A Basic List of Musical Terms and Symbols

Terms & symbols that affect dynamics
Symbol Name What it means
cresc. crescendo growing louder
dim. diminuendo growing softer
f forte loud
ff fortissimo very loud
fff fortisissimo as loud as possible
fp forte-piano play the note loudly and immediately grow soft
mf mezzo-forte moderately loud
mp mezzo-piano moderately soft
p piano soft
pp pianissimo very soft
ppp pianisissimo very, very soft
sf or sfz sforzando play the note with much force
Terms and symbols that affect tempo
accel. accelerando growing faster
cal. calando growing slower and softer
fermata hold the note longer than normal
rall. rallentando growing slower
rit. ritardando growing slower
rubato   in a free tempo
stretto   quicker tempo
string. stringendo faster and louder
Other common symbols and terms
-  or  >  or  ^ accent play the note slightly louder
/  or  // break a longer pause between notes
breath mark a slight pause between notes
cantabile   singing, songlike
con   with (con espr. = with expression or feeling)
crescendo growing louder
D.C. da capo go back to the beginning
D.S. dal segno go back to the sign
decrescendo growing softer
dolce   sweetly
downbow/downstroke play with a downbow or downstroke
espr. espressivo expressively, with feeling
fine   the end (al fine = to the end)
° harmonic play the note as a harmonic
leg. legato smoothly, connected
legg. leggero lightly
meno   less (meno mosso = less movement; a little slower)
m.d. main droite play with the right hand
m.g. main gauche play with the left hand
molto   very (molto rit. = growing very much slower)
mosso   motion, movement, speed
pes. pesante heavy
pizz. pizzicato pluck the string with the finger
plus   more (plus lent = slower)
più or peu   more (più mosso = more movement; quicker)
poco   a little (poco a poco cresc. = gradually grow louder)
senza   without (senza rit. = without slowing down)
sim. simile in the same manner
slur connect the notes smoothly
sordino   mute (con sordino = with mute)
·  or  ' staccato play the note slightly shorter
stacc. staccato play the note slightly shorter
sul   on or near (sul A = play entirely on the A string)
-  or ten. tenuto hold the note for its full value
or trem. tremolo rapidly playing the same or two alternating notes
upbow/upstroke play the note with an upbow or upstroke

Standard Tempo Marks (listed in order from slowest to fastest)

Return to Index Return to Studio Home