Looking for tips on how to teach dynamics in music class? Dynamics in music can be a lot of fun to teach, because of all the dramatic pieces of music you can use as examples. Here are some tips and tricks to get you started, even if you’re not a music specialist.
What are dynamics in music?
The first step in learning how to teach dynamics in music to elementary students is to understand what the most common terms mean.
Dynamics Definition: Dynamics are the expressive decisions that a composer or performer makes about how loud or soft a piece of music (or specific part of a piece of music) is played.
Crescendo – A slow dynamic build. Music starts softly and gradually gets louder.
Decrescendo – A slow dynamic fade. Music starts loudly and gradually gets softer.
Forte and piano (loud and soft) – Most music terms come from Italian. Forte (pronounced four-tay) is Italian for loud, and piano (same pronunciation as the instrument) is Italian for soft.
Common pitfalls when teaching dynamics
Although it might seem obvious, do not assume that students actually know what “loud” and “quiet” mean. Many, many young kids think that “loud” and “high” are the same thing. You need to teach the meaning of these words and gently correct students who do not use them correctly.
How To Teach Dynamics in Music
Dynamics in Grade 1
Ontario Curriculum: dynamics and other expressive controls: loud, soft
Dynamics in Grade 2
Ontario Curriculum: dynamics and other expressive controls: gradations in volume encountered in music listened to, sung, and played (e.g., getting louder [crescendo], getting softer [decrescendo/diminuendo])
Dynamics in Grade 3
Ontario Curriculum: dynamics and other expressive controls: standard symbols for soft (e.g., piano – p) and loud (e.g., forte – f ); invented symbols for soft and loud; expression marks encountered in music listened to, sung, and played (signs for crescendo and decrescendo)
Music Examples for Teaching Dynamics
Dynamics in music examples that you can use in your lesson plans:
- Bolero by Ravel
- The “Surprise Symphony” by Haydn
- William Tell Overture: Finale by Rossini
- O Fortuna from Carmina Burana by Orff
- John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt
- Entry March of the Boyars
- Das Donnerwetter (The Thunderstorm) by Mozart
- Overture from The Magic Flute
Activities to Teach Dynamics in Music
Movement Activities – For primary students, movement activities are an excellent way of exploring changes in dynamics. How can you move to show when the music is loud? How will you move differently when the music is soft?
Teach Conducting – Conducting activities are a natural extension of lessons on dynamics. Show kids how to conduct the basic pattern for the time signature and conduct along to the music – large gestures when the music is loud, and small gestures when the music is quiet.
No Prep Lesson Plans for Dynamics
The Music-By-Month series helps teachers meet all music expectations easily – at grade level, with minimal prep, and can be done in just 30 minutes per week.