Dynamics

dynamics

Interpretation & Use of Dynamics

Dynamics denote the relative intensity of sound & volume in a musical passage or composition. Volume describes the level of loudness of a sound while intensity describes the strength level of a sound. Dynamics are added by the composer as an embellishment to enable the performer to portray a more accurate sense of what the composer intends the composition should sound like. Dynamics are also relative, meaning that its use is at the discretion of the performer or the conductor in orchestral instances. Dynamics are considered by some to be another ornamentation.

Some dynamics have additional direction to them including terms like the Latin 'subito' (suddenly) or Italian 'niente' (to nothing). Subito is commonly used in sforzando, sff, or spp (see symbols below). Niente will only appear on the diminuendo or decrescendo.

The symbols are normally placed above the staff where the dynamic effect begins, either written out or abbreviated. Those abbreviations are listed below with the details of its interpretation and common use. Review the symbols and interpretations.

piano-sign
Piano (Italian) "soft"; gently soften the volume and intensity of sound
pianissimo
Pianissimo (Italian) "very soft"; very gently and gradually decrease the volume and intensity of sound
pianississimo
Pianississimo (Italian) "as soft as possible"; very gradually decrease the volume and intensity of sound to as low as possible
spianissimo
Subito pianissimo (Latin, Italian) "suddenly softer"; suddenly decrease the volume and intensity of sound
mezzo-piano
Mezzo piano (Italian) "half as soft"; gently decrease the volume and intensity of sound to moderately soft or half
forte-piano
Forte piano (Italian) "strong to gentle"; suddenly increase  to loud, then immediately decrease to soft the volume and intensity of sound
forte
Forte (Italian) "loud"; increase the volume and intensity of sound
fortissimo
Fortissimo (Italian) "very loud"; gradually increase the volume and intensity of sound; louder than forte
forississimo
Fortississimo  (Italian) "as loud as possible"; very gradually increase the volume and intensity of sound to as loud and strong as possible
mezzo-forte
Mezzo forte (Italian) "half as loud"; increase the volume and intensity of sound to moderately loud or half as loud as fortississimo
sfortissimo
Subito fortissimo (Latin, Italian) "suddenly louder"; suddenly increase the volume and intensity of sound to very loud
sforzando-sf
Sforzando (Italian) "suddenly loud"; suddenly increase the volume and intensity of sound to strong
sforzando
Sforzando (Italian) "suddenly strong"; suddenly increase the volume and intensity of sound to strong
rinforzando-rf

Rinforzando (Italian) ""; "reinforce"; increase in volume and intensity of sound for emphasis quicker than a crescendo

rinforzando-rfs

Rinforzando (Italian) ""; "reinforce"; increase in volume and intensity of sound for emphasis quicker than a crescendo

niente-nd
Niente diminuindo (Italian) "to nothing"; gradually decrease the volume and intensity of sound to nothing; fade out to silence
decrescendo-diminuindo-90
Crescendo (Italian) "gradually strong"; gradually increase the volume and intensity of sound
crescendo-90
Diminuindo, Decrescendo (Italian) "gradually less"; gradually decrease the volume and intensity of sound