Dynamics in music is so incredibly important to add expression, emotion and contrast. Anything from the softest tone to full on heavy and bold accents.
Some instruments can go from ppp to fff, others have a narrower dynamic range. Some instruments (like piano) can only have the dynamics chosen on the actual attack of the note, where others (like strings) can change the dynamics as the note sustains.
As a composer, you should not only be familiar with the different ranges, but your goal is to actually master the dynamic range of all instruments. Because not only do the loudness change, the tonal character of the instrument changes as well.
I made these guides for you, as an overview perspective of dynamics in music.
Music Dynamics Chart
- Pianississimo (ppp) = Very Very Soft
- Pianissimo (pp) = Softer
- Piano (p) = Soft
- Mezzo-piano (mp) = Half Soft
- Mezzo-forte (mf) = Half Loud
- Forte = Loud
- Fortissimo = Louder
- Fortississimo = Very Very Loud
Music Dynamics vs Human Voice
- Pianississimo = Whispering
- Pianissimo = Almost Whispering
- Piano = Softer than Speaking Voice
- Mezzo-piano = Speaking Voice (soft)
- Mezzo-forte = Speaking Voice (loud)
- Forte (f, 96) = Speaking Loudly
- Fortissimo = Almost Shouting
- Fortississimo = Yelling
Music Dynamics vs MIDI Velocity
- Pianississimo (ppp) = 16
- Pianissimo (pp) = 33
- Piano (p) = 49
- Mezzo-piano (mp) = 64
- Mezzo-forte (mf) = 80
- Forte (f) = 96
- Fortissimo (ff) = 112
- Fortississimo (fff) = 127