Saturday Smiley: Commas and Breath Marks

A comma is, like a breath mark amd sometimes people dom’t, breathe im the right places. Amd sometimes evem, a mote is missed or am accidemtal amd it just makes thimgs really, dissomamt.  Them there cemes the problem whem mobody breathes amd they just kimd of rum out of air at the emd….

Welcome to beginning band..? [Did you catch the “missed accidental?” =)]  Mistakes in music don’t sound this obvious to everyone, but someone who is reading or listening to a passage played just as the above paragraph can catch it quickly, especially if someone is playing the passage correctly simultaneously.

Breath marks give shape to a phrase.  Unfortunately, some players, mostly beginners, don’t realize how obvious breath is.  Here is a great blog about commas that I read a few weeks ago. Limbirdmike said in this post: “The simplest way to think of a comma in general writing is to think of it as a pause – a place where your writing takes a natural breath for air between the bigger breaths that come at the end of each sentence.”  That’s how I usually think of it when putting commas in my writing.  Same is true while breathing in music.  In my conducting class, we were talking last week about placing breath marks where it’s smart and telling the different players of the melody to mark it in their music.  Breath marks in themselves are quite useful.  They let you breathe before you run out of air, typically.  If you run out of air before a breath mark, you’ve got to either build some endurance or take a bigger breath next time.  Or both.  Commas are a little more obvious in their misuse.  And sometimes when there aren’t even any commas in a sentence you speak until you run out of breath then quick, breathe.  Not cool.  You see the connection here.  Even if the instrument is one that you don’t breathe into to produce sound, breathing with the phrase is always a good idea and it makes musical sense.  In an ensemble, it keeps everyone together.  A little pause can feel like a comma in the sentence that the music is speaking.

It is pretty awesome that such a little thing can have such an effect on music.  It makes me smile when I can hear it; little details that I notice that I hadn’t three years ago always make me smile.  =)  So, as I’m learning to play new instruments in my pedagogy classes, I don’t always pay attention to breath marks until I get the notes down.  However, as I am realizing fingerings, I am also realizing that I need to breath.  As a percussion player, I confess that I have a ton of trouble with breath marks and breathing in general.  However, it has been something that I have been noticing this week.  And the more I think about it and hear it in use, breath marks just make me smile.  So do awesome analogies, comma, like this.  =)

Smiling! Anna =)^2

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