An introduction to music theory
An introduction to music theory

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An introduction to music theory

8 Scores: performance directions

So far, we have considered such elements of notation as pitch and rhythm, but there are other instructions on scores (notated music) relating to performance that you need to be able to understand. These can be divided into five main categories:

  1. dynamics
  2. tempo
  3. articulation
  4. expression
  5. special signs.

The first thing to note about performance directions is that almost all of them are relative rather than absolute. This means that while bearing their meaning in mind, performers interpret them within limits. The second thing to note is that the meaning of some performance directions has changed over time. Indeed, some performance directions have even had more than one meaning during a particular period. For instance, from the seventeenth century to the middle of the eighteenth century, presto could mean either fast, or faster than allegro. And, finally, although the performance directions listed here are selected from the traditional Italian ones, a comprehensive collection would have to include performance directions in other languages too.

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