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#629743 - 07/01/08 01:42 AM Dynamics  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Mike Dunbar Offline
Mike Dunbar  Offline

JPF Mentor

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Nashville Tennessee
I got to play with a fun band last night. We were a "throw together" crew, house band for a benefit. Mostly jazz fusion with some southern rock and funk stuff. From Duke Ellington to Molly Hatchet. But more than any band I've worked with in a long time, we played with dynamics. Got it down to a whisper, rose up to practicallly ear splitting levels. The audience loved it.

So, what's happened to dynamics. I know at the recording forum and at the general technical forum, there's a lot of talk about how recordings these days are all at max level. How about performance, is there a diminishment of dynamics happening in music?

Whatcha Think?

You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.

Mike Dunbar Music

#629760 - 07/01/08 02:50 AM Re: Dynamics [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
Joined: Nov 2003
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Joe Wrabek Offline
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Joe Wrabek  Offline
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Garibaldi, OR USA
My opinion? There is in recording, but not in performance. I do--especially when I'm playing with a band--exactly the sort of dynamics you described. And audiences do like it.

The guys I ran into who had this stuff *down* were "Screamin' Gulch," a punk-rock band in Medford (OR) that played a lot of bluegrass songs (including some of mine); I was one of two lead guitarists (took two to keep up with 'em). They were almost instinctive about it. (And of course, no one ever expected a punk-rock band to understand volume.)


#629919 - 07/01/08 04:24 PM Re: Dynamics [Re: Joe Wrabek]  
Joined: May 2003
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Herbie Gaines Offline
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Herbie Gaines  Offline
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YOU are dynamic, Mike Dunbar...Oh I ran into some guy last Tues who claimed he was the original keyboard player of the Amboy Dukes, and that he co-wrote Journey to the Center of the Mind. He said he knew you...but I forgot his name. He can't play anymore due to arthritis. Oh and ya, I love dynamics...they get the audience a little more emotionally involved in your performance.

JPF Chicago Chapter Coordinator

#629933 - 07/01/08 05:31 PM Re: Dynamics [Re: Herbie Gaines]  
Joined: Sep 2007
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Mark Kaufman Offline
Mark Kaufman  Offline

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Dynamics are essential to a good live musical performance.

We often think of dynamics as volume variations. But it also has to do with varying the levels of performance intensity, sometimes expressed in manner rather than loudness. A singer, for example can change the approach from a soothing lilt to a sharp hiss, all with the same volume...but the dynamics come from varying the style of emotion or level of passion. Same with a trombonist who goes from legato to staccato--dynamics.

In recording, it will be difficult to "bring back dynamics" because the marketplace is driven by short attention spans, and volume grabs attention. Not many people want to be the first to lower the volume and have the "wimpy" track that plays softer than the ones before and after...too bad.

#630065 - 07/02/08 07:01 AM Re: Dynamics [Re: Mark Kaufman]  
Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 8,463

Top 20 Poster

Joined: Nov 2006
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Edinburgh, Scotland. UK
What I call light and shade is an art from in itself. Sadly nowadays not many artists show light and shade in their performances and certainly in the studios not many MODERN ENGINEERS show this important side of music. Subtlety can speak volumes. LOL

#630191 - 07/02/08 04:51 PM Re: Dynamics [Re: BIG JIM MERRILEES]  
Joined: May 2001
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Ray E. Strode Online content
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Ray E. Strode  Online Content
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Brunswick, Ga. USA
What I really hate is when I am listening to a Classical Piece that they play a passage so low I have to strain or be in a very quiet environment to hear it.

A lot of current Country Music has the music at the same or higher level than the vocal. I once saw Hank Thompson. Before Hank came on the band was playing something pretty loud but as soon as Hank came on they were as quiet as a mouse and you could hear every word Hank sang. Will it ever be that way again? I think high volume covers up a lot of poor talent.

Ray E. Strode
#630545 - 07/04/08 01:29 AM Re: Dynamics [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
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mattbanx Offline
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mattbanx  Offline
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Northern Minnesota
I agree and disagree that todays musicians don't know how to apply subtleties.
In a lot pf nu-metal, the same layered guitar techniques are used that Brian May made popular.
That is a process in itself from quiet to loud.
I saw a special a few years back on John Lennon's understated guitar capabilities.
All of the other instruments were silenced and his guitar was at a quiet droning buzz, but when his guitar was taken out with the other instruments turned up the songs made no sense.
Talk about subtlety.

#633674 - 07/14/08 04:24 PM Re: Dynamics [Re: mattbanx]  
Joined: Jun 2008
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Nick Edelstein Offline
Nick Edelstein  Offline

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Atlanta, GA, USA
very interesting post, Matt. I agree that layering is very important. It was done way before Brian May though, back in the days of "The Planets" by Gustav Holst. I belive it is movement IV, "Jupiter" where every instrument in the entire orchestra has the same dynamic marking. What happens is one or two strings begin, then the section, then other sections, until the entire orchestra is playing, and vice versa. The volume increases from the audience's perspective but it's not by individual players it's by the addition and removal of instruments (or layers).

