Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How loud is loud?

Every ask yourself, "How loud is loud"?

The volume level for a passage marked, "Forte" depends on many factors. If the passage is the melody, I tend to play louder than if my passage is a supporting harmonic note or descant. Moving parts tend to be emphasized over the other parts to maintain the interest of the listener no matter what the arranger marked on the page. My "loud is louder if the ensemble is larger, the room is larger, the hall is crowded, the background level of the ambient noise is noticeable.

Case in point:

I was directing a local college jazz band last week. I was rehearsing the chart, "My Funny Valentine". One passage was a solo flugelhorn playing the melody over six saxophones playing a half-note harmonic background. The melody was in the lower range of the flugelhorn and was meant to be played breathy and smokey. The saxes really covered it up.
When I advised the saxes to lighten up, they informed me that their passage was marked forte. I informed them that the arranger had no idea what the size or skill level of the players would be and that the dynamic marking was his best estimate at a god overall balance. The chart is a "rough draft" of the finished performance with the director being the real-time editor for the best interpretation.

bottom line?

Constantly adjust your volume level to match what is happening musically around you. The composer or arranger isn't in the room with you to mark the proper volume of a passage to be played in that room with that ensemble.

So, How loud is loud?

It depends!

Good Gigging

Larry Marra
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