What would you say if I told you that you can make your music sound more flowing, lyrical, and expressive with a quick mental adjustment?
Think horizontally instead of vertically.
Let me explain:
A lot of times when musicians practice, we get bogged down by technical passages, individual notes, and the minutiae surrounding individual measures or even single beats. This is thinking vertically. We become so focused on perfecting each beat or measure that we may sometimes forget the larger musical picture. Even when we are “woodshedding” (working on the technical mechanics of a passage), we should always remember the larger music context.
A classic example for clarinetists is the
hated infamous Scherzo from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We focus so intently on creating a fast, clean, and soft articulation that we forget to play horizontally and create longer phrases.
Quick fix: Think horizontally. Instead of focusing “vertically” on individual notes, beats, or measures, aim to create a longer “horizontal” phrase. Define the longer phrases you would like to create and always focus on the larger musical picture, even when practicing individual micro-sections.