Dynamic Markings in Music

Dynamic markings in music are the opportunity for expression in music.

The Italians were the first to include marks of expression in their music. They also printed the first music manuscripts on paper.  Many marks of musical expression or dynamics are from Italian words.

Dynamic Markings in Music

The first Dynamic Markings in Music include the most commonly used dynamic markings.


Here are the definitions for these symbols from left to right.

Piano is the Italian Word for Soft. The symbol used in music for this is lower case p.

Mezzo Piano means to play medium soft mp.

Mezzo Forte means to play Medium Loud with the symbol mf.

Forte means to play Loudly and uses the symbol f.

Fortissimo is a directive to play Very Loud using ff.

Fortissisimo – Very, Very Loud:   fff

Crescendo – Gradually Getting Louder:   cres.

Expression in Music

The second  list is an continuation of dynamic markings (in Italian) which are used less often for expression in  music.

Al niente means a decreasing in volume until near silence.

Dal niente: is a direction to play from a mere whisper to a more full volume.

Decrescendo or diminuendo guides you to gradually become softer (abbreviations are decres. and dim.

Fortepiano means beginning with a loud volume and immediately followed by soft volume.

Fortissimo piano is more forceful playing at first with very loud and then immediately soft.

Perdendo or perdendosi means gradually losing volume until fading away.

Mezzoforte piano means to play with a medium loudness followed immediately with soft playing.

Morendo: gradually getting softer and floating away.

Marcato:each note is very stressed and slightly elongated.

Pianoforte: soft and then immediately loud.

Sforzando piano: with marked and sudden loudness,then followed immediately with softness.

Sotto voce means to play as if with a single voice.

Smorzando: little by little dynamically fading away.

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The term Crescendo means to gradually get louder over several measures or lines of music.

1,Poco a poco cresc. This is a direction to little by little get louder.

2.Poco a poco dim. This term means to gradually get softer.

Dim. poco a poco.  This term would mean to gradually get softer little by little over a period of several measures.

Simply begin to exert more and more pressure on the piano key or keys contained in the crescendo.  Do this while maintaining a close distance to each key.  Staying close to the keys avoids a harsh or banging sound as you increase your dynamic volume.

The dynamic markings in any piece of music help to give that piece of music color, depth, and emotion. Strive to color your music with changes in softness and intensity. This technique avoids the sound of a mere mechanical exercise.


Ritardando or Ritard means to gradually slow down.  This musical term is usually found at the end of a piece of music.

The piano tutorial below demonstrates how to play different dynamic markings on the piano.

Tempo Markings in Music Links

Tempo Markings in Music

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