Have you ever noticed how hard it is to understand someone when they speak too softly or too loudly for that matter? That's because there's a certain range of loudness we use to communicate ideas through language and music.
OK, now try saying the following sentence out loud, go ahead nobody's listening:
"I fell asleep and dreamt that I was a saxophone."
Now try saying the same sentence but add say the words 'I' and 'that' much louder. Try it again and say the words 'fell asleep' and 'saxophone' very softly. What changes? Well, the meaning changes somewhat, based on how loud each word is. Loudness of softness places an emphasis on each word that can change its meaning.
The same is true in music. If you have an instrument available or you wish to sing, you can do the same exercise but with a scale or a melody.
Listen to This!
Listen to the following melodies.
Now listen to them again with changes in loudness.
What changes? Write down your definition of musical dynamics in your journal. Use descriptive words that show what the differences in loudness do to the feeling or expressiveness of a melody.
Hands-On Activity – Explore the Loudness Zone!
What's the Point?
The human ear is sensitive to an amazingly wide range of loudness, or in musical terms, dynamics. Scientists measure sound in a range that's over one trillion units! That's a one and twelve zeroes!
Musicians and composers use musical dynamics for expressive purposes. Two of the most popular kinds are called:
They are used to create striking effects, particluarly with a full orchestra or with a band that uses amplified instruments.
Human Hearing Range for Loudness
The above chart displays the large range of loudness for musical dynamics. There is also musical notation for dynamics on the chart. The 'p' stands for the term piano (which means soft in Italian), and 'f' stands for forte (which means loud). Do you know what the 'm' stands for (hint: look up the Italian word 'mezzo')?
Just for Fun!
Let's explore some other variations in musical expression with dynamics.
"Sing unto him a new song;
– Book of Psalms
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