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Expression Marks

Music Theory - Expression Marks


Adagio Slow, leisurely
Allegretto A little slower than allegro
Allegro Moderately fast
Andante Moving with a moderate tempo
Andantino Faster than andante
Larghetto Not as slow as largo
Largo Very slow
Lento Slow
Moderato Moderate
Prestissimo Very rapidly
Presto Fast, rapid
Vivace Lively, animated, brisk


Crescendo Increasing in loudness
Decrescendo decreasing in loudness
Diminuendo diminishing in loudness
Forte Loud
Fortissimo Very loud
Mezzo forte Moderately loud
Mezzo piano Moderately soft
Pianissimo Very soft
Piano Soft
Rinforzando sudden increase in loudness
Sforzando play the note with sudden emphasis


Animato animated; lively
Cantabile in a singing style
Con Brio with vigor and spirit
Deciso decisively
Dolce sweetly
Espressivo expressively
Furioso furious
Grandioso with grandeur
Legato smooth and connected
Marcato marked and stressed
Morendo dying away
Pesante heavy
Rubato taken out of tempo
Sempre always, continuously
Soto voce in an undertone
Staccato short and detached
Tenuto sustained, held for full value


• Accent: An accent placed above or below the note means to emphasise the not.

• Breath Mark: An apostrophe placed above the staff means to take a breath.

• Slur: A curved line either above or below notes that connects two different pitches that are to be played smoothly.

• Staccato: A dot placed above or below a note means to play it short.

• Tenuto: A line above or below the note means to play the full value of the note.
• Tie: A curved line either above or below two of the same notes indicating not to attack the second note.

Clarity Terms

Assai very
Con with
L'istesso tempo same tempo
Meno less
Mosso moved, agitated
Non troppo not too much
Piu mosso faster
Poco little
Poco a poco little by little
Sempre always
Simile in the same manner
Subito suddenly