Are Dynamics Still A Thing?


As most people know, this board up here is what guides musicians into playing different dynamic ranges. If you imagine a pianist playing all the notes really loud, you can also imagine the audience leaving the hall after 10min because they’re most probably bored as hell. Reason why, those tiny little symbols can have a huge impact on how we absorb sound.

Classical music is by far the one genre that utilises dynamics more than any other styles. A famous example is the “Allegro Con Brio” in Beethoven’s 5th Symphony:


By listening only to the first few seconds it’s easy to spot the vast variety of dynamic ranges being used. These rollercoasters of sounds are what create a special bond between the music and the listener. Funnily enough, Beethoven was the one who said “To play a wrong note is insignificant, but to play without passion is inexcusable”.


Coincidentally if dynamics are so vital to music, they should be utilised by composers/songwriters all the time. Unfortunately that is not the case. Actually, the large majority of music being released and consumed by the public today doesn’t even involve half of the symbols mentioned on the board above. Radio stations for example, started compressing music because of the volume difference between songs. Since that happened, the role of compression in music became hugely indispensable. If we fast forward from the beginning of the 19th century up to the late 1980’s, a real war had begun: The Loudness War. Music producers started racing each other to increase audio levels to the limit on their records. Rick Rubin (Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Jay Z, Metallica), one of the most influential producers in the music business, has been highly criticised for his use of compression in his productions. Having said that, there is a real belief that “Compression sells more” and in Rick Rubin’s case, his albums have sold like nobody else.

Finally, my question to you is this one: if songs are more appealing when loud, there is any room for dynamics in today’s music?

‘till next time.

Chris Castellitto

Author Chris Castellitto

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