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

Dynamics

DirectionInterpretation
ffflouder 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
pppsofter 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

Tempo

DirectionTranslationInterpretation
largolarge, broadvery slowly
larghettodiminutive of largoslow, but not as slow as largo
graveheavy, seriousvery slow, solemn
adagioat ease, leisurelyslowly, or very slowly
lentoslowslowly
andanteat a walking paceat a medium walking pace
andantinodiminutive of andanteslightly faster than andante, although sometimes slightly slower
moderatomoderate, restrainedmoderately
allegrettodiminutive of allegrofairly quick, but not as quick as allegro
vivaceflourishing, full of lifelively
allegromerry, cheerfulfast
prestoready, promptvery fast (although originally only fast)
DirectionInterpretation
accelerando (accel.)gradually becoming quicker
a tempoin time
ma non troppobut 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

Articulation

DirectionInterpretation
legatosmoothly
semi-staccatoa little detached, less so than staccato
staccato (stacc.)detached
tenutoheld

Expression

DirectionInterpretation
agitatoagitated
cantabilein a singing style
dolcesweet
espressivo (espress. or espr.)expressive
graziosograceful
leggierolight
moltovery, much
pocoa little
semplicesimple
senzawithout
sostenutosustained
subitosudden

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