Digital Sound & Music: Concepts, Applications, & Science, Chapter 3, last updated 6/25/2013
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subito forte piano

suddenly loud and soft
sforzando

forceful sudden accent
Table 3.11 Dynamics terms and symbols
Gradual changes in dynamics are indicated by crescendo and decrescendo symbols
(Figure 3.40). The decrescendo can also be called a diminuendo. The crescendo indicates that
the music should gradually grow louder. The decrescendo is the opposite. These symbols can be
made longer or shorter depending on the time over which the change should occur. They are
usually placed below the staff, but occasionally above.
crescendo, gradually louder decrescendo (diminuendo),
gradually quieter
Figure 3.40 Symbols for gradual changes in dynamics
Articulation marks (Table 3.12) indicate the manner in which a note is to be performed.
A little dot above or below a note (depending on the direction of the note’s stem) indicates that it
is to be played staccato that is, played as a short note not held down and thus not linked
directly in sound to the next note. A “greater than” sign above or below a note, called an accent,
indicates that the note should be played louder, with special emphasis. A straight line above or
below a note, called tenuto, emphasizes that a note is to be held for its full value. A dot with a
semicircle above it, called a fermata, means that a note is to be held longer than its normal
value. The articulation marks and dynamics symbols help a composer to guide the style and
technique applied to the performance of a composition.
Term Symbol Meaning
staccato

Play the note with a quick key
strike, not holding the note to
blend with the next
accent

Accent the note
tenuto

Hold the note for its full
length
fermata

Hold the note longer than its
full length
Table 3.12 Articulation marks
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