Learning new music: Do you start with notes or musical expression?

Learning new music: Notes or expression first?When you are learning a new piece of music, most logical people start by learning the notes first. This is what you’ll do first off when you sight-read the music, but what do you think is the best way to process from there?

Personally I like to learn both the notes and expression at the same time.

The problem with focusing on the notes first, is if your music is technically challenging, it could be weeks or even months of perfecting the notes and getting them up to a standard where you feel you can relax with them before moving on to adding expression and emotion. 

By getting too bogged down in the notes, you can begin to lose sight of what the music really is – an artistic form of expression. You also don’t want to be too tight and stressed during difficult passages.

If you can add in expression while you are learning the notes, you can relax into the music and get a much better feel for the big picture. You’ll also have the chance to practise where you will breathe, and of course get a much better concept of the whole music.

So while you are learning new music, do take the time to work out the emotions that the composer is trying to convey, and practise your phrasing and musical expression skills alongside your technical skills.

Of course, sometimes the notes will still stump you and slow you down, but you will be practising your musicianship skills at the same time, which is just as important as your technical skills.

By the way, I also have a post on how to learn fast music here that you might like.


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