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Italian Piano Commands
Musical Glossary for Piano & Keyboard
By Brandy Kraemer, About.com Guide


Browse More Italian Piano Terms:

◊ A - D ◊ M - R
◊ E - L ◊ S - Z



A
▪ a piacere: “to your pleasure/at will”; indicates that liberties may be taken with certain aspects of the music, usually tempo. See ad libitum.



▪ a tempo: “in time; back in tempo”; indication to return to the original tempo after an alteration such as tempo rubato.



▪ a tempo di menuetto: to play “in the tempo of a minuet”; slowly and gracefully.



▪ al coda: “to the coda [sign]”; used with the repeat commands D.C. al coda and D.S. al coda.



▪ al fine: “to the end [of the music, or until the word fine]”; used with the repeat commands D.C. al fine and D.S. al fine.



▪ al niente: “to nothing”; to make the volume fade into nothing very gradually. See dal niente and morendo.



▪ (accel.) accelerando: “to accelerate”; to gradually speed up the tempo.



▪ accentato: to play with general, overall emphasis; to accentuate.



▪ accompagnato: indicates that the accompaniment will follow the tempo (or overall playing style) of the soloist. See concerto.



▪ adagietto: indicates a tempo near that of adagio. Adagietto remains somewhat ambiguous, and may be interpreted as slightly slower or faster than adagio. Usually, its tempo is between adagio and andante.



▪ adagio: to play slowly and calmly; at ease. Adagio is slower than adagietto, but faster than largo.



▪ adagissimo: to play very slowly and calmly; slower than adagio.



▪ affettuoso: “affectionately”; encourages a performer to express warm emotions; to play affectionately with love. See con amore.



▪ affrettando: a rushed, nervous accelerando; to hastily increase the tempo in an impatient manner.



▪ agile: to play swiftly and confidently, but it can also signify a switch to double-speed.



▪ agitato: to play quickly with agitation and excitement. Agitato can be paired with other musical commands to add a rushed, vibrant element, as in presto agitato, “very quick and with excitement.”



▪ alla breve: “to the breve” - where breve refers to a half-note; an indication to play in cut time. Alla breve has the 2/2 time signature, in which one beat = half-note.



▪ alla marcia: to play “in the style of a march”; to accentuate the downbeat in 2/4 or 2/2 time.



▪ (allarg.) allargando: to “widen” or “broaden” the tempo; a slow rallentando that retains a full, prominent volume.



▪ allegretto: to play somewhat quickly; slower and slightly less lively than allegro, but faster and livelier than andante.



▪ allegrissimo: to play very fast; faster than allegro, but slower than presto.



▪ allegro: to play in a quick, lively tempo. Allegro is faster than allegretto, but slower than allegrissimo.



▪ amoroso: to play in a loving manner; see con amore and con affetto.



▪ andante: to play with a moderate tempo; to play in a light, flowing manner. Andante is faster than adagio, but slower than allegretto; similar to moderato.



▪ andantino: to play with a slow, moderate tempo. Andantino is slightly faster than andante, but slower than moderato (andantino is a diminutive of andante).



▪ animato: “animated”; to play in an animated manner; to play with excitement and spirit.



▪ arpeggiato: an arpeggio in which the notes are struck progressively faster.



▪ arpeggio: a chord whose notes are played quickly in order as opposed to simultaneously; to give a chord a harp-like effect (arpa is Italian for “harp”).



▪ assai: “very”; used with other musical commands to augment their effects, as in lento assai, “very slow”; or vivace assai, “very lively and quick.”



▪ attacca: to move immediately to the next movement without a pause; a seamless transition into a movement or passage.



B
▪ brillante: to play in a brilliant, lustrous manner; to make a song or passage stand out with brilliance.



▪ brio: “vigor”; usually seen in the phrase con brio. See brioso.



▪ brioso: “lively”; to play with vigor and spirit; to make a composition full of life.



