Does anyone else find this disturbing?

In masterclasses and lessons I have come across passages that the student simply does not play musically. Even with repeated attempts to convey the shape and phrasing of the line students sometimes have a very difficult time understanding musicality. Until they sing. Almost by magic, when I ask a student to sing a melody, they phrase, use dynamics and sensible rubato. The musicality is there, in bucket loads, but still their playing is bland. Why?

The process of playing the classical guitar is a complex one and it is all too easy for the technicality of playing to get in the way of musicality. So much time is devoted to learning the notes and mechanics of a piece (largely due to a poor ability to read) that by the time the playing is at a stage where musical decisions can be made the habits of mechanical, flat playing have become well ingrained. It is often advised to make musical decisions from the very beginnings of a new piece, however, its hard to be musical when you are stopping every third note.


One solution to this problem is to remove yourself from the instrument and just look at what is going on in the score. If you take the time to familiarize yourself with the music and understand what is going on it will inform your playing to a large extent. Singing is the the simplest and most effective way to get to the heart of the music. Because our fingers do not need to breathe playing can become… well, breathless. Running on from one passage to another without making phrases distinct from one another is easy to do on the guitar but very difficult when singing.To sing, you need to breathe and as a musician you will naturally tend to place your breath at an appropriate point. Once you have sung through a piece you will think of it differently and in addition, the melodic line, which can get obscured in guitar music, will be clear as day. Once it is clear in your mind what the main melodies are and where phrasings are, return to the guitar and mimic your singing with your fingers, give your fingers lungs.