The Three Ms (or Four. Or Five…)

If you have read the article on AFC and CTS, you know how to practise and how to achieve a good outcome when you’re learning a new piece of music (or even just the next phrase). If you haven’t read that article yet, please do! Your practise sessions will suddenly be more focused, more productive and more fun!

OK, you’ve not only read about AFC and CTS, but you’ve been applying them in your daily practising. You’re now accurate, fluent and confident! Congratulations!

Now you need to focus on three really important concepts, which all start with the letter M.




MUSIC is where we begin. If you have truly achieved Accuracy, Fluency and Confidence, then you really know the MUSIC. You can probably play it off by heart. You hum it in your sleep. When you play it, you never fumble or stumble, because it has become part of you. That is the true definition of AFC: the MUSIC is now part of you.

MELODY is next. You may be accurate, fluent and confident in your playing—but can we hear the tune? Does the MELODY stand out above the accompaniment? (The accompaniment is everything else, everything that isn’t the tune). The MELODY may be in the right hand or the left hand, it may change from one hand to the other, and it may even be coy at revealing itself. But you have to find it! And when you’ve found it, make sure it can be heard, singing its heart out, dominating the MUSIC. MELODY is the star of the show, its chest puffed proudly out, its mouth wide open, its song soaring above the accompaniment, whose function is to support the MELODY and give it harmony, a rhythmic base, structure and texture, all of which are important—but they must never drown out the MELODY!

MEANING is last. It’s the most elusive, yet it’s the overarching reason for the MUSIC being there in the first place! Like any work of art, there has to be a reason for the MUSIC to have been composed. The reason may be obvious: for example, the title of the MUSIC may explain its message, or there may be some text at the foot of the page to give some background. If you have composed the song yourself, you will know what your own inspiration was. If someone else composed it, you may need to find out. It will be there, somewhere, either in words or in the MUSIC itself. 

And now, when you perform, your job is to show what the MUSIC really means:




Whether you are a beginner, an intermediate learner or an advanced musician, these three Ms must always guide your performance. The MUSIC must be accurate, fluent and confident and you must have internalised it, making it part of you. The MELODY must be heard. The MEANING must be found and the MESSAGE delivered. Did you notice the fourth M? The MESSAGE! Through the wonderful MEDIUM of MUSIC, we communicate with each other, and the whole world understands.