If you’ve ever wanted to understand how to make your guitar playing more dynamic, you’ve come to the right place. You see, as musicians, we develop an inner ear for music over time and learn to break it down and understand the fundamentals of what makes a piece work. Hearing a piece of music with the same volume, and qualities from start to finish can make it sound a little stale and therefore it needs life. Music is all about self-expression, and that’s where dynamics come into play. As you keep reading, you’ll discover the keys to bring your music to life naturally.
Musicians performing a lively show for a crowd. Dynamics are important in expressing feelings.
What Exactly Are Dynamics?
In a nutshell, dynamics typically refer to the changing of volume from loud to quiet, or from quiet to loud.
When it comes to written pieces of music, there are instructions on how to play the piece at certain points. However, these are typically written in Italian, therefore as a classical musician, it’s completely necessary to learn these. However, even if you aren’t, you may still take note as these techniques are definitely useful to learn for future use.
Calando – quietening – Becoming softer and slower
Crescendo – growing – Becoming louder
Decrescendo – shrinking – Becoming softer
Diminuendo – dwindling – Becoming softer
Forte – strong – Loud
Fortissimo – very strong – Very loud
Marcato – marked – A note played forcefully
Mezzo Forte – half-strong – Moderately loud
Piano – gentle – Soft
Pianissimo – very gentle – Very soft
Mezzo Piano – half-gentle – Moderately soft
Sforzando – strained – Sharply accented
Stentato – in the manner of Stentor – Loud, boisterous
Tremolo – trembling – A rapid repetitive variation in the volume or pitch of a tone
Messa Di Voce – placing the voice – A style of singing involving changing volume while holding a single note
Why Are Dynamics Important?
So, you get the basic idea as to what Dynamics are, but you might not feel so inclined to learn them. Well, to you skeptics out there, dynamics are what take a 2-Dimensional piece of music, and bring it into that 3rd Dimension. It’s likely you won’t find anything on the radio today that doesn’t involve some form of dynamics.
In fact, scarcely used throughout the beginning of the 18th century, it was Giovanni Gabireli who became the first to include dynamics in music notation. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that composers Hayden and Mozart saw the importance of dynamics and included a wider range of dynamics written for music notation. It was also due to the invention of the piano and the reduction of use involving the harpsichord that made dynamics more prominent in music.
Now, while this is very important in expressing emotion and bringing life to your music, we at Beginner Guitar HQ are going to push the envelope and take it a step further for you all. What is meant by making your playing more dynamic actually involves many of the same qualities you can take from observing a piece of artwork.
These features are line, shape, form, color, space, texture, and value.
Art Qualities You Can Use In Music
“A blank piece of paper can be seen as nothing — or it can be seen as everything.”
When you examine a piece of music, it can be taken apart, critiqued, dissected and understood like a painting would. Music is art. It’s the fact that both of these different art styles are in fact related to art that makes them almost synonymous of one another.
Musician playing in an artistic and colorful lighting
So, when we listen to a piece of music — as one would examine a piece of art, let’s break it down into its different artistic features that make it a unique thing of its own.
Line In Artwork
The first term we’ll discuss. This is something that is consistently used in artwork, which is the drawing of any image, that involves distinct straight or curved lines. Sometimes this could be to separate the image from the background, making it 3D, or keeping it 2-Dimensional.
Line In Music
There are a few things that line can represent in music, firstly the melodic content. Does the melodic line feel conjunct or disjunct — meaning are the notes close together or do they take leaps?
Does the melodic content sound distinct and 3-Dimensional, separating itself from the rest of the music/background, or does it blend in and add to the mix? Pop music tends to have distinct melodies that stick out. Math Rock is a genre where the vocals/melodic lines are simply just background to the instruments.
Is the line thick or thin? Does the overall volume and power of the melodic line sound amplified or include layers? Or is it very quiet, and delicate, perhaps more emotional, like at any moment, it might break!
Shape In Artwork
What shape means to a piece of artwork is; a 2-dimensional object created with length and width proportions. It is by adding the other elements which we will discuss later; that give it life and make it 3-Dimensional.
Shape In Music
When we talk about shape, primarily in music, we have to look at a lot of the dynamic elements of a song or piece of music. The dynamics could be altering the pitch and tempo, or simply adding the rise and fall of volume. This is what gives music its unique shape. Another thing to factor in is the motion of the music as a whole. Does it sway? Does it have a swing to it? Is it rhythmic?
Form In Artwork
Very similar to shape, it helps determine the volume and perception of a shape’s volume. With the use of shading and other elements, we can create this simulation of 3D perception. However, this isn’t exclusive to 2-Dimensional pieces of artwork, but 3-Dimensional models as well, as they also contain an authentic shape and volume.
Form In Music
Form is quite often discussed as a focal point in a lot of classical, and orchestrated music. This refers to the different sections of a musical composition, and are therefore its structure. Much like a 3-Dimensional figure, this is what gives a piece of music its depth and volume. Furthermore, these sections may be broken up into musical phrases, which have enough weight to sustain their own iconic identity throughout the piece of music.
Color In Artwork
Typically, color is perceived by the eye when you take light, strike it against the object and reflect it back into the eye. There are a few things to factor in when we talk about color. Hue determines its actual color. Intensity determines its vibrance, or vividness if you will. Lastly, value determines how bright and dark the color is!
Color In Music
Also known as the timbre. While there really is no wrong answer as to how someone perceives timbre in music, it’s generally defined by the quality of the sound. What this essentially means is when you take a few intervals, or chords into consideration, what color comes to mind?
Typically, minor chords are seen as sad, and therefore are mostly perceived as blue or any dark color. You may take a blues scale and see yellow or red. You might even take jazz music and see all sorts of colors in a very chromatic fashion!
Space In Artwork
In art, this includes the background, foreground and middle ground. Space refers to the positive and negative space found between these layers. Negative space is the space between, around or within the object, as positive space is the occupied area by the object or form!
Space In Music
Now, when we are talking in the context of space involving music, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. There does exist positive and negative space in music as well! So, for instance — if we were to take a melodic line, how much negative space could we find? Take note: that each note is positive space as it takes up a portion/beat within the bar. It’s the spaces between the notes that are the negative space!
Having negative space in music is so important, as it can create tension, add life, rhythm and feeling to your music.
Texture In Artwork
Described by how it looks or feels! Typical descriptions are, bumpy, rough, soft, hard, furry, delicate. This can ultimately be perceived in two different ways! Visual texture and actual texture. Visual texture is what you perceive the object to feel like without touching it, and actual texture is how the object actually feels!
Texture In Music
When it comes to music, texture is often described by how many layers of instruments are included, as well as the tempo, melody, and harmonic materials are used in combination to create a piece of music. A thick texture may include many layers as a thin texture may include fewer. A bumpy texture may include lots of pizzicato and disjunct melodies, as a smooth texture may include a consonant, conjunct melody that flows easily.
Value In Artwork
Value, in a nutshell — is the brightness and darkness within a color. Value may be changed by adding more black to it, to create darkness, or white to brighten the color up! The difference of these values are what we refer to as contrast.
Value In Music
One way this can be perceived, is by the value of the notes used within a piece of music. However, another way to perceive this is by how bright the notes are, to how dark and mellow they get. Much like how, classical music uses a classical guitar, you get a better feel for these different colors as the classical guitar contains nylon strings making the notes warmer and more mellow; playing near the bridge can allow for some brighter tones to come through.
Now, you should have a pretty good understanding as to how musical works can tie into pieces of artwork you may find in a gallery. Using these terms in your everyday listening will most definitely improve your understanding of music, and improve your writing as well!
Keep on rockin’!