Crescendo Sound Effects

Written by steven j. miller
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Crescendo Sound Effects
Music uses crescendos at key points throughout the composition. (Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)

Crescendo sound effects used in music help create an additional layer of realism to the music. Music that does not have crescendos will sound flat, since the volume will stay the same throughout the entire piece. There are several uses for crescendo sound effects in music, and the composer is responsible for deciding how to use them. A crescendo is simply a gradual increase in sound to create an effect.

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The climax of a composition is the most common place for a crescendo to appear in a composition. In order to create an effective climax, the composer will build the piece by increasing the level of sound. Maurice Ravel's "Bolero" is an excellent example of how a piece may start very softly and gradually build through an increase in volume to the final climactic point. However, most composers will only use a crescendo for a few seconds within the music, unlike the continual build in Ravel's composition.


The drums are capable of creating extended rolls that can create surprising emotion effects on the listener. The low rumblings of a bass drum may gradually increase to create a dynamic crescendo from the lowest part of the orchestra. Any percussion player is capable of playing a drum roll to create an exciting dramatic effect. The timpani is known for creating large orchestral crescendos at the end of a piece, while alternating between two pitches spaced five notes apart.


Brass and woodwind players will increase their airflow to produce a louder sound when called for in a composition. These players can create smooth crescendo sound effects that build subtly and start at extremely soft dynamics levels. The brass instruments are capable of the loudest crescendos, while the woodwinds are capable of starting at the lowest volumes.


String players may use vibratos that increase in intensity to create crescendo sound effects. These players will quickly rock their finger back and forth on a string and gradually increase the speed of the bow stroke to create a crescendo. The quicker the bow travels across the string, the louder the sound will become. String players, like woodwinds, are capable of producing very low dynamic levels; however, they have the advantage of not having to breathe. This makes it possible to create longer crescendos without breaks.


Electronic music has a variety of resources available to create crescendo sound effects. Audio engineers can use complex audio-processing effects to increase the volume of audio over a long period. There are special audio effects they may put into a composition to create warming pads that gradually increase in volume the longer they play. The crescendo sound effects available to an electronic composer are only as limited as their imagination. A modern composition that utilises crescendo sound effects from beginning to end is Kevin Ure's "The Key." This piece uses a single key that is manipulated to create the entire composition.

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