What does it mean to play musically? Here is the simple answer... it means that you express the character of the music when you play. In other words, you are not just blandly playing the notes that are written on on the page, you are giving them life and meaning.
Naturally, each piece of music will have completely different characteristics. So, it is your job as a performer to find those characteristics and express them in the best way possible.
To find the characteristics of the music, you first need to look for the obvious clues that the composer gives you. You can start by looking at:
Although these clues will give you a basic idea, there is more to it than that.
Many characteristics are not explicitly stated, but are implied by the style and time period of the piece. For instance, Baroque music will have very different characteristics than Romantic music or Contemporary music. Likewise, a Minuet will have very different characteristics than a Sonata. You should always study the background of your specific piece to learn about the interpretation.
And, on a deeper level, you can discover even more by playing and analyzing the notes on the page. For instance:
Once you combine all of these different elements, you will have a good, general idea of how to characterize your piece.
However, even after you have found all the characteristics of the music, you will still have a lot of room for interpretation. As a performer, you can invent your own character to add to these "ambiguous" parts of the music.
This is where the fun starts! Be creative and experiment until you find an interpretation that you like.
For this, I always start by thinking of adjectives to describe each part of the music. Maybe the music is triumphant, flirtatious, pensive, melancholic, etherial, or frantic? Be as creative as possible, and this will give you a good foundation for developing your own interpretation.
So once you have discovered the characteristics of your piece, what can you do to bring out these characteristics? As a performer, you can use:
Ideally, you should seamlessly combine all of the above elements to express the character of the music. For instance, if you want part of your music to sound "triumphant," then your dynamics, tempo, articulation, tone, and everything else should work together to create that character.
As you practice, you will discover specific techniques for using dynamics, tempo, etc. to bring out the character of your music. Here are some examples:
This is only a short list of possible techniques that you could use. In the end, you should always experiment and find what works best for your particular piece.
Learning to play musically is like learning how to speak a language. You can study it to help yourself get started, but in the end, the best way to learn is by listening to other people and practicing. The more you listen and practice, the more you will develop a natural intuition for expressing the character of the music.
It is the best general guide for understanding and interpreting music that I have ever read. And even better, it's written by Aaron Copland, one of the greatest composers of the 20th century! This book is a "must have" for every musician.
Copyright 2014 © ClassicalGuitar101.org | All Rights Reserved