What is Phrasing & How To Improve It!

Phrasing is how we break down a song into musical ideas, which includes where to breathe and where to place emphasis. Here is an example, sing through “Happy Birthday”. You probably sang 4 phrases in that song (unless you sang it like Marilyn Monroe, then it would 8 phrases!).

One of the most important elements in phrasing is breath; breathing in places that make sense for both the music and the words. It helps to read the words aloud and mark the places where you naturally pause. To mark those places use a little apostrophe above the staff or if you just have lyrics, then place it above the words. The little apostrophe is called a breath mark. For piano you will see the slur (a curved line above or below notes), which is also a phrase mark. (See 9/8 blog about “The Difference Between a Tie & a Slur”)

Next, you need to determine the dynamics (growing louder or getting softer) in a phrase, which is a natural rise and fall of the voice. The sound increases and decreases as you play the piano. (See blog 7/30 about Dynamics).

In pop music, phrases tend to be shorter and more conversational; in musical theater and classical styles are more concerned with the traditional sense of phrasing. Intentional & skillful phrasing in contemporary singing can really take a performance to the next level! You’ll sound more expressive and natural. Listen to the video attached of Audrey Diaz singing “Shallow”, see if you can hear the phrases.


What’s the definition of perfect pitch? When you toss a banjo in the garbage and it hits an accordion.

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