Musical Building Blocks

June 17th, 2013 | Posted by BaylaK in Goal 08: Musical Understanding | Practicing | Score Study - (Comments Off)

I. Shapes/line/phrasing – Music is not a democracy!
A. Notice where each phrase begins and ends.
B. Look for the arc – the physical shape on the page.
C. Hierarchy: look for royalty vs. servants.
D. Group notes to belong together; group across the beat.
E. Point the phrase; allow the natural flow and settling.
F. Microphrase: slightly bring out the up and down of the line, and always lead to
your phrase notes.
E. Build sequences
1. Add length, dynamic, and/or bow.
2. Don’t keep hitting the same high or low point.
3. Treat a series of sforzandos in this way too.
F. Know the overall structure of the movement; see the large arcs of the sections, as well as the giant arc of the movement.

II. Harmony
A. Learn music theory.
B. Feel which chords have more or less tension.
C. Notice what is normal vs. abnormal:
1. Dissonance vs. consonance
2. On beat or off
3. Asymmetrical phrase lengths
D. Feel and support intervals – sing through them.
E. Energize the dot.

III. Texture/counterpoint
A. Notice the density of the orchestration.
B. Where are you in relation to other voices? Near or far? Will you have to fight to be heard?
C. Are you moving with or against other voices?
D. In solo Bach, what is the implied bass line?
E. In doublestops, bring out the string with the most important voice.

IV. Creating characters
A. Make a natural connection between your bow speed and the feeling of the music.
B. Choose your sounding point to reflect the ease, power, or struggle in the music.
C. Articulate with the bow as you would sing – do you sing “yah, yah, yah” or “tah, tah, tah?”
D. Shape phrases with vibrato; vary amount/speed/width
E. Just and equal-tempered intonation will be more serene; expressive intonation will intensify your mood and help you stand out.
F. Left hand articulation can be overdone in lyric passages, but it is often helpful in intense ones.
G. Rhythm can define character. Is the pulse strict? Free? Calming? Energectic?
H. Let your body language and performing “persona” tell a story.

V. Imagination
A. Sing.
B. Dance.
C. Tell a story about the music.
D. Who is telling/singing/dancing the story? What costume are they wearing?
E. What do you feel as you listen and play?
F. Say or write some descriptive adjectives.
G. What is the mood of each phrase or section? Does it change abruptly?
H. Hear the sound in your mind’s ear.

Mozart Should Not Sound Like Brahms:
Essential to being a fine musician is the ability to produce sounds appropriate to different styles, emotions and composers. The works of Mozart are masterpieces which often benefit from a particular sense of ease and effortlessness. Think sun, bubbles, high energy, celebration, and operatic joy!

Bow Speed:
In general faster bow speeds often convey a lighter, sunnier, more classical quality, while slower bow speeds communicate tragedy, stubbornness, difficulty, and suffering. Faster bow strokes are also useful when intensity and energy are key.
Beginning downbows with the frog angled slightly away from the bridge will help speed the bow and also lighten the frog, avoiding the gritty quality produced by playing near the bridge. Likewise, maintaining the frog away will help the sound production at the tip, because the bow is lighter at the tip and needs the heavier sounding point. (Remember, frog away from the bridge = tip into the bridge.)
The mixed bowing exercises found in Ivan Galamian’s scale book are useful. Familiarize yourself with the different feelings of sticky, resistant, slow bows vs. quick, free, traveling bows. In particular, exercises that alternate quick full bows with very slow bows will be challenging and rewarding.

Special Strokes and Smaller Muscles:
The flexibility of the wrist and fingers is vital to the lighter quality we associate with Mozart. The “Mozart” bowing, 2 slurred and 2 separate done in middle of bow, is used throughout the repertoire.

Phrasing:
Always know where you are in the structure of each movement.
Microphrasing at all times is recommended. Be clear about where you are aiming; show high points with both bow and vibrato.
Often crescendos in Mozart are best done by adding bow speed rather than arm weight.
Natural phrasing, up and down with the line just as you do in Bach, will give an organic quality to your playing.
Be aware of sequences; start them at a lesser dynamic and build them so that they make a larger line.

Vibrato:
Vibrato which is faster and narrower will work best with your lighter bow, but take care it does not become tense or constricted. Sculpt the rise and fall of harmonic tension in your line with your vibrato.