In music, to describe the volume of a passage we don’t use words like quiet or loud but instead use musical directions called dynamics. Dynamics are italian words or symbols that indicate to the musician how to play.
In this post we’ll cover all the musical terms for soft so you’ll know what to do when you see them in a score.
The definition of quiet in music terms
The musical term for playing quietly or softly is called piano.
It’s actually where we get the name of the instrument the piano. It was originally called the ‘pianoforte’ as it could play both quiet and loud (forte is the musical term for loud). It’s pronounced slightly differently though: ‘pi-ah-no’.
When reading a piece of music you’ll probably see if written as a capital letter P underneath the stave.
What about very quiet?
A piece of music isn’t just loud or soft though. It’s a big range or different volumes and sometimes a composer will want a passage to be played very quiet or even very, very quietly.
To notate this we add the suffix issimo to piano which gives us pianissimo (pp) which means very quiet.
You don’t have to stop there though. You can keep on adding Ps to get very, very soft pianississimo (ppp) and very, very, very soft pianissississimo (pppp).
The musical term for moderately quiet
Sometimes you’ll see the letters mp which stands for mezzo piano. Mezzo is the italian word for moderately and so we use this symbol to indicate to the musician to play moderately quietly.
Chart of soft dynamics
To help visualise the order of soft dynamics there’s a table below with them arranged in order of loudest at the top, to the quietest at the bottom.
|Soft Dynamics Chart|
|mezzo piano||moderately soft|
|pianississimo||very, very soft|
|pianissississimo||very, very, very soft|
I hope that helps make a bit more sense of soft dynamics. If you have any questions just post a comment below.