How to control musical dynamics in waves and to sing along with the guitar

In this lesson we will learn how to control musical dynamics in waves and to sing along with the guitar.

1. Waves:


a. Analyzing the score:

As you can see in this sheet music we have two staffs (or staves) in every system. The upper staff is a standard note staff with 5 lines and 4 spaces. The lower staff consists of 6 lines which represent the 6 different strings on a guitar and we call it tablature or tab-fingering staff. The lowest line represents the 6th string on guitars and the highest line represents the 1st string. The upper staff begins with a violin clef and we add notes in the standard way, while the tab-fingering staff begins with the letters TAB and is a specific way for marking which string on which fret we are playing. In tablature we use numbers to represent frets on lines which represents strings. So, when there is a number 1 on 1st line that means we should play the 1st string on 1st fret. Zero means that we just play the open string on which it is written.[1]

While numbers in tab-fingering staff represents frets on specific strings, the numbers in standard note staff represents left hand fingerings. So number 1 will be index finger, number 2 will be middle finger, 3 – ring finger and 4 will be little finger. In beginning level of learning guitar we do not use thumb[2]

One more important thing before we jump into the music dynamics is the fingering of the right hand. A common way for representing the different fingers of the right hand in the finger picking style of playing guitar [3] is with letters. The letter „i“ represents the index finger; letter „m“ represents the middle finger, „a“ represents the ring finger and at last „p“ represents the thumb [4]of the right hand.

Musical dynamics are specific parameters of music which represent differences and similarities of music tone volume. There are constant changes of musical tone; increasing and decreasing volumes and sudden changing in volume of musical tones. An increase in the volume of music is known as a crescendo or we use this symbol beside the notes sign:  The opposite is a decreasing volume and we call it a decrescendo or we put the sign:  beside the notes. Sudden change in volume is denoted by the following symbols such as f (forte) or p (piano) there are various numbers of possibilities. The forte symbol f means loud volume and the piano symbol p means quietly. Between is mf (mezzo forte-means moderately loud) and with less loudness is mp (mezzo piano).

When we have the constant changing of crescendo and decrescendo it achieves the impression of waves in music dynamics. We commonly use crescendo when the melody is going up like in our example. And when the melody is going down we use decrescendo. It is interesting to observe the beginning of bar no. 7, where we have the letter f and it is because we have melodic jump from tone c2 to the higher tone g2.

b. Methodology of practicing.

The most useful methodology for learning is to begin with easier examples and move gradually to harder things. In our case it will be practicing this composition without the musical dynamics and when we have learned it well we will add the musical dynamic parameters. The main thing with learning the basic notes of composition is to be able to play a specific composition without breaks in timing. Time is the most fundamental concept of music because music is defined in time, so without it there is no music. The best way for learning good timing in music (and rhythm as well) is counting rhythm. This composition is in alla-breve time signature (2/2 or C) so the rhythmic units here are half note values. But in the beginning we will count in until 4 like in standard 4/4 rhythm where rhythmic units are quarter notes. After we learn 4/4 counting while we play this composition we can consider counting in 2 in the alla breve  time signature but that is not important for our next issue and that is music dynamics.

In order to form waves in music dynamics an important thing is the constant increase of the tone volume while we go up in melody until we get to the highest tone of phrase. An important thing is to know where phrase begins and where the phrase culminates. After we reach the highest and loudest tone of the phrase we go down with these parameters, and in these parts the phrase breathes. It will be very esthetic to go down in the same way we went up and keep the balance of the musical dynamics in the whole composition. The next notes will be the same composition with slurs added which determines phrases. It is interesting to note the last phrase which begins with a decreasing melody whilst we are decreasing the musical dynamics instead of increasing these two parameters like in the previous phrases. The culminating tone (g2) comes suddenly (it is marked with sign *) and with high intensity of musical dynamics it provides and important musical expression. It will be very good for beginners to practice this composition separated on marked phrases and after each phrase is learned well with music dynamics we can practice a whole composition with music dynamics which will remind us on waves.


2. Sing along with guitar


a. Analyzing the score:

We have here ¾ time signature and we count the rhythm until 3 quarters. Rhythm values vary from quarters, half notes and dotted half notes. With the dotted half note we count to 3 because this note values contains one half and one quarter note. We have 4 different chords: Am, E, E7 and C and the key signature is A minor.

b. Introduction about singing along with guitar:

Singing with a harmonic instrument like the guitar has one main advantage but at the same time it brings difficulty. The advantage is that we have harmonic base which keeps us in tune while we are singing and that is a very important benefit. The difficulty is that our concentration is spread out between singing the melody and playing the accompaniment. So our mind has to balance two things at the same time.

How to bring these things together?

c. Chords

The most important thing in learning to sing along with some harmonic instrument is to learn the instrumental accompaniment and the singing melody separately. The instrumental accompaniment must fit the harmonic and rhythmic points with the singing melody. We have here a ¾ time signature so it is the rhythm of a Waltz that will fit the best. This chord progression is very natural: in the first two rows the harmony goes from Am to E and gets back to Am. After some time without changing Am in the 3rd row the chords are changing closer in the 4th and last row from C-E-E7 to Am. This is a very nice and logical harmony indeed. Here is the guitar accompaniment to this melody which is arranged in waltz rhythm:


d. Rhythm

Waltz rhythm is circular and it should make us moving in circle. It starts with the first quarter on the bass note and continues with the 2nd and the 3rd quarter with chord accompaniment. Above these two vertical parts of the music process we should hear the melody as the leading part of music. While we play this accompaniment we should count in 3units with the main accent on the 1 beat. Meanwhile the main melody should be sung with a pulsing rhythm with your hands. There is a specific way of creating a pulsing rhythm with the hand that is similar to conductor movement but we use only one hand above desk:


Students should use this movement of the hand in the pulse of a waltz rhythm while they sing the main melody. This is a good base for combining singing and guitar accompaniment.

e. Guide

After we learned singing the melody and the guitar accompaniment separately we should try these both together. After good training we can stick to visualizing the main melody with the chords above. But first the rhythm of the accompaniment should be learned well. After a while, basic playing movements should become automatic and that is a long term process.



[1] Tab-fingering staff with 6 lines represents guitar with 6 strings, while tab-fingering staff with 4 lines represents bass-guitar with 4 strings. Also there are bass-guitars with 5 strings and guitars with 7 strings so for that kind of instruments we will use analogue number of lines in tab-fingering staff. There is also issue about standard tuning. For example drop D tuning means that we tune the lowest 6th. string on note D so when we put zero on 6th. (the lowest) line in tab-fingering staff  it represents the note D. There are specific way to determinate that not standard tunings but this issue is not for begging level of learning guitar. These lines are just informative.

[2]The thumb in left hand only gives us position of left hand on fingerboard.

[3] Opposite of the finger picking style is playing wired instrument by plucking with plectrum. Common way for determinate movements in plucking strings are “П” for downstroke and „V“ for upstroke.

[4] Beginners don’t use little finger in right hand fingering and it is analogue to not usable thumb in fingering of left hand

How to control musical dynamics in waves and to sing along with the guitar

In this lesson we will learn how to control musical dynamics in waves and to sing along with the guitar

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