9.WDynamics & Articulation

Standard Notation tells you what notes to play and when to play them, but it can also tell how to play them.


It can, for instance, tell you how loudly / quietly to play. The universal musical term for 'loud' is an Italian word, forte, but this is almost always abbreviated to f when it appears on a score. Similarly, the term for 'quiet' is piano, usually abbreviated to p.

As with so much in music, these terms are relative. An acoustic guitar's forte will never be as loud as a trumpet's, for instance. And some players can simply play louder (and quieter) than others, even on the same instrument. Generally speaking, players of acoustic instruments tend to play quieter than they need to; even piano should fill the room with energised sound and a forte should be thrilling.


There are many subtle ways in which notation can indicate how you should articulate notes - how you should shape and connect them. Two of them are introduced in today's first piece.


You've already come accross dots placed after notes, but some notes have dots written above or below them. These ask you to play the notes staccato, meaning that you should only sound the beginnings of the notes. This doesn't change the underlying rhythm. How short should a staccato note be? It's a matter of personal taste and style.

You have also seen a curved line before. When it connects two notes of the same pitch, it is a tie. When it brackets two or more different notes, it is called a slur and it asks you to connect the notes smoothly.

Exactly how you do this varies from instrument to instrument. However, if the slur connects two notes, it usually imples that the second note should be less stressed than the first (perhaps less stressed than usual) and without a fresh attack. Think 'ti-ra' rather than 'tin-tin'. If the slur brackets a number of notes, keep the sound flowing from note to note in a singing style.

Hoboeckentanz is a renaissance dance tune. It should be quite brisk, and works well over a drone. It features changes of dynamics from f to p and both of the new articulation marks.

Drive The Cold Winter Away

Drive The Cold Winter Away (English trad.) features that same 1 + 2 + 3 + / loooong - short - long rhythm that you find in Greensleeves . . . get the inner metronome ticking in 3s first . . .



The next notation exercise is in 3/8 and the same key as the tune above. For pretty much the first time, the metronome track drops out after a few bars, and the tempo is flexible - an expressive hesitation here, a slowing down there etc. You don't need to notate those fluctuations. There are only five patterns in the piece, no accidentals, a big repeat, and the fIrst two bars are given . . .

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If you didn't get that right, work out why before you move on.