• Register
  • Help
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 16

Topic: Dynamic marking questions

Share/Bookmark
  1. #1

    Question Dynamic marking questions

    I have been wrestling mightily with trying to figure out the proper score dynamic markings to use for situations that I have in my symphony-in-progress. Although only about two thirds of the first movement is done so far, these situations will be coming up again in the music yet to be written, so I thought this would be just the right place to seek some advice as I forge ahead.

    Basically, what I'm looking for is the proper score markings that tell performers to play indicated passages about midway between the written dynamic and the one below it. For p I think sotto voce works fine for this, and would be clearly understood. I'm using poco f to indicate playing somewhere between mf and f. I think this would also be understood, but perhaps there's something better. The one I'm really struggling with is the indication to play between mf and mp. I can't really come up with anything that works, and I'm not getting any help from the glossaries of musical terms I've been searching. Any advice here would be most appreciated.

    To follow up on the above, I also have a question about how I would indicate where performers resume playing at normal dynamics as marked. Do I simply repeat the dynamic marking without the modifier (for example p without the sotto voce)? Or is there another term I should use that says in effect "play normally"?

    Steve
    If you'd like to hear a couple of pieces I might actually finish someday, please visit my virtual concert hall.

  2. #2

    Re: Dynamic marking questions

    Hi Steve,

    This is my response based on about 6 months of score work with fellow composer Andrew McKenna Lee in NY.

    His philosophy would be: "Your being to fussy".
    I agree with this but only up to a certain extent.

    Also: "mpdoes not indicate an exact level of volume, it merely indicates that music in a passage so marked should be a little louder than p" This is open to interpretation.

    You may get different variations of this volume between mp and mfduring live performances. During rehearsals this level may be adjusted w/ the conductor and players.

    As for your other question, yes - "repeat the dynamic marking without the modifier". Always be clear.

    Dynamics are not an exact science. I would just make score notes/mental notes to remember things that may need to be lightly adjusted during a rehearsal depending on how your work is interpreted.

    Just my 2 cents - hope this helps a bit.

    M
    "...Wiktor's a Jekyll-Hyde personality..." - Lycos Music
    http://www.miserymadebeautiful.com

  3. #3

    Re: Dynamic marking questions

    Since dynamics are relative to each other you might consider how many levels are in the work. If there are eight levels, consider assigning ppp pp p mp mf f ff fff, if less then less. I have seen four f's but that is highly unusual. I have also seen niente (nothing) instead of pp or ppp at the end of a decrescendo.

    Perhaps it's barbaric but I rarely use more than six dynamic levels; p mp mf f ff fff.

    If you want finer distinctions between p, mp and mf consider poco mp or poco mf. I have used the indication "ord." to indicate "return to normal" in many situations. I have not seen meno mp or piu mf but I supposed those make some sense.

    If it was me I would opt for the re-assignment of conventional dynamics across a wider scale. Intent would be clear for the players, you'd save rehearsal time (money) and since you set what "p" and "fff" actually are in rehearsal all other values are relaltive.
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    NW Illinois
    Posts
    1,175

    Re: Dynamic marking questions

    Steve,

    As the other posts have mentioned dynamics are subjective to the player and the conductor.

    That said, I've worked with a few composers in the past who used mp+ as a dynamic between mp & mf.

    In my Finale playback scores, I use this all the time. Creating mp, mp+, mp++, then mf, each assigned to a slightly different value. It gives my computer notation playback a little more variety.

    Jeff

  5. #5

    Re: Dynamic marking questions

    Wow, thats a great idea.
    Also, i only use "ord." for articulation changes.

    M

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Turner View Post
    Steve,

    As the other posts have mentioned dynamics are subjective to the player and the conductor.

    That said, I've worked with a few composers in the past who used mp+ as a dynamic between mp & mf.

    In my Finale playback scores, I use this all the time. Creating mp, mp+, mp++, then mf, each assigned to a slightly different value. It gives my computer notation playback a little more variety.

    Jeff
    "...Wiktor's a Jekyll-Hyde personality..." - Lycos Music
    http://www.miserymadebeautiful.com

  6. #6

    Re: Dynamic marking questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael A. Wiktor View Post
    Hi Steve,

    This is my response based on about 6 months of score work with fellow composer Andrew McKenna Lee in NY.

    His philosophy would be: "Your being to fussy".
    I agree with this but only up to a certain extent.

    Also: "mpdoes not indicate an exact level of volume, it merely indicates that music in a passage so marked should be a little louder than p" This is open to interpretation.

    You may get different variations of this volume between mp and mfduring live performances. During rehearsals this level may be adjusted w/ the conductor and players.

    As for your other question, yes - "repeat the dynamic marking without the modifier". Always be clear.

    Dynamics are not an exact science. I would just make score notes/mental notes to remember things that may need to be lightly adjusted during a rehearsal depending on how your work is interpreted.

    Just my 2 cents - hope this helps a bit.

    M
    Yeah, I realize that I may too fussy, but in some ways I'm a control freak, so what can I say?

    Here's a screenshot showing one example of what I'm trying to figure out:


    In the above passage, I want the violins, violas, and cellos to play a little below the woodwinds, so I'd say about halfway between mf and mp. The basses are playing their lowest note with the C extension, so I want them to bring out the pedal tone out a little more, but without being too loud against the woodwind melodies. Fussy? Perhaps, but this dynamic shading adds a subtle expressive quality to the passage that wouldn't be there if I had everyone playing at the same dynamic. I tested this out and it works in my virtual performance, but there I have complete control through the MIDI volume controllers. My question is how to I translate this into terms for live performance?

