Dynamics refer to how loud or soft music is.

TL;DR (Overview)

  • Dynamics refer to how loud or soft music is.
  • From softest to loudest, some typical dynamics are:
    • pp – pianissimo (very soft)
    • p – piano (soft)
    • mp – mezzo piano (moderately soft)
    • mf – mezzo forte (moderately loud)
    • f – forte (loud)
    • ff – fortissimo (very loud)
  • When music goes from soft to loud, we say it’s a crescendo.
  • When music goes from loud to soft, we say it’s a decrescendo.

Go to the extras to check your understanding!

Music, like any sound, can be loud or soft. When we talk about a T.V. or a radio, we use the word “volume”. In a musical composition, we call the loudness, softness, and any progression between the two, “dynamics.”

In a musical score we use symbols to represent the loudness or softness of a passage or a section of a piece. Below are the most-used symbols.

Bonus Question

In what language are these musical terms? Think about your answer, then flip the card to see if you're right!


Many, many musical terms are in Italian because it was in Italy, hundreds of years ago, that composers began creating a special language to describe elements of music.

Here’s a short example of the way dynamics are written on a musical score. Here, the composer asks you to play mezzo forte, to get a little louder (crescendo) then softer again (decrescendo).


Here are two games to help you remember the terms:

Dynamics Matching

Dynamics Sequencing

If you’re in the mood, try this. While listening to the music (the Overture, or opening, of “The Marriage of Figaro” by Mozart), move your hands to show the changes in dynamics.


Dynamics - pianissimo, piano, mezzo piano, mezzo forte, forte, fortissimo - crescendo, decrescendo