Crescendo, Decrescendos, and Dynamic Sound Effects

Crescendos and decrescendos work together to increase and decrease tension in a composition. These dynamic markings create compositions that avoid sounding dull and lifeless. Without these dynamic attributes, a composition would stay the same volume throughout the work. 8-bit music, certain types of techno, harpsichord music, and music played with a celeste usually contains no dynamic contrasts. Composers use dynamics in music for various reasons. Crescendos consist of a gradual increase in sound throughout a composition while a decrescendo slowly decreases the sound over a specified length of time.

Musical Climax

Composers often use crescendos to create the climax of a composition. In order to create effective climaxes, composer's increase tension by increasing the volume in a steady manner. Maurice Ravel's BolĂ©roshowcases how a composition can start quietly and increase the intensity and volume to the final climactic point. However, the continual build and dramatic increase in tension evident in Bolero isn't common. Most composers use crescendos for short periods within the music.

Drum Rolls

Drum rolls are created by drummers. Drummers are capable of performing extended drum rolls that create impactful emotional effects on the listener. The deep rumblings of the bass drum can gradually intensify with a dynamic crescendo as it emanates from the lowest part of the orchestra. Percussion instruments are capable of playing rolls to create exciting dramatic effects. The timpani is often used by composers to create large orchestral crescendos to bring about a cadence or ending to the piece. Often, the timpani technique includes alternating between two intervals. In Classical music, the interval was generally a fifth. However, modern composers can use any interval that fits the style of music being played.

Wind Instruments

Brass and woodwind players increase airflow and intensity the sound of the instrument when a crescendo is written into the piece. Woodwind players create smooth volume changes that can build subtly and start at extremely soft dynamics levels, or decrease gradually to decrease the intensity of a piece. Brass players are capable of louder crescendos while woodwind players are capable of starting at very low volumes.

String Instruments

String players in an orchestra may use vibratos to increase intensity and create crescendos. Violin, viola, cello, and bass players quickly rock a single finger back and forth on a string to gradually wobble the string and create a vibrato or increase the volume of the piece. Quicker bows travel across the string and the sound becomes even louder. String players, like woodwinds, can produce very low dynamics; however, they don't need to breathe. This makes it possible to create longer crescendos than a woodwind player without needing to take a break.

Electronic Music

Electronic music creates crescendo sound effects using artificial means. Composers specializing in digital music use complex audio-processing and effects to increase the audio volume over a potentially indefinite period of time. Some composers use warming pads, in which a gradual increase in volume continues the longer the composer or performer rolls the electronic device. Crescendo sound effects using electronic means can potentially go as loud as necessary as long as the composer doesn't exceed the limits of the software and create clipping within the recording. Some clipping can be avoided by using 64-bit capable digital audio workstations.


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