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"Establish Priorities – Order Of Importance"

When you learn your music, it is very useful to establish priorities so that you have an order of importance for putting things together. Priorities make your practice much more efficient and productive, so that you get more successfully done in less time. You want to learn in an order where one thing is learned first because it is needed for the next thing and so on down the list. Everything on the list is equally important. It is the order of importance that establishes the priority in which you learn.

Here is the most efficient order of importance for prioritizing your practice to learn your music:

1. Learn The Rhythm
2. Do The Fingerings In Rhythm
3. Play The Notes In Rhythm
4. Articulations
5. Dynamics
6. Style Of The Music
7. Your Personal Interpretation Of The Music

Rhythm is first on the list because in music everything meets at the rhythm. This means that everything else you do to play music must be done in rhythm. You need to learn how the rhythm goes first so you can make sure to learn everything else you do in the correct rhythm. If you don't, at some point you will have to relearn your music because it is out of rhythm. You must then teach the rhythm to the other skills on the list, and to do that correctly you have to know how the rhythm goes first. See Say In Rhythm, Play In Rhythm for more on this topic.

Now that you know the rhythm, teach it to your fingerings. Say Tah, Too, or Toh out loud while you do the fingerings in rhythm. This must be done in rhythm! If it feels too fast, slow the tempo down to a speed where you can say Tah, Too, or Toh while doing the fingerings and keep in rhythm. You have to have the right fingering at the right time before you can play the right note. See Rhythm Fingerings for more on this topic.

By now you should know the rhythm by heart, doing your fingerings automatically in rhythm. You will find it much easier to play the right notes when you have learned to do these two things first. Again, if it feels too fast to play the right notes in rhythm, slow the tempo down until you can stay in rhythm. Just getting the right notes is not enough. You have to be able to play them in rhythm to play your music correctly. See Low-Middle-High Approach for more on this topic.

Until you can do all of these first three things on the list, you really can't play your music yet. Learn to do all three of these before going on.

Now that you can do the first three things on the list well, you can now play your music correctly in a basic, or technical way. The next four things add more expression, or musicality, to your music.

Articulations are symbols in the music that tell you to add sounds to the beginning of your notes, or to change the length and end of your notes. Accents, legato, tenuto, staccato, slurs, etc effect the way others hear our tone. These add character to the music and help you express yourself musically. Say them out loud on Tah, Too, or Toh so you can practice getting them just right while staying in rhythm.

Dynamics are symbols in the music that tell you about the mood of the music. You combine volume of tone with type and degree of articulation to sound louder or softer in amounts that create the mood of the music. f, p, mf, mp, FF, pp, etc help give you an idea of how loud or soft a mood the music requires. These symbols are not a set volume level, for there are many factors that can change how loudly or softly you may need to play to create the mood of the music. You will learn more about this as you gain experience and listen to more music.

There are many styles of music, so it is important for you to determine what style of music you are playing. Different styles of music can require you to add things not written on the music to sound authentic. Some styles require this more than others. Listen for and learn the differences between symphonic and jazz, swing and funk, marches and minuets, Bach and Basie. This will take some time, so ask lots of questions and listen to lots of different types of music.

As you listen and learn more about the styles of music, you will begin to develop your own opinions about how you like to play all of these different kinds of music. As you do, you will want to add your own personal touch, or interpretation, to the music you play. The more you study, play, and listen to music, the more you will be influenced by other musicians and their personal styles. The more you listen and play, your opinions will become stronger and you will feel more confident playing in your own way. Make sure to always learn more about any music you play. No one knows everything! You can have bad opinions as easily as you can have good ones, so do your homework. Listen, play, and LEARN. Priorities will help you with every step along the way.

Copyright Norlan Bewley 1999

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