Monday, September 28, 2009

Practice Tip Number 3

Thanks to Dr. Helen Marlais for these tips!

Number 3: Phrasing

This seems like an obvious tip, but how often I forgot to think of the long line while immersed in the minutiae of each measure.

1. Find the phrases: if marked easy - if not, play through and number the measures until you find the beginning of each phrase. Always use pencil as sometimes mistakes are made or you change your mind about which measures make up the phrase. Then count of the number of measures in each phrase - some pieces will have phrases with an even number of measures (4 bars in each phrase for example) and others will have quite irregular numbers of measures (like Bach). Play the piece - thinking about how to shape each phrase so that the composer's intent is clear.

2. Once you hear the long line of the melody - then practice over the bar line to phrase correctly.

3. Look at phrases versus articulation - articulation happens at the end of the phrase, but also with the phrase.

4. This process is helpful to begin to see the structure of the piece. And,

5. For flow ---- seeing/hearing the big picture.

It might seem like this is something to do later in the practice regimen. I thought so, and I often practice impulse and other ways first, but I'm beginning to see the value of looking at phrasing early in the practice process. I always tell my students not to wait to put in the dynamics and articulation. I think it is so difficult to add later and expression is a vital part of any piece. I once had a teacher who said that if I played a note with the incorrect articulation or dynamic --- I played a wrong note. My finger had pressed down the right key, but in the wrong way. I think that when there is too much focus on the details and not any notice of the long line, then extra work is needed later to develop the long line. Not to mention the crucial smooth crossing of the bar lines so that the piece flows beautifully and expressively.

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