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Understanding musical scores
Understanding musical scores

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2.3 Some new symbols

Figure 6

Mozart’s fifth variation introduces some things that we have not yet come across in this course.

First, there is a sign right at the start that looks like a small lowercase ‘p’ in italics. This is called a dynamic marking and it tells the performer to play this section quietly. Dynamic markings are abbreviations of Italian words for quiet (piano) and loud (forte). These two basic indicators may be modified to indicate extremes such as ppp (very, very quiet) or a moderate middle of the road volume (mf or mp – moderately loud or moderately quiet). Dynamics are also good landmarks to watch out for in a score, as you can very easily hear where music changes volume.

The other signs we need to consider are highlighted in the music shown here but are not notes – they are called rests and show moments of silence.

Figure 7

All music has components of silence. In an orchestra or group, an instrument or a group of instruments may drop out of the action for a short while, or there may be a moment where only one hand is needed at the piano, or it can be in the form of an expressive break in the flow of musical sounds. The length of the silence depends on the shape of the rest sign, much like note shapes. As you get more and more instruments and lines in a score, you will see quite a lot of rests where one or more instruments are silent.

Why is silence important in music?