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Say Something

This is what I overheard a parent telling my partner on the way out from a violin lesson yesterday:

“It sounds like you’re speaking a completely different language [when you talk about music].”

Translation? People think what we do is super complex.

Here's what they see:

From the outset of our music training, we’re bombarded with all these foreign terminologies and hieroglyphs to decipher. Often we get stuck in a habit of speaking about our work using only the language available to musicians. If this is the only approach to developing our work, we risk performing music that sounds synthetic and stilted.

Here's what we do:

When I talk to my students about how they want to improve the music they’re working on, I hear observations like this: “I should play these 8th notes less short.” “I need to make that slur more connected.” “I need more contrast for that subito piano.” And the observations stop there. Often, what they betray through this conversation (and their playing) is that they’re not connecting back to a larger idea.

Now let's make it easy:

The larger idea is natural. It’s something you can understand already. And it isn’t unique to just musicians. It’s about a conversation. We already have a powerful conversation tool at our disposal: speech.

Musical communication follows speech patterning.

It has sentences.

It has punctuation.

Some words carry emphasis and some don’t.

Inflecting different parts of the sentence gives more significance to one subject over another.

Saying what we have to say faster or slower sends different emotional signals.

Don’t get stuck on the jargon and the fancy markings on the page. In the end, you’re really just trying to say something.

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