Music Terms and Symbols For Pianists

***Note: Glossary terms highlighted in red can be clicked to see an illustration. 

8va  if located above the staff, then play the indicated notes an octave higher;  if located below the staff, then play the indicated notes an octave lower
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
Agitato to play in a restless, agitated manner
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)
Arpeggiated chord notated by a symbol meaning to play the lowest note first on beat and quickly adding the next higher notes one at a time until the chord is complete
Caesur  short silence; a complete break in sound; known as railroad tracks due to its appearance
Cantabile  to play in a smooth, lyrical, flowing and singing style
Con forza to play passage with force and vigor
Crescendo (cresc.) to gradually get louder
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
Dolciss. (dolcissimo) superlative of dolce; means to play especially sweetly and delicately
Fermata a symbol indicating to hold the indicated note or rest beyond it’s value
Fine the end
f (forte) play loud
ff (fortissimo) play very loud
Il canto marcato means to execute passage in a clear, distinct and strongly accented manner
Largo to play at a slow tempo and in a dignified style
Legato play notes smoothly and connected; indicated by a curved line connecting multiple notes in a musical phrase
Lento to play slowly
Ma non troppo but not too much
Maestoso play in a stately, majestic manner
Measured Tremolo notated by either 1 or 2 slanted lines between two notes; 1 lines means to play a measured eighth note tremolo; 2 lines means to play a measured 16th note tremolo
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)
Pesante play passage in a heavy, weighty and impressive style
Pick-up note a note that appears before the first full measure with the remaining beats being found in the last measure 
Poco a poco little by little; gradually
Poco Rit. gradually slow down a little
p (piano) play soft/quiet
pp (pianissimo) play very soft/quiet
Presto to play very quickly; faster than allegro but slower than prestissimo
Rallentando (rall.) gradually decrease in tempo
Ritardando (rit.) gradually slow down
Ritenuto (riten.) gradually decreasing in tempo; another term for rallentando
Rubato a temporary disregard for a strict tempo to allow for an expressive quickening or slowing of the tempo
Segno  a symbol used in music to indicate the beginning or ending of a repeated section
Sempre play indicated style throughout section
Senza tempo to play freely with tempo restriction; timeless
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 meaning to play legato
Smorzando (smorz.) to gradually slow down and soften notes until nothing is heard
Sotto Voce lower the dynamic level for emphasis
Staccato indicated by a dot above or below the note meaning to play short, detached and choppy
Stretto in quicker time
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
Trill the rapid alternating between two different notes
Unmeasured Tremolo notated by 3 slanted lines between 2 notes; means to alternate between the 2 notes very quickly an unmeasured number of times

You may also find these links helpful:
Suzuki Method For Piano
Parts of The Piano
Piano Pedals
Piano G Position
Piano C Position


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