from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Phrasing describes the design of tones within a musical phrase in terms of volume , rhythm , articulation and pauses .

As with raising and lowering the voice, shortening and stretching syllables in language, tones of the same rank never follow one another in any music. Tone sequences always have a structure (often in the sense of a "strong-weak" pattern), e.g. B. through emphasis of melodic, rhythmic or harmonic nature, so that individual tone groups ( motifs ) are differentiated from others. The resulting phrases are made recognizable to the listener by the phrasing .

The recognition of phrases and their phrasing was a prerequisite for interpreters until the end of the 19th century. There are only individual structural symbols such as commas for François Couperin or breath marks for Heinrich Schütz . With the rise of complicated structures and metrical liberties since the Viennese classics, it was necessary, such additional expression marks, as well as from Hugo Riemann introduced in his phrasing teaching phrasing bow to use for identification of phrases.

Phrasing theory from Hugo Riemann

At the end of the 19th century, the musicologist Hugo Riemann made phrasing a major field of musicological research and dealt systematically with the manner in which musical presentations were performed. He distinguished the following elements that make up musical thoughts:

  • Measure motifs (focus on the first accented beat of the measure)
  • Cycle groups (cycle motifs combined into a unit)
  • Half sentences of four clock motifs
  • Periods (two half-clauses: first and last clause)

As a phrase, he describes those links that can be independently opposed to one another in the sense of symmetry. Each phrase has its own dynamic design.

According to Riemann, who essentially only assumes an offbeat model - which he has been reproached for - the distinguishing features for delimiting motifs and phrases are the following:

  • Lengths on a heavy bar part (exception: harmonic features)
  • Rests after notes that fall on a difficult part of the bar (exception as above)
  • Figuration that leads from one focus to another and demands new beginnings
  • Beginnings on a difficult time (full cycle)
  • feminine endings, d. H. the motive goes beyond the tone with which one associates a final effect (e.g. suspect dissonance)

Riemann referred to Jérôme-Joseph de Momigny (1806) and R. Westphal (1880) and turned against Moritz Hauptmann and Hans von Bülow , who, in his opinion, phrased one-sidedly. The phrasing theory, which was developed together with the pianist C. Fuchs and in which many additional characters were designed to show the structure of phrases, was only able to establish itself to a limited extent among Riemann's students and, with the exception of the phrasing slur, did not establish itself in general use.

Further development

In 1898, Friedrich Kullak resolutely opposed the upbeat principle in Riemann's phrasing theory. Since then, Urtext editions without any editors' additions have become increasingly popular as the basis for the interpretation and analysis of musical works from all eras. Since the compositional development at the beginning of the 20th century developed away from classical metrics (formation of periods ) and also became much more complex rhythmically, phrasing this music in the sense of Riemann is no longer possible.

Phrasing in jazz

In jazz , phrasing is a style-defining feature in many ways, both in terms of personal style and epoch style. Here, too, it is assumed that certain general phrasing laws are generally known and, moreover, are free for your own interpretation. For example the timing, the placement of the notes according to the beat, as in the so-called swing phrasing. While straight (binary) eighth notes are notated on the eighth note, the execution of these eighth notes is triplet (ternary). This means that you play the first and last triplet of a eighth-note triplet group (at least that is the common explanation in musical notation, the so-called groove usually only arises through flexible and dynamic handling and design of the eighth note lengths).

If you always did exactly the same thing, you would sound static like a computer and the line played would have nothing of the liveliness that you know from hundreds of great jazz improvisations. But since the different musicians all play the same melody somewhat differently (although notated in the same way), it always sounds a little different.

In swing, for example, it is often the case that the third triplet of the (already mentioned) triplet group is played a little too early, so that it sometimes results in almost straight eighth notes (before a ternary piece, this is called duolic), but not exactly straight Eighth. This creates a peculiar feeling of music that cannot be noted down. The treatment of the emphasis on the individual tones also contributes to this. In jazz it is often the case that tones are emphasized on unstressed beats, compare syncope , i.e. the exact opposite of, for example, march music , but this is not always the case. This can be seen very well, among other things, in the solos of Charlie Parker , who developed improvisations from repeatedly playing themes and pieces that later became his own pieces. It should also be noted that marching music in particular has become one of the historical roots of jazz, cf. in addition John Philip Sousa , Art Blakey 's Blues March, and the spread of percussion and wind instruments in the population of the USA since the Civil War .


  • Hugo Riemann : Musical dynamics and agogic. Textbook of musical phrasing based on a revision of the doctrine of musical metrics and rhythm. Rahter et al., Hamburg et al. 1884, ( digitized ).
  • Hugo Riemann, Carl Fuchs: Practical Guide to Phrasing. Explanation of the decisive aspects for the setting of the phrasing marks by means of a complete thematic, harmonic and rhythmic analysis of classical and romantic tone sentences. Hesse, Leipzig 1886.
  • Hugo Riemann: The phrasing in the light of a doctrine of the concept of sound. In: Journal of Musicology . Vol. 1, 1918/1919, pp. 26-39 .
  • Otto Klauwell : The Lecture in Music. Attempt to systematically justify the same, initially taking into account piano playing. Guttentag, Berlin et al. 1883, ( digitized ).
  • Otto Tiersch: Rhythm, dynamics and phrasing of homophonic music. A course of theoretical and practical preparatory studies for the composition and performance of homophonic sets. Oppenheim, Berlin 1886, ( digitized version ).
  • Adolph Carpé: Grouping, Articulating and Phrasing in Musical Interpretation. A Systematic Exposition for Players, Teachers and Advanced Students. Bosworth & Co., Leipzig et al. 1898.
  • Heinrich Schenker : Away with the phrasing slur. In: The Masterpiece in Music. A yearbook. Vol. 1, 1925, ZDB -ID 799002-9 , pp. 41-59, (reprint: Olms, Hildesheim et al. 1974, ISBN 3-487-05274-1 ).
  • Hermann Keller : phrasing and articulation. A contribution to a linguistic theory of music. Bärenreiter, Kassel et al. 1955.
  • Egon Sarabèr: Method and Practice of Music Design . Papierflieger-Verlag, Clausthal-Zellerfeld 2011, ISBN 978-3-86948-171-5 .

Individual evidence

  1. Anthony LeRoy Glise: Musical phrasing. In: Guitar & Lute. Volume 7, Issue 1, 1985, ISSN  0172-9683 , pp. 59-61 (Part 1), and Issue 3, pp. 15-18 (Part 2).