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Dynamics in Performance

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by PauFerro, Dec 9, 2018.

  1. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Just writing about a problem I've experienced for years -- getting the band to embrace dynamics -- consciously. In jazz, we do improvise a lot, and sometimes, there is tension created through dynamics, although it's mostly carried by the soloist, I find -- not with a lot of support from the band. As a bass player, if follow the soloist in creating dynamics, that helps, but my influence is limited if the drummer isn't supporting the soloist in that creation of tension.

    There have been a few instances where it's been achieved regularly, but as members change, I've found dynamics is an area that takes constant emphasis to remain part of the diet of the band.

    Do you find this to be true in your experience? If so, how do you strengthen this area?

    MYLOWFREQ Supporting Member

    May 13, 2011
    New York
    From my experience dynamics is more important in certain styles such as jazz, and everybody has to be aware of that. It's tricky to tell the drummer (or anyone else) to be more cautious about his/her dynamics w/ out being rude. I'd just adjust my dynamics looking at the singer (or whoever else is carrying out the dynamics) and assume the drummer get it.

    Again from my experience the opposite is also an issue.. I think more mainstream music such as pop/rock requires much less dynamics when it comes to the part of the bass. You should have a solid technique with minimal variations (if any) within your dynamics. I see bass players disapear during certain parts of the songs of such because either they're not aware of that, or they have poor technique.
  3. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    Honestly it goes back to quality of musicianship, especially in a a jazz setting. If you are playing with folks who don't understand dynamic playing and interaction on the band stand, they just still have some learning to do. I would hope you are at least seeing a dynamic change during your bass solo...ie they are not just comping like any other soloist. The people i play with seem to understand this and quiet the shag down when my solo starts, perhaps changing their comping style completely to give space for the bass to shine through. I really appreciate that when it happens. When it doesn't happen i know i am playing with a novice and might need to provide that feedback to them off to the side.
  4. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011

    IMHO this is common. Even bands that rehearse frequently can become flat and undynamic unless dynamics are made a priority. Many professional musicians tend to become bored and complacent, and really don't enjoy their jobs or put any emotion into it. To overcome this, the music director and section leaders have to do their jobs. Talk the talk, walk the walk, lead by example...yadda, yadda, yadda.

    Even musicians who are still interested in the craft have different focus and priorities. As you know performing music involves integrating a lot of complex mental processes. Since you're the group leader, select key players who prioritize a focus on dynamics. For example, if you hire a sax section, you might want to hire a lead player who has great tone and focuses more on dynamics, and choose a ride player who is creative and free. The lead player may not even solo all that well, but may be the right person to drive dynamics in the section.

    Since your the group leader, you need to establish chains of authority and communicate your expectations. In other words, make it clear that dynamics are important and establish/clearly communicate who is responsible and accountable for dynamics in each section.

    Something I have found is if a positive culture that reinforces individual success can be formed, performance may be driven to a level where excellence becomes self-sustaining. Basically when the music is performed really well and people feel good about the situation, they may wake up from their complacency and start feeding effort into sustaining the excellence. It's a lot easier to achieve this state if you hire people who are happy and excited about music to begin with...but of course, you have to deal with whatever fish are swimming around in the labor pool.

    Just my crazy ideas on organizational culture in the context of music production...so YMMV.
    Groove Doctor, EdO., IamGroot and 2 others like this.
  5. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather Supporting Member

    Dynamics and balance separate the amateurs from the advanced/pro players. During the 80's and early 90's, I went to a LOT of live shows mostly contemporary jazz bands. Was not just a listening experience but I studied how they kept dynamics and balance. No one overplayed either. Just solid and grooving. Only leads or solos were up in the mix and when done fell back into balance. Was a huge learning lesson for me. I try to blend in and not be on top of the band. Typically guitarists and keyboardists are the culprits. "I can't hear myself" is always the excuse. But damn, everyone else can hear you loud and clear!
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018
  6. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Song Surgeon slow downer. https://tinyurl.com/y5dcuqjg
    We practiced dynamics at each rehearsal. The lead singer would conduct the band.
    basscapes and Bunk McNulty like this.
  7. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    The band has to listen to each other. I love to take the volume down during certain sections, then back up. Fortunately, I have drummers in both bands who listen.
    basscapes and IamGroot like this.
  8. gidbass

    gidbass Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    I am always using dynamics regardless of genre. I let off a bit when the singer is singing or the guitarist is soloing. I want to draw attention to them instead of me as that is usually what the song calls for.

