Terms of Musical Expression

The links below provide more terms, including Italian, French and German, all needed to pass the theory exams.

Alphabetised by 'Musical Term'

English
Symbol
Musical Term
Language
Up bow
Performance Direction
accent (placed over or under a note)
Performance Direction
play an octave lower
Performance Direction
pause on the note
Performance Direction
Press down / release the damper pedal
Performance Direction
repeat marks – at the sign go back to the beginning
Performance Direction
Performance Direction
slur (joining two different notes)
Performance Direction
play an octave higher
Performance Direction
Down bow
Performance Direction
72 crochet beats in a minute
Performance Direction
repeat marks – at the second sign go back to the first sign and repeat the music from there
Performance Direction
Performance Direction
spread the notes of the chord quickly starting from the bottom
Performance Direction
very loud
fortissimo
Italian
moderately loud
mezzo forte
Italian
moderately quiet
mezzo piano
Italian
very quiet
pianissimo
Italian
octave
8va
Performance Direction
Soft pedal, or Muting pedal, also called una corde. Normally three strings are used per note. When the soft pedal is pressed, the whole keyboard is shifted along so that hammers on strike two strings in the upper register and one string in the lower register
Left pedal
Performance Direction
Sostenuto pedal (not fitted to all pianos). Depressing the pedal dampens only the notes that have been struck
Middle pedal
Performance Direction
Damper pedal. When pressed, felts are lifted off the piano strings to allow the sound to be sustained.
Right pedal
Performance Direction
Sostenuto Pedal – hold the sustain pedal down for the notes indicated by the line
S.P._______
Performance Direction
three strings, release the soft pedal
Tre corde
Italian
one string, depress the soft pedal
Una corde
Italian
gradually getting quicker
accelerando
Italian
slow
adagio
Italian
fairly quick (but not as quick as allegro)
allegretto
Italian
quick
allegro
Italian
at a medium (walking) speed
andante
Italian
bowed
arco
Italian
in a singing style
cantabile
Italian
with mute
con sordini / con sord.
Italian
gradually getting louder
crescendo
Italian
repeat from the beginning
da capo
Italian
repeat from the sign
dal segno
Italian
gradually getting quieter
decrescendo
Italian
gradually getting quieter
diminuendo
Italian
the end
fine
Italian
loud
forte
Italian
smoothly
legato
Italian
a slur shows that the notes are to be played in a single bow stroke
legato
Italian
slow
lento
Italian
hand (mano sinistra, m.s. - left handed; mano destra, m.d. - right handed; also used for the harp)
mano
Italian
half
mezzo
Italian
moderately
moderato
Italian
soft
piano
Italian
plucked
pizzicato
Italian
a little
poco
Italian
gradually getting slower
rallentando
Italian
gradually getting slower
ritardando
Italian
held back
ritenuto
Italian
without mute
senza sordini / senza sord.
Italian
detached
staccato
Italian
play on the A string
sul A
Italian
play on the D string
sul D
Italian
play on the E string
sul E
Italian
play on the G string
sul G
Italian
play near the bridge
sul ponticello
Italian
speed, time (a tempo: in time)
tempo
Italian