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Expression Marks


Expression marks are short music terms written at the beginning of a score to indicate a kind of mood or tempo to be interpreted. They may also be written anywhere a new mood or tempo is to occur.

Although similar, expression marks are not to be confused with tempo notation!

Figure 1: An expression mark at the beginning of a score.


Expression Texts

The following is a list of text commonly used to build expression marks:

Expression Text Language Description
Affettuoso It. With feeling
Agitato It. Agitated
Amoroso It. Tender; affectionate
Animato It. Animated; lively
Brillante It. With brilliance or vivacity
Bruscamente It. Brusquely
Calando It. Gradually softer and slower
Colossale It. In a fashion which suggests immensity
Comodo It. Comfortable; easy
Cantabile It. In a singing style
Con amore It. With love
Con anima It. With life and animation
Con brio It. With brilliance or vivacity
Con fuoco It. With fire
Con moto It. With movement
Con spirito It. With spirit
Deciso It. Decisively
Detache Fr. Detached
Dolce It. Sweetly
Doloro It. So sorrowfully
Doloroso It. Sorrowfully
Expressivo It. Expressively
Furioso It. Furiously
Giocoso It. Humorous
Grandioso It. With grandeur
Grazioso It. Gracefully
Lacrimoso It. Tearfully
Legato It. Smooth; connected
Leggiero It. Lightly
Maestoso It. Majestically
Marcato It. Marked; stressed
Marzial It. In the style of a march
Marzialin It. In the style of a march
Misterioso It. Mysteriously
Morendo It. Dying away
Perdendosi It. Dying away
Pesante It. Heavy
Religioso It. Religious; solemn
Rubato It. Taken out of tempo; stolen time
Scherzando It. Playfully
Semplice It. Simple
Semplicemente It. Simply
Sempre It. Always; continuously
Sentimento It. Sentiment
Slancio It. Passion; enthusiasm
Sostenuto It. Sustained
Soto voce It. In an undertone
Sotto It. Subdued
Staccato It. Short; detached
Tenuto It. Sustained; held for full value
Tranquillo It. Tranquill
Vivace It. Vivacious


Clarity Terms

The following is a list of Italian clarity terms which are used in conjunction with the above texts:

Clarity Term Description
Assai Very
Con With
L'istesso tempo Same tempo
Ma non troppo But not too much
Meno Less
Molto Very
Mosso Moved; agitated
Non troppo Not too much
Piu More
Piu mosso Faster
Poco Little
Poco a poco Little by little
Semp Realways
Sempre Always
Simile In the same manner
Subito Suddenly


Also see Tempo | Dynamics.


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