Think in Big Beats

If you notice that your phrasing or style sounds stagnant, it may be beneficial to think in a larger beat pattern. I often find that this solution helps to make the music flow better, as you get out of the mindset of micro-managing the music and see the bigger picture. A prime example of this is Mozart's Tuba Mirum. Most students who play this for me at first play the phrases very vertically, leaving the excerpt with no sense of forward motion. After being instructed to play the excerpt again at the same tempo while feeling the music in two rather than four, the phrasing is usually much more pleasing to the ear. 

Another use for this is with faster moving music with a lot of notes. Often times we get so involved in getting out all the notes that the music becomes frantic and no longer sounds comfortable. A good example of this is the third movement of the Casterede Sonatine. I have seen many students approach this piece in the feeling of four in an attempt to make sure they get all the counting correct. Unfortunately, thinking in this manner creates and very unsettling feeling to the movement. I prefer to think of this music in two, and if it still sounds too uncomfortable, I try to conceptualize it in one. Thinking through the music in these larger beat patterns is easier on the brain (after you've done your slow practice, of course) and sounds much more enjoyable to the listener. 

This way of thinking can be applied effectively to almost all pieces of music, and I would highly recommend trying it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I'm confident that everybody has already put in the time an effort to practice in the small beat patterns, play the subdivisions to double check rhythmical accuracy, played slowly with a metronome, etc. :-)