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When teaching dynamics, I always tell the students that it's an individual thing- that fff would be different from student to student, just depending on how loud the student can play and still be musical. Is this correct? Is there an actual standard for loudness and softness? Furthermore, once there is a dynamic marking, do you continue at that level until the next marking? Thank you!

-- Jen Hastings (jenthegiant@yahoo.com), January 01, 2004


I've never thought of dynamics as an individual thing, but they certainly are relative to other dynamic markings. So p has to sound a couple notches softer than mf. Of course, some pianos are more able to sound ppp or fff. And some audiences need to hear a range that begins mf and goes to fff, for example in nursing homes. Excepting small crescendos and diminuendos, you would play at one volume until the next indication came along.

-- Anita Greenways (anitagreenways@hotmail.com), January 02, 2004.

It depends on the composer too. Beethoven's forte would be a lot louder than Mozart's, because of the instruments they played on.

-- Ellen Lee (juelle@merr.com), January 28, 2004.

Dynamics are more relative to each other within a piece than from person to person. I find that most students do not naturally demonstrate enough contrast in the various dynamics of a piece, so I work on that a lot with them. Also, it can make a song sound very "flat" if a student stays exactly at the same level throughout a section, even though it is all marked at, for example, mf. Pianists need to "shape" each phrase with subtle ups and downs of dynamics, peaking at each phrase's climax. A rough rule of thumb is that as the notes ascend, grow dynamically a bit; as notes descend, soften a bit (this is NOT a hard and fast rule, just a starting point in teaching shaping of phrases). Some pianists adhere to the principle that no 2 consecutive notes should be identical in dynamics. That may be a bit overboard in my opinion, yet is valid in reminding us to not play "flat" which sounds lifeless and monotonous. Think of how we speak; our voices are filled with ups and downs, whether we are whispering or screaming. Piano dynamics should be like that.

-- annie (no_name_poster@yahoo.com), January 29, 2004.

I agree with Annie.

-- Sandy Wilkinson (sandy@pianomail.net), February 03, 2004.

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