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

  1. 3 Phrasing Rules for Dynamics (Volume) on Classical Guitar
  2. A Musical Phrasing Exercise for More Expressive Playing: Conduct and Sing Your Pieces
  3. A Quick Guide to Musical Ornaments on the Guitar
  4. Balance Ratios: A Way to Quantify Musical Expression and Phrasing
  5. Classical Guitar Phrasing Lesson: Note Pairs
  6. Complete Guide to Vibrato on Guitar
  7. Cross the Bar Line for Better Phrasing, Better Classical Guitar Practice
  8. How Much Liberty Should We Take with Musical Interpretation?
  9. How to Connect Guitar Chords Beautifully in Music – Overlapping Chords
  10. How to Create Flow and Momentum in Your Music
  11. How to Master Chord Balance on Classical Guitar
  12. How to Play (and Practice) Accents on Classical Guitar
  13. How to Play Beautiful Tied Notes and Syncopations
  14. How To Play Guitar Expressively, In Layers
  15. How to Play Mixed Meter More Musically
  16. How to Play Rolled Chords Musically on Classical Guitar
  17. How To Stretch Time in Style: More Effective Ritardandos
  18. How to Stretch Time, With Rubato
  19. Musical Climax: Find the High Point to Sculpt Your Pieces
  20. Musical Transitions: How to Connect Musical Sections More Beautifully
  21. Next-Level Polishing: Three Areas to Elevate Your Classical Guitar Music to Advanced Levels
  22. Phrasing Tool: The Springboard (for Longer Lines)
  23. Play Dynamically, with 3 Levels of Sound
  24. Rubato Mastery: How to Practice Stretching Time with a Metronome
  25. The Fermata: How to Play Beautiful Fermatas in Classical Guitar Music
  26. The Final Chords: How to End Pieces of Music
  27. The First 4 Seconds, or How to Start a Piece
  28. The Long-Short: Classical guitar lesson in phrasing and expressive playing
  29. The Power of Half-steps in Classical Guitar Music
  30. What is an Agogic Accent in Music?
  31. What Is an Upbeat in Music? The Definition of a Musical Upbeat
  32. What is “Phrasing” in Music? Interpretation and Expression in Pieces of Music