Beginner Violin Tips

Dynamics – How to Read Sheet Music

In music, dynamics refer to volume (loud vs quiet). You’ll see these below the staff. Composers are allowed to use as many p’s or f’s in a row as they want, but you’ll catch on to the pattern pretty quickly:

  • ppp = pianississimo = even quieter
  • pp = pianissimo = quieter
  • p = piano = quiet
  • mp = mezzo piano = medium quiet
  • mf = mezzo forte = medium loud
  • fp = fortepiano = loud and then suddenly soft
  • f = forte = loud
  • ff = fortissimo = louder
  • fff = fortississimo = even louder
  • cresc. = crescendo = = get gradually louder
  • decresc. = decrescendo = dim. = diminuendo = get gradually quieter

How loud is each of these markings in real terms? It depends upon the piece you are playing and your particular interpretation of it. It’s a good idea to skim through a piece and take note of the range of markings. If the composer goes all the way up to fff at some point, then make sure that you’re not playing at maximum volume at other points in the piece where it’s marked just mf, or else you’ll have nowhere to go when it’s time to pull out the big guns.

Beginner violin music usually sticks to a simple p and f, if it even changes partway through at all. Just make sure you’re paying attention and adjusting your volume accordingly. It’s not as much about the actual volume at a given time as it is about making a beautiful, expressive transition from loud to soft or vice versa. This is where a lot of the excitement in music can come from, so try to adopt a good sensitivity to dynamic range into your performance technique early on.

What’s Next?

Go to the next lesson, about Tempo Markings.

See a list all our lessons about How to Read Sheet Music for Beginner Violin.

Check out our favorite book/CD combo for How to Read Beginner Violin Sheet Music.


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