Performance directions – basic music terms

Performance directionIn music we use Italian terms as directions. It is a way for the composer to tell performers their intention and it gives us an idea of the mood or style to perform it in.

Try to think up images or stories as you play that suit the performance directions.
These are just some of the most common music directions, with the most popular ones highlighted. For more on tempo (and terms to do with speed) go to this blog post.


Adagio  – slow
Allegretto – fairly quick (not as fast as allegro)
Allegro – quick/lively
Amoroso – tender, affectionate
Animato – animated, lively
Andante – at a medium walking speed
Cantabile – in a singing style
Con Anima – with life and animation
Con Brio – with vigour and spirit
Con Fuoco – with energy or passion
Dolce – sweetly, privately (for yourself)
Doloroso – sorrowfully
Espressivo – expressively
Furioso – furious
Giocoso – humorous
Grandioso – with grandeur
Grazioso – gracefully
Legato – smooth and connected
Leggiero – lightly
Maestoso – majestically
Morendo – dying away
Pesante – heavy
Sempre – always, continuously
Staccato –  detached
Tenuto – sustained, held for full value
Tranquillo – tranquil

Other useful words

Assai – very
Con – with
L’istesso tempo – same tempo
Meno – less
Mosso – motion, animated
Non troppo – not too much
Piu mosso – faster
Poco – little
Poco a poco – little by little
Sempre – always
Simile – in the same manner
Subito – suddenly



Published by Jessamy

Forte Flutes began as a collective of tips and resources for musicians and flautists of all abilities. I have combined it with my personal blog and music news. I am a professional flautist, piccolo player and teacher. Please enjoy the blog and feel free to drop me a message.

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