    I think that what you said about performance notes at the beginning of the score would make the most sense. So instead of trying to be overly precise in the dynamic markings themselves, I believe it would be better for me to go that route.

    I appreciate your input Michael, it was quite helpful. Thanks!

    Steve
    If you'd like to hear a couple of pieces I might actually finish someday, please visit my virtual concert hall.

  7. #7

    Re: Dynamic marking questions

    LOL I completely understand control freak. But over the years I have learned about the human equation... of performances.

    I think you have 2 choices here.

    1. Make notes on the score w/ additional markings to exactly indicate what you want. Almost how you have typed it out here. This may be appreciated by the conductor and save time and money.

    2. Make small performance notes to yourself with typical scoring. During a rehearsal you may never know what you might get. If your unhappy and need to adjust - I'm sure it's not too big of a deal to make quick corrections w/ a pencil.

    Also, I would see what QC has to say. He has more knowledge and experience w/ this I'm sure.

    Glad I could help...

    M

    BTW, I did visit your site - nice work.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Johnson View Post
    Yeah, I realize that I may too fussy, but in some ways I'm a control freak, so what can I say?

    Here's a screenshot showing one example of what I'm trying to figure out:


    In the above passage, I want the violins, violas, and cellos to play a little below the woodwinds, so I'd say about halfway between mf and mp. The basses are playing their lowest note with the C extension, so I want them to bring out the pedal tone out a little more, but without being too loud against the woodwind melodies. Fussy? Perhaps, but this dynamic shading adds a subtle expressive quality to the passage that wouldn't be there if I had everyone playing at the same dynamic. I tested this out and it works in my virtual performance, but there I have complete control through the MIDI volume controllers. My question is how to I translate this into terms for live performance?

    I think that what you said about performance notes at the beginning of the score would make the most sense. So instead of trying to be overly precise in the dynamic markings themselves, I believe it would be better for me to go that route.

    I appreciate your input Michael, it was quite helpful. Thanks!

    Steve
    "...Wiktor's a Jekyll-Hyde personality..." - Lycos Music
    http://www.miserymadebeautiful.com

  8. #8

    Re: Dynamic marking questions

    While I was composing (pun intended) my first response, I see that a few other replies have appeared, so thank you all for weighing in here!

    Reberclark, the range of dynamic markings I'm using in my symphony are ppp to fff, although I'll be using the top end of that only a small handful of times. I like your idea of using poco with mp and mf. If it works with f, then I suppose the modifier would be understood for those other dynamics as well. Then to avoid the possibility of any lingering confusion for live performance purposes, I'll just have a page at the beginning of the score with performance notes that simply say "this is what I mean by..." Ord. also works for me to indicate a return to the marked dynamics, so that was good.

    Michael, I kinda figured that things would come up in a live rehearsal that I can't anticipate beforehand. However, one of the exciting things for me would be to see what could come out of interpretations by actual human beings as opposed to the virtual performance environment. As great as the computer technology may be for music production, there are dimensions of live human perfomance that no technology in the world can fully emulate. Of course, it would take someone out there who actually thinks enough of what I compose for a live performance to even be possible. And that remains to be seen Anyway, thank you for your kind words about what I have up on my website. I can't wait to get the GPO4 version of my symphony project up there -- should be a very nice improvement over the sound quality of what you heard! Also, I'm going to be redoing my piano sonata-in-progress with GAS Basic, so that should be another nice improvement as well.

    Thank you again everyone -- this forum is the best!

    Steve
    If you'd like to hear a couple of pieces I might actually finish someday, please visit my virtual concert hall.

  9. #9

    Re: Dynamic marking questions

    Well, since my input has been requested

    I am VERY conservative with dynamic markings.

    I use pp, p, mp, mf, f, and RARELY ff.

    I never use ppp nor fff or any extreme either side of those.

    If you need a passage to come out in a certain choir of the orchestra, I'd say that you need to orchestrate it so that it will automatically come out that way.

    If you need to fuss around with so many dynamics, then in my opinion, there is something wrong with your approach to orchestration. You should "orchestrate your dynamics" to quote professor Alan Belkin.

    However, that being said, you can use "espr." or "lyrico" or some other such text expression to mark a particularly important passage that requires being a "solo" of sorts.

    by the way, you do NOT need to write mf if you are doing a swell with hairpins from mp -> mf then back down to mp. hairpins are automatically understood to mean "one order of dynamic marking up/down" if there is no other dynamic marked.

    so for "mp < mf > mp" , the "mf" is redundant.

    however, for "p < ff > p", the "ff" is not.

  10. #10

    Re: Dynamic marking questions

    qccowboy states it very elegantly. The standard (as I have known it) is pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff. Added statements like lyrical, or sotto voce or any of the modifiers of style would normally be sufficient in a written score for director and performer to interpret. As a side, I never (and I repeat NEVER) write an FF for a percussionist unless you want nothing else heard in the score.

    FWIW: You can get lost in a score or part that is overyly marked. (I know this from experience .) I had a friend in college (well, I still have friends but this particular friend) who marked her music in mulit-colored highlighters to show everything from dynamics to styles and key and meter changes. It was a work of art to look at her part but did nothing for me trying to read through what she had added to the interpretations.

    Now, writing for sampled instruments in a notation program is another story entirely. There you have no conductor or even musician to use their musical prowess to interpret what you that composer is after. You have to have many more dynamic markings and articulations to make sure what you hear in your mind gets out of your speakers on playback.

    This is just my 2 cents worth for what that would be worth.
    [Music is the Rhythm, Harmony and Breath of Life]
    "Music is music, and a note's a note" - Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong

    Rich

Go Back to forum

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •