man playing guitar“Whatever music you play or sing, your objective is to express musical ideas, not spew out notes.”
The Musician’s Way,
 p. 24

Accomplished musicians bring vibrancy to every sound they make – there’s an emotional power to their music that captivates listeners.

Student performers, by comparison, often come across as bland. They may focus on mechanical execution instead of expressing the emotions in each phrase.

Here are 7 ways that aspiring musicians can acquire the expressive habits of pros.

7 Ways to Enhance Musical Expressiveness

1. Form a Sound-Image
Before you practice a new piece, study a score, delve into recordings, and attend live performances to generate a personal sound-image.

2. Listen Deeply
Listen deeply as you practice and perform – both to yourself and any coperformers – and compare what you hear to what you envision. Then, practice deliberately, phrase by phrase, to draw out expressive content.

3. Create Variety
Modify tone, articulation, dynamics, and timing to form an irresistible emotional topography. In the words of cellist Pablo Casals, “Always try to find variety; it is the secret of music.”

4. Enhance Contrasts
Make your emotional messages distinct by bringing freshness to contrasting sections – animate the music with varying tone colors, articulations, and dynamic shapes.The Musician's Way book cover

5. Explore Possibilities
Investigate expressive possibilities beyond your habitual ones. Be spontaneous. Take risks. Also collaborate with others so that you encounter new interpretive approaches.

6. Evaluate
Use a digital recorder in practice and performance, and then employ deep listening strategies to size up your tracks. Build on what works, and rethink what doesn’t.

Recommended Audio Recorders: Zoom H4n  | Zoom H2n | Tascam DR-22WL

7. Perform with Conviction
Best of all, play or sing regularly in public, tapping the energy of live performance to ignite your imagination. First, do ample practice performances, and then, in public, trust in your preparation, savor the music, and make every note vibrate with life.

See The Musician’s Way for hundreds of tips that enhance musical artistry. 

Related posts
5 Benefits of Self-Recording
7 Essentials of Artistic Interpretation
The Art of Spontaneity
Generating Emotional Depth 
Refining an Interpretation

© 2014 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © Ammit Jack, licensed from