Dynamics in music is a relation between loudness of individual sounds in a piece. Of course the loudness of what you play is important, no matter what instrument or genre you play. It is the way to express intensity of emotions, build tension and release. In so many words, its vital for mature performance. Chances are, you are using dynamics already but you might do it unconsciously. Let’s try to make it a little more controllable and deliberate.
So here is the most basic exercise to make you aware of dynamic.
The “arrows” between standard notation and tabulature are signs of crescendo (increasing volume) and decrescendo (hope you can guess by now). In other words, start rather quietly and with each of the first 8 notes increase the volume. Then over the next 8 notes decrease it to the initial level.
While absolutely basic, this exercise allows you to get acquainted with the concept that you are responsible for controlling the loudness of notes that you play.
Now let’s try something else.
Notice the letters over each bar. They are relative dynamic marks. Mf means moderately loud. F means loud and more f’s means even louder. P on the other hand means soft (quiet), and similarly the more p’s the quieter you should play. So the mf is your base here. While playing try to establish three levels of “louder than average” in first line and three levels of “quieter than average” in the second one. Remember to return to the base level (mf) between each change. Later you can experiment and mix different levels of loudness more randomly.
In tab books of your favourite players you won’t always find dynamic marks. That doesn’t mean there are no dynamic changes in the song. While listening try to concentrate on how the loudness changes throughout the piece. Take something you can play well and try to consciously apply dynamics to it. Plan ahead. Think about how emotions are flowing through the piece. Where are the intensity peaks. Also think about how the sudden changes of loudness attract attention of your audience. What will happen when you suddenly start playing very quietly in the middle of a piece? What would happen if you suddenly started speaking very quietly during a conversation?
If you’d like to know more about ways to note dynamics, read the wiki page on the topic. Also more information and exercises on controlling the dynamics (especially in fingerstyle) are coming soon.