Phrasing is one of the most important elements of music. Phrasing defines the way the audience perceives certain passages and can make a piece a great one or an awkward one. Phrasing is sometimes defined within sheet music and sometimes left up to the musicians.
When you say something with spoken language, you join the words together in what’s called a sentence, which is made up of individual phrases. The phrases have their own meaning and work together to make your point clear. The same is true in music. A musical phrase is a set of tones that are played together as a unit. Using Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as an example again, the first two measures of the piece—which form the leitmotiv—constitute one of the most well-known phrases in all of music.
It sometimes takes time to develop a sense for the proper phrasing for any piece. Practice generally makes it apparent, though some musicians alter the phrasing of the pieces they play a bit as a way of interpreting them in a unique way.
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