Dynamic elements

Music is a very dynamic entity. It can speak to you very gently and softly or intensely and loudly, reflecting certain emotions and moods by increasing or decreasing the volume. Therefore, it’s important for composers to show these dynamics in music charts. For that reason, dynamic elements are used.

You might have heard about Crescendo and Decrescendo, which reflect dynamic nuances by showing the moments of constantly increasing or decreasing volume levels. However, there are dynamic elements which determine the initial volume level for certain musical moments.

What are dynamic elements?

Let’s think, which nuances might be for volume?

Probably the most known distinctions:

  • to play loudly – f (forte)
  • to play softly – p (piano)

It leads to some variations, enhancing or decreasing the effect:

  • to play moderately loudly – mf (mezzo-forte)
  • to play very loudly – ff (fortissimo)
  • to play moderately softly – mp (mezzo-piano)
  • to play very softly – pp (pianissimo)

These are the basic dynamic elements. As you can see, they are denoted by small italic letters. Don’t be surprised if one day you’ll also see fff or ppp! Now you know the logic behind these letters.

Examples of using dynamic elements in charts

In a music chart, you can see the dynamic element symbols under the notes. Let’s look at some examples based on the G major scale. Read more about scales in our article.

In the first example below, you can see the symbol of p (piano) in the first bar, meaning that this bar should be played softly. In the second bar you can see f (forte) – this part contrasts with the first bar and should be played loudly.

Figure 1 – Example with p (piano) and f (forte)

In the following example, the first bar has mf, meaning that this bar should be played moderately loudly. In the second bar here you see ff – this is louder than a “normal” f and can be interpreted as “very loud”.

Figure 2 – Example with mf (mezzo-forte) and ff (fortissimo)

Examples of using dynamic elements in songs

Here are two examples of songs that start with different dynamic elements.

The song Thinking out loud by Ed Sheeran starts quietly and gently with the voice and guitar. The beginning of this song can be a good example of mf (mezzo forte) or even p (piano) dynamic elements. Then the dynamics of the song increase with the vocal parts and introduction of other musical instruments.

And If you want to play along with the chords of “Thinking out loud” by Ed Sheeran, just check out the chord progression of the song.

Another example is Rock and Roll by Led Zeppelin. The song starts with a short drum intro, already having high dynamics. Then the rest of the band starts playing, and it brings a lot of energy and drive to the listener. It’s a great example of f (forte) dynamic elements.

If you want to play along with the chords of “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin, just check out the chord progression of the song.

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