When conversing about preparing for a recital, Tomoko asked me, “How do you prepare a song?” It’s not as obvious as you might think.
“Start with the text,” advises Tomoko. “What was the author trying to say? What is the message?” She continues, “Read it over and over. Read it aloud. Find its rhythm. Find the words to emphasize.” The next step? “Memorize it, and be able to recite it with meaning.”
Only then should you look at the music. “Tie the words to the music,” says Tomoko. “How do the words resonate in the music? Does the music rise as the voice would rise with the meaning? How does the music approach phrasing?” Tomoko recommends marking the composer’s notations about speed, expression, and so on. Internalizing the lyrics informs the musician’s interaction with the music.
Technically, Tomoko recommends starting with the left hand. Getting the beat and base musical motif provides a sound foundation of the piece. Only then should the right hand come into play. At each point, the musician needs to iron out the specific challenges. That clears the way for the next stage of learning.
With this accumulative approach, the musician optimizes both the technical and expressive aspects of the song. So let your heart sing.