The following points are not listed in any particular order of importance,
nor do they attempt to cover all possibilities.
They are intended instead to form a groundwork from which artistic development can begin.
1. An accented note not slurred must be slightly
detached from the preceding note.
De-emphasize the notes before and after the accented note.
2. When two or more accented notes are in succession, they must
be separated from each other.
Each note must be shorted slightly, leaving a little "daylight"
3. In syncopated rhythms, notes starting on upbeats or off-beats
should be accented.
Since they are accented, they must be played in a detached style.
4. The longer notes of a phrase or rhythmic pattern
must be played with more emphasis than the shorter notes. The
difference need not be great; this will depend upon the particular
5. In fast or lively music or in music of light character, notes
not slurred that are equal divisions of the beat must be staccato.
Notes of a full beat or more must be held full value. All alla
breve, short notes would include quarter notes, eighths, and sixteenths.
The exact degree of staccato will be determined by the musical
style. Dotted eights or dotted quarters in alla breve are played
as long notes, not staccato.
6. Final notes of slurred groups in lively music or in music of
light character should be clipped off a little short. This is
particularly important when the last note of a slur is followed
by a staccato note; if the final note were not shortened, the
next note must have a space before and after it.
7. In a cantabile style, final notes of phrases should be rounded
off. By tapering the last note or making a little diminuendo just
before the release, the phrase is made to sound more finished.
Avoid leaving "square corners."
8. Notes followed by a rest should be held full value unless otherwise
marked. This is opposite in a march then notes followed by a rest
should be a little shorter.
9. Notes that are altered by accents and fall
on the beat should be slightly accented. A note that is not in
the key of the passage being played is nearly always an important
note and should be stressed.
10. Accent in wind instrument playing should
result mostly from increased force of breath, not from more violent
action of the tongue. Percussive, explosive noises produced by
hard tonguing are not musical. The accent is produced by pressing
in with the abdominal muscles to speed up the movement of the
11. In ensemble playing, dissonances should be
stressed. Dissonances in music of traditional harmonic structure
are effective because of the satisfaction to the ear in resolution
to consonant chords. By accenting the dissonance and softening
the tone slightly when moving to the chord resolution, the musical
effect is considerably enhanced.
12. In ensemble playing, parts that are melodic
or thematic should be brought out. Parts that accompany or are
merely rhythmic or harmonic should be subdued. The thematic part
may last for only two or three notes, or it may be an extended
passage of many measures. The player must listen to the other
parts at all times in order to judge the importance of his or
her own part.
13. Be sure that rests get full value. The spaces
and silences between the notes are just as important as the notes
in conveying the feeling and the mood of the piece.
14. Don't hurry to meet important notes -final
notes of phrases or movements, accented notes, accidentals, etc.
They must be carefully "placed" or even slightly delayed
in order to draw more attention to their importance.
15. Breathing must fit the phrasing. Determine
where the phrases begin and end, and take breaths where they will
not interrupt the feeling or flow of the phrases. In case where
the phrase structure cannot be determined with certainty, it is
usually fairly safe to breathe after the first beat of a measure
and to avoid breathing at the end of a measure. In ensemble playing
determine where each person in the section will breathe to avoid
"gaps" in the music.
16. In a slow melodic piece, groups of faster
notes should be played with a little rubato. Usually it will sound
best if you start the fast group rather deliberately and then
play the latter part of it a little more quickly.
17. Trills of a beat or longer in melodic passages
should begin with one or two slow alternation of pitch before
proceeding to a rapid trill. This however, can easily be overdone;
if the change from slow to fast is too long drawn out, the effect
is not good. Remember too, in regard to trills that the evenness
of the trill is more important than the speed.
18. A short grace note should be softer than
the note it follows. Too often the quick grace note, as the note
that receives the attack, is played too loudly or with an accent.
It is not the important note!
19. A long grace note (appoggiatura) should be
accented somewhat, with the following note softer. The appoggiatura
is a dissonant note, and must follow the rule of dissonances in
being slightly stressed.
20. A phrase in a cantabile style must be built
upon with increasing intensity to its climax, then allowed to
subside again. The climax, or musical high point, may be the highest
note, the lowest note, one that is chromatically altered, or a
point in the phrase that is distinguished in some other manner.
Wherever it comes within the phrase, the playing must draw attention
to it, if the phrase is to convey the meaning that the composer
21. When a theme returns latter in the composition,
it may be preceded by a slight ritardando. The slowing down should
be slight, and just before the return, not spread out over several
beats unless so marked. The ritardando prepares the listener's
ears for the return.
22. An upbeat note, or anacrusis, must be softer
than the note on the beat to which it leads. This is particularly
important when the upbeat and the note on the main beat have the
same value. If the upbeat is too loud, it draws attention away
from the note on the main beat, which is the important note.
Webster stated style is "distinctive or
characteristic mode of presentation, construction, or execution
in any art." Musical style, therefore means characteristic
language, particularly with reference to the details of the composition.
By in large, form and style stand in the relationship of fixed
and fluid; there being many pieces of the same form, but differing
in style. Each style, however, also has its fixed features which
recur in different works. If you follow these elements of style
for the majority of the music you play your interpatation will