Learn about the four most common dynamics symbols and how to play them with this popsicle stick theater production from the MakingMusicFun.net Music Academy.
There are four dynamics symbols that composers use all of the time:
Piano, Mezzo Piano, Mezzo Forte and Forte.
Music notation started with this guy - an Italian monk named Guido.
He decided music should have lines, note heads, and stems. Next, composers added tempo terms and dynamics, so musicians would play their music the way they intended. Because most of the important early composers were Italian, music terms are in Italian.
Let's start with piano.
Piano means soft.
When composers want you to play piano - or soft - they include a p in the music.
To play music piano, you make a big effort to play a small sound. In fact, it requires more effort to play a note soft than it does to play a note loud.
Forte means loud.
This Italian word comes from an older Latin word which means forceful. When composers want you to play forte they include an f in the music.
To play forte you make a big effort to make a big sound.
When the piano was invented, the Italians got to name it too.
Originally the piano was called the fortepiano, combining both dynamics terms that you've learned so far, because this new keyboard instrument could play loud and soft.
The Italian music composers also created dynamics symbols that are in between piano and forte.
Mezzo Piano - and - Mezzo Forte
The Italian word "mezzo" means medium. Mezzo is spelled with two z’s, but they sound like t's, just like they do in the word pizza.
Mezzo Piano means medium soft.
When composers want you to play mezzo piano they include an mp in the music.
To play mezzo piano you make a sound a little louder than the softest sound you can make.
The last dynamics symbol we'll learn about is mezzo forte.
Mezzo Forte means medium loud.
When composers want you to play mezzo forte they include an mf in the music.
Mezzo forte doesn't require a bigger effort. Playing medium loud happens naturally.
One more time, but in 10 seconds this time...
Piano means soft. Mezzo Piano means medium soft. Mezzo Forte means medium loud. And Forte means loud!