Italian words are commonly used in music notation to instruct performers on how the music should be performed. The words were first used by Italian composers in the 17th century and has since spread to the rest of the world.
List of tempo markings. The specified number of beats-per-minute (BPM) is only a general guidance. In modern music, a metronome mark indicating the number of BPM (such as ♩= 120) may supplement or replace the tempo marking.
|adagietto||rather slow, slightly faster than adagio||72-76|
|allegretto||moderately fast, slightly slower than allegro||112-120|
|allegrissimo||very fast, faster than allegro||172-176|
|allegro moderato||moderately fast, slightly slower than allegro||116-120|
|andante moderato||moderate walking pace, faster than andante||92-112|
|andantino||moderate tempo, slightly faster than andante||80-108|
|larghetto||rather slow and broad, slightly faster than largo||60-66|
|larghissimo||extremely slow, slower than largo||25 and below|
|largo||very slow and broad||40-60|
|prestissimo||extremely fast, faster than presto||200 and above|
|vivace||fast and lively||140-176|
|vivacissimo||very fast and lively, faster than vivace||172-176|
List of tempo changes. Words for gradual changes can be extended with dashes to indicate the duration of the change, for example "rit. _ _ _".
|a piacere||at pleasure, the tempo may be decided by the performer|
|a tempo||resume previous tempo|
|ritardando||rit., ritard.||gradually slower|
|rubato||in free time, no steady beat|
|stringendo||gradually faster, literally "tightening"|
List of dynamic markings. The markings indicate the relative variation in loudness and do not refer to specific volume levels. Contrary to other italian markings, dynamic markings are usually written below the staff or centered between the two staves in the grand staff.
|pianississimo||ppp||as soft as possible|
|mezzo piano||mp||moderately soft|
|mezzo forte||mf||moderately loud|
|fortississimo||fff||as loud as possible|
List of dynamic changes. The hairpins () are used for dynamic changes over at most a few bars, while cresc. and dim. are used for changes over a longer period. Word directions can be extended with dashes to indicate the duration of the change.
|crescendo||cresc. or||gradually louder|
|diminuendo||dim. or||gradually softer|
|fortepiano||fp||loud, then immediately soft|
|sforzando, forzando, szforzato||sfz, sf or fz||suddenly accented (applied to a note or chord)|
|rinforzando||rfz or rf||reinforced (applied to a note, chord or phrase)|
List of common terms for playing techniques. The terms instruct the performer to use a certain playing technique in order to produce the desired sound.
|arpeggio||arp.||chord notes played in succession rather than simultaneously|
|glissando||gliss.||a continuous slide from one note to another|
|legato||notes played with a smooth connection between them|
|mano destra||m.d.||right hand|
|mano sinistra||m.s.||left hand|
|con sordino||with a mute or (on piano) without the sustain pedal|
|senza sordino||without a mute or (on piano) with the sustain pedal pressed|
|pizzicato||pizz.||plucked with the finger rather than bowed|
|portamento||port.||a smooth slide from one note to another|
|tutti||performed by the entire ensemble|
|staccato||stacc.||shortened and sharply separated notes|
|staccatissimo||staccatiss.||shortened and extremely separated notes|
|vibrato||a rapid repeated slight change in the pitch of a note|
List of common mood terms. The terms help the performer to capture the mood of a piece through variations in tempo, dynamics and articulation.
|cantabile||in a singing style|
|con amore||with love|
|con brio||with spirit|
|con fuoco||with fiery manner|
|con moto||with movement|
List of directions for repeats. The directions are used as navigation markers to instruct the performer to repeat a certain section of the piece.
|Fine||the end of a piece|
|Coda||the concluding passage of a piece|
|Segno||the beginning or end of a repeat|
|Da Capo||D.C.||repeat from the beginning|
|Da Capo al Fine||D.C. al Fine||repeat from the beginning to the word Fine|
|Da Capo al Coda||D.C. al Coda||repeat from the beginning to the sign (sometimes replaced by To Coda), then skip to the concluding Coda passage|
|Da Capo al Segno||D.C. al Segno||repeat from the beginning to the sign|
|Dal Segno||D.S.||repeat from the sign|
|Dal Segno al Fine||D.S. al Fine||repeat from the sign to the word Fine|
|Dal Segno al Coda||D.S. al Coda||repeat from the sign to the sign (sometimes replaced by To Coda), then skip to the concluding Coda passage|
List of general terms. The terms are commonly used in conjunction with other terms, such as allegro molto (very fast) and con amore (with love).
|ad libitum||at pleasure (often in regard to tempo and style)|
|ma non tanto||but not so much|
|ma non troppo||but not too much|
|poco a poco||little by little|
|simile||in a similar way|