Elements of Style
The following points are not listed in any particular order of importance,
nor do they attempt to cover all possibilities.
They are intended instead to form a groundwork from which artistic development can begin.
1. An accented note not slurred must be slightly detached from the preceding note.
De-emphasize the notes before and after the accented note.
2. When two or more accented notes are in succession, they must be separated from each other.
Each note must be shorted slightly, leaving a little "daylight" between.
3. In syncopated rhythms, notes starting on upbeats or off-beats should be accented.
Since they are accented, they must be played in a detached style.
4. The longer notes of a phrase or rhythmic pattern must be played with more emphasis than the shorter notes. The difference need not be great; this will depend upon the particular phrase.
5. In fast or lively music or in music of light character, notes not slurred that are equal divisions of the beat must be staccato. Notes of a full beat or more must be held full value. All alla breve, short notes would include quarter notes, eighths, and sixteenths. The exact degree of staccato will be determined by the musical style. Dotted eights or dotted quarters in alla breve are played as long notes, not staccato.
6. Final notes of slurred groups in lively music or in music of light character should be clipped off a little short. This is particularly important when the last note of a slur is followed by a staccato note; if the final note were not shortened, the next note must have a space before and after it.
7. In a cantabile style, final notes of phrases should be rounded off. By tapering the last note or making a little diminuendo just before the release, the phrase is made to sound more finished. Avoid leaving "square corners."
8. Notes followed by a rest should be held full value unless otherwise marked. This is opposite in a march then notes followed by a rest should be a little shorter.
9. Notes that are altered by accents and fall on the beat should be slightly accented. A note that is not in the key of the passage being played is nearly always an important note and should be stressed.
10. Accent in wind instrument playing should result mostly from increased force of breath, not from more violent action of the tongue. Percussive, explosive noises produced by hard tonguing are not musical. The accent is produced by pressing in with the abdominal muscles to speed up the movement of the air column.
11. In ensemble playing, dissonances should be stressed. Dissonances in music of traditional harmonic structure are effective because of the satisfaction to the ear in resolution to consonant chords. By accenting the dissonance and softening the tone slightly when moving to the chord resolution, the musical effect is considerably enhanced.
12. In ensemble playing, parts that are melodic or thematic should be brought out. Parts that accompany or are merely rhythmic or harmonic should be subdued. The thematic part may last for only two or three notes, or it may be an extended passage of many measures. The player must listen to the other parts at all times in order to judge the importance of his or her own part.
13. Be sure that rests get full value. The spaces and silences between the notes are just as important as the notes in conveying the feeling and the mood of the piece.
14. Don't hurry to meet important notes -final notes of phrases or movements, accented notes, accidentals, etc. They must be carefully "placed" or even slightly delayed in order to draw more attention to their importance.
15. Breathing must fit the phrasing. Determine where the phrases begin and end, and take breaths where they will not interrupt the feeling or flow of the phrases. In case where the phrase structure cannot be determined with certainty, it is usually fairly safe to breathe after the first beat of a measure and to avoid breathing at the end of a measure. In ensemble playing determine where each person in the section will breathe to avoid "gaps" in the music. Remember to enter the music you must enter with the existing Tempo, Dynamics, and Tuning as the ensemble is using.
16. In a slow melodic piece, groups of faster notes should be played with a little rubato. Usually it will sound best if you start the fast group rather deliberately and then play the latter part of it a little more quickly.
17. Trills of a beat or longer in melodic passages should begin with one or two slow alternation of pitch before proceeding to a rapid trill. This however, can easily be overdone; if the change from slow to fast is too long drawn out, the effect is not good. Remember too, in regard to trills that the evenness of the trill is more important than the speed.
18. A short grace note should be softer than the note it follows. Too often the quick grace note, as the note that receives the attack, is played too loudly or with an accent. It is not the important note!
19. A long grace note (appoggiatura) should be accented somewhat, with the following note softer. The appoggiatura is a dissonant note, and must follow the rule of dissonances in being slightly stressed.
20. A phrase in a cantabile style must be built upon with increasing intensity to its climax, then allowed to subside again. The climax, or musical high point, may be the highest note, the lowest note, one that is chromatically altered, or a point in the phrase that is distinguished in some other manner. Wherever it comes within the phrase, the playing must draw attention to it, if the phrase is to convey the meaning that the composer intended.
21. When a theme returns latter in the composition, it may be preceded by a slight ritardando. The slowing down should be slight, and just before the return, not spread out over several beats unless so marked. The ritardando prepares the listener's ears for the return.
22. An upbeat note, or anacrusis, must be softer than the note on the beat to which it leads. This is particularly important when the upbeat and the note on the main beat have the same value. If the upbeat is too loud, it draws attention away from the note on the main beat, which is the important note.
Webster stated style is "distinctive or characteristic mode of presentation, construction, or execution in any art." Musical style, therefore means, characteristic language, particularly with reference to the details of the composition. By in large, form and style stand in the relationship of fixed and fluid; there being many pieces of the same form, but differing in style. Each style, however, also has its fixed features which recur in different works. If you follow these elements of style for the majority of the music you play your interpatation will be accepted.