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Music Dynamics

Playing changes in volume (or dynamics) in a performance is one of the techniques that separates basic musicians from more advanced players.

When you are learning how to read sheet music it is really important to be able to work out how loud to play at any given moment.

If you can do this quickly and put it into practice on your instrument then your playing will jump to a whole new level.

The Vital Question To Ask About Dynamics

The crucial question to ask yourself is very simple – “Is the composer wanting me to play the music loudly or quietly?”

In sheet music, this information is given to us as a letter(s) or Italian word(s) underneath the stave (called a “dynamic marking”). So, the following scale…….

Piano Music Dynamics

…..should be played quietly as p is short for piano (Italian word pronounced pee-ar-no) which means quiet.

On the other hand, the following scale….

Forte Music Dynamics

….should be played loudly as f is short for forté (Italian word pronounced for-tay) which means loud.

The dynamic marking can be changed as the piece progresses. So, in this extract….

Forte and piano combined

….the first bar should be played loud whilst the second bar should be played quiet.

How many dynamic words do I need to learn?

Thankfully, there are not that many words you need to learn to be able to read the dynamic markings in most pieces. The table below shows a list of the most common letters/words used to express volume/dynamics….

Table of musical dynamics

I’ve got some music theory worksheets and practical activities to help you take you musicianship to the next level. Click Here to Find out more about my How To Read Music Tool Kit.
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