In music, dynamics describe differences in volumes. There are many different terms and symbols used to show them, below are the ones you are likely to come when using drumscore.com sheet music. Dynamics always appear under the stave.


Our first set of dynamics are abbreviations of words used to describe dynamic levels. In the list below the abbreviation is given first, then the word that represents and finally what dynamic level that is telling you to play at.

  • p – Piano – Play Softly
  • f – Forte – Play Loudly
  • mp – Mezzo Piano – Play Moderately Softly
  • mf – Mezzo Forte – Play Moderately Loudly
  • pp – Pianissimo – Play Very Softly
  • ff – Fortissimo – Play Very Loudly

From loudest to softest our dynamic abbreviations would go: ff f mf mp p pp

Changes In Dynamics

There are two symbols that denote gradual changes in dynamic. They are shown below, the name is shown underneath both images with a descriptions. A Crescendo.

Crescendo – Gradually get louder.

A Diminuendo.

Diminuendo – Gradually get softer.

When working out dynamic levels, mf is generally your natural playing volume, ff is generally as loud as you can physically play and pp is the softest you can possibly play.

Stick heights are very useful when playing dynamics. When playing softly keep your stick height lower and when playing louder lift your sticks higher.

Dynamic Exercises

To practice dynamics we are going to apply them to exercises covered in the Single Stroke Roll and Basic Groove lesson series.

  1. First play either a single stroke roll or a groove. Play one bar softly followed by one bar loudly, then repeat. Repeat this with various other patterns.
  2. Next extend this to two bars softly followed by two bars loudly.
  3. The next step is to include different levels of dynamics rather than just loud and soft. Pick an exercise and play it for four bars. Play the first bar as p, the second as mp, the third as mf and the fourth as f. So you will gradually be getting louder each bar.
  4. Repeat this exercise backwards, so start the first bar as f and the last as p.
  5. Extend this so that each dynamic level is played for two bars.
  6. Play an 8 bar pattern. Play each dynamic for one bar, the '<' represents a crescendo: p < mp < mf < f <
  7. Repeat this pattern backwards, replacing the crescendos with diminuendos.

Use as many different rudiments and grooves in this exercise as possible. The purpose here being to get your comfortable switching between different dynamic levels.

Test your knowledge with our Dynamics Quiz.


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