The Art Of The Crescendo And Decrescendo

Lisa Witt  /  Technique  /  UPDATED Jan 16, 2023

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Dynamics really are the icing on the cake when it comes to music. You can play with perfect technique, hit all the right notes, have impeccable timing… but dynamics are what will set your playing apart and allow you to truly express a thought, idea or emotion with your playing.  

One of my favorite dynamic techniques is the crescendo/decrescendo. It’ll really enhance your playing, and it’s super easy to get started training your brain, ears and muscle memory to play with the crescendo/decrescendo.

Master the crescendo/decrescendo and you’ll be playing like acclaimed pianist Glenn Gould in no time.

So what do these strange words mean?

Crescendo: To become gradually louder. 

Decrescendo: To become gradually softer.

Jazz pianist Bill Evans: Another master of dynamics

These two concepts allow us to play with tension, intensity, and emotion. Best of all, they are both fun and straightforward skills to develop and use. I like to include these dynamics in my technique practice. Try including gradual increases and decreases in volume while you practice your scales, triads, arpeggios, warm ups etc.

For example:

  • Play G triads with a volume change from soft to loud on the way up, and then loud to soft on the way down.
  • Play a hannon or warm-up exercise moving from very soft, to medium soft and then back again on each repetition. See how subtle you can make these volume changes while staying in control.
  • Try a minor scale at your loudest volume to begin, and then see how gradually you can transition to your softest possible volume by the end of the scale.
  • Play a C major scale in both hands, with one hand playing a crescendo on the way up while the other one plays a decrescendo. This one’s surprisingly tricky!  

Neoclassical pianist Nils Frahm, modern master of dynamic playing.

These are just a few ways with which you can utilize dynamics in your practice time. Use your imagination to create your own unique dynamic practice. Set up your own practice plan to make room for creativity in your daily or weekly sessions at the piano. You’ll be glad you did!  

Happy playing!


Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for more than 20 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others. Learn more about Lisa.

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