Violin Online: Violin Lesson Six

Dynamics and Violin Music

In music, dynamics is a term which means variations in how loud or soft the music is played.

Dynamics and the Violin
How do you play louder or softer on the violin? The same three elements discussed in lesson four about how to produce a good tone on the violin are also involved in dynamics. Experiment with the following three things to achieve the dynamics you want.

  1. Bow placement
  2. Bow pressure
  3. Bow speed

  • If you want a Loud sound, place the bow close to the bridge and use heavy bow pressure. Experiment with how fast you need to pull the bow across the string to achieve the desired loudness.
  • If you want a Soft sound, place the bow closer to the fingerboard and use light bow pressure. Experiment with how fast you need to pull the bow across the string to achieve the desired softness.
  • If you want a Medium sound, place the bow on the string at the middle point between the bridge and the fingerboard and use medium bow pressure. Experiment with how fast you need to pull the bow across the string to achieve the desired medium level of sound.

Additional bowing tips to assist with dynamics and a good tone quality:

  • Draw the violin bow in a straight line so the bow remains parallel to the bridge.
  • Keep the level of the arm and bow constant while playing on different strings.

See the dynamics chart below for common dynamic symbols:

Dynamics Chart
NOTATION NAME DEFINITION
  Dynamics Dynamics is a term that indicates the degree of loudness or softness in music. The following commonly used dynamic terms are listed in the order of softest to loudest.*
pianississimo Pianississimo As soft as possible
pianissimo Pianissimo Very soft
piano Piano soft
mezzo piano Mezzo piano Moderately soft
mezzo forte Mezzo forte Moderately loud
forte Forte loud
fortissimo Fortissimo Very loud
fortississimo Fortississimo As loud as possible
*Although dynamics softer than ppp or louder than fff are theoretically possible, in actual practice, they are rarely used.

Additional Terms

NOTATION NAME DEFINITION
crescendo Crescendo Crescendo (cresc.) means to gradually become louder.
diminuendo Diminuendo Diminuendo (dim.) means to gradually become softer. The term decrescendo (decresc. or decr.) also means to become softer.
accent Accent Emphasize the note by playing forcefully.
sforzando Sforzando Play loudly with a sudden, forced emphasis.
LET'S TRY IT! The following piece, an arrangement of Spring from Vivaldiā€™s Four Seasons, has the following dynamic symbols and terms: f = forte (loud); mf = mezzo forte (moderately loud); mp = mezzo piano (moderately soft); p = piano (soft); cresc.= crescendo (gradually become louder); dim. = diminuendo (gradually become softer). Notice how at the start of the piece, the first 6 measures should be played forte (loud), and the next 6 measures, featuring the same melody, should be played piano (soft). As you explore following the dynamic markings in the piece, see how they can enhance the musicality of this piece. Need to review how to finger the music? Visit our Violin Fingering - Lesson Two. To play more of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, visit our free sheet music section and to find out more about Vivaldi, visit our String Class.

Vivaldi Spring-1
Vivaldi Spring-1

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