Listening to expression – putting phrases to paper

Today in class we did something different: we drew. That wasn’t all we did, but it was a fantastic catalyst for the session and the students and I thought you might join us…

The students came prepared to play something on their instruments and they knew that we were following up the MUS654 lesson on the session on Phrasing and Musicality. They were slightly surprised when I gave them each big sheets of paper. What were these for?? I wanted them to experience thinking of the music in a different way, and asked them to create a representation of what they heard. This was something that we could discuss and that the performer could see, take in, and respond to. Being presented with a clean slate and being told that anything goes is not always the way we are taught to learn. It can be really refreshing to un-peel the layers of expectation and to be allowed to express yourself.


It was a pleasure to see the students explore the music and different ways of communication and understanding and playing. It was a fun session and a challenge to have a go exploring representations in a different medium.

One of the students gave me permission to share part of her performance so you could join us and have a go putting your pen/pencil to paper and see where it leads you….



  1. Bill Benzon

    Many years ago Steve Allan did an interesting thing on his TV show. He had a jazz trio and one thing he’d do each week is he’d have people in the audience call out notes and they’d improvise on those notes. One week he did something different. He had a photograph of birds on telephone wires and the trio used that as the basis for improvisation.

    1. Post

      Hi Bill, you have me watching lots of Steve Allen clips now! The audience and the bird photo are just fantastic ideas. I haven’t found the specific video yet, but I’ll keep searching, and I’ll certainly borrow the idea. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Tania Sheko

    I’m going to pass this on to my son who is studying music at university. I love your blog and the transparent way you teach music. It makes me want to sign up for your course!

    1. Post

      Hi Tania, Thank you! Try it with your son one day. Your input is valuable too. One interesting thing that came out of the session was how we hear feedback and if and how that turns into self-critique and self-reflection on what the performer intended and what the listener received. I love thinking about it and exploring some of those abstractions physically. Last year I used modelling clay and play doh. One year I might go all out and bring in finger paints. Back to annotated references for next week. We do have a balance 🙂

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