Good evening folks!

I have a question this time about dynamics. Now I know that volume is considered part of 'dynamics'. But I'm wondering what else the term "dynamics" encompasses.

Does guitar dynamics encompass the way the note is attacked? For example: finger-picked or picked, hammer-on/pull-off/tap, etc...

Also does guitar dynamics include that "vowel sound" that is manipulated by direction/angle and force of pick? And also does it include the bright/mellow e.g. picking a string further towards neck as opposed to bridge to give a warmer sound, or vice-versa to give a more "tinny" sound?

Does this term also encompass harmonics? Palm muting? muting? tone? Wah-wah effect (same thing as tone? I dno... )?

Cheers, Lost C.

  • "Dynamics", as I understand it, relates to the whole ensemble. You would think it's about individual players playing louder or softer, but engineers dislike having to ride the faders like that, so practically, players are moving from not playing, playing at normal volume and playing louder because you're lead instrument. Dynamics is largely most players laying out on the verse to make the chorus seem more powerful. – Dave Jacoby Jan 23 at 0:22

Dynamics include everything that changes the sound -- such as speed, volume, tone, and more.

Speed varies from fast to slow, while rests often provide dramatic effect.

Volume varies from loud to soft, and the decay of volume varies from sustained (compressor) to pizzicato (such as palm-muted).

Tone varies from the mechanical changes such as picking style (such as "pinch" harmonics), picking distance from the bridge, and varies with electrical processing from a wah (band-pass tone filter) to roll-offs with the knobs on an electric guitar, and many more electrical options.

So, yes, everything you suggest would vary dynamics.

  • 1
    While I agree with Kirk that different ways of playing the guitar affect the instruments amplitude, articulation is a better term to cover how an instrument is played. From Wikipedia: > Articulation is a fundamental musical parameter that determines how a single note or other discrete event is sounded. Articulations primarily structure an event's start and end, determining the length of its sound and the shape of its attack and decay. They can also modify an event's timbre, dynamics, and pitch. – user3235 Jan 22 at 23:34
  • wadr, dynamics refers only to volume changes. The other items relate to phrasing and other aspects of music. – ggcg Jan 23 at 16:21

Everything else you mentioned that is not volume, such as "finger-picked or picked, hammer-on/pull-off/tap", "that 'vowel sound' that is manipulated by direction/angle and force of pick", "the bright/mellow e.g. picking a string further towards neck as opposed to bridge to give a warmer sound, or vice-versa to give a more 'tinny' sound", and "harmonics? Palm muting? muting? tone? Wah-wah effect", are part of timbre and tone instead of dynamics. Harmonics might even count as neither - just playing technique and expanded note range. Timbre and tone - what makes instruments playing the same note sound different from each other, along with the same instrument played different ways - may influence how we perceive volume/dynamics, but they are not themselves dynamics.

Think of dynamics as volume instructions only - the p, mezzo forte, ff, crescendo, dim., etc. Even accents, sforzando, rinforzando, sffz, and directions like smorzando start getting into articulation and expression territory instead.


Hammer ons and pull offs would be technique, attack, and or phrasing, not "dynamics". Dynamics refers primarily to amplitude variations, volume, and to some degree attack when considering sforzando.

Dynamics are notated in standard music notation (SMN), and in TAB by abbreviations for common Italian terms.

m = mezzo (medium, talking volume)

f = forte (strong or loud)

p = piano (soft or quiet)

then you have combinations like mp and mf which have obvious meaning.

pp = pianissimo (very quiet)

ff = fortissimo (very loud)

ppp, fff, pppp, ffff, etc.

Articulations like sforzando mean heavily accented, played with a "punch".

To indicate gradually changing volume we use terms like Crescendo, Decrescendo, diminuendo, Morendo, etc.

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