Tag Archives: Dynamics

Why add dynamics?

It’s often one of my least favorite things to do, and I often push it off to the very end. I wrote a song a few months ago called Thou shalt call and the LORD shall answer. My first draft that I gave to the group had no dynamics on it at all. While we rehearsed it, it became evident that we needed to all be on the same page, so I put in some dynamics. It proved difficult to communicate clearly enough for everyone to catch exactly what I meant though, so I updated the score and gave them new ones.

I also noticed at rehearsal that the viola part was a little bit overpowering a few times, and I took out several notes to give the singers more space. It’s a reminder that rehearsal often clarifies things and it’s ok to change things. With the software I have available, it’s a quick thing as well.

Last night at dress rehearsal for the TSO (concert tonight! it’s sold out at the UVU) we were playing an arrangement for Ding Dong! Merrily on High by Heidi Rodeback. We played her arrangement with the choir for the first time, and she was listening. After we had played through the entire program, we got new parts, and played through it again. The entire viola section was disappointed because she had taken out our favorite part. But it’s not important. She decided our favorite part had to go, so that’s how it’s going to be. When you sit in the middle of the orchestra, it is difficult to judge how the balance is working as a whole.

Another note about dynamics. It’s one of the easiest things to change in a piece that’s written. It may say forte, but as you rehearse, your conductor tells you to change it to mezzoforte. Or any other change. But the dynamic marking is a placeholder for a change as much as it is a marking for how loud it is supposed to be. I think I’ll be more careful to put in dynamic markings for any pieces I write. I was going to send in a song to a competition, and I realized I had put in zero dynamic markings. So that’s why I worked through the song again, put in my markings, and wrote this post about why it’s a good idea.

Finishing another piece

I’ve reached kind of a benchmark for the solo piece I’m working on. Today I write in the poetry so that it’s visible to the performer right after the cover page, and right before the notes of music start. It’s my intention that the performer should read it out loud before performing the piece.

I know I’ve gotten the ending phrase at least mostly the way I like it. I think more about the dynamics in the piece and write in all my hairpins, sforzandos, pianos, pianissimos, fortes, fortissimos, etc. that needed to be added and I’m tweaking a note or two. I add in another little phrase to extend and hopefully improve that key modulation I was working on yesterday, and let it rest a little.

I’m going to take tomorrow off and hit it fresh again after the holiday to see if there are other things I want to tweak before calling it done.

Another non-zero day

I wrote some more on a first violin part I had started another day. I continued the idea I had stopped on yesterday, and was able to get to the “actual end” of the movement. I added in a tuba line to accompany a contrabass solo line. I gave a few more notes to the snare drum, and took one away from the bass drum to allow for a quick switch.

I added in some more slurs to help with phrasing. I added in some dynamics where that was missing.

As I was making lunch, I had the thought to maybe cut out part of a timpani line I wrote the other day that didn’t seem to fit.

I listened to Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. With the Chicago symphony, and then LA Philharmonic. I was struck by how many intense notes the upper strings had. Wow, that’s a lot of notes to play. I was reminded how talented the orchestra musicians usually are, and that I ought to try and give them a small challenge.

Refreshed after lunch, I set to put in a second violin part to sustain the firsts, and then a viola part. Wondering if my key change is working or what I should do about it. Is all I’ve written over the past eighteen measures an accompaniment or does it hold its own? It’s interesting to see the work unfold.

Leaving the computer to clear my head. Coming back, and adding in a measure to improve the key change transition, continuing work on the viola part. Changing the ending note to a whole note instead of two half notes. I want to bask in the glory of the high strings in a C major chord just a couple of more beats. Seeing that a section really calls for a marcato and adding in the marking to clarify for the orchestra members.

Wondering if the parts that I think are very emotional will speak to anybody that hears it.

Tweaking the timpani part to take out the offending notes. Adding in a snare drum part to a quiet woodwind solo for an accompaniment. Changing the ending note one more time, to let us rest in the chord before the bass comes in. Found a spot where I want the oboes to fill in the texture of flutes, clarinets, strings, and percussion, wrote some notes for them, doubling some string parts. It’s more satisfying now.

Taking a break again. We’ll see if I get back to writing later or if that’s it for today.

Just another day in composing paradise.