Dynamics (music)

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With momentum (from the Greek dynamis , "power, strength") is in the music , the doctrine of the volume or loudness (physically loudness as well as the application of various volumes as a means of design in) musical presentation called. The volume depends on the width (amplitude) of the vibration that creates the sound . One differentiates in music

  • uniform volume levels ( levels ) - also in the form of echo dynamics or terrace dynamics -,
  • sliding changes in volume ( transitions , transition dynamics ),
  • sudden changes in volume ( accents ).

Dynamics instructions in notes are mostly in Italian ; however, since the 19th century information has also been given in the composer's language.

Different tone strengths are performed differently on the various musical instruments : with string instruments , the pressure, the speed of the bow stroke and the stroke point are changed, wind players vary the pressure and the amount of air flow. As with the piano , the dynamics of plucked and percussion instruments are determined by the hardness of the touch .

In modern notation , the pitch is indicated with italic letters and characters below the staff . Only in the case of music for vocal parts is the dynamics usually indicated above the staff, while the lyrics are below the staff.

Sometimes, especially in the (quasi "hyperexpressivist" notated) music of many late romanticists (such as Gustav Mahler) or some expressionists, the desired tone strength or change of expression is also given by written instructions such as "bring out", "a little more tenderly" or even engl. "Bring out" etc. indicated. Occasionally this is still the practice today. Frequently used expressions such as dolce or marcato or added to the basic expressive strengths (such as forte or pianissimo ) provide additional information about the type of presentation desired by the composer and thus also the dynamics. With ma non troppo (Italian: “but not too much”), dynamic terms can also be slightly toned down (e.g. forte ma non troppo for a somewhat toned down forte).

Dynamic terms can also be used as nouns : “Das Forte” can designate that part of a piece of music that is to be performed at a high volume. One can also speak of a “tremendous orchestral crescendo”.

For example, while pitches can be precisely defined (in Hz ), dynamic parameters are subject to subjective influences. The dynamic level piano can be played just as loud in another context as a mezzo forte. The correct dynamic performance of a piece of music therefore always depends on the correct contextual proportioning.

Uniform volume levels in music

The eight basic levels of dynamics

The most frequently used tone levels or levels of tone intensity in Western music are designated with the following Italian abbreviations (sorted from soft to loud):


("Still", "quiet", "tender"), abbreviation , is the instruction for a low tone strength.


("Strong", "loud", "strong"), abbreviation , is the instruction for a loud and strong tone.

With letters like mezzo (“medium”, “half”) the instruction is weakened: ( mezzoforte ) means “medium loud ” or “half strong” and is somewhat quieter than while ( mezzopiano , “ medium quiet ” or “half quiet”) something louder than is.

To increase and , the letter can be doubled: is called fortissimo ("very loud" or very strong) and pianissimo ("very quiet"). In music up to 1800 these are the volume extremes, in Romanticism they also emerged ( fortissimo possibile , fortissimo forte , forte fortissimo or fortississimo - as strong as possible) and ( pianissimo piano , piano pianissimo or pianissimo possibile - as quietly as possible), More letters were seldom joined together: In his Symphonie Pathétique, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky prescribes the loudest and quietest passages , György Ligeti sometimes even uses eightfold piano or forte, but these nuances are hardly feasible.

For the above reasons, the practically executable music usually only notes details from to . In particular, the desired volume of the forte can then be increased with accent marks, marcato marks or a dynamic mark added or (for example, or ).

Sliding changes in volume

Crescendo and decrescendo fork

The word crescendo ( cresc. , "Growing") prescribes a gradual increase in volume in the meaning of "increasing in tone strength". The opposite of this is the diminuendo ( dim. , “ Diminishing ”) or also decrescendo ( decresc. ), Which in the sense of “diminishing in tone strength” demands a decrease in volume. This is often followed by a dynamic designation that indicates the end of the change and the dynamic to be achieved.

Instead of the terms cresc. or dim. one often finds so-called forks that open from the quietest to the loudest point, or vice versa, close from the loudest to the quietest. Occasionally closing or opening forks, which either have a tip or one at the top, are used for getting quieter to silence ( al niente , "to nothing") or getting louder from silence ( dal niente , "from nothing") wear small circle.

The instruction subito ( sub. , "Suddenly", "immediately") demands a sudden transition from one level to another, often used as a surprising effect: subito piano z. B. means a sudden transition from loud to quiet.