▪ bruscamente: to play in a blunt, abrupt manner; to play with impatient accentuation.



C
▪ calando: indicates a gradual decrease in both the tempo and volume of a song; the effect of a ritardando with a diminuendo.



▪ capo: refers to the beginning of a musical composition or movement, and is most often seen in musical phrases such as da capo, and D.C. al coda (da capo al coda).

Note: The guitar fret-holding device – a capo – is pronounced kay’-poh.



▪ coda: a musical symbol used to organize complex musical repetitions. The Italian phrase al coda instructs a musician to move immediately to the next coda, and can be seen in the commands dal segno al coda and da capo al coda.



▪ come prima: “like at first”; and indicates a return to a previous musical state (usually referring to tempo). See tempo primo.



▪ comodo: “comfortably”; used with other musical terms to moderate their effects. For example: tempo comodo, “at a reasonable speed”; adagio comodo, “comfortable and slow.” See moderato.



▪ con affetto: to be played affectionately; to play with warm emotion and loving conviction.



▪ con amore: “with love”; an indication to play in a loving manner.



▪ con brio: to play with vigor and spirit. Con brio is often seen with other musical commands, as in allegro con brio, “quick and lively.”



▪ con espressione: “with expression”; often written with other musical commands, as in tranquillo con espressione, or “slowly and with expression.”



▪ con moto: “with motion”; to play in an animated manner. See animato.



▪ con spirito: “with spirit”; to play with fire and spirit. See spiritoso.



▪ concerto: an arrangement written for solo instruments (such as a piano), with an accompanying orchestra.



▪ (cresc.) crescendo: to gradually increase the volume of a song until otherwise noted. A crescendo is marked by a horizontal, opening angle.



D
▪ D.C. al coda: “da capo al coda”; to repeat from the beginning of the music, play until you encounter a coda, then skip to the next coda sign to continue.



▪ D.C. al fine: “da capo al fine”; to repeat from the beginning of the music, and continue until you reach the final barline, or a double-barline marked with the word fine.



▪ D.S. al coda: “dal segno al coda”; to start back at the segno, play until you encounter a coda, then skip to the next coda to continue.



▪ D.S. al fine: “dal segno al fine”; to start back at the segno, and continue playing until you reach the final barline, or a double-barline marked with the word fine.



▪ da capo: “from the beginning”; to play from the start of the song or movement.



▪ dal niente: “from nothing”; to gradually bring notes out of complete silence; a crescendo that rises slowly from nowhere.



▪ dal segno: “from the [segno] sign,” and is part of a system of complex musical repeats, as in D.S. al fine.



▪ decrescendo: to gradually decrease the volume of the music, marked in sheet music with a narrowing angle.



▪ delicato: “delicately”; to play with a light touch and an airy feel. See dolce.



▪ (dim.) diminuendo: to gradually decrease the volume of the music.



▪ dolce: to play in a tender, adoring manner; to play sweetly with a light touch.



▪ dolcissimo: very sweetly; to play in a particularly delicate manner.



▪ doloroso: “painfully; in a painful manner.” To play in a mournful manner; to play with a forlorn, melancholy tone. Also con dolore, “with pain.”



More Musical Terms:



  How to Read Piano Music
• Notes of the Piano Keys
• Note-Lengths in U.S. & U.K. English
• Musical Rest Lengths
• Memorize the Notes of the Grand Staff
 
  Beginner Musical Symbols
• Staff & Barlines
• Understanding the Key Signature
• How to Read the Time Signature
• Reading Tempo & Beats per Minute
 
  Beginner Piano Lessons
• Accidentals & Double-Accidentals
• Comparing Major & Minor
• Piano Chord Types & Symbols
• Diminished Chords & Dissonance
 
  ♫ Musical Quizzes!
• Identify the Notes of the Keyboard
• Note Length Quiz (U.S. or U.K. English)
• Grand Staff Notes Quiz
• Tempo Command Quiz  



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