Over the past week I've been thinking about what I prioritise when I play a piece of music, and challenging myself to investigate the things that I sometimes neglect as a result. It might be no surprise that I'm a big fan of rhythm and groove, so I often find myself playing things in service of that ideal. It does leave me a little short sometimes on some other aspects of my musicality, most notably my attention to detail when it comes to phrasing.
Phrasing is the way each note is shaped within a sequence - it's how the sound can be transformed from sounding robotic into something more human. I often give the example of the most boring teacher you had in school, the one with the monotone voice who always spoke at the same volume and speed no matter what, who could deliver the most exhilarating information in the most mundane way and lose your attention as a result.
As an example, let's say that your phrase has the same note repeated eight times in a row. You could be the boring teacher, or you could find ways to make those eight notes stand out from each other and start to create a story. This could involve changes in volume from one note to the next, a pattern of alternating volumes or a gradual change in volume over the length of those eight notes. You could also try changing the length of each note, moving from staccato (short & bouncy) to legato (smooth).
It's something for you to consider the next time you sit down to play - take a simple section of music (or even a scale) and see how engaging you can make it by prioritising your phrasing as you play.
Things I've been watching/listening to this week: