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Chamber rep


By Bayla Keyes


  1. Shapes/line/phrasing/structure 

    1. Notice where each phrase begins and ends.

    2. Look for the arcs – the physical shapes on the page.

    3. Music always has hierarchy. Look for royalty (the most important notes) vs. servants.

    4. Group notes to belong together; group across the beat – 123-4123-4123, 1-2341-2341-2341.

    5. Point the phrase; allow a natural flow forward, then settle at cadences.

         F.   Microphrase: slightly bring out the up and down of the line, and always lead

               toward or away from your phrase notes.       

G.   Build sequences by adding length, dynamic, and/or bow.

H.   Eliminate any bulges, bellies, false accents or holes in your sound which spoil       your line.

I.     Don’t crescendo or diminuendo to the same point over and over.

J.    Know the overall structure of the movement; see the large arcs of the sections, 

       as well as the giant arc of the movement. Where are the climaxes? Where are       the low points?


  1. Harmony 

    1. Learn music theory so that you understand whether you are in a home key or a distant one.

    2. Identify and feel which chords have more or less tension.

    3. Notice what is normal vs. abnormal:

1.    Dissonance vs. consonance

  1. On beat or off

  2. Asymmetrical phrase lengths

  1. Feel and support intervals. To sing through a minor ninth requires much more effort than a minor second.

  2. Feel the emotional quality of your intervals. Octaves, fourths and fifths usually have a noble or architectonic quality; thirds and sixths are often loving or comforting; minor seconds can be yearning or threatening.

  3. Energize the dots and ties. Long notes often release and then develop into the next note.


  1. Texture/counterpoint - Work from a full score whenever possible!

    1. Notice the density of the orchestration. 

    2. Where are you in relation to other voices? Near or far? Will you have to fight to be heard?

    3. Are you moving with or against other voices?

    4. In solo Bach, what is the implied bass line?

    5. In double and multiple stops, bring out the string with the most important voice.


  1. Creating characters

    1. Make a natural connection between your bow speed and the feeling of the music.

    2. Choose your sounding point to reflect the ease, power, or struggle in the music.

    3. Articulate with the bow as you would sing – do you sing “yah, yah, yah” or “tah, tah, tah?”

    4. Shape phrases with vibrato; vary amount/speed/width

    5. Just and equal-tempered intonation will be more serene; expressive intonation will intensify moods and help you stand out.

    6. Left hand articulation may be gentler in lyric passages and stronger in intense ones.

    7. Rhythm can define character.  Is the pulse strict? Free? Calming? Energetic? How strong are the subdivisions? When are you distinctly in 4/4? When are you in cut time?

    8. Let your body language and performing “persona” tell a story.


  1. Imagination

    1. Sing: feel the intervals with your voice.

    2. Dance: feel the pulse with your whole body.

    3. What story is the music telling? Can you paint the scene in your mind’s eye?

    4. Who is telling/singing/dancing the story? What costume are they wearing?

    5. What do you feel as you listen, play, sing, and dance?

    6. Write some descriptive adjectives in different sections. Use emotional adjectives for specific moods: despairing, hopeless, expectant, buoyant, ecstatic, frantic...

    7. What is the mood of each phrase or section? Does it change abruptly or gradually?

    8. Hear the different sounds in your mind’s ear before you play.


VI. Resonance through our entire beings

A. In Chinese culture, music is often considered as audible Chi, with Chi being described as the living energy which is always moving through us and around us.

B. If your body is in contact with everything around you, and you are loose enough, you can feel the Chi moving into you, through you, and back out into the audience.

C. Do all your joints have spring and space in them, so that you can receive the inspiration of the music?

D. Can you feel the connection of your head and spine into heaven, and the connection of your feet into the earth? We are the connection between heaven and earth.

E. The more you can feel yourself as this connected, vibrating space, the more organically you will be able to receive ideas from the music you study, and the more easily and naturally you will be able to express it.

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