What Is Forte In Music? Definition, Examples and Types (2023)

There’s a misconception that the word forte comes from the French word fort – or strong. However, most experts agree that this word has an Italian origin, just like the rest of most music-related vocabulary.

According to its definition, it means strong. So, what is forte in music?

There are several definitions that you need to know if you’re into playing or studying music, and in this article, we’ll explore the meaning of forte in music, when it should be used, and the most famous examplesof using forte in music. So, keep on reading.

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What Is Forte In Music?

What Is Forte In Music? Definition, Examples and Types (1)

Forte has several meanings in a musical context. It refers to a loud section in music or the way the music is played loudly. Typically, composers and musicians use the word “forte” to refer to music being played louder than a phrase that precedes or follows it.

Forte is a crucial part of music dynamics that shows composers, instrumentalists, and singers how soft or loud the music played will be. On a music notation, forte is referred to using the letter f.

The symbol of forte is sometimes displayed with other symbols that refer to the music being played from soft to loud or from loud to soft. These are known as crescendo and decrescendo.

Understanding the music dynamics is acrucial part of your music study, whether you’re studying music theory or learning to play music.

(Video) Basic Dynamics in Music | Music Theory Tutorial

As a matter of fact, thepiano instrumentwas initially called pianoforte because, unlike other keyboard instruments, this one could play dynamics.

What Are Music Dynamics?

The dynamics of music refer to the change in loudness as the musician moves between different musical phrases or notes. It’s determined by how strongly a musician would press the keys of their instrument or use their voice to deliver a note.

The interpretation and execution of dynamics depend on the musical context. So the symbol for forte can have a different effect in another music notation or another section of the same piece. Moreover, the overall result will be affected by the changes in timbre.

Using dynamics is one of the tools that musicians can use to express their state. They’re used to give a piece itsdistinctive character, help to display a specific emotion, and set it as part of a particular genre.

Any change in the music dynamics will greatly affect how the music feels and how it’s interpreted by the audience.

For example, in a music soundtrack, dynamics can be used to play the same musical notes in different scenes. The same musical phrase can be played in a battle scene and in a romantic scenewith two different dynamics, emphasizing different emotions every time.

This is why dynamic markings like forte are always relative, depending on where the marking is, which melody is being emphasized, and which instrument or voice is playing the note.

This means that forte doesn’t refer to a precise level of loudnessthat needs to be achieved whenever you see it on a music notation.

(Video) What Are Dynamics In Music?

When found at the beginning of a musical phrase, forte will refer to a louder note, but it would still be lower than a note played in the middle of the phrase. This is done to guarantee that the musical phrase is shaped harmonically and adequately.

Similarly, some instruments are naturally louder than others, so even if the whole music phrase is marked at the same dynamic level, there would still be differences in the ranks of loudness.

The pitch of the instrument will also affect how the music sounds, given that the whole musical phrase is marked with the same dynamic symbol.

For example, a trumpet is louder than a piano, so even if apiano is set to play a note in forte, it would still sound softer or lower. Likewise, a guitar playing a forte would still be lower than a tuba playing a piano note.

High-pitched instruments like brass instruments and violins would still sound louder than another low-pitched instrument like a double bass, even if both instruments are playing at the same decibel level.

What Are The Different Dynamics In Music?

What Is Forte In Music? Definition, Examples and Types (3)

The basic dynamic indications are piano and forte. Piano means quiet or soft and is indicated by p, while forte means loud or strong and is marked by f.

In addition to these 2 basic dynamic degrees, musicians use other more subtle degreesin music notation to express emotions.

  • mpis mezzo-piano and means moderately quiet.
  • più pis più-piano and means more quiet.
  • mfis mezzo-forte and means moderately loud.
  • più fis più forte and means more loud.
  • ppis pianissimo and means very quiet.
  • pppor triple piano is pianississimo and means very very quiet.
  • ffis fortissimo and meansvery loud.
  • fffor triple forte is fortissimo and means very very loud.
  • sfzis sforzando and means a sudden or forced loud sound.

The combination of these different dynamics changes the mood and the emotions in a single musical phrase and adds character to every musical composition. However, not all music pieces need to have all dynamics.

Some composers use very few dynamics, while others will use a lot. But the resulting music depends on the instrument playing it and the period of the music. The dramatic change in volume and intensity is like thefine-tuning of music.

If you’re experimenting with dynamics, you can change them from one performance to anotherin the form of improvisation. You will see that your performance will sound exceptionally different.

(Video) Elements of Music

Examples of Using Dynamics in Music

There are several musical performances where dynamics were brilliantly used to show contrast in loudness and softnessas the music progresses.

