Two identical phrases, the first one played , the other one .
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A dynamic corresponds to a certain level of sound intensity or loudness. Dynamics can be compared to the brightness of a color. Although there is an infinity of degrees between total darkness and the bright light of the sun, it is necessary for us to fix certain concepts in order to better communicate our intentions. For example, we will speak of a dark color or a light color in order to distinguish between two shades. In the same way, it is necessary to distinguish between soft and strong dynamics.
As often the case in music, it was the Italians of the Renaissance who first formalized these concepts, which is why we will use Italian terms. A soft dynamic will be named piano (meaning
soft in Italian), a strong one forte (meaning
On a score, the piano dynamic is noted , while the forte is written . Dynamics are always written below the staff, under the first note concerned. As long as a new dynamic is not met, the previous dynamic is still valid.
The and dynamics already provide a first indication of the intensity of a passage or work. In order to expand the range of dynamics available to them, composers have extended the use of these two basic dynamic to other dynamics.
It is possible to complete the dynamic space between piano and forte. For this, composers have introduced the term mezzo, which means in Italian
moderately and have thus created two new dynamics: mezzo-piano (
moderately soft), noted , and mezzo-forte (
moderately loud), noted .
We thus obtain the following range of dynamics, arranged from the softest to the strongest:
The same phrase declined in 4 dynamic gradations, from to , played on the flute.
It is also possible to extend the piano dynamic to even softer ones or the strong dynamic to even stronger ones. The use of the Italian suffix -issimo (
very) makes it possible to transform a dynamic term into superlative. Thus, piano becomes pianissimo (
very soft), which will be noted by the symbol . It is possible to reinforce this superlative by adding -ssi-, as in pianississimo (
very very soft), noted .
Dynamics from pianississimo to piano :
We can of course apply the same method to the strong dynamics, which will give fortissimo (
very strong), noted and fortississimo (
very very strong), noted .
Dynamics from forte to fortississimo :
Dynamics most commonly encountered, sorted from the softest to the strongest.
|Symbol||Italian term||Oral alternative||Meaning in English|
|||pianissississimo||quadruple piano||« very very very soft »|
|||pianississimo||triple piano||« very very soft »|
|||pianissimo||double piano||« very soft »|
|||piano||-||« soft »|
|||mezzo-piano||-||« moderately soft »|
|||mezzo-forte||-||« moderately strong »|
|||forte||-||« strong »|
|||fortissimo||double forte||« very strong »|
|||fortississimo||triple forte||« very very strong »|
|||fortissississimo||quadruple forte||« very very very strong »|
Last update on 2021/05/07
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