Importance of Phrasing in Piano Playing
Phrasing is an important part of all music, regardless of the instrument
being played. A musical phrase refers to how notes are ordered in a song.
It is the musical equivalent of a sentence, with the notes serving as the words in the sentence. The importance
of phrasing in piano playing is often more important than some instruments because the piano lacks some of the
articulation options found on other instruments.
Most of what a piano player is going to play is the musical phrasing, potentially with some techniques placed on
top of it.
Musical phrasing does not really deal with the note duration or even the values of the notes. It refers to the
“shape” of the consecutive notes in a piece. The shape is effectively created by what order you play the notes in
when playing a phrase.
For example, if you play straight up the major scale, you create a musical
phrase that is ascending the entire time. If you play straight down the major scale, you create a musical phrase
that is descending the entire time.
If you mix up the order of the notes, you create a musical phrase that rises and falls as it plays. It is very
easy to see the shape of the musical phrasing when you look at music notation. The notes actually do form these
shapes when written down.
The importance of phrasing in piano playing is largely to do with what feeling a
particular piece of music creates. The same exact scale sounds a little different when you change the phrasing
and play it again. Some piano players do not actually think about phrasing when they write out parts.
It is a concept that can be used without thinking about it. You do not need to think about the ascending shape
of the musical phrase if you already decided you want to ascend up a scale for part of the song. It is an integral
part of song writing, even if you do not
specifically think about its usage.
The actual feeling a particular passage creates is often largely based on the phrasing. Two piano players can
use the same scale and rhythm and come up with extremely different sounding pieces of music.
The more you work on developing your phrasing abilities, the easier you are going to find it to get what you
want when writing a song. Some piano players may prefer not to place extra focus on the specific use of phrasing,
but it is always there and a major part of what the final song sounds like.
The importance of phrasing in piano playing cannot be disputed, but it is not the only thing that determines how
a particular group of notes sound. The scale choice, rhythm and playing techniques also contribute
heavily to the final product of the song.
It is important to keep this in mind when working on developing piano phrases. The note selection alone is not
going to create a full song, you need to put it into the context of the other parts of playing the piano to convey
what you want with your musical phrases.
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