Am I Playing Loud Enough?

Well, I have another post for you today off of the back of a couple of folks emailing me with similar questions, so I thought I’d share the responses. Thank you for your questions and emails, by the way – keep them coming!

So, a couple of folks have emailed me recently* concerned that their playing volume is not sufficient enough.

I can understand that this may be a concern if you’re playing just for yourself a lot, and with little feedback perhaps from a teacher or an audience of some description.

We all know that compared with some of our electrified siblings or bowed string cousins we’re a lot quieter, with notes generally decaying a lot quicker. If playing in ensemble with other instruments, then yes, we want to make sure we’re playing out and in balance with other, potentially “louder” instruments.

Other than that, I’d say don’t concern yourself overly with volume in an of itself. Volume, or dynamics, when playing guitar (or any other instrument for that matter) is all relative really. Its a case of making sure your fortes and fortissimos are somewhat louder than your pianos and pianissimos. Those will vary from piece to piece, with differing styles, genres and eras of music and even within a piece too.

Soundhole B&W

Dynamics, and the volumes at which you’re playing, are much more relative rather than absolute. So concern yourself with the variation in your dynamic range rather than loudness per se. We should always aim to play at a suitable dynamic, with dynamic range, sympathetic to the music we’re playing at the time.
Concern yourself with your level of projection and communication. One can play the softest of pianissimos and still project that sound to your audience and be heard crystal clear. And there are always adjustments in projection and general dynamic level to be made depending on the room or environment in which you’re playing.

If you’re not working with a teacher (or even if you are), I suggest playing for others and experimenting, asking them how you sound, how the dynamics come across.

Think about what you’re producing, how you want the music to “speak” to your audience, and – of course – the quality of the sound you’re making.

Keep tuned in to what you’re playing and the rest will fall into place.

* Thank you – you know who you are!

One thought on “Am I Playing Loud Enough?

  1. I usually play guitar when I’m alone to relax and have fun so I don’t place much importance in the volume. I paid much more attention to my skills and rhythm. But I imagine it would be different if you play with an audience. Cheers.

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