1. The Dynamics (Numeric Keypad) Dialog

The “Num-Keypad – Dynamics” dialog-box allows you do add dynamics (loudness) effects to the music you are playing in the current performance pane, using the numeric keypad. You can also add dynamics effects using the mouse (though using the mouse is harder, and less efficient).

The dynamics version of the numeric-keypad dialog-box is activated whenever the “Dynamicstoggle-button is selected (at the lower-left of the window). You can select (or de-select) this button by pressing the “Pause/Break” key (on Windows or Linux), or the F14 key on a Mac keyboard.

The dynamics numeric-keypad dialog-box looks similar to the following screen-shot:

Screen-shot of Num-Keypad Dynamics window.  Numeric keypad key definitions: 0=louder, period=softer, 1=triple-soft, 2=double-soft, 3=soft, 4=half-soft, 5=reset, 6=half-loud, 7=loud, 8=double-loud, 9=triple-loud, slash=slow-automatic-volume-change, asterisk=fast-automatic-volume-change, minus=sforzando (SFZ), plus=gradually-increase-volume, enter=gradually-decrease-volume.
The “(Numeric Keypad Keys)” text is highlighted in Red to help you see at-a-glance if the Dynamics version of the numeric-keypad window is active. When you switch back to the Chords version of the dialog, this text will be highlighted in Blue.

When the Dynamics window is initially displayed (or when a new performance pane is selected with the window active), the loudness button corresponding to the performance pane's current velocity slider value is initially selected.

The toggle-buttons corresponding to the 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6, 7, 8, 9 numeric-keypad keys, specify the eight different volume levels commonly used in music notation.

In music notation, the Italian word “forte” (pronounced for-tay) means loud, and the Italian word “piano” (pronounced like the name of the musical instrument) means soft. The various loudness settings make use of these two Italian words. There are eight different loudness markings.

The table below shows each loudness marking name, along with its meaning. The loudest setting is at the top, and the softest (most quiet) setting is at the bottom:


Its Meaning


(Fortissimo) – as loud as possible – triple forte


Very loud – double forte


Loud - forte


Moderately loud – mezzo forte (which means “half loud”)


Moderately soft – mezzo piano (which means “half soft”)


Soft - piano


Very soft – double piano


(Pianissimo) – as soft as possible – triple piano

So when you see a loudness marking (also referred to as dynamics) in the music you are playing, you simply press the numeric-keypad key corresponding to the loudness marking you see in the music. Only one such setting can be effective at a time, so any prior setting is de-selected for you.

Sometimes in printed music, the loudness is specified in English (or another local language), but where you know the meanings above, you can select the right button.

On the right side of the window, are three buttons also specifying loudness. The following table explains these other terms, and their meanings:


Its Meaning


Sforzando – suddenly with force – a note played suddenly loud, but fading back somewhat in volume.


Crescendo – getting gradually louder


Diminuendo (or decrescendo) – getting gradually softer

In music notation, the “<” and “>” shapes are extended horizontally to indicate the area in the music which is to be increasing (or decreasing) loudness.

In music notation, there is also an accent symbol below (or above) a note, that looks like “^”, which means that individual note is to be “accented” (played louder). Though there is no button for this, it can be done using the “louder” button, or by specifying a higher loudness marking, and then (after playing it) the original marking.

So now that we've explained what the markings mean, let's explain the individual buttons on the Dynamics dialog.

When the “louderbutton is selected, the note (and subsequent notes) are played at a louder volume. When it is de-selected, the volume goes back to what was used before.

The “softerbutton works the same way, only the notes (when selected) are played softer.

The “resetbutton (activated by the “5” numeric-keypad key) resets the volume and velocity sliders to what they were when the Dynamics window was activated, or or when the performance pane was switched-to with the Dynamics window active, or when the "Save" button (Shift-Enter) was last clicked/activated.

The “slow” and “fastbuttons control how fast the volume changes using the “<” and “>” buttons. When “slow” is selected (as it is initially), the volume change extends over about 4 seconds. When “fast is selected, the change extends over about 2 seconds.

Some buttons on the Dynamics dialog affect the Velocity slider (found on the current performance pane), while others affect the Volume slider. These two sliders affect loudness in two different ways.

The Velocity slider affects the loudness of notes subsequently played. It does not affect the loudness of any note currently playing. This is useful if you don't want it to sound like someone turned-up (or down) the volume on a music player. The volume change takes place cleanly, on the next note played.

The Volume slider affects the loudness of the notes currently playing, as well as future notes played, like turning up (or down) the volume on a player.

The following screen-shot shows which buttons affect the Velocity slider, and which affect the Volume slider:

Annotated screen-shot, showing that the numeric keypad keys one through nine, affect velocity, and the others affect voume.  The five-key affects both.
1.2 Dynamics Keys Affecting the Velocity Slider

The numeric-keypad keys 1, 2, 3, and 4, 5, 6, and 7, 8, 9 (labeled above as ppp, pp, p, and mp, reset, mf, and f, ff, fff), select the loudness using the Velocity slider. All notes played after using one of these keys will use the new Velocity setting. The Velocity slider does not affect the volume of any note currently playing.

The reset key is special, in that it specifies both the velocity and volume sliders, based on the initial values from the performance pane Velocity and Volume sliders.

1.3 Dynamics Keys Affecting the Volume Slider

The remaining keys (not-yet described) of the numeric-keypad affect the Volume slider.

The loudness control done by the Volume slider works in conjunction with the loudness controlled by the Velocity slider. They both work together.

Beware that some instrument sounds, or some synthesizers may not respond to the MIDI signal sent by adjusting the Volume slider. The ZynAddSubFX synthesizer is an example of this. The ASSIGNABLE slider, set to “Expression” works for ZynaddSubFX.

The “sfz” loudness can only be done with the Volume slider, because it must affect the volume while a note is playing. It initially goes loud, then decreases in loudness.

It is important to take note of the current position of the Volume slider when using these buttons.

If the slider is already most of the way to the right, it can't go much louder, because the maximum value of a MIDI control is 127, and anything lower than the “ppp” setting is so soft you can't tell the difference.

Buttons making use of the Volume slider work best when the Volume slider is near the middle of its range.

The loudness changes made by the “<” and “>” buttons take place over a period of time, and when they get to the end of their range, the button is automatically deselected. The “sfz” button works this way as well.

If you want the volume-change to stop before reaching the end of the range, simply press the key affecting the button (or click the button), which will deselect the button, and stop the change at that point. This works with the “sfz” button as well, but is less useful in that case.

The “louder” and “softer” buttons are activated by pressing the key affecting them, or clicking them. They are deactivated by a subsequent key-press or click. These buttons are useful when a sequence of notes (or single note) is to be played noticeably louder (or softer), then the former volume level is to resume.

1.4 The 'Clear' and 'Help' Buttons

These two buttons at the bottom of the dialog box (Clear and Help) don't correspond to numeric-keypad keys.

When you click-on the Help button, you get the information you are reading now. You can't tab-to and activate this button, because focus is immediately returned to the main KMK window, so no played-notes are missed.

The Clear button (activated by the End-Key) clears the dynamics buttons currently selected, and then re-sets them to the state they were when the dynamics dialog was activated (or when a new performance pane was entered with the dynamics dialog active).

1.5 The 'Dynamics' Button

To return to playing chords using the numeric-keypad, simply press the Pause/Break key (or F14 on a Mac keyboard), which will de-select this button. You could do the same thing by clicking on it using the mouse (or track-pad).

The dialog will switch to its Chords version when you do this. You can learn about playing Standard Chords or Modal Chords using the numeric-keypad, by clicking on one of the prior links.

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