Music is a language. Like every language, music has its elements. It has grammar and syntax rules that shape its form. Also, music has structural units such as paragraphs, words, phrases, and sentences, to mention but a few. Each of these units has different functions from the other.
So, what is phrasing in music? In the world of music, phrasing is the process of creating rhythm and notes to complement the lyrics of a song. Phrasing in music involves the chords you’re using, the volume of the notes, the rhythm that follows the chord, and the way you phrase the words.
Do you want to learn more about what phrasing is in music? Simple! Read this article to the letters.
What Is Phrasing in Music?
In music, the phrase is a brief section of a composition into which the vocal or instrumental appears to fall naturally. Four measures are the most common phrases. However, you can find both longer and shorter phrases.
A phrase can be said in a single breath. It is sometimes indicated by sub-divisions. There are also phrase-marks in the form of slurs placed under or over the notes. These slurs serve as cues for how to phrase a section of music during a performance.
Of course, phrasing is more often than not instinctive. As a result, different artists will phrase a song or a section of music differently. Variations in phrasing tell one artist apart from another. It also shows how inspired an artist is when singing the same section of music as other artists.
Types of Musical Phrases
There are many ways to describe phrases. Here are the types of phrasing:
Regular phrasing is when the phrase length is the same throughout the piece. In this case, phrases are typically two or four bars long.
Irregular phrasing is the opposite of regular phrasing, in which the lengths of the phrases vary. The first three bars of Chopin’s Ballade ‘Op 23 No1’ are followed by a two-bar phrase. You could also make the case that this is a complete five-bar phrase.
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Techniques of Phrasing in Music
Musical phrasing can be done in a variety of ways. You can use these techniques as a musician to improve the way you phrase a musical composition.
The following are some of the techniques you can use:
There is a connection between storytelling and phrasing. In music, phrasing entails stressing certain words. Emphasis includes the dynamism of slowing down when emphasizing something. It also entails speeding up when gliding over unimportant parts. Musical phrasing, like storytelling, uses emphasis.
When you sing, you decide when to breathe or pause. You can also choose how quickly or slowly you want to move through a musical section. This allows you to convey your emotions as well as the meaning of a song to your listeners.
Besides, composers feel some emotions when creating their works. As a result, they typically write musical terms on their music sheet. They do this to assist the singers in phrasing their composition. However, most of these musical terms are written in Italian.
Conversing with the Audience
Another technique is to imagine that you’re talking with your audience when you sing. When you converse, you stress some important words. You can also change your intonation to avoid repetition. This is to keep your audience eager and intrigued.
Similarly, you should not use the same monotonous voice when you perform a composition or a song. Also, you should not play all of its notes without shaping them. You can maintain your creativity by adding nuances along the way. By changing the timing and pitch, you can add some spice to the music. Bring on your personality.
How does storytelling affect phrasing in music? Well, this is simple! When telling a story, punctuation plays a key role. For example, a comma means you should pause, while you should come to a complete stop when you see a period. Before you can perfectly narrate the story to your listeners, you must first master the flow of the story.
Furthermore, phrasing allows you to add dynamism to a musical section. That is, you can narrate the song’s meaning using dynamics, tempo variation, articulation, and vibrato. However, you can’t phrase a section of music well if you haven’t analyzed the song. You must also examine the harmony and contour of the music line.
As we all know, tempo refers to the rate at which a piece of music is played. To improve your phrasing, try varying your tempo. Rubatos and accelerandos can help you achieve this. You can increase the intensity of your rendition by using these two tools.
Besides, changes in your tempo will be noticed by your listeners or audience. These tempo changes draw their attention and keep them engaged. Of course, changing the tempo is a common technique in opera and vocal music.
The phrasing boosts the tensions in your performance of a musical composition. Besides, tensions are created using techniques such as timing changes and pauses. If there are no tensions, listeners tend to become bored and lose interest in the music.
Moreover, it is important to create tension is if you want to engage your audience. Tensions are similar to mentally teasing your audience to think and become engaged. As a result, the element of tension is important when phrasing a section of a musical composition.
Antecedent and Consequent Phrases
These are the terms used to describe question and answer phrases. Composers of all genres use them. As a result, examples can be found in pop, jazz, rock, and classical music, to name a few.
Antecedent and consequent phrases often, but not always, start in the same way. They sound similar when we hear them, but we can tell the difference right away.
Now, let’s take a look at both of them.
The antecedent phrase leaves the listener, and the music feels unfinished. The listener would be dissatisfied if a performer only plays the antecedent phrase and then walks off stage. An example is at the start of Mozart’s Symphony No 40.
