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Musical Terms – Practical Guide

Musical terms glossary cover image

Due to many influential composers living in Italy in the Renaissance period, the standard language of music still today is Italian. Therefore, we have written a compact glossary of music terms. This article should give answers to the most important and common musical markings that appear in our – and generally any – sheet music.

The subcategories:

  • Dynamics (static and changes)
  • Tempo markings
  • Expressive terms
  • Articulation terms
  • Chord symbols


Static Dynamics

pppPiano pianissimoExtremely soft
ppPianissimoVery soft
mpMezzo-pianoHalf soft
mfMezzo-forteHalf loud
ffFortissimoVery loud
fffForte fortissimoExtremely loud
Excerpt from Habanera by Bizet showcasing dynamics.
An example of dynamics in Bizet’s Habanera.

Changes of Dynamics

Italian TermTranslation
CrescendoBecoming louder
DecrescendoSee 'Diminuendo'
DiminuendoBecoming softer

Tempo Markings

Italian TermTranslation
LentoVery slow
AndanteModerately slow, “at a walking pace”
ModeratoAt a moderate speed
PrestoVery fast
PrestissimoExtremely fast
Meno mossoA new, slower tempo
Piú mossoA new, faster tempo

Expression and Moods

Italian TermTranslation
CantabileIn a singing style (often ‘legato’)
VivaceLively, up-tempo


Italian TermTranslation
LegatoTied together
Marcato"Marked", forcefully
PortatoBetween ‘staccato’ and ‘legato’ (semi-long).
StaccatoDetached notes with very short articulation. The opposite of ‘legato’.

Chord Symbols

We occasionally add chord symbols to our piano sheet music. They are shown right above the upper staff. Their use is optional; with them you can create your own alternative accompaniment. They are also very useful if you play with a band.

  • The chord root letter only = major chord
  • The chord root and letter ‘m’ = minor chord
  • The chord root and number ‘7’ = minor seventh chord
Chord symbols in a piano score. Example from the piece "Korobeiniki".
Chord symbols in a piano score (The ‘Tetris Theme”, Korobeiniki).

Read more about different kinds of chords in Wikipedia.

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10 Easy Folk Songs for the Piano

Easy folk songs header image with some vintage radios on shelf

1. Auld Lang Syne

The traditional New Year’s song. A nice song to sing and play together – Scotland’s gift to the world.

Auld Lang Syne – Buy Sheet Music (PDF)

2. Londonderry Air / Danny Boy

An Irish song with more than one title.

Londonderry Air / Danny Boy – Buy Sheet Music (PDF)

3. Värmlandsvisan

Värmlandsvisan (Ack, Värmeland, du sköna) is an extremely melancholic and beautiful Swedish song.

Värmlandsvisan – Buy Sheet Music (PDF)

4. Ievan polkka (Ieva’s Polka)

A former viral Internet hit, the Finnish-based Ievan polkka is a lot of fun to play with the piano.

Ievan polkka – Buy Sheet Music (PDF)

5. Whiskey in the Jar

Good old Irish song for good times! As long as there’s some whiskey in the jar, the life is great for the pianist, as well.

Whiskey in the Jar – Buy Sheet Music (PDF)

6. Sakura, Sakura

A famous Japanese song about cherry blossoms and how they only bloom for a week before falling. This song is from the Edo period.

Sakura, Sakura – Buy Sheet Music (PDF)
Cherry blossom (Sakura)

7. Scarborough Fair

An old English ballad with a tranquil, Dorian harmony and melody.

Scarborough Fair – Buy Sheet Music (PDF)

8. Täällä Pohjantähden alla (Here Beneath the Northern Star)

Perhaps the most loved traditional song in Finland is this one. Full of sorrow, yet so beautiful.

Täällä Pohjantähden alla – Buy Sheet Music (PDF)

9. Korobeiniki

The Russian traditional song “Korobeiniki” is known also as the “Tetris song” – having been chosen the background music of the famous video game. The original song is a story about a travelling merchant.

Korobeiniki – Buy Sheet Music (PDF)

10. Oh! Susanna

A true American song, often played with the banjo. Oh! Susanna is also a great choise for a pianist – and quite easy, too!

Oh! Susanna – Buy Sheet Music (PDF)
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Three North American Songs Added

Canadian landscape with mountains and a lake

Hello folks!

We’ve got three brand new arrangements for pianists out there:

We are also expanding our selection to jazz/blues side. Actually, you can now find a whole new genre page labeled Popular / Jazz / Blues. Two of the new pieces found their new home in that category!

Happy April from!

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Folk Song Additions

A brown piano shoot from above

Eight New Folk Songs

Happy New Year from! We have kept ourselves busy over the holidays and have now added the sheet music for the piano to eight new folk songs. The scores can be found in our Traditional Tunes -section.

We will add even more of these traditional songs from all over the world in our next update.

What would you like us to arrange next? Maybe some traditional music from your country? Please let us know!