Warm-up 7 Premise Review (Crescendo)
New Premises for this Exercise
Volume as Intent. Often referred to as dynamics, we prefer to refer to it as “adjusting the volume for musical intent.” It is a subtle difference, but we have found that when approaching it this way students will apply volume with a purpose as opposed to simply playing or singing loud or soft. These tend to be unmusical and when trying to play or sing softly the tone becomes unsupported. Conversely, when playing or singing loudly the tone can become forced and out of tune.
Executing Volume. If p gets so “soft” that it is unsupported by air it has become unmusical. Therefore, rather than defining p as soft, define p as quiet intensity and encourage the performer to make it his/her best quiet sound. Conversely, f becomes the performer’s biggest and best full sound. This avoids unmusical sounds at higher volume levels. Then, mf and mp both represent mezzo or medium with intensity. Once those volume levels are understood and established pp, ppp, ff, and fff become matters of increasing intensity and thus are manageable and far more musical. What we generally get from musicians when they see fff is “blastissimo” or “shouting.” Conversely, pp often becomes “nothingissimo” or “wimpissimo.” The idea of “intensifying” the full or quiet volumes avoids this.
Volume Should Never Affect Style. Often in performance, we hear a shift of the articulation style of a note when the volume changes. When it is piano, articulations frequently become piano as well, when instead, they need to maintain their style intensity. It becomes like whispering while connecting the words with soft consonant sounds as opposed to enunciating clearly. In the upper volume range the articulation often becomes larger than the tone of the note, and thus is unmusical.
Comfort Zone Development. We must constantly work to extend our comfort zones up and down from our best notes. Like seeing the mounting stress on a rubber band as it is stretched, the listener can often hear the stress in the sound of the notes as we move beyond our comfort zone. Explaining the difference between range (bottom note to top note) and tessitura (the best range for a voice type or instrument) will help students understand this concept. We must continually work to increase our ability to sound confident and relaxed in all ranges.
Interpreting the Four Types of Crescendis. There are four basic types of crescendi that composers have in mind when they indicate them on the score. Learning to select the appropriate crescendo for each occasion will significantly enhance the expression of the music. If applied properly, a crescendo will seldom become out of balance or over-stated. As well, the ensemble musicians will have little doubt about their individual roles in executing a crescendo. Rehearsal time will be spared for other issues and the ensemble will have a more unified approach to their performance. The execution of decrescendi can be safely applied in reverse order of the crescendo methodology. For the visuals of how to execute the four types of crescendi (and decrescendi) hard copy users please refer to The Anatomy of Default Crescendo/Decrescendo in Appendix V or click here for the E-file version.
On-going Relevant Premises
Tone and Tuning Technique (click for details)
Involving Your Percussion Section (click for details)
1. Review Percussion Warm-up Tenets and Procedures
Articulation Technique (click for details)
Start with a “T” and then dent the air.
Breathing Technique (click for details)
Always take a full, in-time breath.
Maintain a steady stream of air.