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How to Read Dynamics

Hello Everyone,

Today, I’m starting a short series on how to read music. Today I’ll be talking about how to read and successfully perform dynamics in music.

Dynamic markings in music are simply markings that indicate how loud or soft you should play your instrument.

Why incorporate dynamics in music? Dynamics greatly impact the emotional content of your performance. Differing dynamics can accentuate a moment in the story that you are telling. They can get an audience's attention. Adding dynamics to your performances is just as important as the dynamics of your voice when you speak. Sometimes you whisper, sometimes you may yell. When you perform music, it is just another way for you to communicate every kind of emotion within your piece.

There are two things that you need to know about dynamics to be the most effective performer as possible.

1. DYNAMICS ARE RELATIVE. What is loud? What is quiet? The answers to these questions are all dependent on the current level of dynamics that you are playing at.

2. You need to play with as much dynamic contrast as possible,. This way, your dynamics have the maximum emotional effect on your performance. Make sure your quietest indicated (p) is as quiet as you can play. Make sure your loudest indicated (F) is as loud as you can play. Here are the standard definitions of dynamic markings:

PPP = Extremely Quiet (as quiet as you can) PP = Very Quiet P = Quiet MP = Medium Quiet MF = Medium Loud F = Loud FF = Very Loud FFF = Extremely Loud (as loud as you can)

**Here is a helpful hint: Look your music over and find the quietest marking and the loudest marking. These markings will let you know what your dynamic range is going to be and your maximum level of how “Loud” or “Quiet” to play for the entire piece. For example, if you have a PP somewhere and also a P, then you know that when you play your P, that it will not be your quietest sound. However, if the quietest marking you find is a P, then you know that whenever you see a P, this will indicate the quietest that you are able to play for the piece. In other words, the quietest or loudest marking you have in your piece will indicate the quietest and the loudest that you can possibly play.

The markings and their definitions are easy to remember and fairly self-explanatory. The only exception to this is properly reading time-dependent dynamic markings that show the beginning and ending point in your level of sound. For example Crescendo or Decrescendo markings that indicate the starting and ending point for your volume level. You have to gradually increase or decrease your level of sound depending on the beginning and ending point to the dynamic marking.

Sometimes these markings are referred to as “alligators”. They will look like angle brackets in your music.

I hope this helps with your dynamic fun!