The buildup from extremely low and the progression to dramatically loud, and vice versa,using the same or different instruments is used to explain the emotional status of the scene where the music is played. Here are some of the most famous examplesof how dynamics are incorporated into musical compositions.

1.In the Hall of the Mountain King

What Is Forte In Music? Definition, Examples and Types (4)

In the Hall of the Mountain Kingis composed by Edvard Grieg in 1875 as incidental musicplayed during the sixth scene of act 2 in Henrik Ibsen’s 5-act play Peer Gynt.

This musical piece is played when the main character experiences a dream-like fantasy, and the music progresses to build up the emotions during the scene.

Thanks to its popularity, this musical performance waslater recorded in a Jazz performance by Alvino Rey and a heavy rock versionby the American rock bandBig Brother and the Holding Company.

There were later other musical compositions that included elements from this music piece, recorded in progressive rock, symphonic metal, and progressive metal.

It was even used as the theme music for a slot game called Hall of the Mountain King and was incorporated into several TV ads, movies, and television serieslike The Birth of a Nation, Needful Things, and Mad Men.

2.Hungarian Dance No.5

The German Johannes Brahms composed a set of 21 dance pieces that range in duration from one to 5 minutes. The fifth danceis filled with contrasting movements that make it one of the most outstanding examples of using dynamicsto display different emotions.

The music is performed in several tempos with various dynamics and was used in several theatrical releases. It was used in cartoonsand famous movies like Charlie Chaplin’s The Dictator, as well as live comedy performances.

3.Symphony No. 94

Symphony No. 94 or the Surprise Symphonywas written by Hayden in 1791 and lasted 23 minutes.

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It’s called the Surprise Symphony because it contains a sudden fortissimo played all of a suddenat the end of the piano theme of the second movement. The music then returns to its piano dynamic.

Legend has it that the Austrian composer included the surprise element to wake up audience members who had the habit of falling asleep during the slower movementsof symphonies.

4.Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5

What Is Forte In Music? Definition, Examples and Types (5)

Beethoven composed this symphonybetween 1804 and 1808 and is one of the most played classical compositions. The composition is full of contrasting dynamics.

It’s is one of the most popular symphoniesand was later used in Disney’s movie Fantasia.

The symphony was a clear representation of the heroic style that Beethoven started back in Symphony No. 3. Modern versions of the symphony were later played by various artists, like Walter Murphy, who composed a famous Disco version.

5.The Stars and Stripes Forever

John Philip Sousa composed this patriotic American march in 1896, and almost 100 years later, it became the National March of the United States.

Because it’s a representation of the different states and regions in the US,every theme has some interesting dynamics to represent these places.

But before that, the music piece was used as a warning signal in show business. For example, in a theatre or a circus, the house band would play this theme in the case of an emergency to allow the personnel to arrange the emergency exit of the audience.


What is forte an example of in music? ›

For loud music, musicians use the word forte (for-TAY.) Forte is the Italian word for loud. A fancy letter f tells musicians to play loudly, or at a forte dynamic level.

What is the definition of a forte in music? ›

: a musical tone or passage played loudly.

What type of music is forte? ›

Forte is a musical term that means 'loud'. Forming part of a piece's dynamic range, forte is usually abbreviated to a lowercase letter 'f' on a musical score and placed below the stave (or staff) it applies to.

What are forte and piano examples of? ›

We can think of dynamics as a kind of scale, with many intermediate steps between very loud and very soft. The names of these steps all use either forte or piano, meaning loud and soft. For example, fortissimo and pianissimo are very loud and very soft. Mezzo-forte and mezzo-piano are medium loud and medium soft.

Whats your forte meaning? ›

/ˈfɔː.teɪ/ a strong ability, something that a person can do well: Cooking was not exactly her forte. Synonym. strong point UK.

What is forte used for? ›

It helps in relieving moderate pain and reducing fever. It is used in various conditions such as muscle ache, back pain, joint pain, menstrual cramps, and toothache.

What is the forte symbol? ›

The dynamic symbol for loud is called forte (FOR-tay), and looks like the letter f. The dynamic symbol for soft is called piano (Pe-AH-no, the same as the musical instrument) and looks like the letter P. The dynamic symbol for very loud is two forte symbols. This is called fortissimo (for-TEE-see-mo).

Why is forte important in music? ›

Forte provides contrast to music by giving variation in loudness between notes or phrases. It's objective shows composers, instrumentalists, and singers how soft or loud the music played will be.

