Dynamic control is a crucial skill for guitar players to possess, but it can often be overlooked. Dynamics refers to how loud or soft notes are played, but there can be much more to it than that. Strong dynamic control will allow you to have more engaging performances, and elevate the quality of the songs you play to a whole new level. Here’s some examples of things to think about when implementing dynamics.
Loud And Soft
The concept of loud and soft is fairly self explanatory, but how do you do it, and how do you implement it? A good exercise to start with, is to take a single note, and play it as softly as you can. To do this, gently brush the tip of your pick across the string. Then, start to gradually play louder, by more aggressively picking, and catching more of the string with your pick. Practice going louder and than softer again until you feel comfortable and in control. From there you can start to implement the same exercise but with chord strumming. If you play an electric guitar, you can use the volume knob on your guitar, and adjusting it between sections to change dynamics in conjunction with your picking technique.
Now that you have control over dynamics it’s time to start implementing that control. Typically dynamics are used to help differentiate different sections within a song.
E.g. Verse: soft, Chorus: Loud, Final Chorus: VERY LOUD.
Try experimenting with this in the next song you learn.
Leave Yourself Room
Always consider what comes next and where the song needs to go in relation to dynamics. If you start playing super loud right from the first verse of the song then you will have no room to raise the dynamics in the chorus. You can only ever play so loud. There is a point where you can’t strum harder, amp wont go louder or you start to drown out the rest of your band. Save that point for the climax of the song, but how do you do that?
Try pulling out a pen and paper, and writing out the structure of the song. Figure out what section in that structure you want to be the climax, and play that first, as loud as you can. From there work in reverse through the loudest to softest sections. This will ensure you never run out of headroom.
Leave Room For Your Bandmates
Listen to the rest of the band while your playing, take note of how loud or soft they are playing, and to play accordingly. This is especially important if you are new to the concept of dynamics and unsure of where to use what volume.
E.g. You are playing rhythm guitar in a song with a band and another guitarist is taking a solo. You should in this case play relatively softly, so that the solo guitarist can be heard.
Leaving room like this for your fellow musicians will make the music sound much better and also shows great respect. Nobody likes being played over the top of. Showing this kind of courtesy will encourage people to want to continue to play with you, and to do the same for you when it’s your turn to take the lead.
Don’t Be Afraid To Stop Playing
Dynamics isn’t just about your own playing, it’s about the whole band and what’s best for the song. Sometimes what’s best, can be to play nothing at all! By not playing anything in some sections of the song, the parts you do play have far more impact.
E.g. You are playing in a band and a song you’re working on is sounding the same right the way through with few differences between section. You could try dropping out all together in one of the verses and come back in loud and strong in the chorus.
The audience is more likely to take notice of, and appreciate your great guitar playing if it’s taken away in some sections, and the brought back again.
As you have probably figured out, dynamics comes largely from a mindset, rather than from practicing a technique. That means that you can improve your playing using dynamics, just by thinking about dynamics. If every time you’re practicing, rehearsing or performing you consider dynamics, you’ll start to develop far more interesting music than you have before. The key things to remember with all of these factors, is to maintain a balance between soft and loud. Without one you cannot have the other.
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