Terms Every Musician Should Know


We can thank the Italians for the modern system of musical notation used today. So, it is no surprise that we find many Italian terms peppered throughout our music. The chart below shows some translations to help you better understand your music.

You may have noticed some suffixes used repeatedly in musical expressions. Knowing the meaning of these endings can help you figure out some terms. Commonly used endings are:

– etto(a) = little (diminutive)
– one = big (augmentative)
– ino(a) = little (diminutive)
– issimo(a) = very (augmentative)

By knowing these endings and the definitions to the right, you also know larghetto is a little broad, adagietto is a little slow, and allegretto is a little bit joyful. Likewise, prestissimo is very fast, pianissimo is very soft, and fortissimo is very loud.

Other commonly used Italian expressions are: molto (meaning very), più (more), poco (little), poco a poco (little by little), ma non troppo (but not too much), meno (less), con (with), and senza (without). An Italian word ending in -endo or -ando usually signals the gerund form of a verb, hence a crescendo is growing louder and ritardando is slowing down.



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We agree! A great musician and businessman once told me to always be a lifelong learner, to never stop learning, and I think it’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received.

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