As my seven-year-old fumbled through the rhythm of her level 2 piece, I made a desperate attempt at waltzing across the room. Bang. She nailed it.
What made the difference? She felt the rhythm and the song fell into place. Music is more than just notes in mathematical time. You must paint a picture by feeling the music with your whole being. Easier said than done you may say, so let’s look at a few practical solutions to playing musically.
Think of the words to the song.
If you are playing a song, just think of the words. For example, picture a little child, sibling, or your own baby sleeping peacefully as you play rock a bye ba—–by. Are you playing “Be Still my Soul”? Image a peaceful canal walk after a noisy, busy day.
Imagine words that sound like what you are playing.
If your piece is not a song you can still play this game! Does your piece sound like a waterfall? Imagine that deafening waterfall you stood behind on a recent holiday.
Are you playing a fanfare? Picture the excitement, bravery, and even fear as soldiers rally together preparing for battle. What about a sad piece in a minor key? Remember sweet times with a loved one who has passed on to heaven.
Hold important notes longer than written.
Rubato is the art of holding onto notes for just a tad longer than written, which gives great beauty to slow pieces especially. Hold onto these notes like a last embrace of a loved one who is going away. Be reluctant to let them go, but don’t let them miss their flight (or lose the beat)!
Change your mental picture throughout the piece.
Bring interest to your music by changing what you imagine throughout the piece, similar to the ups and downs of your favourite book or movie. Imagine a movie where everything was sad, or conversely, funny. You would get bored pretty fast! Introduce some different emotions throughout the piece to engage your listeners and keep them interested.
Once you know the notes to your piece, communication can take full reign. As you deeply feel your own emotions, your feelings will shine though the music you are playing and communicate to your listeners. Your joy, your pain, your amusement, your weariness all breathe life into your music, creating a transformation of mathematical note-banging to a world of playing musically overnight.