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Thread: How to Learn to Play Musically?

  1. #1
    Lieutenant, Associate Concertmaster AllanP's Avatar
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    How to Learn to Play Musically?

    Last week was my son's birthday. He visited me for a party and I played some organ pieces for him. One was "American Patrol". He commented that my playing used to sound like a metronome, now it sounds like music.
    What does a player do to make the music sound "musical"? In my case, I tend to copy my teacher's phrasing and rhythm and listen to my own playing to improve the sound.
    Do others have this problem of sounding like a metronome rather than music? Are there ways to improve the musicality of a piece? Is it possible to improve a piece that was learned years ago incorrectly?

  2. #2
    Lieutenant, Associate Concertmaster
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    Quote Originally Posted by AllanP View Post
    Last week was my son's birthday. He visited me for a party and I played some organ pieces for him. One was "American Patrol". He commented that my playing used to sound like a metronome, now it sounds like music.
    What does a player do to make the music sound "musical"? In my case, I tend to copy my teacher's phrasing and rhythm and listen to my own playing to improve the sound.
    Do others have this problem of sounding like a metronome rather than music? Are there ways to improve the musicality of a piece? Is it possible to improve a piece that was learned years ago incorrectly?
    Well here's my amateurish take on the subject since I can't really read music, and play by ear. It's exactly what you said you do. When I listen to friends who can read music, they sometimes sound as you said: like a metronome. If they try to play that piece without the music, their timing seems to go haywire, but they also focus more on "feel" then.

    On the flipside of that, when I play pieces that are within my ability on a piano or a synthesizer/keyboard, my friends sometimes imagine that I took music lessons and memorized the piece and am then playing it without the score, and are surprised when I say no. I think that's because I hear the piece, and then am more concerned about getting it to sound exactly like a recording or proper rendering that I heard. I am going more by sound than by trying to figure out how long to hold down the note. Also, I then know what it is supposed to sound like, as opposed to someone who has never heard the piece and just been presented with the music and so must interpret everything from the written music.

    And when I do that, the timing is not a problem for me. I'm also a drummer, so timing comes naturally for me, but I see what you're saying. I think it's just different from person to person, I'm guessing most probably after a number of years playing with sheet music and also listening to other people performing the piece you are trying, you sortof come up with a pattern of how certain types of music should be played. Then you sort of learn to strike a balance, ending up with something a little less towards a rigid metronome, and more "feel" based, I suppose. Well that's how I go about it anyway, it would be interested to hear proper techniques from the professionals here.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by AllanP View Post
    Do others have this problem of sounding like a metronome rather than music? Are there ways to improve the musicality of a piece? Is it possible to improve a piece that was learned years ago incorrectly?
    Oh yes others have this problem. Far too many concert artists have this problem. And far too few people ask the question, "am I making music or just playing notes."

    How do you fix it? First you do have to have the talent, but if those listening to you have noted the difference then that is evidence that you have the talent. Listening to a lot of performances helps. Recording yourself and listening helps. Listening to your teacher's style helps - but keep in mind that what you are hearing from him/her is NOT gospel. Ultimately you must find your own path and your own understanding of each piece of music.

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