Dynamics. Say it LOUDER!

Dynamics: Say it louder!

Dynamics generally refer to volume in music - how loud or soft a note is played.  Dynamics originates from the Greek word 'dynamikos', which means powerful.  Used in music, the 'power' with which you sing a note or press a key will result in a certain dynamic level.  Because the musical language is Italian, we use Italian words to designate specific dynamic levels.  Here's a breakdown of the basic dynamic levels you'll see in music:

pp (pianissimo) -- very quiet

p (piano) -- quiet

mp (mezzo-piano) -- moderately quiet

mf (mezzo-forte) -- moderately loud

f (forte) -- loud

ff (fortissimo) -- very loud

As you can probably see, dynamics are a little subjective -- 'quiet' to one person might not sound as quiet to another person.  Use dynamic variation in your music to help shape the entire piece -- quieter sections, louder sections, in-between sections, etc.

You can also move between dynamic levels gradually.  These are represented with musical symbols or its defining word:

See full size imageCrescendo -- gradually increase volume

See full size image Decrescendo/Diminuendo -- gradually decrease volume

Dynamic signs can be easy to overlook when practicing music, especially if you're practicing on a keyboard that doesn't have weighted keys (weighted keys allow you to hear the full dynamic range of notes).  Even if your keyboard doesn't have weighted keys, you can still practice putting more or less pressure on a note to achiever a certain dynamic level.  Try circling or highlighting dynamic signs you find in your music, so they stand out more on the page.  When you listen to music on the radio, be aware of when the volume changes, and how that affects the overall song -- does it make you feel excited, does it add to the suspense, does it make you feel sad or hopeful?  Does it come at the beginning, middle or end of the song? 

Building an awareness of dynamic signs can help us grow into stronger musicians -- they play a huge role in connecting the notes and emotional appeal of a song.  They're also really fun to add to music (who doesn't love rocking out as loudly as possible?)   Keep it up!

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