Use of Dynamics in Music
When you first saw music, you probably wondered what
all those little letters underneath the music were. These
little letters are called dynamics. They tell you how
a certain passage should be played - loud, soft, or in between. An
f (forte) means to play a passage strongly, while a p (piano)
means to play softly. An mf (mezzo forte) signals that you
should play not as full as to be at forte, but full enough to
above a piano This is where you normally play. A mp (mezzo
piano) tells a player to play at a volume in between that of
mezzo forte and piano. Also, the more f's or p's that are
written, such as fff or pp, means the louder or softer you
play, relatively. All dynamics are just that - relative to
every other note. Forte can mean many different because of
this. While playing a solo, forte is very strong, but for
those accompaning the solo a forte is not near as strong.
Regular forte is in between.
Here is a chart that can be a quick reference for dynamics:
||very strongly, but not past a good sound
||play the note strongly and quickly become soft
||play very softly
||play as softly as possible
Dynamics aren't only indicated with these, however. There are also crescendos and decrescendos - increases and decreases in volume that occur throughout music. Crescendos and decrescendos are indicated with their abbreviations (cresc., decresc.) or with markings such as these:
Most increases and decreases in volume occur gradually, but
sometimes are sudden. When a composer wishes to indicate a
very sudden change, especially a soft one, a subito
will be placed in front of the dynamic, usually abbreviated
sub. When suddenly strong dynamics are called for, a
sforzando will be used, written sfz. Sometimes, a
composer will wish that a note played strongly and then
quickly backed away from. This is called a forte-piano,
and is written fp.
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