Dynamics are one of the most effective tools in our musical toolbox. They can focus the interest of a listener more quickly than anything – faster than that hip rhythmic hemiola you just worked out, or the most blazing single strokes you’ve ever seen. Dynamics are easy for everyone to understand, and speak to us on an emotional, instead of intellectual, level.
Dynamics are also under-used, especially during solos. Why? Well, yes, it is harder to play soft. But that’s the easy answer, and that technical problem can be worked out in the practice room. The more significant solution is that you need to start hearing dynamic change as part of your phrases. You need to make dynamics as much a core part of your mental focus as the rhythms you are playing. You need to make dynamics a part of your concept, not just something you respond to.
•Experiment with extreme volumes – excessively soft and too loud. Get to know your range.
•Voicing Dynamics: Practice playing exercises (paradiddles around the drums, for example) in which one drum is always loud, the others soft. Reverse.
•Coordination Dynamics: Practice with one limb having consistent dynamic independence from the others. Try all four limbs, and reverse.
•Change the scope of your musical timeframe – it is not only about starting soft and building volume. Create an ever-changing topography of dynamic range by quickly shifting volumes within a single phrase.
Once you start thinking about it, your awareness about dynamics will increase, and that is the first big step in bringing them with you on the bandstand.