It’s all too easy to get so wrapped up in the means (practicing) that we lose sight of the end, making beautiful music.

Remembering Bud Herseth’s advice (“Never practice; always perform”), one of the habits we need to form is making sure that every note we play is part of a line, and every line is expressive.

An expressive line is made up of the technical aspects—destination points, peaks, direction, connection to what comes next, etc.—and the emotional component, which makes it all matter. To be clear, that last means our instinct, our caring, our musicianship, all informed by our experience.

Of course, we’re not always sure how to shape a line. For me, something that often helps clear the uncertainty about shaping a passage is to imagine a string player playing it. I can close my eyes and picture a violinist pulling a beautiful phrase out of her bow, and the answer is there (sometimes!)

So form the habit; make every single note part of the most beautiful line we can play, every single time.