Musical Phrasing Techniques and Devices

A phrasing technique, or device, is a way to handle a common musical pattern.  These patterns could be rhythmic, melodic, structural (based on the form) or something else.

Each phrasing technique is in service of a Phrasing Concept.  These techniques are methods to achieve the goal of a larger concept.

These are perhaps the most versatile and handy phrasing devices:

  • Cross the Bar Line – This simple practice habit will make everything you play sound more music.
  • 3 Dynamics Rules – These three rules work 90% of the time, and make music beautiful. If you train yourself to default to this way of playing, you’ll be 90% of the way there.
  • The “Long-Short” Pattern – This pattern connects the bits in a piece of music, and makes them into longer lines.  It makes music more naturally vocal-sounding, and “conversational”.
  • How to Create Forward Momentum in Music – This trick expands on the “Cross the Bar Line” from above.  It’s a way to “pull” the listener forward. You demonstrate the movement of the music, like a game of “Show-and-Tell”.

If you only use these four above, everything you play will sound much better.  So start with those.  Then dive deeper below for more phrasing techniques.

Going further, we can think of phrasing as combining the notes, plus rhythm, volume and articulation.  You can also explore these areas individually.


All Phrasing Techniques and Devices