    Good Luck!
  9. Davbassdude


    Mar 16, 2012
    IME: Dynamics are best achieved when everyone in the band is listening to each other, rather than just playing their part. All players should be involved and aware, but as a bass player, developing a connection with the drummer and working together to achieve the desired effect has resulted in the most successful and pleasurable experience.
  10. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    Dynamics = Good band
    No Dynamics = band that should go home
    interp, JRA, basscapes and 1 other person like this.
  11. REV


    Jun 18, 2006
    Usually somebody has to indicate when to get quiet or when to bring up the volume and everybody else has to listening. As Stumbo said "the singer would conduct the band". In one band I was in the singer had any number of hand signals to tell the band to get loud or to get quiet and we had to pay attention. I personally like it when a drummer leads the dynamics of a band by playing a little louder or softer but again, the rest of the band has to be listening.
    EdO., Stumbo and Bunk McNulty like this.
  12. RichardW


    Feb 25, 2016
    near Philly
    This is very true. My rock band--coming up on 10 years playing together--focuses a lot on dynamics and it's not as easy as it sounds. We're making progress. Always have to avoid the "playing softer = playing slower" trap. But good dynamics can make all the difference between a good band and a bunch of weekend warriors.
    Groove Doctor, EdO. and Stumbo like this.
  13. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly. Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    Rule of thumb #1 (very, very simple): Quiet down on the verse, get louder on the chorus.

    We employ dynamics a lot, including a couple tunes with false fade-outs, which always get attention. I love it when people start to applaud and we kick it up again. Also songs that end on acapella three part harmony. That usually gets a rise out of the crowd, too. (And we are a bunch of weekend warriors, nyaah-nyaah!):D
    Groove Doctor, Stumbo and basscapes like this.
  14. A band that can control its dynamics can control the world.

    A band that can't control its dynamics is sonic wall paper.
    Groove Doctor, interp and JRA like this.
  15. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    That's why people hire us for many jazz gigs...background music types of gigs.
    Stumbo and basscapes like this.
  16. I think dynamics is one of the hardest things for any musician to master. Some guitar players think everybody wants to hear an eardrum-splitting solo. I've heard drummers say "you have to hit the drums hard enough to make them sound good." It's all BS.

    About a year and a half ago I was asked to join a band that had two guitar players and a drummer. The drummer was too loud, and the guitar players were dueling it out trying to be heard over him. I quit after the second rehearsal because it was apparent that they had no dynamics and weren't interested in learning.
    interp and Stumbo like this.
  17. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    is it? is directness rude? :)
    MYLOWFREQ and Stumbo like this.
  18. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i think that after you have all the notes and the proper feel: dynamic interpretation is what separates the players from the wannabes.
    Groove Doctor and interp like this.
  19. Burwabit

    Burwabit Likes guitars that tune good and firm feelin women

    Apr 4, 2011
    Lubbock, TX
    It's good to go out and see bands that are good at this, esp. at smaller local venues. Go as a band and critique. Also, you can make friends this way locally.

    It's fresh on my mind because I saw American Aquarium Saturday night at a local joint in my city. Great dynamics really brings about crowd participation. If everyone is having fun, you'll be a busy band. (Ben Hussey's playing was great too).
  20. Heyturnup


    Mar 28, 2016
    I believe dynamics are pretty illusive until you reach a high level of musicianship. If you ever get the chance to play with a good
    dynamic drummer, this is the time to really become aware of all the skills you need to play dynamically.

    I also believe music should breath. Watch someone who is asleep, watch how their chest moves up and down. That is how music can be with good dynamics. Anyone can play loud, try playing super soft on tempo. What goes up must come down, or you can't bring it up again.

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