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Dynamic Levels and Subtones

Composers and players usually consider the "mezzo forte" mf the standard dynamic level that can produce a clear sound with definite tempered pitch. If notes are played softer than mf, the pitch lowers progressively and detuning becomes clearly perceptible. As soon as the dynamics decrease to a "pianissimo" pp level, major timbrical changes come about, the fundamental and the harmonic structure is less clear, the timbre is more noisy and less stable, until we finally reach something that resembles a filtered noise with some kind of tonal resonance. A curious phenomenon is that if a player is able to control a much softer dynamic level close to the minimum air pressure possible, a pitched sound starts to appear again (even if its pitch is not always clearly definable and controllable).


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