Interrelated Dimensions of Music: Dynamics

Dynamics is the word musicians use for volume.

It’s not quite the same as changing the volume up on the T.V. or your device, it’s a little more subtle than that and, along with some other techniques, dynamics can help a composer convey a particular emotion during a section of music.

If you’re watching a cartoon and a character is being sneaky, the music might be at a soft or quiet dynamic; this is called Piano. When that character is caught and starts to run away, the music might change to loud to emphasise the sense of urgency; this dynamic is called Forte.

Piano = Quiet Forte = Loud

When a composer wishes to communicate a change in dynamic to a performer they write an instruction on the music for them to read. When written down, the dynamics are abbreviated: p for piano, and f for forte.

Dynamics are not just limited to quiet and loud, there is a whole spectrum of dynamics in between, and beyond.

Typically we see dynamics that go from pianissimo, very quiet, all the way to fortissimo, very loud.

PP - Pianissimo - Very Soft/quiet

P - Piano - Soft/quiet

MP - Mezzo-piano - “Medium” soft/quiet

MF - Mezzo-forte - “Medium” Loud

F - Forte - Loud

FF - Fortissimo - Very Loud

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