Playing guitar is all about making music. You want to be able to express yourself in the best way possible, and that means learning how to control your guitar dynamics.
If you want to make your guitar playing more engaging, you need to focus on creating better dynamics.
Adding dynamics to your acoustic guitar playing can make a huge difference in the way your music sounds. It can add expressiveness and power, and help you communicate your musical ideas more clearly.
We will start with some basic concepts, and then move on to more advanced techniques. By the end of this article, you will be able to add greater expression to your acoustic guitar playing!
What exactly is guitar dynamics?
Dynamics refers to the loudness or softness of a sound. In music, a dynamics usually refers to how loud or soft a note, phrase, or section is played.
A dynamic performer is someone who commands attention. You’ll catch the attention of your audience if you have a lot of dynamic contrasts in your performance.
In guitar playing, many lifelong beginners have one of two issues: they play too hard or too soft all the time.
The answer is in how you employ your strumming hand.
We begin here, with dynamics!
The term “dynamics” refers to volume changes, not specific volume levels. Furthermore, we should avoid confusing dynamics with speed.
Let’s begin with these two basic components:
Two primary dynamic levels
- Forte: Loud, Strong
- Piano: Soft, Quiet
The meaning of forte is not only loudness but also strength or depth, as the word piano implies softness, weakness, or precision.
Dynamics is not limited to these two levels; there are more dynamic subtle degrees of loudness or softness you can explore.
Two dynamic changes
- Crescendo: gradually getting louder
- Decrescendo: gradually getting softer
By definition, the crescendo begins at a low dynamic level and becomes progressively louder. The decrescendo has the opposite effect, starting at a high dynamic level and becoming softer.
As guitarists, we can use these two dynamic qualities to shape how we play our guitar and control the sound we make.
Using Dynamics to Enhance Your Guitar Playing
Now that we know what guitar dynamics are, let’s explore how we can use them to enhance our guitar playing.
Here are some ideas:
- Use dynamics to add interest and variety to your guitar playing.
- Use dynamics to create tension and release in your guitar playing.
- Use dynamics to add power and expressiveness to your guitar playing.
- Use dynamics to communicate your musical ideas more clearly.
Remember, the goal is not to play guitar loudly or quietly all the time. The goal is to use dynamics to enhance your guitar playing and make it more interesting, expressive, and powerful.
Understanding Guitar Dynamics in 2 Easy Steps
Now that you know what guitar dynamics are and how to use them, let’s take a look at two easy steps you can follow to start using them in your guitar playing today.
1. Understand the Song Structure
The first step is to understand the song structure. You should understand how the verses, chorus, bridge, and other song sections are performed.
This will help you determine which sections need more guitar dynamics and which sections you can lay back on.
For example, if a song has a lot of space in the verses, you might want to play with more dynamics in the chorus to make it stand out.
Chorus is generally larger than the other sections as a hook, and the bridge is somewhat excessive. It frequently gets louder or sometimes goes really quiet.
If a song is guitar-driven, you might want to use dynamics to add interest and contrast. You can play the verses softly and then build up to a louder chorus. Or you can play the chorus softly and then build up to a louder bridge.
Knowing the song structure, especially the song’s message, will definitely help you build exciting dynamic changes into your guitar playing.
2. Experiment with Different Sounds
The next step is to experiment with different sounds that you can create with your guitar. Try strumming the strings softly and then build up to a louder sound. You can also try palm muting the strings for a softer sound. You can also try accenting certain notes in a song for a more pronounced sound.
Another way to add dynamics to your guitar playing is to mix picking and strumming. Picking is when you play the strings with your pick and strumming is when you play the strings with your hand. You can try picking a few notes and then strumming the rest. This will give your guitar playing a more dynamic sound.
To begin with, try these modifications: fingerpick first, then add a pick and perform a single strum. Add more strums and other variations as well as hitting the up strum.
You can also try targeting different areas of the guitar when you strum. For example, you can try strumming near the bridge for a brighter sound or near the neck for a warmer sound.
Finally, while listening to your favorite song, keep an eye on the drums to ensure that you are being properly guided since this is particularly instructive for all other instruments when building up or stopping. Listen to the high hat and snare drum, for a more defined dynamic changes.
Practicing Guitar Dynamics Techniques
Now that you know what guitar dynamics are and how to use them, it’s time to start practicing them. Here are some exercises you can do to help you master guitar dynamics:
Step One: Control the Sound of Your Strumming Hand
The first step is to learn how to control the sound of your strumming hand. This will allow you to play guitar softer or louder, depending on what sound you want to create.
There are two main ways to control the sound of your strumming hand: muting and rests.
Muting is when you dampen the strings with your strumming hand so that they don’t ring out. This can be done by lightly resting your hand on the strings or by using a guitar pick.
Rests are when you stop strumming altogether. This can be done by simply taking your hand off the strings or by muting the strings with your strumming hand.
Both of these techniques are essential for creating dynamics in your guitar playing.
If you want to create dynamics in your guitar playing, you need to be aware of the silence between the notes. You can make use of this silence by muting the strings with your picking hand or resting your hand on the strings.
Step Two: Use a Combination of Strumming and Picking
The second step is to use a combination of strumming and picking. This will allow you to play guitar softer or louder, depending on what sound you want to create.
There are two main ways to play guitar: strumming and picking.
Strumming is when you play all the strings at once. This can be done with a guitar pick or your fingers.
Picking is when you play one string at a time. This can be done with a guitar pick or your fingers.
Another way to create dynamics is by alternating between picking and strumming. Picking generally produces a softer sound than strumming, so you can use this to your advantage.
In conclusion, dynamics are an important part of guitar playing. They can be used to add interest, tension, power, and expressiveness to your guitar playing. By learning how to control the sound of your strumming hand and using a combination of strumming and picking, you can start using dynamics in your guitar playing today.
More Dynamic Possibilities
Now that you understand guitar dynamics a little better, let’s explore ways to add more flavor and dimension to your music.
Here are some tips:
Loud or soft sections of a song
Another way to create dynamics is by playing the loud and soft sections of a song differently. For example, you might play the chorus louder than the verses.
You can make your music sound more interesting by adding accents to some notes. This can be done with both picking and strumming.
Staccato notes are short and detached. This can be an effective way to add creative variation, especially if you contrast it with longer, sustained notes.
Zone targeting strums
This is a guitar technique where you strum only certain strings in a particular order. This can produce a variety of different sounds.
Palm muting is a guitar technique where you place your hand over the strings and mute them. This can be used to create a new sound by muting the strings during certain parts of a song.
Accent & fills
Another way is by adding accents and fills. Accents are notes that are played with more emphasis, while fills are short phrases that are played between the main parts of a song. Both of these techniques can add life to your music.
As you can see, there are many ways to make your guitar playing more exciting. Experiment with these techniques and see which ones work best for you. You may also find that some of these techniques can be combined for even greater effect. So have fun and experiment!
Make Some Changes! Try Something New!
Dynamics are important because they add contrast, interest, and keep your guitar playing fresh.
If you play with the same level of intensity all the time, your music will become boring quickly.
Consider it from this perspective: if everything is at the same dynamic level, nothing sounds particularly outstanding.
It’s the dynamics that make those big moments truly impactful.
Keep exploring and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That’s how you learn!