Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Dynamic Levels for Different Hands


Hey Phil,

Thanks for taking my question. When writing for percussion parts, how does one indicate different dynamic levels for different hands or parts? (Not to be confused with accents.) For example, if I wanted the right hand to play mezzo-piano and the other hand to play forte, is there a formal way of showing this? Would this differ between different instruments (such as the drum set or timpani)?



Hi Tony:

First of all, you don't specify what kind of percussion setup you mean ..are you referring to a standard drum set, orsomething specific?

In a drum kit situation, standard dynamics , accents , etc usually are sufficient. -micro managing the players technique is somewhat unusual.
If you want a specific approach, you might write out  literally a couple bars you want played with an added text note like "r Hand should be somewhat louder than the left ,etc "

For further information on percussion notation and performance, you might want to chek out the scores of the following  works:

Bartok " concerto for two pianos and percussion"

Varese: "Ionization"

Hope this helps!

Phil Jelly

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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Phil Kelly


I`m a semi-retired professional music arranger with over thirty five years in all phases of the commercial music production business. I can try to answer questions regarding music arranging, theory, orchestration , and/or composition for most acoustic ensembles .( jazz band or orchestral ) I can try to offer suggestions about studio music recording procedures and some basic MIDI applications , too. In the course of my career I`ve worked with such artists as Doc Severinsen and the old Tonight Show Band, Bill Watrous, Buddy Greco, John Gary, Mel Torme, Julius LaRosa, as well as the Pop programs of the Fort Worth, Dallas, North Carolina, and Houston Symphonies, as well as library music material for ABC, ESPN, and NFL Films.

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