In this chapter you will find definitions for the most common expression marks and foreign language words that appear in sheet music.
The tempo of the piece is sometimes written as a word, and sometimes written above the time signature as "note value = some number". The note value is the value of the beat, usually a quarter note. The number is the number of beats per minute that each beat note should be occurring at.
Tempo designations and their approximate beats per minute.
|Prestissimo||Very Fast||greater than 200|
|Presto||Fast||170 to 200|
|Allegro||Moderately Fast||120 to 170|
|Moderato||Moderate||100 to 120|
|Andante||Medium tempo||80 to 100|
|Adagio||Slow||65 to 80|
|Larghetto||Slower||55 to 65|
|Largo||Very Slow||less than 55|
In addition to the tempo designations, there are designations which represent the change in tempo, i.e., a change which slows down or speeds up the basic beat.
|Stop before proceeding|
|"Robbed", free rhythm|
The volume of sound that pieces are played at are designated by the following terms:
In addition to the volume designations, there are designations which represent the change in volume, i.e., a change which makes the sound softer or louder than before.
|Crescendo||cresc.||Increasing in Volume|
|Decrescendo||decresc.||Decreasing in Volume|
The style in which the music is to be played is indicated by the following designations:
|Tenuto||Held for maximum value|
Other designations that may modify any of the other designations in combination include:
|Non troppo||Not too much|
These lists include only a fraction of the total amount of foreign language words that you will see in sheet music. These words are Italian, however composers from other countries have been known to use their native language in designating these ideas. If you ever come across these terms, you should look them up in a Music Dictionary or Foreign language textbook.