Identifying Phrases


IDENTIFYING PHRASES

For a tune to make sense, it needs a structure, just as writing needs sentences and punctuations. Tunes are built from groups of notes that sound as though they belong together as an idea. These groups are known as PHRASES, and are usually separated by a tiny silence when the music is sung or played.

IDENTIFYING PHRASES: Musicians often disagree about where phrases start and finish. This is because there is often more than one possible INTERPRETATION. When you play music, try to hear which notes belong together. Phrases may be the same length, or start on the same beat of a measure. Songs may have a phrase for each line of words.

ANSWERING PHRASES: In some music, pairs of phrases of the same length sometimes seem to match each other. The first phrase seems to ask a question, and the second phrase to answer it. For example, the second phrase may seem to answer the first by ending on the tonic when the first phrase did not.

RHYTHM PATTERNS: Phrases often have a strong rhythm structure. A pattern may be repeated or varied within a phrase, between phrases, or even throughout a whole piece.

MELODIC PATTERNS: Phrases often contain patterns of notes that are repeated exactly, or changed by transposing them to a different pitch or varying the intervals.

SHOWING PHRASES: Composers usually do not show phrases in their music. Instead, they show how to play notes within phrases, using signs such as SLURS and STACCATOS. It is up to each player to decide how to phrase the music. Signs such as BREATH MARKS or BOWING can help do this.

PHRASES THAT MODULATE: Sometimes a phrase may end in a different key from the one it began in, such as the relative minor or major key. This is called MODULATION. For a tune to modulate clearly, it has to use a note that is in the scale of the new key but not in the scale of the original key.

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