What is Musicality?

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MusicalityWhat is musicality? Is it something you are born with, or something you can develop? And if you can develop it, how do you go about doing that?

Merriam-Webster defines musicality as “sensitivity to, knowledge of, or talent for music.” That’s great as far as it goes, but it’s hardly the sort of definition a practicing musician would find helpful.

There’s no question that musicality as a quality is hard to define. We tell ourselves that we know when we hear it. And obviously some people have greater intuition for musical expression than others.

But if musicality were something that couldn’t be developed and improved through practice and performance, all of us would have to give up the quest to become any better than we are today. Fortunately, we don’t have to. We can grow our powers of musical expression through practice, like any other musical skill.

In this post, I have compiled a short list of what musicality is, and isn’t to get you thinking. Next week, I will post a list of action steps you can put in place immediately to improve your expressive skills.

Musicality is…

…expressed through techniques like crescendo and dimuendo, ritard and accelerando, tone and phrasing.

…correct. A preponderance of wrong notes, not matter how beautifully expressed, is not musical.

…informed. Understand the piece of music you are playing, the foreign terms, the history, the form, etc.

—controlled. You are in charge of your expression. Letting your fingers run away with you can lead to a very unmusical experience.

—practiced. Develop your expressive tools in your practice each day.

—communication. As the music is speaking to you, you are translating it and communicating it to the listener. Make it reach outward to others.

—A private agreement between you and the composer. Whether the composer is living or not, each performer enters into an understanding with the composer. This understanding means that the performer accepts responsibility as the medium for communicating the composer’s intention. This is a responsibility we performers embrace.

—what happens when you use all the tools of your craft. It is the result of technical refinement, repetition and knowledge of repertoire, study of musicianship skills such as theory and ear training.

—Musicality is personal. Own it; practice it. Make the music yours.

What does musicality mmean to you?

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  • Marlene

    Whoa, that is a great post. For me, musicality is the most difficult part of the music and you definitely need to practice it as you said. This is something that come when you get older too. This is sometime difficult to apply because some time you don’t “feel” the section exactly the same way as the composer, but as you said, you need to respect the way the composer wrote it. Definitively, the thing you need to practice the most once you are done with all the right notes and the technique of the music.
    By the way, your blog is great ! thanks 🙂

    Reply

    • Anne Post author

      Hi Marlene, I agree with you that it can be very difficult to practice musicality. I think that it’s important to be practicing this every day in our pieces, not waiting until close to when its finished. In fact, I’m giving a workshop on that very topic this weekend in Virginia.

      I’m so glad you enjoy the blog. Thanks for being a reader, and keep in touch!

      Reply

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