I think the main reason Dynamics are so absent in modern music is because of compression. We loose a lot when we compress, particularly in the studio. But even on stage, I know a lot of guitarists who use compression pedals to lengthen their sustain. Is that really the best way? I prefer using vibrato, myself. Or I might open my wah pedal slightly and use the sonic "sweet spots" of a stage. Compression in the studio can be a very good thing for bringing up softer nuances, but then, isn't that the point of dynamics?

#656665 - 10/02/08 12:52 AM Re: Dynamics [Re: Nick Edelstein]  
Joined: Jan 2001
Posts: 7,991
Johnny Daubert Offline
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Johnny Daubert  Offline
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New Jersey, USA
We're starting to cut instruments out at different parts of some songs as one way to create dynamics. Others, like Mark mention, there will be changes in the intensity, (emotion), while the volume stays the same. Mood dynamics!

So, with the cutting out of instruments in spots, and having mood changes, and increasing or decreasing volume, we are a much better band for them. That came from lowering everyone's volume on stage to better hear everything, and letting the PA reach the listeners. Can sing with more feeling too, for having musical dynamics, as Mark pointed out that way for vocals especially. A carefull and proper soundcheck of making sure everyone can hear everyone else in detail is the way to start the on stage volume soundcheck. THEN, turn on the PA and start that process for everything, one at a time. The end result is the band and the listeners hear the same things!

There's a new-old song I'm finishing up composing for the band that I'm already playing and singing it with good dynamics with just the piano. If we play this song, and nail the dynamics as working on, it should be a more effective song than I had when first coming up with it two years ago. So, even a solo performer can have great dynamics, to help make a decent song a lot better to feel, thus the illusion of sorts of a better song. Feeling is much of the appeal, which dynamics certainly bring out if done carefully for each song.

When first getting the band together, it was nail em all to the wall, all the way from beginning to end. What a difference actual music makes!

Actually a Member Since 1996 or 97 (Number One Hundred Something).
Songnado I and II:

#656672 - 10/02/08 01:13 AM Re: Dynamics [Re: Johnny Daubert]  
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Mark Kaufman Offline
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Nice to hear, John. Last night I saw Beck with openers MGMT. They both did well, but MGMT has not yet learned the lesson about clarity of the vocals in a live concert. All the notes were clear, but it was impossible to make out the words through the volume. For years we've been hearing muddy vocals...just a bunch of mush...in live concerts. In the last ten years or so, I think many live acts have gotten much smarter about that. When Beck came on, it was crystal clear, and I understood every word.

So for all you live players out there, no matter how loudly you play, don't let the words turn to booming, unintelligible Speaker Mush! If you can manage crisp, clear vocals, you can have the crowd in the palm of your hand.

#657478 - 10/05/08 06:51 PM Re: Dynamics [Re: Mark Kaufman]  
Joined: Jan 2001
Posts: 7,991
Johnny Daubert Offline
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Johnny Daubert  Offline
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New Jersey, USA
It may be a lack of either skill or confidence that leads to having some bands vocals sound like a Les Paul going through a Marshall. I know I wanted the band at first to be loud, for that very reason, along with wanting to be powerful sounding, to offset our age appearance. I since learned to sing better, along with realizing "music" heard in detail is better than anything. Same with the lyrics and tones of the vocals.

So, skill and confidence also play a part in this topic, I feel.


Actually a Member Since 1996 or 97 (Number One Hundred Something).
Songnado I and II:

#657543 - 10/06/08 12:44 AM Re: Dynamics [Re: Johnny Daubert]  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Mike Dunbar Offline
Mike Dunbar  Offline

JPF Mentor

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 8,574
Nashville Tennessee
I just got back today from a Bluegrass festival in Rosine, Ky. There were 44 bands, it was recorded for RFD-TV. The sound was fantastic. You could hear everything, either on stage or out in the crowd. We dropped down to a whisper and rose up to a shout. And it was all acoustic instruments and vocals. It...was...a...TREAT!

You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.

Mike Dunbar Music

#657787 - 10/07/08 03:50 AM Re: Dynamics [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
Joined: Jan 2001
Posts: 7,991
Johnny Daubert Offline
Top 25 Poster
Johnny Daubert  Offline
Top 25 Poster

Joined: Jan 2001
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New Jersey, USA
SOUNDS like a really great time! Happy for ya!

Way to get those dynamics happening!

Actually a Member Since 1996 or 97 (Number One Hundred Something).
Songnado I and II:

#665729 - 11/06/08 03:59 AM Re: Dynamics [Re: Johnny Daubert]  
Joined: Sep 2008
Posts: 49
Keith Gamble Offline
Serious Contributor
Keith Gamble  Offline
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I guess it just depends on the genre. In artistic music dynamic contrast provides an expressive quality, or as Mark Kaufman puts- it "levels of performance intensity". Generally speaking dynamics in recordings of popular music, or gigs where popular covers are performed for the entertainment of audiences, dynamics may merely be used for effect, if used at all. Music as art; dynamics is essential. Music as entertainment; WHAT!! I can`t hear you; you`re playing too loud!

#1010617 - 06/02/13 08:36 PM Re: Dynamics [Re: Keith Gamble]  
Joined: Apr 2001
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Brian Austin Whitney Online content
Brian Austin Whitney  Online Content

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Indianapolis, IN USA
Dynamics seems to be missing often in the young (and old for that matter) players I see live in open mics and small venues around the Western world. Too much shoegazing or blasting at max power.


Brian Austin Whitney
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