Right Notes And Rhythm But No Song

Play A Song

You’ve got the tempo, notes, rhythm, and technique down. Now it’s time to focus on telling the story, or completing the musicality of the piece. Playing the melody is one thing, but in order to be more than just a “technical” musician you should be able to read deeper. There are so many different feelings we can illustrate with music, and stories we can tell. Sometimes they’re overshadowed by musicians focusing too much on playing all the notes right, or worrying about tackling hard passages with ease in front of an audience. So how can we as musicians be more musical?

Question and Answer

A phrase is a grouped and consecutive set of melody notes. Sometimes phrases are grouped with a slur to let the musician know they’re connected in some way. You can have a beginning phrase that is a question, and a phrase right after called the answer. These two phrases should be easily distinguished from one another. The answer completes the question. For example, check out the “Mary had a Little Lamb” excerpt below:
 
 

Play A Song
Call And Response

 
 
 
 
 
The “question” in the melody ends after the second “little lamb”. It sounds incomplete until we add in the “answer” right after leading up to “it’s fleece was white as snow”. How can you make these phrases different? You can play the second phrase a little quieter, as if it’s completing the first phrase. If you’re playing a wind instrument, you can also add breath marks after the beginning phrase to complete a phrase group.

Musical Lines

Look at which way the notes are going. It helps to think of your musical phrases as lines. If the lines are going up you might want to gradually increase sound. If the notes in the line get lower, you want to decrease sound. If you’re a singer, you might already do this naturally. This bass melody example can help you visualize that perfectly:
 

Bass Line
Bass Line

 
 
The bass player might want to increase sound as he/she is playing higher notes or pitches. They will play at their loudest on the highest note. In this example the highest note is the G in measure 2. In measure 3, they will probably decrescendo gradually until they are playing the softest on the last note.

Melody and Voicing

Melody is one of the most important parts in being musical. They can repeat in a phrase, whether it be the same or different notes. In Bach’s Minuet in G below, you can see how this happens in the third measure. If you really want to add some feeling and emotion(which is okay, Bach wouldn’t be turning in his grave), you can make the repeated melody louder or softer.
 

Bach's Minute In G
Bach’s Minute In G

 
 
 
 
When you’re playing Bach (especially Preludes and Fugues), one of the most important things to think about is the melody and voice. In one measure you might be playing the melody in a top voice, and in the next measure it might move to a lower voice (then you have to quiet the other background voices). However the music is written, bringing out the main melody will surely keep the audience intrigued and entertained.

Accelerando and Rubato

Accelerando- A tempo mark directing that a passage is to be played at an increasing speed.
Rubato- A tempo in which strict timing is relaxed, the music being played near, but not on the beat
So what type of musician are you? Are you more musical, or are you more technical? Is your playing easily distinguished from someone else’s? What are you currently doing to become more musical?. My suggestion is, save the feat performances for athletes. A real musician can handle the technical and artistic aspects of their pieces. This is what keeps the audiences coming back. One of my best teachers once said, “You can play all the notes in the right order with no real music coming out.”
 

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