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Menno Offline OP
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Hi all,

A question on which I somehow can't find the answer to: when a composer writes down p, pp, f etc, when do I stop playing louder or softer?

I do have a teacher that can help me, but I won't meet her before wednesday.

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Generally speaking, at the next mark that gives you a different loudness direction or when you get to a crescendo/decrescendo marking.


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Just remember that it's not an on-off switch most of the time. Quite frequently, as FrankCox suggested, the change is a gradual one from one dynamic to the other which means you have to watch for other dynamic markings as well as those specific ones you mention.

On occasion the word subito is used (most frequently before p) to indicate a sudden drop to that dynamic.

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Originally Posted by Menno
Hi all,

A question on which I somehow can't find the answer to: when a composer writes down p, pp, f etc, when do I stop playing louder or softer?

I do have a teacher that can help me, but I won't meet her before wednesday.

To the extent that the composer has been fairly accurate in his notation, the next mark will give you a hint as to when change the dynamic. But there are also many cases where the marks are rare, and even if they are not so, it does not mean that you shouldnt vary. You have to look at the musical progression and adjust the dynamics based on the rhetoric of the music.

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IMHO the only "rule" is the one given by Frank Cox:

. . . A dynamic marking is in effect until it's changed by the composer.

That works if the composer marked his dynamics carefully. If he didn't, other factors come into play.

. . . That's why "edited editions" are often better to use, than "urtext"
. . . ("as the composer wrote it") editions.


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Originally Posted by Menno
Hi all,

A question on which I somehow can't find the answer to: when a composer writes down p, pp, f etc, when do I stop playing louder or softer?

I do have a teacher that can help me, but I won't meet her before wednesday.

It's players choice, this is where you get to interpret the music. Sheet music isn't exactly especially today when most done on computers who are more concerned with good looking layout. Sheet music is just a blueprint that the performer then interprets and put there heart and soul into. So listen to other play the same piece, sing the section in how you hear it, play it how if comes to you.

In music the answers are all in listening to others and listening to yourself. Record yourself and decide.

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Menno Offline OP
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Thanks all for the very helpful and fast reply's!

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One thing that took me a while to realize is that sheet music isn't (usually) intended to be an exact formula for creating the music. In mathematics, 2+2 is always equal to exactly four, but an equivalent in music (say two half notes) isn't always exactly one whole note. One or both of the half notes might be slightly longer or shorter than the other, and the overall duration may or may not be exactly one whole note even though that's what it says on the paper.

Ultimately, since the objective is to create music what you're trying to do is to make something that sounds nice, not something that is exactly mathematically correct. This lack of precision (for want of a better term) is what makes human-played music sound better than a piece that's played mechanically through something like Musescore.


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Here is a principle: Crescendo means soft, diminuendo means loud. You have to start at those levels so you have room to go louder or softer, respectively.


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Originally Posted by BDB
Here is a principle: Crescendo means soft, diminuendo means loud. You have to start at those levels so you have room to go louder or softer, respectively.
Not quite correct. Crescendo translates as increasing, and diminuendo as decreasing. Yes, in order to be able to play crescendo, you cannot start by playing fff. However, if the indication before the crescendo is mf, you start at a louder level than when the indication is p.


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Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by BDB
Here is a principle: Crescendo means soft, diminuendo means loud. You have to start at those levels so you have room to go louder or softer, respectively.
Not quite correct. Crescendo translates as increasing, and diminuendo as decreasing. Yes, in order to be able to play crescendo, you cannot start by playing fff. However, if the indication before the crescendo is mf, you start at a louder level than when the indication is p.

Animisha:

I think you are taking BDB too literally. In "principle" you have to be softer than the forte that you heading for in order to play forte and you have to be louder than the pianissimo you want before you get there, that's all. Actually, I appreciate BDB's approach, but I surely don't think he intended it as a definition of those terms.

Regards,


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It's a very important concept. Crescendos and diminuendos in most cases need to be somewhat exaggerated in order to sound best. So if a current level is, say, mp and the next is mf and you need to do crescendo, then that crescendo must go all the way from p to f, or sometimes even from pp to f.


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