hintsandthings.co.uk »Music Hall

Explanation of musical terms, dynamics and indicators



Music Terms

We have listed below some musical terms
together with their abbreviations and meanings.

AbbreviationTermMeaning

DYNAMICS

 

Crescendoget louder

 

Diminuendo
get quieter
pPianoquiet

pp 

Pianissimovery quiet

ppp

Pianississamo
(Jenifer Hood)

See note below

very, very quiet
mpmezzopianoquite quiet
mfmezzofortequite loud
fforteloud
fffortissimovery loud
ffffortississimo (Jenifer
Hood)

See note below

very, very loud
sfsforzandosuddenly very loud

Jenifer
also advises that the general rule is to add an “iss” for every added f or p.
 
e.g  .ff = fortissimo so fff = fortiss

issimo and pp = Pianissimo so ppp = pianississimo.

 


Sorry, June, but as much as I
loved your page, there is one flaw. I’m a professional musician from
Finland, and I wanna say, that pianississimo is not a real word at
all. There right term is piano pianissimo for ppp, and fff is forte
fortissimo.


Elina Juuti

My response –

Being a professional
musician yourself you are obviously far more qualified that me on this subject
but, having done a little more research I find that the term “pianississimo”
is, in fact, featured in many dictionaries and musical sites. I am wondering if,
perhaps, it is a difference within geographical regions, although I had thought
music was fairly general worldwide.

I could, however, not find many references to the
term “piano pianissimo” being used for ppp.

I did come across a site which mentions that
musicians have devised various neologisms for these designations, including
fortississimo/pianississimo, forte fortissimo/piano pianissimo, and more simply
triple forte/triple piano or molto fortissimo/molto pianissimo.



Mr.
Brian Hughes
has kindly added to this discussion by sending in the following
comments:-

This is regarding the use of
the word pianississimo. In the Italian language there is no such word. Italian
is similar to English in its use of adjectives which can be formed in to the
comparative and the superlative.

soft – piano (p)

softer (more softer) – pui
piano (piu p) (comparative) softest (the most soft) – pianissimo (pp)
(superlative)

loud – forte (f)

louder – piu forte (piu f)
(comparative) loudest – fortissimo (ff) (superlative)

Just like in English, there
can be nothing greater than the most (issimo).

Originally, the Italian
dynamic system which spread throughout Europe spanned from the softest (pp) to
the loudest (ff). But there seems to have occurred a sort of dynamic inflation.
Composer’s wanted sounds that were louder and softer than the sounds produced by
earlier manifestation of instruments (such as the modern piano versus the
fortepiano; where improvements in the action and the resonance both increased
its volume and its ability to play soft. To them there was no comparison between
the sound of the late 18th century ff and a late 19th century sound that was to
be as loud as possible.

And now we will see modern
composers write not only fff but also ffff and even fffff. I wonder what an
Italian teacher says to their students when they see those symbol. Probably
something similar to what I say to my students. FFF that’s really loud, louder
than loudest. FFFF that’s unbelievably loud! And when my students ask what FF
means. I tell them to imagine a world that has no engines, no amplification, no
electric motor, no jack hammers, no chain saws. A world that when compared to
our time seems as if everything has stopped and all is utterly quiet. And that
utter quietness was universal. Then I ask them to imagine what would be a loud
sound in that world: that is the meaning of ff.

 

 

 

 

TEMPO INDICATORS
 
Adagio

slow
 
largo

slow and dignified
 
andante

flowing, at walking pace
 
allegro

quick and bright
 
allegretto

a little slower than allegro
 
vivace

fast and lively
 
presto

very quick
 
accelerando

getting faster
 
ritenuto (rit.)

holding back
 
rallentando (rall.)
slowing tempo (Jenifer Hood)


flexible tempo

 
rubato
flexible tempo (Jenifer Hood)
INTERPRETIVE
INDICATORS
 
cantabile

singing style
 
dolce

soft and sweet
 
espressivo

expressively
  lacrimatotearfully/crying
(song)

(Stephen Moore)

 
legato

smooth
 
staccato

detached

 

You may also find the following other pages useful and, hopefully,
interesting:-


Simple
explanation of musical notation

Musical Mnemonics and
Naming the Scale