AskDefine | Define phrasing

Dictionary Definition



1 the grouping of musical phrases in a melodic line
2 the manner in which something is expressed in words; "use concise military verbiage"- G.S.Patton [syn: wording, diction, phraseology, choice of words, verbiage]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. present participle of phrase


  1. The way a statement is put together, particularly in matters of style and word choice.
    1870 ''But for the Sir Walter disease, the character of the Southerner -- or Southron, according to Sir Walter's starchier way of phrasing it -- would be wholly modern, in place of modern and medieval mixed, and the South would be fully a generation further advanced than it is. Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi'', Chapter 46.
  2. The way the musical phrases are put together in a composition or in its interpretation, with changes in tempo, volume, or emphasizing one or more instruments over others.
    1891 ''The grand difficulty in the opening andante movement of Casta Diva lies in its broad, sustained phrasing, in the long, generous undulation of its rhythm, which with most singers drags or gets broken out of symmetry. Jenny Lind conceived and did it truly. Joel Benton, Life of Hon. Phineas T. Barnum'', Chapter 17.


the way a statement is put together
  • Finnish: sanamuoto
the way the musical phrases are put together
  • Finnish: fraseeraus

Extensive Definition

In music a phrase (Greek φράση, sentence, expression, see also strophe) is a section of music that is relatively self contained and coherent over a medium time scale. In common practice phrases are often four and most often eight bars, or measures, long. A rough analogy between musical phrases and the linguistic phrase is often made, comparing the lowest phrase level to clauses and the highest to a complete sentence. Thus a phrase will end with a weaker or stronger cadence depending if it is an antecedent or consequent phrase, respectively. Metrically, Edward Cone analyses the "typical musical phrase" as consisting of an "initial downbeat, a period of motion, and a point of arrival marked by a cadential downbeat," while Cooper and Meyer use only two or three pulse groups (strong-weak or strong-weak-weak) (DeLone et al. (Eds.), 1975, chap. 3).Phrases are commonly built from or contain figures, motifs, and cells. Phrases combine to form periods and larger sections of music. Phrase rhythm is the rhythmic aspect of phrase construction and the relationships between phrases, and "is not at all a cut-and-dried affair, but the very lifeblood of music and capable of infinite variety. Discovering a work's phrase rhythm is a gateway to its understanding and to effective performance." The term was popularized by William Rothstein's Phrase Rhythm in Tonal Music. Techniques include overlap, lead-in, extension and expansion, and reinterpretation or elision. (Burkhart 2005).

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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