What Are Dynamics?

Lisa Witt  /  Sight Reading  /  UPDATED Jan 16, 2023

We all want our playing to make an impact. Have you ever heard a professional piano player play something simple but it was so amazing it made you wonder “why doesn’t it sound that way when I play it?”

The secret? Dynamics!

Dynamics are the expressive element of music. The word “dynamics” refers to the changes in volume or phrasing throughout a song.

If I said to you in a flat voice “today is the best day of your life”, you probably wouldn’t feel very inspired.

But if I said “today is the BEST day of your life!”, you might just believe me. Same goes for music. Find a way to be expressive in your playing and you will be able to tell whatever story you want to tell and make people FEEL it.

Here are some dynamic tools that will take your playing to the next level:

1. Volume changes

Volume changes are the simplest way to create a mood in music. Try playing different parts of your song using different volumes. You can have extreme differences or you can make them subtle. Either way, when you play with varying volumes, you will notice the mood change. My favourite way to create mood using volume is using crescendo and decrescendos beause it will create a gradual shift in volume and have your audience like putty in your hands. 

2. Pedal, Phrasing, Pauses

Use your damper pedal and connect the notes to create a sense of phrasing. You can also use a slight dramatic pause here and there to create some tension. 

3. Get Emotional

If you want your audience to feel when you are playing then YOU need to feel it too. Create a story that will connect to what you are playing so you can get into the emotional content of what you are playing. Don’t be afraid to let your body move a little as you play and feel those feelings. It will add to the expression!

These simple techniques will change EVERYTHING about your playing. You can practice these skills as you play songs, or even incorporate them into your technique practice as well.

Have fun being a more dynamic piano player!


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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