Playing Gracefully (In an Ungraceful Time)

Most students can successfully learn to play notes, rhythms and basic dynamics reasonably well with a teacher, and sometimes even through videos.


But can they learn to play gracefully? I have used the word several times in the last few weeks with students of various ages, and there is usually a "What?" response.


They do not know the word. It is not part of our culture.


One 10 year old is a ballet student and I asked her when she finished her fast and note precise Minuet : "How do you usually move in ballet? She extended, her arms, and lifted slowly in a relaxed, arcing motion. "We need to play a Minuet like that! " I said.


How DO you play gracefully? Good tone, legato, sticky staccatos, paying attention to phrases, lifting gently off phrases, especially 2 note slurs.. Usually dynamics change mildly, not dramatically. Have control of all fingers, so none are "whacking" the keys in the wrong place. The tempo is rarely fast when you are playing gracefully.


I love playing blues, rock and roll, dramatic Romantic period pieces. They are "let-it-all-hang- out in-your-face" pieces that can be good for the soul.


But it is also good for the soul, to relax, be gentle, to let the music flow without strain.


That seems very important to me when so many today seems to want to compete with or constantly challenge others with ferocity and even downright cruelty. That type of emotion is unsustainable, and IS wearing us all out.


So let's use our musical studies to take a breath, relax, be grateful and learn to play gracefully.


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