An introduction to music theory
An introduction to music theory

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An introduction to music theory

8.1 A selected list of performance directions


Direction Interpretation
fff louder than ff
ff (fortissimo) very loud
f (forte) loud
mf (mezzo forte) (literally) half loud
mp (mezzo piano) (literally) half soft
p (piano) soft
pp (pianissimo) very soft
ppp softer than pp
crescendo (cresc.) gradually becoming louder
decrescendo (decresc.) gradually becoming softer
diminuendo (dim.) gradually becoming softer
sf/sfz (sforzando) (literally) forced: sudden loudness accentuating a note


Direction Translation Interpretation
largo large, broad very slowly
larghetto diminutive of largo slow, but not as slow as largo
grave heavy, serious very slow, solemn
adagio at ease, leisurely slowly, or very slowly
lento slow slowly
andante at a walking pace at a medium walking pace
andantino diminutive of andante slightly faster than andante, although sometimes slightly slower
moderato moderate, restrained moderately
allegretto diminutive of allegro fairly quick, but not as quick as allegro
vivace flourishing, full of life lively
allegro merry, cheerful fast
presto ready, prompt very fast (although originally only fast)
Direction Interpretation
accelerando (accel.) gradually becoming quicker
a tempo in time
ma non troppo but not too much
rallentando (rall.) gradually becoming slower
ritardando (rit. or ritard.) gradually becoming slower
ritenuto (rit. or riten.) (literally) held back: a more localised slowing down


Direction Interpretation
legato smoothly
semi-staccato a little detached, less so than staccato
staccato (stacc.) detached
tenuto held


Direction Interpretation
agitato agitated
cantabile in a singing style
dolce sweet
espressivo (espress. or espr.) expressive
grazioso graceful
leggiero light
molto very, much
poco a little
semplice simple
senza without
sostenuto sustained
subito sudden

Special signs


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