Adding Emotion to Music


in Performance

Music emotion has been my subject of interest lately and has made me reflect on over the past years of how the musician adds emotion to the music.

As expressed before this reflection has been coming form my reading of "The Music Lesson" by Victor Wooten.


The Struggle of Music Emotion

girl elbow on guitarOne of the biggest efforts I went through in learning to play music was adding expression. Adding expression is a channel for being able to include or convey your emotion as a musician.

As a student learning music most of your concentration is on learning how to read and play music. It can also be on trying to get rhythm correct and playing the right chords.

As you learn your concentration factor is not necessarily on the sound of the notes and the flow until you have achieved at least a nominal level of proficiency.

As you put music theory behind you and are able to quickly analyze and read chord structures and melody lines you begin to polish the music. That is you achieve a level of technique that allows you to play or perform the music with a connected flow applying specific accents or embellishments.

When Does Music Emotion Come in to Play?

The next level in my mind is the emotional factor. In order to add your emotion you have to be past the music theory, as we like to say here getting it down cold. As well you have to develop technique of playing which allows you to own the skills and apply them with your intent.

I'm a very left brained person; trained as a Professional Engineer and practiced for many years. However, I always had a creative side that served me well in that profession.

So for me it took a very long time to learn to express music. And I'd spend many weeks and months on so classical pieces applying the skills I'd learn and putting my focus on expression.

The Break Through in Music Emotion

It wasn't until one day that I had really felt that I'd learned some of these songs that I sort of let go and really listened to what I was playing and then was able to experiment with the expression.

It was at this point that I internalized the music and the emotion started to take hold. My interpretations of the phrases may not have been as intended, but I was able to feel the emotion and provide my emotional state to the music.

Now when I play and learn new songs I use a rapid fire approach. The steps are straight forward, but do require you to have achieved a level of proficiency of music knowledge and skill.

Because I'm more into solo improvising at the moment the emotional side of playing come to the surface faster.

The Steps to Achieve Music Emotion in Playing

These steps are not fancy do this do that, they're a bit like guide posts to get you down a road to a reward.

  1. Use music theory, principles and knowledge to analyze or define the structure, progressions, and phrasing.
  2. Clearly work melody, bass, chords in steps and phrases.
  3. Play through the song segments to achieve level of familiarity and polish.
  4. Experiment with expression with in the phrasing
  5. Add some emotional internal feeling to the expressions.

What Will You Have to Do

Our focus at the Music Learning Workshop is on the music theory course and getting as much music theory knowledge and understanding as quick as possible. Once you have this behind you, it's much easier to focus on technique.

Don't get me wrong, you should start your playing technique from day one. And you should practice playing your instrument with that intent.

Just don't let the theory side slide. I advocate applying technique to your theory practice. Such as expressing scales and broken chords.

Getting a good grasp on both of these skill sets allows you to focus on what music is really all about, conveying the a message in song and sound with expressive emotion.

Learn more about the music mindsets with books like this:


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