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Developing Dynamite Dynamics: Part 1
In music, dynamics refers to degrees of loudness. Although good dynamics are important to successful drumming, they're probably the least practiced of any technique. That's the reason most drummers find it easy to get things cookin' when playing at loud volume levels, but have trouble maintaining the groove when the volume gets soft. If you are in this category, fear not. The ability to cook at various dynamic levels is easy to develop through proper practice procedures. Here's how to go about it.
The Practice Pad
In addition to the eight dynamic levels listed above, there are terms for gradually increasing and decreasing sound levels. These are the crescendo (notated by a < written below the affected notes) and decrescendo or diminuendo (notated by a > written below the affected notes). Crescendo means to increase the sound from softer to louder and decrescendo (or diminuendo) means to decrease the sound level from louder to softer. The beginning and ending dynamic levels will be written on either end of the crescendo or decrescendo mark. For example, on a decrescendo you may be told to start at ff and finish at pp.
The final two common dynamic markings are the accent (notated by a short > written above the affected note), and the sfz, also written above the affected note. The > accent means to play the note louder than the other surrounding notes. The sfz (sforzando) means to play an accent that is louder than the standard accent >.
These are the basic dynamic levels you will need to become familiar with. Now let's see how we can work these into our daily practice routine.
The Best Way To Practice Dynamics
Once you've gotten comfortable playing the entire page using each of the eight dynamic levels from soft to loud, it's time to reverse the above procedure and play your exercise page eight more times. This time, begin with the loudest level (fff) and work your way back down to the softest (ppp).
After you have completed this exercise, grab a pencil and go back to the beginning of your page again. Mark each few bars with one of the eight dynamic levels in order from the softest to the loudest. Once you've marked each of the eight levels on the same page, practice that page again.
You'll find this technique to be an excellent source of limitless dynamic exercises, which will develop your sensitivity to all eight levels of sound intensity that music requires. As I said earlier, drum set practice is important but so is practicing on the pad. In the beginning, I recommend that you practice these dynamic levels strictly on the pad until you become proficient with them. Later, you can apply them to your drum set practice routines using the technique you just learned. (See Developing Dynamite Dynamics Part 2 in the sidebar for more.)
Good dynamics is one of the essentials that separate the true artist drummer from the average drummer. Be the best drummer that you can be. Learn how to develop dynamite dynamics.
Until next time: Stay loose.
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