Performance Markings in Music

Performance Markings in Music

Grade 1

When composers write music, they want often want it to sound a certain way. To express this they use different performance markings.

We will explore all the difference performance markings you need to know for grade 1.


Dynamics

When a text is used to dictate dynamics, there are three main terms you need to know for grade 1:
The abbreviated version of these dynamics is what is used in music.

NameAbbreviationMeaning
Forte𝆑Loud
Piano𝆏Soft
Mezzo𝆐half

Mezzo isn’t used on it’s own. It is used in combination with Forte or Piano. Therefore, you will frequently see:
𝆐𝆑 or 𝆐𝆏 meaning Mezzoforte or Mezzopiano – Moderately loud or moderately soft.
You may also see 𝆑𝆑 meaning Fortissimo – Very loud; or 𝆏𝆏 meaning Pianissimo – Very soft or very quiet.
In addition to this annotation, you will also see diminuendos and crescendos within a piece.
A diminuendo symbol looks like this: 𝆓 and means to get gradually get softer.
A crescendo looks like this: 𝆒 and means to gradually get louder.
The excerpt below starts at mezzoforte (moderately loud), gets gradually softer until it is piano (soft), and then it gets gradually louder, finally ending up forte (loud). Take note as to where the markings are in relation to the stave.Perfomance Markings Music - Diminuendo and Crescendo

Alternatively, instead of the hairpin symbols (𝆒 and 𝆓), the terms crescendo or diminuendo (shortened to cresc. or dim.) is also often used.


Repeats

Repeat bars look like this:  𝄇
They indicate to repeat everything up to the bar.

If there is a repeat bar facing the opposite direction (looks like this:  𝄆  ) earlier in the music everything between the two repeat bars is to be repeat instead of from the start of the music.

Additionally, you may come across the symbol 𝄊 meaning Da Capo. When this symbol appears it means to play again from the beginning.

There is also the symbol 𝄉 which means Dal Segno. There is normally a sign next to D.S. such as 𝄋, and the sign would of appeared earlier on in the music. D.S. means repeat from the sign.


Slurs

A lot of performance markings are types of ‘Articulations’. Articulations are notations made on music which dictate how a note is meant to be played (it’s duration, whether it is smooth or spikey etc). Slurs look like ties, however they occur between two notes that are a different pitch and are a form of articulation. It simply means the notes are to be played smoothly.

Performance Markings Music - Slurs


Other Articulations

The Staccato is a dot that is placed above or below the notehead depending on the direct the note is facing. It means ‘detached, short’. It indicates that the note is to be played detached from other notes and in a short manner.

Performance Markings Music - Staccato


The Fermata (Pause) indicates that note is to be played as long as the performer desires.

Performance Markings Music - Fermata/Pause


The Accent means to play the note with more force.

Performance Markings Music - Staccato