Comments on musicality, motion in music, and Tabuteau's "drives." Demonstration of ways to practice the musical application of dynamics, vibrato, and rubato. Performance of a portion of Alberto Orefici's Melodic Study #1. By Terry B. Ewell. Bassoon Digital Professor #100.

<Music from Orefici’s Melodic Study No. 1>

Welcome to the 100th video in the Bassoon Digital Professor series. I am delighted to be here and celebrate this milestone with you. I have prepared for you a special video that summarizes an important aspect of my pedagogy. That aspect is motion in music.

There are many writings on motion in music. Well known among musicians is David McGill’s book “Sound in Motion.”  But McGill is not the only author to use of the metaphor “motion” to describe music. Many contemporary musicians, music theorists, and philosophers have also written on the subject. I have also made references to motion in music in several of my writings. References to motion in music extend well back to counterpoint treatises in the Baroque period, if not even before. If you want to explore the subject of motion in music, I have prepared a bibliography for you that is available at
So let’s get started.

So how does a performer add motion to music? What do we mean by musical direction?

Typically we use three ways to show motion in music. These are dynamics (crescendo and diminuendo), varying the speed of the vibrato, and rubato, that is, slight speeding up or slowing down the tempo. There are more ways to show motion, but those are the three we will deal with here in this video.

Marcel Tabuteau spoke of the term “drive.” This is something that he coined.  A drive is a scaling of some aspect of music. It is a musical parameter.

Here is an example of a drive using only dynamics. Set your metronome for a quarter-note equals 60. Notice that this is a five count exercise. The first measure is five counts, so is the second, etc. I am indebted to Norman Herzberg for this idea. When you have mastered the five count exercise add a beat to each measure. Keep adding beats to challenge yourself throughout the whole range of the instrument.

You can also practice dynamic drives with articulation. There is such a great variety to the ways you can practice drives that you can entertain yourself for many hours. Be creative!

Now, let’s take a brief passage from the first Melodic Study by Alberto Orefici to examine musical motion. Orefici is explicit in this passage about the location of the climaxes. The downbeat of measure 2 is a musical goal. The fourth beat of measure 4 on the appoggiatura is another musical goal. The last two goals are found on the downbeat of the first measure of the second line and then the appoggiatura E3 in the third measure of that line.

Now, you can practice musicality in several ways. Here is an example of where I play a single tone, a monotone G4, and vary the vibrato and dynamics together. I will tap my foot so that you can hear the beats.
<Monotone with tapping foot>

I hope that you hear that I project forward motion in the music by means of a faster vibrato and louder dynamics. Conversely, motion away from a musical goal is broadcast by means of a release of tension, that is, a slower vibrato and a decrescendo.
When I play the monotone, I am listening to the music in my mind. We call this audiation. Here is the monotone again, but this time I will point out the corresponding place in the music.
<Monotone with tapping foot>

Why is the monotone so important as a practice tool? Well, if you can’t play musically on a single tone, you really aren’t playing musically with many tones. The many tones are simply masking your inabilities.
Here I will play the monotone for you again, but this time I tongue the beats.

<Monotone with tonguing>

Did you notice that I didn’t restart my vibrato every time I tongued? It is a terrible habit to link your vibrato to your articulation patterns. Don’t do it! The vibrato should operate separately.

Now, you should practice varying the vibrato and dynamics separately. In fact you want to gain such control over both so that you can vary the two independently at will. Sometimes you might want to increase the speed of vibrato as you decrescendo, for instance. Here is a figure in which dynamics and vibrato are in opposition.

Now let’s practice rubato, that is the speeding up and slowing of the tempo. I will tongue 8th notes so that you can hear the tempo changes. Notice that rubato needs tasteful application. You can’t suddenly speed up or slow down. You need to project to your listener a natural path for the music to follow. It is a bit similar to a tame rollercoaster ride. Smooth descend and ascents. Nothing jerks the rollercoaster, rather accelerations and decelerations happen according to gravity.

<Music from Orefici’s Melodic Study  No. 1 with tongued eighth notes>

The arcs of the musical lines are also much like a baseball being thrown. If you see the starting its arch and momentarily blink, you still know where the ball will end up.

Similarly you need to perform rubato in much the same way so that your musical goals seem inevitable. There needs to be a natural result of the musical line. Now, it doesn’t seem intuitive that in order to play musically you need to be even more exacting and calculating. But when I play musically I subdivide very carefully in my mind. I am not hearing numbers like “1, 2, 3, 4, 5” but instead I hear pulses or beats much like you heard me play the tonguing pattern. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that musicality just happens spontaneously. Just as technique needs to be practiced, so too musicality needs to be rehearsed.

God willing, I hope I can continue with another 100 videos in this series. I have so many ideas that I want to share with you, but not enough time to produce videos and materials. Well, to close out this video here is a performance of the first two lines of the Orefici “Melodic Study No. 1. ” God bless you, bye.

<Music from Orefici’s Melodic Study No. 1>