Dynamics in music are quite simply one of the things that you can add to your piano playing that will literally transform and expand your enjoyment and mastery of music.
What we'll learn about in this lesson is what dynamics are in music, where you can find them written in your music, and how you play them, and even some of the tricks about combining certain articulations with the dynamic markings so you can get them right.
First, let's talk about what Dynamics are.
Step 1: What Are Dynamics?
Dynamics change the volume of your music.
They are specific markings in your music that indicate whether you are to play the notes loud or soft, and just how loud or soft to play them.
It's just like when you are talking with someone and the loudness of your voice changes to emphasize the point of what you are saying. We tend to get louder to emphasize a point, and softer to perhaps get someone to listen closer to what we're saying.
Since there are several different dynamic markings that we can have in our music, let's take a look at what some of the most common ones are.
Step 2: Different Dynamic Markings
In the big picture, the two main dynamic markings are either a "p" or an "f", or a variation of one of them.
Anything with a "p" in it has to do with playing soft and anything with an "f" in it has to do with playing loud.
In the image above, you can see this demonstrated with the slight changes in volume between each individual one.
There are a few other dynamic markings not included in the above list and one of those asks you to play with a special emphasis like an accent that you immediately back away from once played; these are called Sforzandos and they are indicated with a "sf". You can have sforzandos in either loud or soft passages and how hard you play the emphasis on the notes depends in part on what volume you are playing.
There are also 2 other important markings called Crescendos and Decrescendos, as seen in the 2nd image. A Crescendo means that you play the notes louder and louder and a Decrescendo means that you play the notes softer and softer. You will follow the crescendo or decrescendo as far as the marking is written down in your music, and then there will usually be another marking to tell you how to play the next section.
Now let's see where you will find dynamic markings in your music.
Step 3: Finding Dynamics in Your Piano Music
Dynamic markings are written in your music for both hands and can be different from each other or the same.
Look at the image above and you will see that the markings, first of all, are located under the notes and not on top.
They are also located directly under the notes that are supposed to be played with the volume marking, and you will keep playing the following notes in that same volume until there is different dynamic marking written down.
Any type of dynamic marking will be under the notes, including Sforzandos and Crescendos and Decrescendos.
An important aspect of dynamics is to know that they can indicate sudden changes in volume such as a sforzando or a sudden "fff". More subtle changes in volume that occur much slower than the sudden changes in volume are played through crescendos and decrescendos.
Now let's look at how we play a few of these different dynamics on the keyboard.
Step 4: How to Play Different Dynamics Levels on the Keyboard
Loud passages in your music will always be played with heavier pressure in the keys when you press them down as well as support from the foot pedals if indicated in your music.
Soft passages will be played with less pressure on the keys when you play the notes.
Sforzandos take even more emphasis than a loud marking and even quicker action in your hand and fingers when you press the keys.
If you are playing a crescendo you'll start out with not much pressure on the keys and increase in strength as you go through the notes getting louder with each one.
Just reverse that for a decrescendo; you'll start with the most strength in your hands and back off from that pressure as you decrease your volume.
Now let's put all of this together by practicing how to play each different dynamic level through a special exercise that I wrote.
Step 5: Come Practice With Me!
This video is really helpful in letting you hear and see how the different dynamic levels sound and how I play them on the keyboard so you can as well.
There's a great exercise that you can play too; and in fact, I recommend that you go through this exercise several times each day just to get really comfortable with adding dynamics into your piano playing.
Bookmark this video so you can come back to it anytime you have a question, and enjoy using dynamics in your own playing because you'll enjoy all the neat new differences it will bring to your music.