September 2019

Basic Terms Every Piano Player Should Know

Musical terms are words mostly in a language other than English (Let’s face it, the Europeans got there first). The majority are Italian. Some are in German or French. We have put together a list of musical terms that you will encounter in your music lessons: Tempo Markings Adagio [It.] Slow tempo. Allegretto [It.] Slightly slower than allegro. Allegro [It.] (allo) Merry, lively; fast. Andante [It.] Walking pace Largo [It.] long and broad; slow. Lento [It.] Slow. Moderato [It.] Moderate tempo. Presto [It.] Very fast.   Change of Tempo Markings Accelerando [It.] (accel.) Becoming faster and faster. Generalpause [Ger.] (G.P.) General pause, a rest for all musicians, usually unexpected. Lʹistesso tempo [It.] The same tempo. Rallentando [It.] (rall.) Slowing down. Ritardando [It.] (ritard., rit.) Slowing down gradually. Ritenuto [It.] (riten.) Held back; generally more sudden than ritardando or rallentando. Mosso [It.] Moved, agitated. Stringendo [It.] Pressing forward. Tempo Primo [It.] (Tempo I) Return to original tempo after deviating from it Rubato[It.] This actually means ‘Steal’ in Italian; in this case, playing rubato means you will be ‘stealing time’; in execution, you would be speeding up and slowing down for expressive purposes. Vivo [It.] Lively, brisk.   Dynamic Markings Forte [It.] (f) Loud. (actually means ‘strong’ in Italian) Forte‐piano [It.] (fp) Loud followed immediately by soft. Mezzo [It.] (m) Half, medium, middle. Piano [It.] (p) Soft.   Change of Dynamic Markings Crescendo [It.] (cresc.) increasing in volume. Decrescendo [It.] (decresc.) Decreasing in volume. Diminuendo [It.] (dim.) Decreasing in volume.   Articulation & Expression Markings Brio [It.] Vivacious, spirited. Cantabile [It.] (cant.) play in a singing manner Dolce [It.] Sweet. Espressivo [It.] With expression. Legato [It.] Fastened, bound, tied; played smoothly without separation. Leggiero [It.] Light, lightly. Marcato [It.] Marked, stressed, emphasized. Morendo [It.] Dying or fading away. Semplice [It.] Simple, plain. Sforzando [It.] (sf) Forcing, forced, accented, loud. Staccato [It.] (stacc.) Separated, detached. Tenuto [It.] (ten.)Keep, hold, grip; sustain without detachment.   Modifiers and Others Alla [It.] To the, at the; in the manner of. Coda [It.] Tail; concluding section. Con [It.] With. Da Capo [It.] (D.C.) The head; the beginning . Dal Segno [It.] (D.S.) From the sign. Divisi [It.] Part, divide. Etto [It.] Suffix meaning “less” (allegretto is less fast, adagietto is less slow). Fine [It.] End. Issimo [It.] Suffix meaning “very” (pianissimo is very soft, legatissimo is very smooth). Ma [It.] But. Ma non troppo [It.] But not too much. Meno [It.] Less. Molto [It.] Very. Non [It.] Not. Più [It.] More. Poco [It.] Little in amount. Poco a poco [It.] Little by Little. Sempre [It.] Always. Senza [It.] Without. Simile [It.] In a similar fashion. Soli [It.] Within an ensemble, this refers to a passage to be played by a small group or section. Solo [It.] Alone; a passage or entire piece to be played by one player only. Subito [It.] Immediately, suddenly. Un [It.] One, a, an. Unison [En.] Same pitch.  

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