What pace is agitato

Italian technical terms of music

Since the Italians strongly influenced European music in the 17th century, Italian technical terms have been used in music to this day. It's mostly about the type of presentation: tempo, volume, sound.

1. Tempo

A list of tempo labels. The beats per minute (BPM) numbers given are only a general guide. In modern music, one replaces or specifies metronome-Marking the number of BPM (such as ♩ = 120) the tempo designation.

termimportanceBPM
adagiettopretty slow, a bit faster than adagio72-76
adagioslowly66-76
allegrettomoderately fast, a little slower than allegro112-120
allegrissimovery fast, faster than allegro172-176
allegro fast120-168
allegro moderatomoderately fast, a little slower than allegro116-120
andante Walking pace76-108
andante moderatomoderate walking pace, faster than andante92-112
andantinomoderate pace, a bit faster than andante80-108
gravevery slowly25-45
larghettopretty slow and wide, a bit faster than largo60-66
larghissimoextremely slow, slower than largo25 and below
largovery slow and wide40-60
lentoslowly45-60
moderatomoderate108-120
prestissimoextremely fast, faster than presto200 and above
prestovery fast168-200
vivacefast and lively140-176
vivacissimovery fast and lively, faster than vivace172-176

Tempo changes

There are also words and signs for tempo changes. The duration of the changes is indicated by dashed lines, for example "rit. _ _ _".

termabbreviationimportance
a piacereat will, the pace can be determined by the performer
a temporesume previous pace
rallentandorall.gradually slower
ritardandorit., ritard.gradually slower
ritenutorites.immediately slower
rubatono even meter, flexibility in tempo
stringendogradually faster, literally "tightening"
accelerandoaccel.gradually faster

2. Dynamics

The volume is almost always given in abbreviations or characters. The information only relates to relative differences in volume. In contrast to other Italian indications, the indications on dynamics are usually below the staff or between the two staves for the piano.

termabbreviationimportance
piano pianissimopppas quietly as possible
pianissimoppvery quiet
pianopquietly
mezzo pianompmedium quiet
mezzo fortemfmedium volume
fortefaccording to
fortissimoffvery loud
forte fortissimofffas loud as possible

Dynamics changes

A list of the changes in dynamics. The wedges () are used to show the dynamics changes over more than a few bars, while cresc. and dim. can be used to show changes over a longer passage. The latter can be lengthened with dashed lines to show the duration of the change.

termabbreviationimportance
crescendocresc. or gradually get louder
diminuendodim. or gradually become quieter
fortepianofploud, then immediately quieter
sforzando, forzando, szforzatosfz, sf or fzsudden loud, sudden accent (a note or a chord)
rinforzandorfz or rfamplified (a note, phrase, or chord)

3. Techniques

These terms make it clear how a passage should be played. For this you have to master or practice certain playing techniques.

termabbreviationimportance
arpeggioarp.a broken chord instead of playing all notes at the same time
glissandogliss.a constant sliding up and down from one note to another
legatoNotes that are played softly tied
mano destram.d.right hand
mano sinistram.s.left hand
con sordinoplaying with the damper or (on the piano) without the sustain pedal
senza sordinoPlaying without a damper or (on the piano) with the sustain pedal
pizzicatopizz.plucked with the finger instead of stroking with a bow
portamentoport.to glide smoothly from one note to another
tuttieveryone, whole orchestra, whole ensemble
staccatostacc.abbreviated and sharply separated tones
staccatissimostaccatiss.abbreviated and extremely separate tones
vibratoa quick, very small change in pitch

4. Moods

These technical terms describe feelings or moods that the composer has imagined and that the musician should express through the sound.

termimportance
agitatorestless, excited
animatoanimated, animated
cantabilesingable
con amorewith love
con briowith soul, with fire
con fuocowith fire
con motowith movement
dolcesweet, gentle
dolorosoSad
energicoenergetic
espressivoexpressive
graziosograceful
leggierolight, fragrant
maestosomajestic
marcatomarked, emphasized
risolutoresolute, strong
scherzandobright
sostenutocontinually
tenutoheld, continuously
tranquillocalm

5. Repetitions

A list of the repetitions instructions. The instructions are used as navigations to instruct the performer to repeat a particular passage of the piece.

6. General

A list of general technical terms. These terms are mostly used in conjunction with other terms, such as allegro molto (very quickly) and con amore (with love).

termimportance
ad libitumat will (often refers to pace and style)
assaivery
conWith
ma but
ma non tantobut not so much
ma non troppobut not too much
menoLess
moltovery
nonNot
piùmore
poco something
poco a pocobit by bit
senzawithout
similein a similar way
subitosuddenly, quickly