dynamics practice

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Astra Piotr

dynamics practice

Post by Astra Piotr » Mon Jul 24, 2006 12:49 pm


Can anybody help me with how to practice proper dynamics. I have an impression that when I play silently it sounds ok. When I try "forte" the sound is not very clear, I simply don't like it. I'd like to be able to make a full spectrum of clear tones. From very silent to very strong and powerful. :?: :roll:

Michael Smith

Post by Michael Smith » Tue Jul 25, 2006 2:09 pm

Hi Astra,

The only advice I have ever seen on how to practice dynamics is to do scales alternately ascending and descending with crescendo and diminuendo. The important thing is to get the control, giving an even and continuous transition.

When you say you do not like the forte sound you make, you may have to alter the angle of attack of your right hand to get the best tone. You should also be aware, if you don't already know, that many guitars produce a poorer tone when played more loudly. This is one reason why John Williams now seems to prefer Smallman guitars - apparently the lattice brace that is used on the soundboard gives a more even tonal response over the dynamic range.


Post by LFP » Tue Jul 25, 2006 8:41 pm

Astra and Michael for me dynamics practice is best done by playing every piece every conceivable way as a usual practice procedure.

The problem with big sounds on guitar is often a relaxation issue. Most players tense up when a big sound is required, not an unusual problem on many instruments. Think yourself Big AND Round. Do very slow practice in RH taking a big grasp of the strings going right into the strings( Really "feel" them), without tensing up the last finger joints. The big sound should be a whole of body sensation. Legs and torso generate big round sounds. Big open relaxed hands and open shoulders produce them. Certainly guitars are an issue but not as big a problem as technique for volume practice. Incidently big sounds are an excellent place to start practising Tension On Tension Off (TOTO).


Post by LFP » Tue Jul 25, 2006 9:47 pm

Perhaps I should add quickly that there are some other procedures that are very important and should be seen as part of dynamics practice.

The old piano trick of playing a note/chord stopping it then playing the next note or chord at the volume that you stopped the last sound at.

Another piano notion; the recognising that what happens to the sound after it is initially made plays a seminal role in it's development. To quote Leon Fleischer: " One should become terribly aware of the mount of tension or density that's involved in the interval between the levers moving."
Divide each sound into three sections the beginning, middle and end. Practice this by firstly thinking it, then slowly play each two note relationship in any phrase, focusing initially on the commencement, then the middle and then it's connection to the next sound. This technique leads to the most interesting of all dynamic outcomes the management of the 'soundscape' of an instrument. So exciting ( and rare) to hear.


dynamics practice

Post by alan_1 » Tue Jul 25, 2006 10:09 pm

I have found an exercise in mechanism and dynamics that I think is excellent.

My cousin Eduardo taught it to me.

I place my right hand in position, for example, to play ( attack ) the first 4 strings of the guitar as a chord - playing all the notes together- strings open - add a chord if you like for a change in sound.

Then I start playing the 4 strings lightly as a chord - I play them somewhat rapidily - making my strokes from the big knuckles of the hand - producing an automatic action of it - I do my best to make every note of the chord even sounding - just playing along calmly, evenly and lighty - getting a feel for the sensation of it - soon I start feeling a definant sensation located in the palm of my hand right below the fingers. It is those flexor muscles that I am becoming aware of. By that time I have a pretty even, balanced sound going. Gradually, I start putting a little force into it, making it a little louder... gradually a little more - soon, I am starting to feel a sensation in the back of my hand - its those extensor muscles that I am starting to become aware of. Finally, when I am playing loudly, I can actually feel the sensation in my forearm. At this point, I start going back and forth from soft and easy, to loud and hard - keeping control - becoming aware of the sensations.

After that is mastered - next exercises - it is the same thing - but this time, single out a finger to make that note louder than the other notes of the chord. I am not so good at doing this, yet.

I am sure you can see what it is all leading up to.

Oh yea... I can sit and do that exercise 5 to20 minutes - I have so many problems I always love seeking out new and different exercises to work on. Just shows what a a real loser I am I guess. It is an exercise that I have found really helpful for me - it may not do a thing for the next person. It is all probably *old hat* for all the great talent around here. I am no pro - this is not advice - its just something that I do - take it and a donut and see which you like best.


Post by LFP » Wed Jul 26, 2006 3:32 am

Alan_1 said "I have so many problems I always love seeking out new and different exercises to work on. Just shows what a a real loser I am I guess."

Just shows a good winning attitude to me, no looser there. There is lovely old french saying "Un Peu de tout" meaning "A little of Everything" which sums up the best attitude I know of. Keep seeking ( a little of everything) and you can't be a looser. Love your description of your exercise: how do you put relaxation into the process? And lifting out a note is great.

You have mentioned Eduardo a number of times, round out the picture some time for us.


Post by alan_1 » Wed Jul 26, 2006 4:00 am

Hi again LFP ! Thank you much for your kind words and encouragment. I really appreciate it.
how do you put relaxation into the process?
Well that is, ahem, something that I kinda forgot to tell about in the first post - but I was not going to repost cause I did not think anyone would really care anyway.

But now that you have brought it up ... it is so very important to maintain a relaxed right hand (body) in the exercise. As the crescendo starts to build, it is easy to also allow crippling muscle tension to build also.

Now here is something really neat that I have learned and am learning more how to apply as I go ... it is called:

"negative learning" -

In the exercise ( or really any practice ), if I start feeling any part of my body beginning to tense up , I now use negative learning to deal with the problem - and in this example, it is this - when I feel any tension - I go ahead and dileberately tense (my arm for example) up - I tense really hard so as to really bring it up to a concious level - then I immediately relax - and I might do that 3 or 4 times in a row to get the feeling of the tension and relaxation - then I start the exercise again - after a time or 3 it just somehow starts working more correctly.

Negative learning can work in so many areas - I don't even know.

I have been taught that when learning a new movement or action of some sort, that the best way to learn it is to first greatly exagerate the movement or action. In that way, the lesser movement/action is *felt* as easier.

Pros may disagree with this learning technique - all I can say is that I think it works great for me.


Astra Piotr


Post by Astra Piotr » Wed Jul 26, 2006 11:48 am

Thank you for your replies. It is a really useful discussion. It helps me realise what the problem is. 8) I've noticed that you put a great emphasis on relaxation of hands. It seems a reasonable approach because if you are relaxed you can make your body more sensitive and "feel" the instrument better.
In my case there is one problem. I practice martial arts and do a lot of conditioning exercise (including going to the gym which by no means can add to your being relaxed :? ) On the other hand I do tai chi which is all about relaxing your body ( musceles and tendons).
I asked the question about dinamisc as without it playing sounds like a chatter box, and only proper dynamics makes it beautiful. With the guitar ( and probably other string, plucked instruments) the issue of dynamics is particularily difficult. Strings can be open or fretted which makes difference in sound quality. Also when I play I have a feeling of lack of control over strings, as if they were living their own lives. Strings are delicate, and smooth transitions from silent to loud are really difficult for me. Anyway, thanks for what you've said, I' ll certainly try the methods. :guitare:

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Re: dynamics practice

Post by Peteh » Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:00 pm

I know the original post was 12 years ago but I've read it today and found it very helpful.
I rarely have this experience but as soon as I tried playing the first four strings together I found I could control the dynamics by degrees much more subtly than before.
So thanks for your suggestions and I hope you've convinced yourself by now that you're not a "loser" and have made lots of progress in the intervening years.😊

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