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Learning to Read Music 2: Lesson 4


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Learning To Read Music Tutorial 2

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Music notation shows how loudly or quietly to play the notes in a piece of music in order to indicate the dynamics.

There are a wide variety of dynamic markings. The most basic ones are obviously the ones to learn first. They involve the volume level of the music. Most words used in music notation are Italian. The word piano is Italian for quiet and the word forte is Italian for loud. In notation these are indicated by simply using the letters p and f usually in italics (and sometimes also in bold face).

One can add another p or f in order to indicate more quietly and more loudly like this:

pp means pianissimo or more quietly.
ff means fortissimo or more loudly.

There are also other letters that refer to other levels of volume (and various qualities). These other letters are also frequently the first letter (the initial) of some Italian word that has been traditionally used in music notation.

Here's a list of notation dynamic markings it would be good to memorize.

p is piano, indicates quiet.
f is forte, indicates loud.
pp is pianissimo, indicates more quietly.
ff is fortissimo, indicates more loudly.
mp is mezzo-piano, indicates medium-soft.
mf is mezzo-forte, indicates medium-loud.
sfz is sforzando, indicates a strong, sudden accent.
fp is forte-piano, indicates a sforzando followed immediately by piano.

There are also words used to indicate dynamics that are gradual in change and occur over a period of several notes or measures. For example:

crescendo indicates get gradually louder.
decrescendo indicates get gradually quieter.

These indications are sometimes accompanied by symbols called hairpins. The purpose of the hairpins is to show where the gradual chages take place.

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