The following phrase concludes, and the perfect or authentic cadence at the end satisfies the listener. An example is a follow-up to Mozart’s opening phrase from Symphony No. 40.
Phrasing in Musical Instrument
Phrasing is essential in music, whether you are singing or playing an instrument. A musical phrase, of course, refers to the arrangement of notes in a song. Of course, notes function as syllables and words in a sentence. Thus, as a singer, pianist, or guitarist, you can engage in phrasing:
Phrasing for Singers
As a singer, you use phrasing when you pause, stop and breathe. You usually do this to separate syllables and words. You can also connect syllables and words to convey the song’s style or meaning.
For example, Tom Jones has an uncanny knack for phrasing lines and words. Also, Frank Sinatra has his way of phrasing. As a result, no two artists will ever phrase a line or write a song in the same way.
However, singers must be able to tell apart dynamics and phrasing. Besides, phrasing can be part of the dynamics. However, dynamics frequently refer to the loudness or softness of a sound. Phrasing, on the other hand, is more personal. It is a technique used by musicians to shape the notes of a musical piece.
Phrasing the Piano
In piano playing, emotions are important. The phrasing in a piano is shaped by the emotion involved in a particular piece of music. The way you play scale is affected by phrasing. If you change the way a section is phrased, you change the shape and rendition of the scale. So, in some ways, phrasing distinguishes one pianist from another.
Musical phrasing in piano playing has nothing to do with note duration or even note often refers to how the pianist shapes the piece’s consecutive notes.
Phrasing the Guitar
Guitar playing is not the same as piano playing. When you play the guitar, you usually uniquely present your licks and notes compared to other guitarists.
This method of presenting licks and notes is similar to phrasing in guitar playing. Short notes and licks make up musical phrases. There are gaps or spaces between each of these notes and licks.
The way guitarists shape their notes and licks determines how they phrase a song or piece of music. Furthermore, phrases are formed by more than just licks and notes. They are also influenced by the gaps between the licks and notes. The way a guitarist paces his notes, licks, and spaces shows how he does phrasing.
How to Add Phrasing to Your Music
If you’re looking to add phrases to your music, here are some important factors to note:
Dynamics are Important to Phrasing
Dynamics are key when it comes to phrasing in music. You need to experiment with music arch to know how you sound. Moreover, you must ensure the volume is enough for use.
For example, you can end softy instead of having something mellow at the start. In other words, you can increase the volume in the middle of the music and lower the phrase close to the end.
However, you can start strong yet end it with a slow beat. You’re the creator of your sound. So you can explore as much as you want to!
Use Melody Line to Draw Your Phrase in the Shape of an Arch
To draw out an arch, use the melody line. If you’re starting with lower phrasing, pick higher notes in the middle of the song and finally end with lower notes. Besides, this is what most musicians do.
To make the most of this pattern, you can add a little variation so it sounds different and amazing. There’s no harm if you add high and low notes in the middle of the song.
Add Emotions to the Phrases
Do you ever wonder why some songs sound dull and lack emotional appeal? This is the result of not adding emotions to phrases. It’s important to add some elements of emotions to your songs.
This helps your audience to connect with your renditions. For example, if you want to write a romantic song, you can add some softness to the phrases.
Phrase and Slur Markings
Sheet music may contain a long curved line that appears to connect a few or many notes. They have the appearance of a slur line and are used to indicate to the musician that the notes contained within are part of a phrase.
Slur markings, also legato, indicate that you should play the notes smoothly. If you were playing a woodwind instrument, you would slur the notes in one breath. These slur lines are often used to mark phrases, and they can be useful in determining which notes to emphasize.
Slur markings and phrase markings are often used in place of each other, but they can be slightly different at times. Within a musical phrase, for example, you could have staccato notes. Phrase markings are much longer, whereas legato markings are much shorter and focus on fewer notes.
What Does Phrasing Do to Songs?
Singing is more interesting with phrasing. You draw attention to a word or sound by emphasizing it. This implies meaning, and the questions that create tension for the listener.
How Is Phrasing Important in Music?
The elements of phrasing like crescendos, tone quality, and note values all work together to create an emotional response in the audience. Professional musicians excel at this, particularly in the context of a symphony with dozens of other moving parts. It’s the same with writing.
Phrasing is an important element of music. Besides, it tells musicians apart as no two musicians can have the same phrasing. It is how you order and shape the notes that you sing.
We hope this article has provided answers to your questions on what phrasing is in music. Lastly, if you want to stand out from the crowd, you should develop a unique phrasing style.