Dynamics 

On this page:
Introduction to Dynamics and Italian Terms
Dashed lines
Hairpins
Free Video Examples

Volume in music
Dynamic markings are written underneath the stave as you will see in the videos and images below.  They tell us when to play loud and soft; when to get louder or softer; when to play sudden louds and sudden softs.  

We use Italian terms and abbreviations:

fff - fortississimo - extremely loud
ff - fortissimo - very loud
f - forte - loud
mf - mezzoforte - medium loud
mp - mezzopiano - medium quiet
p - piano - quiet
pp - pianissimo - very quiet
ppp - pianississimo - extremely quiet
sotto voce - whispered
subito - suddenly (eg subito forte)
fp - fortepiano - loud then immediately soft
sfz - sforzando - sudden accent 
sf - sforzato - sudden accent
fz - forzando, forzato - sudden accent
sfzp, sfp, fzp - sudden accent followed immediately by piano
rfz, rf - rinforzando - several notes are to be emphasised
cresc. - crescendo - getting gradually louder
dim. - diminuendo - descrescendo - getting gradually softer
molto - much (e.g. cresc molto - get gradually much louder) 
poco - little (dim. poco a poco - get quieter little by little)
al niente - to nothing
dal niente - from nothing
morendo - dying away (also to do with tempo)
smorzando - becoming muffled

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A dashed line can show exactly where to crescendo to:

The Grand Old Duke of York melody with a cresc. followed by a dashed line to the end.


A dashed line can show exactly where to diminuendo to:

The Grand Old Duke of York melody with a dim. followed by a dashed line to the end.


You can also indicate what you want to diminuendo or crescendo from to:

The Grand Old Duke of York melody starting f followed by a dim. followed by a dashed line to a pp at the end.


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Diminuendos and crescendos can also be shown with 'hairpins'.

crescendo hairpin and diminuendo hairpin.


The volume can be indicated both before the hairpin starts and at the end of the hairpin:

The Grand Old Duke of York melody starting pp followed by a crescendo hairpin to the middle of the piece up to ff, followed by a diminuendo hairpin to pp at the end.



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Watch the free videos below to hear what some of these sound like:


fff - fortississimo - extremely loud



ppp - pianississimo - extremely quiet



f, p, ff, pp, mp, mf - forte, piano, fortissimo, pianissimo, mezzo piano, mezzo forte - loud, quiet, very loud, very quiet, medium quiet, medium loud



cresc. - crescendo - getting louder



dim. - diminuendo - descrescendo - getting softer



'hairpins'



Examples of sotto voce, fp, cresc. molto, dim. poco a poco al niente, subito piano:


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