Respect the Style: Why details matter in music performance

You have to study a genre carefully if you wish to play it convincingly

“Though music be a universal language, it is spoken with all sorts of accents”.-
George Bernard Shaw, Music in London (1890)

Soda. Pop. Cola. Coke.

Depending on where you live, you probably use one of these terms to order a carbonated drink at a restaurant. If you use one not common to the area, you might get a confused look from your server.

Dialects make a difference in our everyday communication. We use expressions and special phrases to make ourselves more clear and to identify ourselves with a certain group or culture.

The same is true when we play particular styles of music.

When we perform, our musical dialect helps us to express ourselves and makes a statement about who we are. However, sometimes we forget to respect the manner in which someone else is speaking musically.

Every style of music has a unique combination of melody, rhythm and harmony. Great musicians know the importance of matching their sound to the style. If you put too much of your preferred accent into music that doesn’t call for it, you may not communicate effectively.  For example, you may be accustomed to using gospel style chord progressions, but when you play a Top 40 pop song, those progressions no longer translate.

The question every musician must ask is this; am I effectively connecting with my ensemble? If not, adjust your accent. Being able to modify your approach to fit the moment is an essential skill for every artist.

Respect the style, and you’ll find other musicians will respect you.

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