Teach Yourself Music Theory – 2.) Understanding Dynamics

When you are listening to your favorite music on your device, you increase the volume if it needs to be loud – and vice verse, decrease the volume when it needs to be quiet.

In music notation, there are dynamics, which are symbols used to indicate to the performer how loud or soft to play. Below on the grand staff, or the treble and bass clef connected by a curly brace, you will notice letters underneath the notes. Those are the dynamic symbol abbreviations used to tell how loud/soft an instrument is to play until the next dynamic is mentioned. Typically, they are to always go below the staff (or in the middle of a grand staff); but for situations involving vocalists or for separating the upper stave of the grand staff, they should be put above.

The most commonly used dynamics symbol abbreviations (going from softest to loudest) are: pianissimo (pp), piano (p), mezzo piano (mp), mezzo forte (mf) forte (f), fortissimo (f). Piano meaning “soft,” and forte meaning “strong.”

In the rare case you need to go beyond and hit the extreme ends of volume, add an “issi” to it and another letter. Ex.: pianississimo (ppp)

If you want to notate a gradual change in the volume, try using these shapes:

A cone/hairpin with the open end on the right is a crescendo that tells the performer to get louder. If it was facing the opposite direction of ” > ” instead of ” < ” then is it a diminuendo/decrescendo that tells the performer to gradually decrease in sound.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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