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Old January 12th, 2010, 01:47 PM   #31
Major Player
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Posts: 938
I have not mentioned "the nuances of performance". I have no clear idea of what that phrase means ... (2 abstract nouns divided by "of" are often vague). I am talking about the notes of music sung and played. I am talking about getting them accurately combined and delivered in time. When that is accomplished through rehearsals, at home for the most part, I am looking forward to rehearsing the final arrangement and recording the "best we can do" in a small studio.
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Old January 12th, 2010, 03:17 PM   #32
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Camas, WA, USA
Posts: 5,513
To me, the nuance of a performance is mainly about the timing. Do you play a bit ahead or behind the beat? Does the tempo speed up or slow down near the end of a measure? Emphasis of dynamics on different beats can really change the feel as well.

Modulation of volume and pitch is important on some instruments, but doesn't apply to others. For instance with piano, once the note is played, the only decision is when to stop playing it. Yet, the piano can sound very lyrical or very clumsy, depending on the skill of the player, and that's all about timing and emphasis.

A beginning player has poor timing and poorly controlled dynamics. As a student progresses, they can improve on timing and dynamics, but to me, timing is the most difficult to master. Great timing is what allows a studio musician to lay down a track in one take. Me? I'm never satisfied with my timing!

When programming MIDI (and playing it in live), it's easy to get the dynamics close enough. If one note sticks out or is lost, adjust the velocity by eye, and it's usually good enough. If not, it's easy to nail it on the second pass.

Timing is another story. Quantize to the beat and it sounds mechanical. Play it in with a bit of skill and it's better. But trying to nudge the notes to tighten up the timing yet keep it human is really tough. Delay an early note just slightly and the rest of the phrase can fall apart. Delay the rest of the phrase, and it ends off the beat. You generally have to delay the first note, then delay the next notes a bit less, then less, then less. And it can still sound "off".

Here's a string quartet that I programmed in MIDI (with a specialized solo string library of sounds.) I spent hours and hours polishing it. Yet you can still hear that some of the phrases are a bit mechanical, and those spots are all due to stiff timing.

Spider! - A Composition for String Quartet

Quantize the piece and play it without dynamics and it would be horrid! :)
Jon Fairhurst
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