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Music Theory - Grade 1 - Terms and Signs

by JazzMaverick

3 Mar 2009
Views: 22102

As students, we should have a knowledge of these simple Italian words and signs. These are all likely to be found in musical notation for Grade 1. There are a total of 8 Grades.

A tempo ------> Resume the normal speed (after a diversion)
Accelerando --> Becoming gradually faster.
Adagio -------> Slow, leisurely.
Allargando ---> Broadening out, often with an increase of tone.
Allegretto ---> (lit. a little allegro) Slightly slower than Allegro.
Allegro ------> Lively, reasonably fast.
Andante ------> (lit. walking) At a moderate pace.
Andantino ----> (lit. a little andante) This word has two opposite meanings;
either a little slower or a little faster than Andante.
Arco ---------> (this is for string players) With the bow; a contradiction of pizzicato
Brillante ----> Sparkling, brilliant
Brio ---------> Vigour
Cantabile ----> In a singing style
Capo ---------> (lit. head) The beginning
Col, Colla ---> With the
Con ----------> With
Con moto -----> With movement
Con sordini --> With the mutes (see sordini)
Corda --------> A string (see una corda, tre corde)
Crescendo ----> Becoming gradually louder
Da -----------> From, of
Da Capo ------> From the beginning
Dal Segno ----> From the sign:

Decrescendo --> Becoming gradually softer
Diminuendo ---> Becoming gradually softer
Dolce --------> Sweetly
Espressivo ---> With expression, with feeling
Fine ---------> The end [D.C. al fine; back to the beginning and finish at the word fine]
Forte --------> Loud or strong
Fortissimo ---> Very loud
Forzando -----> With a strong accent
fz or sfz
Giocoso ------> Merry
Grave --------> Very slow
Grazioso -----> Gracefully
Largo --------> Slow and stately, broad
Larghetto ----> Less slow than Largo
Legato -------> Smoothly
Leggiero -----> Lightly
Lento --------> Slowly
Maestoso -----> Majestically
M.D. (It.)
Mano destra.---> Right hand
M.S. (It.)
Mano sinistra -> Left hand
Marcato ------> Marked, accented
Meno ---------> Less
Meno mosso ---> Less movement
Mezzo forte --> Moderately Loud
Mezzo piano --> Moderately soft
Misterioso ---> Mysteriously
Molto --------> Much
Ossia --------> Or. The word indicates an alternative version
Ped. ---------> Depress the sustaining pedal of the pianoforte
Perfendosi ---> Dying away
Pesante ------> Heavily
Piacevole ----> Pleasing
Pianoissimo --> Very soft
Piano --------> Soft
Pizzicato ----> Plucked (in string music)
Più ----------> More
Poco ---------> A little
Poco a poco --> Little by little (gradually)
Presto -------> Very quick
Prestissimo --> As fast as possible
Rallentando --> Becoming gradually slower
Risoluto -----> Boldly
Ritardando ---> Becoming gradually slower
Ritenuto (rit.)--> Hold back (i.e. slower at once)
Ritmico ------> Rhythmically
Scherzo ------> A joke
Scherzando ---> Playfully
Segno --------> a sign:
(see dal segno)
Sempre -------> Always
Senza --------> Without
Sforzando ----> With a sudden accent
sf or sfz
Simile -------> In a similar manner
Sordini ------> Mutes. Con sordi: with mutes, a direction for string or brass players.
Senza sordini: without mutes
Stacato ------> Short, detached
Stringendo ---> Gradually faster
Subito -------> Suddenly
Tempo --------> The speed of the music.
Tempo di Gavotta ---> In the time (and style) of a Gavotte
Tempo Primo --> Resume the original speed
Tempo 1
Tenito -------> Held
Tranquillo ---> Quietly
Tre corde ----> (lit. Three strings) Release the left (soft) pedal of the pianoforte
Troppo -------> Too much
Una corda ----> (lit. One string) Depress the left (soft) pedal of the piano forte
Vivance ------> Lively, quick


This is slightly difficult to do as most things are difficult to simply type in due to the fact that they’re symbols... so these are the ones I am able to show to you.

> -----------> Accent
⁀ -----------> Slur (smooth)
♩ = 88 --------> 88 crotchets to the minute
< > -----------> Getting louder, then softer
⌒ -----------> Phrase mark
♩‿♫ -----------> Tie or bind
------> Give prominence
Ped. Or Ped___________| --->Depress sustaining pedal, then release
||: :|| ----> The section is to be repeated
| ♩ ♩ | ♩ ♩ | ♫ ♫ || ---> Bar lines and Double Bar
V -----------> For String Players --> Up Bow

Remember, this stuff is for complete beginners to fully remember in order to pass their grading. Don't force these into you head, take your time and test yourself on them. Just like you would with spelling tests back in the day. So take your time! Good luck!


Also, check out my music listed on Sound Cloud (link below) if you like it follow me on facebook! :)

JazzMaverick on Sound Cloud
JazzMaverick Music




Good plan with the music theory grades. i never got the chance to do these so this gives me a chance to realise which grade i may be at.
i have a feeling i maybe about 4 or 5. im not entirely sure

many thanks for this


To be honest, I think a beginner will take a look at this and then never want to learn theory again!

It would have been much better if it was seperated into different sections, like dynamics, tempo, etc and then ordered logically rather than everything in one big melting pot. For example, the first term "a tempo" should come after tempo!


wow thats is alot of vocabulary. and italian vocab at that


Hehe, nice lez again. So next time I go to training with my band I have to say to my drummer

" Hey, next time in bridge part use forzando fills and after that continue largo"

And to my bassist

"please! try to make it more stringendo!!!"

Lets see how they react xD


@ Empirism, hahaha that would be hilarious! Tell me how that goes!

@ BHS, have patience! :D I'm writing out the actual lesson now, this is just the glossary for everything I'm about to write about in the Grade 1 lesson. Instead of people trying to find it through my lesson, I felt it was easier to write out the definitions in a new lesson.

I also put it in alphabetical order. I don't think it's that difficult to browse down the page to find similar definitions.

@ JCB, I'm writing them all out so in a little while you'll be able to tell where you're at. :D


Da Capo is also a really good anime

Just to be a little random =)


good lesson...this reminds me of music classes back in school...cant say i remembered half of these


Most people never have to know any of this with guitar, I use it all on trumpet but I have used virtually none on guitar


yeah, but its good to know if you plan to write for other instruments


this is a nice idea..I'm gonna read it from beginning to end..Can't wait.

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