As I look back on players I've known (on all instruments) I seem to have run across a sort of duality. Maybe you can call it a musical "two-party" system.
Party A: very expressive but not super consistent
Party B: very consistent but not super expressive
As players we must all work to maintain that foundation of good sound but always strive make our music compelling as well.
In some lessons I grill students about ...
- accuracy of the slide in runs
- starting the note with an immediate solid tone
- steady time and accurate subdivisions
As I watch them focus on these things, I often see the phrasing go out the window.
In other lessons, I am more focused on...
- clear arrival points in the phrase
- compelling dynamic contrasts
- more connection in long phrases
Anybody who's read this blog for a while knows that I often draw parallels with the world of sports. I especially like the Olympics.
Take figure skating for example. I'm largely ignorant on the sport so, when I watch, I can only get a rudimentary sense of how the routine is flowing. Are they wobbly? Did he drop her?..etc.
You know, the obvious stuff. The commentators are often talking about the expressive qualities of their skating and how there is (or isn't) so much joy in what they do. I can sort of see this.
Yet I have a sense of the long grueling hours of repetition, the stretching, the weight-lifting to arrive at that point of apparent spontaneous joy.
Below, watch a beautiful performance of Ferro's Daybreak performed by Joe Alessi. I've used this many times in lessons to point out such things as relaxed posture, great slide technique and solid embouchure.
And yet, I doubt he was consciously thinking of those things at that moment. He had built that solid foundation so that the music could flow forth.
Just like those spectacular lifts in figure skating where the one partner must provide a solid foundation for the artistic radiance of the other.
Of course it's all about balance...(in more ways than one!)