Lyrical Playing, part II

Forward Motion. Without it your playing is lifeless and dull, but how do you achieve it? Most players tend to give undue emphasis on downbeats. This is understandable given how music is written and even how it is generally talked about. Most of you have heard the old cliche that jazz emphasizes the upbeats and classical emphasizes the downbeats, so who could blame you for emphasizing them? When you look at music you no doubt think of your music in groups of downbeat-upbeat, downbeat-upbeat, or strong beat(1,3)-weak beat(2,4), strong beat-weak beat. Many of you have also probably heard that in music there is tension and release. This is where our problem comes. Tension is created in the upbeats and "weak beats" and is resolved in the downbeats and "strong beats", but if you group your music into groups of downbeat-upbeat, downbeat-upbeat, downbeat-upbeat you are making release-tension groups instead of tension-release groups. So what's the big deal? Well, the forward motion that drives good performances is created by the tension-release groupings, which means that your emphasis needs to change. Music should be grouped upbeat-downbeat and weak beat-strong beat, with the upbeat and the "weak beat" getting the emphasis and the push (which is why I put quotations around "weak beat").

Confused yet? I have written more extensively about this on my website, which I think makes it easier to understand. I have also analyzed how Maurice Andre groups his notes in the Haydn Concerto so that you can see and hear how a master musician groups his notes. I know that the title of this post is "Lyrical Playing," but apply this to everything. Pay attention to this in everything you listen to and it will quickly become second nature because the other way will just seem awkward and wrong. Up truly is down.


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