Dynamics, put in very simple terms, are slight volume changes that are used to bring emphasis, character, and depth to the music we are playing. The most common use of dynamics in bluegrass banjo playing is to bring the melody out by emphasizing certain notes. Probably the area where dynamics are most used in bluegrass banjo playing is while playing backup.
In this chapter, since we are concerning ourselves with learning dynamics in the right hand, our goal will be to achieve more control of our picking volume so we have the option and ability to adjust our picking to accentuate our music.
In the first two dynamic examples, follow these instructions:
* Start by hitting the string firmly and at a volume that is easily heard.
* Next, bring the volume up gradually to the loudest volume you can achieve without “picking the tone out of the string.” This means the point where you may be producing noise not tone.
* Follow this by gradually reducing the volume to the softest point you can get it. It is important not to lose you attack, clarity and tone at the softest volume. This can be done! The soft notes should not sound weak, just quieter.
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In the example below, practice using the method above, then try striking the first and third beats on the third string a little softer than the pinches. After that has been accomplished, then bring your overall volume up and down.
Now, try doing the same thing, only reverse the beats you make louder and softer. Now the pinches will be played slightly softer than the first and third beats on the third string.
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Using this basic alternating thumb roll, try what we did in the first dynamics exercises followed by a little experimenting with accenting certain notes.
After you are comfortable with the overall volume changes, try doing some accenting.
* First, accent the first and third beats on the third string.
* Then, try accenting the first, second, third, and fourth downbeats.
Okay, if that was enough, try your luck at accenting the first, second, third, and fourth upbeats. This is a little more challenging. Try it really slowly until you can coordinate all that is involved.