If you read my previous article on sound dynamics, then you know playing a song at roughly the same volume or intensity throughout is a formula for disaster. This week I offer specific tips on how to avoid this. If you are struggling to bring superior dynamics to your music, try one of the following approaches.
- When playing with others, the most important thing is not just to communicate, but to create a new shared musical language. One way to put this into practice is to create a one-to-ten scale for volume and make sure everyone knows exactly what it sounds like.
- Know the difference between intensity and volume and how you implement it with your instrument. Again, create a scale with your cohorts.
- Actively listen to the musicians you play with. Moments of discovery come when you are tuned-in and not thinking about your own performance. This can come naturally after playing with a band over time, but it’s also easy to become worn out from the repetition of playing the same songs over and over again. Carve out specific time for listening.
- Study your music genre. Where do build-ups and turn-arounds typically exist? Can you answer what verses those are at this moment? This may sound like structure and not dynamics, but remember that structure affects changes in volume and intensity throughout your song.
- If your transition is stagnant, try increasing the intensity or volume before the change and softening it even more afterward.
- Silence is the most powerful instrument. Learn to use it. Listen to a song and find where silence can be inserted or if an instrument can be at least played softly or muted.
- Be dramatic: Make your transitions and contrast of intensity between instruments exciting and unexpected. Don’t just cut one instrument out to bring it back later at the same volume level.
- Always use the space you’re playing in to your advantage! If the speakers are blown out or the room is saturated with reverb, try tweaking the song’s overall dynamics so it sounds on-point.
- If you write or play music at high volumes, the mid-frequency range of your hearing is the first to become fatigued and you won’t hear subtlety. Write or warm up on stage at a lower volume so that everything is as sharp and clear as it can be. Once you have it sounding right, turn it up. This should be an easy task with your newly acquired one-to-ten vocabulary!
Finally, here’s a bonus tip comes from the abundant resources of YouTube. Check out this video from Bobby Owsinski that covers some of the basics of tightening up your band.