Dynamics (music)

Same motif repeated at various quiet and loud dynamics About this sound  Play 

In music, the dynamics of a piece is the variation in loudness between notes or phrases. Dynamics are indicated by specific musical notation, often in some detail. However, dynamics markings still require interpretation by the performer depending on the musical context: for instance a piano (quiet) marking in one part of a piece might have quite different objective loudness in another piece, or even a different section of the same piece. The execution of dynamics also extends beyond loudness to include changes in timbre and sometimes tempo rubato.

Purpose and interpretation

Dynamics are one of the expressive elements of music. Used effectively, dynamics help musicians sustain variety and interest in a musical performance, and communicate a particular emotional state or feeling.

Dynamic markings are always relative. [1] p never indicates a precise level of loudness, it merely indicates that music in a passage so marked should be considerably quieter than f. There are many factors affecting the interpretation of a dynamic marking. For instance, the middle of a musical phrase will normally be played louder than the beginning or ending, to ensure the phrase is properly shaped, even where a passage is marked p throughout. Similarly, in multi-part music, some voices will naturally be played louder than others, for instance to emphasis the melody and the bass line, even if a whole passage is marked at one dynamic level. Some instruments are naturally louder than others - for instance, a tuba playing piano will likely be louder than a guitar playing fortissimo, while a high-pitched instrument piccolo playing in its upper register can usually sound loud even where its actual decibel level is lower than that of other instruments.

Further, a dynamic marking does not necessarily only affect loudness of the music. A forte passage is not usually "the same as a piano passage but louder". Rather, a musician will often use a different approach to other aspects of expression like timbre or articulation to further illustrate the differences. Sometimes this might also extend to tempo. It's important for a performer to be able to control dynamics and tempo independently, and thus novice musicians are often instructed "don't speed up just because it's getting louder!". However, in some circumstances, a dynamic marking might also indicate a change of tempo. [a]

In some music notation programs, there are default MIDI key velocity values associated with these indications, but more sophisticated programs allow users to change these as needed. Apple's Logic Pro 9 (2009-2013) and Avid's Sibelius 5 (2007-2009) use the following values: Sibelius 5 defines the following values, though these may be adjusted in Sibelius, within the range 0-127:

Letters ppp pp p mp mf f ff fff
Logic Pro 9 dynamics [2] 16 32 48 64 80 96 112 127
Sibelius 5 dynamics [3] 20 39 61 71 84 98 113 127
Sibelius 5 attacks 15 30 50 60 75 90 105 119
Other Languages
беларуская: Дынаміка (музыка)
čeština: Dynamika (hudba)
français: Nuance (musique)
한국어: 셈여림표
Bahasa Indonesia: Dinamika (musik)
македонски: Динамика (музика)
Nederlands: Dynamiek (muziek)
日本語: 強弱法
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Dinamika (musiqa)
português: Dinâmica musical
Simple English: Dynamics (music)
slovenščina: Glasnost (notni zapis)
српски / srpski: Динамика (музика)
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Dinamičke oznake
Tagalog: Daynamiks
українська: Динаміка (музика)
中文: 強弱法