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Finding Your Musical Voice

Danielle Gomez

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Published: November 15, 2013 at 10:57 PM [UTC]

The concept of finding your musical voice has recently "clicked" with me. I've heard the term countless times over the course of my musical career but the meaning never fully registered with me. I always thought of it like it was some sort of artsy saying. Like you have to soul-search so you can communicate your artistic interpretation of a piece.

I never had an artistic interpretation of any piece. I'm not that type of person. I enjoy playing music, I enjoy the challenge of figuring out a piece, I love the bond I feel when I play with other people... but interpretation? Not so much.

Through a fortuitous combination of events (teacher training, parent meeting and what students are currently working on) I began to really think about this musical voice thing. It suddenly dawned on me that the thing I was missing about the saying was what the word "voice" meant. I was so fixated on the ideal of "musical" that I ignored "voice."

It's your voice.

When you talk to others you are connected to your voice. A baby learns their mother tongue and spends quite some time making gibberish sounds in an effort to imitate what they hear.

So finding your musical voice is really not about discovering the hidden meaning behind a piece. It's about making a connection between you and the instrument. The instrument is becoming your second voice.

This is no easy task because it takes years for that connection to form. The beginning music student is playing, for lack of a better word, gibberish. They hear a piece, they know the sounds in their head, but they lack the ability to convey their ideas. They're not fluent. They have no idea if putting a finger in a certain place will produce the desired sound.

This is a frustrating thing to learn because there's really no timetable. A child learns to speak when he learns to speak. Same with an instrument. The only way to see results is patience and persistence from the teacher.

Rethinking Genius

Posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:29 AM
My teacher compares expression in music to expressive speaking.
Posted on November 16, 2013 at 11:51 AM
I love the analogy to babies learning to speak. This makes it a bit easier to bear while stumbling towards coherency. And hopefully, I don't end up with a musical speech disorder. Ha ha!
From Sander Marcus
Posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:31 PM
Great topic.

In literature, the concept is the "voice" of the author, and every (good) writer has one. I do agree that there is a similar concept in music. I believe that the composer has a "voice," which we often recognize even if we're not familiar with the piece.

And, of course, the musical performer has a unique "voice." It is an experiential concept that transcends technical subtleties (such as uniqueness of vibrato, shifting, etc.). It is a matter of how a melody or thematic element (even if highly technical) is phrased, as if it is indeed a voice.

The older generation of violinists, having had much more limited exposure to world-wide live performances (because there was no recording industry, or the industry was in its infancy) all sound different because each had a unique, individual "voice" that they developed unto themselves without the extensive exposure that everyone has today.

And, of course, that means that it is important to help every student "find" their own violin "voice," just as it is important to help every writer find his or her own writing "voice."

Again, great insight into an artistically transcendent concept.


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