Can dynamic marks be used on only 1 or 2 notes in a score?

• Feb 18, 2021 - 17:20

This is still very very unclear to me. Since there are no anti-accent marks in music, if I want to lower the volume of only 1 or two notes in a score (for any reason), then resume normal volume, how do I do so in the notation? In perusing several forums, musicians suggested several notations, from < marks to p or pp marks, to ^ marks, to > decrescendo marks, to ... The consensus seemed to be to use dynamics marks close to the notes. So:

Screenshot 2021-02-18 120502.png

... would mean, play the "C" and "G" notes in measure 2 softer, then resume normal volume with note "A". Is this correct? Would this be clear to any musician? If not, would someone please just post an image showing how the proper way to notate the C & G notes to play softer, then resume normal volume. Thanks.


The way to tell a musician to play some given note softer than others would depend on the context - the relationship of the note to its neighbors and your reasons for wanting them to do this. In many cases it's obvious just from the context which notes should be played more loudly (e.g., the melody notes should be brought out, it's kind of an insult to write that explicit). In your example, though, there is no obvious reason for playing those two notes more quietly, so indeed you would need to tell them, and dynamics are the way. Not sure what you mean about C & G, the notes in your example as A and E, unless you meant to put this in bass clef?

BTW, the pedal marks in this are incorrect - as I mentioned in a previous thread, each pedal segment should end on the very same note the next starts on, so you see "_/_", not "___/ ___". What you have is meaningless and will just confuse a pianist, they won't be able to tell which note you mean to do the pedal change on. A pedal change is a single up/down motion, not up on one note and down on another.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc: Sigh!!! I am so confused. If I understand correctly, this is what you feel is the correct way to mark pedal sustain:

Screenshot 2021-02-18 145130.png

Is that correct?

My problem is, when I play it in the mixer in MuseScore, the mixer sustained the 4 notes in measure 1, AND also sustains and includes the 1st G note in measure 2. It does not release the sustain until AFTER that note is played. That note is dissonant to measure 1. I do not want it sustained with measure 1. When I asked this on another forum, here is what was posted by a MuseScore user:

In this view of the hidden lines (ignore the Ped ...* entry), the pedal sustain is released just prior to the F note being played in Measure 2. Then, measure 2 is played and sustained, and the pedal is released just prior to the note in measure 3 being played. That is how it should be, isn't it? If a measure starts a new pitch, its first note should not be included in the prior measure's sustain, should it? It would sound off... at least to me.

If this is OK, I don't know how to duplicate it. The pedal sustain line in MuseScore does not end just prior to the next note, it includes and encompasses the next note.


In reply to by fsgregs

Not just what I feel, it is correct :-). Or, at least, one of two correct ways. The old-fashioned way use the "Ped" and "" markings, and that works differently. If you wish to use the old-fashioned method (appropriate mostly when reproducing 19th century scores), then by all means use that method, but that won't involve the angled bracket at all. The angled brackets are *only used as I described.

It's impossible to say from a picture what you might have done wrong to have the playback not work correctly when adding pedal marks this way - we would need you to attach the actual score for that. But I promise you, it works when done correctly. it looks and sounds correct. The previous chord is indeed held until the moment the new chord is sound, at which point - simultaneously, or within a millisecond of being simultaneous - the old chord is released. This is exactly how real pianists play and exactly how MuseScore does as well. You should not hear the chords overlapping - just a seamless transition.

Again, to be clear: a pianist - not just me, but every trained pianist in the world - leaves his or her foot on the pedal until the fingers start depressing the next chord. Simultaneously with the fingers going down, the foot goes up and immediately back down, in one motion, creating this seamless transition with no gap and no overlap.

Also, one point of clarification - the mixer doesn't play anything. It's just a tool to let you control the volume and other details of the playback sounds used. You could say the "synthesizer" is doing the playback, but even that is not a distinction one would normally make, just say it is MuseScore's playback.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc: Well, you are right! When I edited the pedal marks to encompass the 1st note in the next measure, and listened to the MuseScore synth play it, I could not detect it combining that new note in the prior measure's sustain as i had claimed. It did start fresh with a new measure. Thanks for the clarification.
I am surprised that if this is the standard way to add pedal marks to a score (spanning one measure to the next), why MuseScore does not do that as a default when pasting a pedal mark into a measure? Just a thought.

Now, I have to change over 100 pedal sustain marks in my Synth version of my big score, to switch from sustain lines only within a measure, to sustain lines encompassing the 1st note of the next measure. I can click on one mark, select "all like elements" and delete them all globally, but to put new ones in to encompass the first note of the next measure, is there a global way to do that, or must I paste a pedal mark into each of the 100+ correct measures one by one?

In reply to by fsgregs

Pedal marks in your particular score might happen to last exactly a measure, but that's by no means the only possibility. Pedal changes can occur anywhere. So best to just be in the habit of selecting the exact range of notes you want it to apply it, whether that happens to correspond to a full measure or not.

If you have a pedal mark that is off by one note like this, just click it and press Shift+Right. I can't think of a way to automate it, but it's literally click, shift_right, click, shift+right, over and over, so 100 wouldn't take but a minute or two to fix.

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