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  • Lisa Lumina

L2: Phrasing and Transition Cues

A musical phrase is a bit like a sentence in a conversation. You will notice there are some places that you naturally try to fit in a breath, and some places where you might have to awkwardly squeeze one in. Those places where a breath naturally fits are the ends of a sentence/phrase. (As I mentioned in class, a sentence is just a way I conceptualize what a musician more properly calls a musical phrase). Just like in a conversation, it's not usually a good idea to switch topics in the middle of a sentence! Unless the music has some sort of change happening during the phrase, you usually want to stick with the movement you're doing until the end of a phrase. Again, this is a general guideline to help overcome the tendency to over dance that most students go though, it is not a rule.

Listen to the musical sentences in this clip of Zizi Mustafa dancing to Lessa Faker. Try to hum along and notice when each sentence ends. Listen for any that might repeat, how might you develop a movement over the course of repeating phrases to keep it interesting.

Sometimes the end of a phrase will contain a clue to what comes next. This might include cues to ramp up the pace, or to wind down. When a song is going to slow down, there will usually be some sort of "wind down" transition. It can be a slow descent into a chiftitelli, or flurry of notes that goes from 60 to zero in a second. It might also be a tremolo or emphatic filling in of the rhythm to set a faster pace for the next section. For example, at 2:55 in this clip of Serap Su, you can hear the extra drum hits, cuing the rhythm to speed up.

At 37 seconds in this clip of Sahar Samara, the violin hops into the phrase and cues a sort of "wind down" of the phrase, into the slower section that comes next.

Sometimes an entire phrase would be devoted to a transition. Listen for these sorts of transitions in your favorite songs this week.

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