Bruce Springsteen

Ideas For Changing How Loud Your Song Sounds

If you’re a player in a band, you’ve got lots of options for controlling the dynamics (loudness) of your music. Other than, of course, simply turning things up, you can add instruments to the mix to get the louder sounds you’re looking for, and/or subtract them to make your music more transparent.

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But there are other subtle ways you can make your song sound louder, and these ways are particularly useful if you’re playing in a small group but need a bigger sound:

  1. Make your backing rhythms busier. You can hear this effect in Simon & Garfunkel’s “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her“, which features simple guitar picking. Dynamics play an important role, but finger picking changes to strumming at key moments. Listen and see what the busier rhythms do at various points throughout the song.
  2. Change from full-length notes to something shorter and more “staccato”. If you play a series of notes that are suddenly shorter – with space in between — it gives the impression of the music suddenly becoming a bit louder, even if the dynamic levels are the same.
  3. Double your bass line, or at least lower it. Deepening bass has the effect of making the music sound fuller and louder. It’s a great technique for subtly shaping the loudness of a song’s verse, where, depending on the lyric of the moment, you want to add to the general volume the audience is hearing.
  4. Use vocal harmonies. Backing vocals is a little bit like adding instruments. It makes things fuller and richer. For a great example of the various ways you can use vocal harmonies, listen to Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart.” At times the backing vocals sing long “ah”-type lines, and at other times they sing actual words. Both ways of doing it have their own effect. You’ll instinctively want to use vocal harmonies more in a chorus and bridge than in a verse, but it’s always worth experimenting.

All of the changes I’m suggesting are similar to how an orchestrator adds and subtracts sounds with a full orchestra as their palette. But those ideas are very easy to do even if it’s just you with your guitar. Think about the many different ways you can play whatever instrument you’re using. The more performance techniques you have at your disposal, the more creative and interesting your songs become.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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One Comment

  1. This was a timely article for me today. I have been working on how I add instruments and voices in my arrangements when recording, and I haven’t been considering 1-3.

    One of my reference tracks is Harry Chapin’s “Dance Band On The Titanic.” As I was listening to it yesterday, I was impressed by the way the texture and energy of the song could change just by adding and subtracting instruments at key places.

    Thanks for continuing to send these out every day. I don’t comment often, but I read every one and save many for future reference.

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