With più ( more ) and meno ( less ) a change compared to the currently valid dynamic level is designated. più forte means a stronger forte than before, meno piano means less piano , i.e. H. a bit louder. There are deviations from this interpretation. B. with Hugo Distler , the meno piano as less than piano , d. H. even quieter, would like to have interpreted.

Abrupt changes in volume, accents

sforzato or sforzando
( or or ): with sudden emphasis.
( or ): getting stronger again or with a slightly increasing emphasis at the beginning.
( ): loud, then suddenly quiet.

These abbreviations are combined to further shading of many composers with the three letters for the basic dynamic stages, with designations such as , , , can be formed. In connection with the graphic symbols for accents, there are innumerable possibilities of dynamic prescriptions, which the musician can often only understand with a great knowledge of the style or with a look at the autograph .

Often there are musical accents in the form of special characters; The most common are >  for marcato ("accentuated", "stressed") and ^ for martellato ("strongly accentuated", literally "hammered"). In terms of dynamics , a note with > would have to be played accordingly, while a note with ^ would be the same. In contrast to the last-mentioned characters, characters like > are particularly suitable for several accented notes in one piece. Abrupt accents such as > , ^ and or raise the basic dynamics (. Eg mezzo piano , mezzo forte or forte ), which may be a previously gone grading system is marked, not on; therefore, the original dynamic does not have to be marked again after such accents have occurred.

In addition, the above-mentioned term subito (“immediately”, abbreviated sub. ) Is often found in the literature in connection with a regular dynamic specification. In this way, for example, sub. P can be used to indicate that piano suddenly has to be played after forte or similar. was specified.


At the beginning of the Baroque era , dynamics were still of little importance as a musical parameter ; it was largely left to the orally traditional sense of style of the musicians, where to play quieter or louder. Dynamics indications in the performance material were rare and often denoted deviations from the rules. The earliest examples of the use of dynamic indications are the Sacrae Symphoniae by Giovanni Gabrieli (1597), the Israelsbrünnlein by Johann Hermann Schein (1623) or the Musicalische Exequien by Heinrich Schütz (1635). The dynamic information was used to make the entire ensemble play louder or quieter. In the late baroque, a more precise differentiation was made, for example when the violas in the second movement of Vivaldi's spring concert have to play forte - to represent barking dogs - while the rest of the orchestra and the solo violin play piano . In Johann Sebastian Bach's works, dynamic indications show at which point one voice has to step back from another or is to be emphasized.

Changing registers to harpsichord and baroque organ or changing between concertino and tutti in concerto grosso led to seamlessly changing volume and timbre, which coined the term terrace dynamics at the beginning of the 20th century . This was subsequently applied to the entire baroque music in a simplified manner. From today's perspective this is no longer tenable; Historical sources show that baroque singers and instrumentalists also interpreted with dynamic gradations and transitions, from the conscious articulation of individual notes to larger arcs.

In the pre-classical period , dynamics took on a new meaning. The harpsichord was replaced by the fortepiano , which - as its name suggests - was able to influence the volume by varying the touch. Around the same time, the Mannheim School developed a previously unknown level of precision in orchestral playing, which made it possible to achieve dynamic effects such as uniform pianissimo and fortissimo or the famous “Mannheim crescendo” with the entire orchestra.

With Ludwig van Beethoven , dynamics finally achieved the rank of an independent musical parameter for which precise playing instructions apply. In his scores, in addition to the basic dynamics, he noted numerous means of expression that were previously not or only rarely used: regularly used volume extremes and , often in direct contrast, crescendo of the entire orchestra over many bars, crescendo from to within a single bar, crescendo followed by decrescendo then , accents on the "weak" cycle times, etc.

The only innovation in romanticism was the further increase in extremes (see above).

See also


  • Ferdinand Hirsch: The great dictionary of music. 3. Edition. Verlag Neue Musik, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-7333-0024-6 .
  • Wieland Ziegenrücker: General music theory with questions and tasks for self-control. German Publishing House for Music, Leipzig 1977; Paperback edition: Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, and Musikverlag B. Schott's Sons, Mainz 1979, ISBN 3-442-33003-3 , pp. 157–159 ( The dynamic ).

Web links

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  1. ↑ Passages to be repeated are performed with a lower pitch.
  2. loud ( tutti ) and quiet ( solo ) episodes are juxtaposed seamlessly.
  3. connected with decrescendo and crescendo .