What is Intensity in Music? (And How to Increase It)

Intensity in music generally refers to how loud or soft the musical piece is. However, it can also refer to the musical theme, such as ones that are suspenseful, dark, or unsettling.

The very basic understanding of intensity can be considered as the change in energy to the applied notes. This change of intensity in music is not just in the energy of notes played but also in the feel and volume of the notes played. Most people associate the intensity of the music with the loudness or volume of the music, but it goes much deeper than just that.

Intensity in Volume

The intensity of music can be controlled using volume. This is perhaps the most recognized and easy way to change the intensity of the music because it is just turning the volume knob up or down.

If you are looking for more intensity you just crank up the volume and if you are looking for less intensity you just lower it and you can easily get the change in intensity you are looking for.

Theme Intensity

Theme intensity in music can be defined as the use of certain notes or sounds in music that is used to increase or reduce tension. These notes of sounds can be specifically picked according to the soundscape you are looking for to increase or reduce the tension of the scene.

Experienced composers and musicians use these notes and sounds in their music to get a specific feel or emotion in the listener. They have studied music and know the ins and outs of what notes to pick with what chords to make the listener feel how the composer wants them to feel. It needs more experimentation and knowledge of music to implement it in music without sounding too weird and wrong and is therefore used sparingly.

Intensity in Playing

The intensity in playing can be considered as one of the most effective ways to change the intensity and feel of the song. This means what intensity or how hard a note is played while performing the piece. It can be used in all sorts of ways including vocal performances. This makes the feel of the piece even more intense instead of everything sounding the same.

Most of the composers and experienced musicians use this to get more complexity in their pieces. This is usually denoted on sheet music by different signs which a performer reads and plays accordingly. The symbols used are given below

  • p = Piano = Soft Intensity.
  • mp = Mezzo Piano = Medium-soft intensity.
  • mf = Mezzo Forte = Medium-strong intensity.
  • f = Forte = Strong intensity.
  • ff = Fortissimo = Strongest intensity.

There can be signs with 3 f’s (fff) in the music piece or even more. These signs are included to make more intensity divisions in the piece and the greater number of ‘f’ you see, the more intensity is required. It is also very useful for performers to understand and know beforehand the range of intensities they have to play while performing.

How Intensity is Created Using Instruments

There are a number of ways to use intensity and make your music more interesting. Using instruments in your compositions is one of the many ways to do this. There are a number of different instruments that can be used to make this happen. Each instrument has its timbre and unique characteristics.

Using different kinds of instruments for different purposes is one way of changing intensity and making your compositions more interesting. This can be done by the fact that some instruments are known to have less intensity and some others are known to have more. These characteristics and knowledge can be used according to your needs in the composition.

Some of these instruments are more pronounced for having higher intensities. These instruments can be carefully used and introduced to cause excitement and help increase the intensity of your composition. It can also help in build-ups for something like a drop which when paired with correct notes or theme intensity can work wonders for you.

Some other instruments on the other hand are known to have a lower intensity which makes them perfect for lowering down the intensity of your composition. When used properly, these instruments work very well in smoothly lowering the intensity of the piece or to keep complimenting the less intense music.

What Effect Does Intensity Have?

Intensity has a bigger effect on the listener than one could imagine. This is because intensity not only helps the listener with the feel of the music but also tends the ear of the listener to not be fatigued from longer listening durations. A composition with proper use of intensity and a good mix can be very soothing for the ear and mind of the listener.

Intensity also helps determine how the listener perceives the music he or she is listening to. This means a composition with a good variation of intensity by using the techniques listed above and more can help the listener to get in the state of mind and follow along with the music from start to the end like it’s a story connected in one smooth flow.

Proper use of intensity in your music can also introduce a different type of feeling in your listener. A piece of highly intense music will make the listener get to the edge of their seat and look forward to the release and hence make him feel more intense. On the other hand, a less intense musical part will get a highly stressed individual feel much lighter and chill out.

This can also be used in the same way in movies or theater or in just music to help build up to certain moments or multiple moments by slowly increasing the intensity of the music. This can work the other way as well where it can slowly tone down the intensity and the mood of the music which in turn will affect everything around it.


In conclusion, intensity is a very important tool in any composer’s toolbox to make things interesting for the listener. Using different techniques to change the intensity of the music and keep the listener guessing for the next time is a perfect way to keep them in the loop and coming back for your music.

All great musicians whether it’s Bach or Mozart or Beethoven or any other were masters of using intensity properly and that is why today their music is studied and practiced all over the world. The different emotions you or anyone feels and the mindset it gets you in when listening to their music is what keeps them relevant even today after all these years.

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