Month: July 2013

Musical Phrasing (English)

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English Version:

Musical phrasing.

Playing the piano is far more than just playing correctly.

Correctness = getting the right pitch + rhythm+ tempo.

Maybe even add seasoning = dynamics, articulation.

That’s just sound.

We want to make music.

We must read beyond the score, and try to find out the hidden meaning, the deeper meaning.

What does the music try to express? What do YOU want to express in and through the music?

We need interpretation.

Music is very similar to a language.

There is grammar in a language: noun, pronoun, subject, object, adjective, tense, paragraph. Punctuation mark.

The same goes for music: downbeat, upbeat, melody, rhythm, harmony, phrasing, section. Rest.

Punctuation marks = rests.

They are very important and powerful. They denotes pause, separation (finishing and starting) of different ideas, suspension, expectation. But they are ignored by too many and their significance is largely diminished unfortunately.

Therefore, read carefully. Read the details. Think about how to play that note, that rest. And how to express its particular meaning in the context.

Musical Phrasing I (Read beyond the notes, phrasing, rests):

Emphasis on words = Emphasis on notes
We choose to emphasize a word and that emphasis denotes a particular meaning.

(from the song “In an unusual way”, from the musical “Nine”)

I think I am in love with you.
I think I am in love with you.
I think I am in love with you.
I think I am in love with you.
I think I am in love with you.

The same goes for emphasis on a particular note. That’s where our interpretation makes a difference. And that’s musical phrasing/musicality.

Listen to how I play the first phrase of Chopin’s Mazurka Op.17/No.2 here:

Musical Phrasing II (music = language, grammar, emphasis on words/notes):

Post-Concert Post

Concert was finally over. I took a deep breath, feeling unexpectedly calm and serene…


Looking back, I took only three weeks to organize this concert. I was absolutely panicking from time to time in the course of rush preparation, worrying that I could not make it. How could I do this? I had only one performer who confirmed to play three weeks prior to the concert date, and I had absolutely no clue what the concept or the program should be like !
What was I thinking?? …

It was funny enough that I always wanted to do a concert like this: a concert with dance, videos, ensemble, singers… more like a collaborative show, almost like a musical/drama with music… it always seemed to me a fascinating idea… and yet, I never did it.

I guess I was worried, wondering how I could do something that I had never done before. What would it be like? How was it supposed to be executed?

Simply put, I was scared. Just like everyone else would be, about something unknown, afraid of taking risk.

I pushed myself to work on the concert. It was absolutely exciting at the same time extremely frightening. “What am I doing? I don’t have to do this! Just focus on teaching, or the many other projects that await me to work on…”

There were countless times I had thought of not doing it. Just stop this, Teresa Wong. There is no need for you to do this. No one knows you are working on it anyway. Or. Okay, maybe I just escape from here. Or. I am getting sick! Don’t worry about the concert already. Etc. etc.

Then, I thought about my students. I thought about being an example to my students. I always told them, “You have to keep going. Don”t be afraid of taking risk and making mistakes. Keep trying. The process matters. You learn from your mistakes…”

So, how could I just quit like that??…

Besides, I started talking to more musicians and dancers about the concert, and asked for their participation. As I saw their active involvement, their passion with their singing and dance and so on, I felt this growing excitement inside me as well…

“It’s going to be absolutely fantastic!” I said to myself.


I changed the program a few times everyday in those three weeks of concert preparation. And there were a lot of unexpected issues that I had never thought of that would happen. For instance, the way I thought the music for the tango dance would be fairly straightforward as the way we would play it from the score, but apparently there should be a lot of improvisatory/exciting phrases of dialogue in/among the different instrumental parts so that the dancers would arrange their dance steps according to the ebbs and flows in the music… or for the nature videos we were showing in the concert, we needed to have them censored and get the certificates (and paid for ) from the governmental film department(!) three days prior to the concert, with the same censored copy in the exact format of a DVD… Those proved to be challenging tasks especially when I had to hurry to get things done within a week before the concert. (And I guess the government did not understand that, we are artists! We change things at the last minute for artistic reasons!) How exhausting and exciting the whole preparation process was! Yet I embraced such challenges, and I got them done all the same.

One could never practice enough for a performance. I started doubting myself about my preparation especially when I did not have much time to practice on top of teaching and organizing and administering the whole concert project, from the poster/brochure design to video production, from struggling to put the various performers together for one single rehearsal and finding a place to rehearse at the same time, to promoting the concert and getting sponsorship at the very last minute… At times I thought I must be crazy (or would go crazy) trying to do all these on my own. Fortunately, I had some help this time, with a wonderful assistant who helped managing the concert, a helpful stage manager who raised questions I would have never thought about before, and great musicians who actively participated in providing constructive ideas on the program.


It was a beautiful concert. Not only I had some of my students performed together, I also had an intense collaboration among passionate musicians and dancers. All in all, it had been quite a fruitful experience.


Now it comes to the time to express my utmost gratitude towards every single person that had contributed to this concert, without any one of them it would never have been the same.

Thank you Klaire. You are the best. I am grateful that I have you as my assistant.

Thank you Rachel for managing the stage. I never knew there could be some many issues we had to deal with on a theatre stage.

Thank you Heisen for the animated logo and the opening video. They were beautiful.

Thank you Stephanie for the lovely violin playing and the adorable act at the end. Thank you Martin for having Stephanie with us again.

Thank you Hugo and Avis for the passion and the wonderful tango dance.

Thank you Cheukee and Bobo for the awesome singing.

Thank you Fred, Kitty, Echo and Harry for the enjoyable acappella choral performance.

Thank you Elaine and Joe for playing with me. Elaine, I love your flute playing.

Thank you my students Carol, Clive, Bethany and Anisia for the participation and performance. I am very proud of you all.

Thank you my students Annie, KC and Jeanette for suggestions and program notes.

Thank you Mrs Mong, Mr. Jebsen and Martin for the sponsorship.

Thank you Caleb. You are the man.


I appreciate any feedback regarding this concert so that we can do better next time.

With sincerity, gratitude and humility,





We are always comfortable with certain things or situations, because we are so used to them, but, they do not serve us well at all, only we are too lazy or comfortable to change. Nonetheless, we know, deep inside us, we always want to try something new, something that excites us. We are ready to change yet we are afraid of change.

Change. Do it. Now.

Students, you have to contribute to this too. You have the responsibility too, as I have told you in your last lessons, to have faith, be diligent and courageous to work on your art and share beautiful music with others, so that they can enjoy and appreciate music in a way they would never have otherwise. You do have the responsibility and you know it.

Be fearless. And have confidence in yourselves, as I always have in you.

For more photos, please go to the album on google.