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 Play between the notes
Author: Helen B 
Date:   2017-08-05 00:48

I have heard the phrase "play between the notes" many times, and would like to understand what it means.

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 Re: Play between the notes
Author: WhitePlainsDave 
Date:   2017-08-05 01:08

I'm not sure one interpretation exists.

I'm not even sure my answer is one of the acceptable interpretations assuming multiple interpretations *do* exist.

Before my answer, consider an adage associated with the late Beatles player John Lennon:

"Life is what you do when you're busy making other plans."

I may not have that word for word, but no meaning is lost I believe.

In a somewhat similar vein, musicians often consider the silence between notes and phrases, the absence of sound if you will, to be no less capable a medium of artistic expression than the notes themselves.

Let me offer an example, albeit musical but off topic. One of the best selling songs from the 1970s pop group America was titled "Only in Your Heart."

At this link I've placed the song at what less experienced DJs might conclude is the end.

But it's not, almost as if its author has collected his/her thoughts, taken a moment of pause, and has something else important to say.

Silence can speak volumes.

I hope this helps.

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 Re: Play between the notes
Author: ClarinetRobt 
Date:   2017-08-05 01:17

I know I've head the phrase, "Music happens in the space between the notes."

Kinda of esoteric, but in the same vain.

~Robert L Schwebel
Mthpc: Behn Vintage, Lig: Ishimori, Reed: Aria 4, Legere Euro Signature 3.75, Horns: Uebel Superior, Ridenour Lyrique

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 Re: Play between the notes
Author: JasonXR7 
Date:   2017-08-05 03:04

I'll leave the more profound interpretations to profound people, but in a literal clarinet playing sense it can mean a couple things.

I've told this phrase to basic players as part of overcoming the practice of "puffing" each individual note. The air isn't about making one note at a time, but a continuous action that goes on between the notes a a line is played.

In a more advanced situation, a teacher or clinician might use this phrase as a way to tell someone that their air support isn't strong enough. Any passage, but especially ones with a lot of leaps needs a lot of support, otherwise there can be tiny sounds gaps from the change in resistance of each note. Those gaps can be distracting, so treat them with the same amount of air as the notes on the page, and the result Will sound more connected.

Most analogies on clarinet playing seem to boil down to "more air".

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 Re: Play between the notes
Author: Bennett 2017
Date:   2017-08-05 04:53

For various sources of this phrase or similar, take a look at, e.g.,

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 Re: Play between the notes
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2017-08-05 14:58

I've had funny looks when I've told people to 'play the rests' - as well as the notes, there are the silences that also need to be part of the music.


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 Re: Play between the notes
Author: donald 
Date:   2017-08-05 16:20

I've heard it used in the sense of musical interpretation, and I don't have time to elaborate on that now (but must say that I can usually think of better things to say), but also a variation...
"Blow into the gaps/space between the notes" which I think of as an excellent way of encouraging/prompting people to maximise their legato.
so can't be more helpful just now

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 Re: Play between the notes
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2017-08-05 16:55

Think of the musical phrase not the individual notes.


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 Re: Play between the notes
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2017-08-05 17:36

Helen B wrote:

> I have heard the phrase "play between the notes" many times,
> and would like to understand what it means.

Ed Palanker wrote:

> Think of the musical phrase not the individual notes.

I think Ed's translation is to the point and is pretty much what I would guess it means. The notes are only points in time and making music involves getting from one point to the next. How you do it depends on the musical context, but the relationships among all the individual points are what form a musical performance.

Your question, though, points up a fundamental issue of teaching and conducting. Slogans and catch-phrases used by teachers and conductors often don't mean nearly as much to the players or students they're directed to. Using shorthand like this can be useful
within a continuing relationship but it often needs some initial explanation to really be meaningful.


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 Re: Play between the notes
Author: Helen B 
Date:   2017-08-07 03:35

Thanks for all the responses. It seems that "playing between the notes" has a couple of interpretations. Keeping the air support all the way through the note and beyond through the whole phrase I can understand. But I'm having trouble conceptualizing the other interpretation which is about playing in the silences. What exactly do you do in the rests?

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 Re: Play between the notes
Author: nellsonic 
Date:   2017-08-07 08:53

The word 'rest' implies letting one's attention lapse, and that is often exactly what happens. Sometimes it can be helpful to think of short rests as 'silent notes' that need to be led into and out of with as much care as any other note. Have you ever noticed how a rest within a phrase will increase the likelihood of a rhythmic or other issue?

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 Re: Play between the notes
Author: Wes 
Date:   2017-08-07 11:04

One often can blow with full pressure continuously, even when tonguing is needed. The tongue can stop the sound, but one keeps on blowing. In playing legato tongued passages, the air pressure can always be there but the tongue touches the reed briefly. This can also be said as "blow through the phrase". As beginners, we did not always do this. Good luck!

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 Re: Play between the notes
Author: Alexis 
Date:   2017-08-07 11:22

It's about how the notes are connected to each other musically
For example, at the climax of a phrase, the loudest note isn't going to be loud immediately (that could sound...unusual), but rather the notes before will get louder after their onset, so that the top of the phrase sounds organic

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 Re: Play between the notes
Author: Ed 
Date:   2017-08-07 18:38

I would also interpret it along the lines that you want to think the long line and know where the phrase is going. Be aware of the movement, shape and direction from one note to another and how it affects the big picture, just as you speak sentences and not individual words.

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 Re: Play between the notes
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2017-08-07 20:53

Phrasing can't be notated, only bare suggestions of phrasing can, without making a complete marked up mess of the music.

And then it would sound stiff probably. Make the music like if you were singing it, and not trying to drone the music.

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