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Learning the Language of Music ; Intensity

If you pluck a guitar string using very little force, the string will ring very softly and will be quite to the ear. If you pluck a guitar string using a great deal of force, the string will ring very loudly and will be load to the ear.


Intensity refers to the loudness or volume of a sound.


Dynamic Markings

In music, composers use symbols to show a musician the relative intensity of the notes; these symbols are referred to collectively as dynamics.


Dynamic markings are interpreted markings and may very slightly from one performer to another.


They are written as small, lower case, italic letter groups, which represents words for relative intensity.


The words the letter symbols represents originate from the Italian language.


Intensity and the performance of dynamic markings is also subject to the limitations of each instrument. To find the limitations of intensity on your guitar, pick string number 6 continuously using 60 beats per minute as your tempo. Alternate your picking direction and play as soft as possible.




If you attack the string with too great a force, the note will sound warped and may buzz as the string vibrates over a wider distance. If the string sounds this way, you have played past the loudest intensity and you have found a limitation when playing string number six on your guitar.



To play using the loudest intensity, pick the string using an attack that will produce the loudest tone but will not overplay the note. When you compromise of force, then you are playing fortissimo. Using different degrees of attack, play through the other relative degrees of intensity. As you play, say the name of the dynamic marking out loud and adjust the attack in the string to match the intensity.



Electric Guitars

Electric guitars have an intensity advantage, as they are used with effects and amplification equipment and usually have a volume control knob attached to the body. Some players may even use a volume pedal, which sits on the stage floor and is controlled by the foot.


The limitations of attack on the string, however, are similar to the acoustic guitar. So if you are playing an electric guitar, set your volume control to zero, or at some lower level, and play through this intensity exercise to get a feel for dynamics and the limitations of each string.


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