Music Terms and Symbols For Cellists

***Note: Glossary terms highlighted in red can be clicked to see an illustration.  
A Tempo  –  resume original speed of playing; usually found after a ritardando or other tempo change marking
Accent  –  a symbol placed either above or below a note indicating that the note should be emphasized by playing with more force
Allegro  –  play fast, quick and lively
Allegretto  –  a little lively, moderately fast (same as allegro moderato and slower than allegro) 
Allegro Moderato  –  play a little slower than allegro (same as allegretto) 
Andante  –  play at a medium slow speed (slower than moderato and faster than adagio)
Arco  –  play using the bow
Bow Lift  –  lift the bow and return to it’s starting point; for example, if a passage ends on a down bow with the next passage starting on a down bow, one may see a lift bow marking
Caesur  –  short silence; a complete break in sound; known as railroad tracks due to its appearance
Col legno  –  means to strike the string with the wood of the bow instead of the bow hairs
Con grazia  –  to play with grace; gracefully
D.C. al Fine (Da Capo al Fine)  –  go back to the beginning and play to the Fine
D.S. al Fine (Dal Segno al Fine)  –  go back to the sign (Segno) and play to the Fine
Diminuendo (dim.)   –   gradually get softer/quiet
Down Bow  –  play moving the bow from the frog towards the tip (away from the body)
Fermata  –  hold the indicated note or rest beyond it’s value
Fine  –  the end
f (forte)  –  play loud
ff (fortissimo)  –  play very loud
Fr.  –  play at the frog of the bow
Hooked Bowing  –  two or more notes played in the same direction with a bow stop between each note 
Legato  –  play notes smoothly and connected
L.H.  –  use the lower half of the bow
M.  –  play at the middle of the bow
Maestoso  –  play in a stately, majestic manner
Marcato  –  to play each note with a heavy accent
Measured Tremolo  –  rapid down and up bow strokes on a note using a measured number of bow strokes
mp (mezzo piano)  –  play medium soft/quiet
mf (mezzo forte)  –  play medium loud
Moderato  –  play at a medium speed (slower than allegro and faster than adagio)
p (piano)  –  play soft/quiet
Pick-up note  –  a note that appears before the first full measure with the remaining beats being found in the last measure (also known as the upbeat)
Piu Mosso  –  more movement, quicken
Pizzicato (pizz.)  –  pluck the string with the index finger of the right hand
Poco Rit.  –  gradually slow down a little
pp (pianissimo)  –  play very soft/quiet
Pt.  –  play at the tip of the bow
Ritardando (rit.)  –  gradually slow down
Segno  –  a symbol used in music to indicate the beginning or ending of a repeated section
Sforzando (sfz)  –  this marking is usually attached to one note or chord indicating that it needs to be played loudly with sudden emphasis and then back off immediately for the next note
Simile  –  continue playing in the same manner or style
Slur  –  a curved line connecting notes of different pitches; notes are played together in the same bow stroke
Spiccato  –  a light bouncing stroke with the bow leaving the string after each note
Staccato  –  indicated by a dot above or below the note meaning to play with a short, stopped bow stroke
Slurred Staccato  –  a series of separated notes played while the bow moves in one direction 
Sul Ponticello  –  play with the bow near the bridge resulting in a wispy, nasal tone
Syncopation  –  emphasis or an accent placed on the natural weak beat or unaccented beat
Tenuto  –  a stress mark indicating that note(s) should be sustained and played broadly holding each note for its full value
Tie  –  a curved line connecting two or more notes of the same pitch; a single note is played for the combined value of the tied notes
U.H.  –  use the upper half of the bow
Unmeasured Tremolo  –  rapid down and up bow strokes on a note using an unmeasured number of bow strokes
Up Bow  –  play moving the bow from the tip towards the frog (towards the body)
W.B.  –  use the whole bow

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