music and I’ll touch on them briefly today.

The first thing we normally come across is dynamics. Using different dynamics through your repertoire helps to make your music more interesting to listen to. We basically have 2 main dynamics – piano (soft) and forte (loud). From there we have verying degrees of each one. When you see them in your music experiment with how loud or soft you want them to be.

After you’ve mastered dynamics then articulation comes next. We can either have legato where there is no gap between notes. Then there is staccato. There is a common misconception that staccato means to play very short. However it just means to separate your notes. 

Next we have phrasing marks. These are like muscial sentences and have legato or slur marks connecting the first and last notes. Between the end of a phrase and the start of the next one try to create a small gap. Think of it like a musical breath.

Once all that is in the bag then we want to shape our phrasing. We all remember the teacher at school that sounded very monotone. Super dull to listen to and very useful for helping you sleep. How can we make sure our music doesn’t sound ‘monotone’? Start with having a slight crescendo as you move to the middle of the phrase then a diminuendo on the way out. It sounds much easier than it is but it’s something to think about.

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