What is a forte instrument? ›

The fortepiano is the earliest version of the modern piano. It was developed by a Italian harpsichord-maker named Bartolomeo Christofori, who was employed by the Medici family of Florence.

What is forte in music dynamics? ›

Forte (f) – loud. Fortissimo (ff) – very loud. Sforzando (sfz) – a sudden, forced loud. Usually the appreviation is used to show dynamics in a piece of music.

What is the tempo of forte? ›

Forte is played at 146 Beats Per Minute (Allegro), or 29 Measures/Bars Per Minute. Time Signature: 5/4. Use our Online Metronome to practice at a tempo of 146BPM.

What are the 4 types of piano? ›

Gallery Grands, Parlor Grands, Studio Grands, and Baby Grands to name a few. There are no official guide lines to these names although a grand piano under 5' long is generally accepted as a Baby Grand.

What are the 3 types of piano? ›

As we mentioned before, the different types of pianos can be broken into three categories - acoustic, hybrid, and digital. However, the styles of pianos can also be broken down into grand pianos and upright pianos.

What is Forte called? ›


1 talent, skill, excellence, strength, strong suit, specialty, proficiency; knack, bent.

Why is it called Forte? ›

The word forte actually comes from the similar-sounding Latin word fortis, which means "strong." Romans (and countless groups since) called the big, barricaded structures they built "forts" because they were supposed to stay strong and keep out the hordes of invading barbarians.

What is a forte name? ›

Italian: from the personal name Forte from Late Latin fortis 'strong brave' (see Fort ) or from a short form of a medieval personal name formed with this element as for example Fortebraccio ('strong arm'). Italian: nickname from forte 'strong'.

What language is forte in? ›

Borrowed from Italian forte (“strong”).

What does forte mean in piano? ›

The two basic dynamic indications in music are: p or piano, meaning "quiet". f or forte, meaning "loud or strong".

Is it forte or forte? ›

The word forte (pronounced “fort”) is a French word meaning “strength” that is used in English to refer to one's talent or ability. Example: English is my forte. This word is often mispronounced “FOR-tay” because it is confused with the Italian word forte (pronounced “FOR-tay”).

How do you type the forte symbol? ›

Windows: Hold down Alt and press + on the numeric keyboard. Type: 1 D 1 9 1 and release Alt . A registry key needs to be enabled for this to work.

What are the 3 types of instruments? ›

Musical instruments are of three main categories: Stringed instruments. Percussion or membrane instruments. Wind instruments.

How many keys does a piano forte have? ›

The sound of the Museum's 1720 Cristofori differs considerably from the modern grand piano. Its range is narrower—54 rather than 88 keys—and its thinner strings and harder hammers give it a timbre closer to a harpsichord than a modern Steinway.

What are the types of tempo? ›

Typically, tempo is measured according to beats per minute (bpm) and is divided into prestissimo (>200 bpm), presto (168–200 bpm), allegro (120–168 bpm), moderato (108–120 bpm), andante (76–108 bpm), adagio (66–76 bpm), larghetto (60–66 bpm), and largo (40–60 bpm) (Fernández-Sotos et al., 2016).

Is forte loud or quiet? ›

Forte – loud. Mezzo forte – medium loud. Mezzo piano – medium quiet.

What are 4 notes called in music? ›

A tetrad is a set of four notes in music theory. When these four notes form a tertian chord they are more specifically called a seventh chord, after the diatonic interval from the root of the chord to its fourth note (in root position close voicing).

What are the 12 piano keys? ›

The 12 notes are C, C-Sharp (D-Flat), D, D-sharp (E-Flat), E, F, F-Sharp (G-Flat), G, G-Sharp (A-Flat), A, A-Sharp (B-Flat), and B.

What are the 7 keys on the piano? ›

The most important thing to remember is that a piano has 7 white notes namely C,D,E,F,G,A,B and 5 black notes C#, D#, F#, G#, A# or Db, Eb, Gb, Ab, Bb (depending upon which key your in).

What are the 3 major keys? ›

You should already know the scales of C, D, G and F major which are covered in Grade One Music Theory. In Grade Two ABRSM there are three new major scales which you need to know: A, Bb and Eb major.

What are the 3 keys in music? ›

Scales with flat key signatures
Major keyNumber of flatsMinor key
E♭ major3C minor
A♭ major4F minor
D♭ major5B♭ minor
G♭ major6E♭ minor
4 more rows

What are the 3 types of forms music? ›

Four basic types of musical forms are distinguished in ethnomusicology: iterative, the same phrase repeated over and over; reverting, with the restatement of a phrase after a contrasting one; strophic, a larger melodic entity repeated over and over to different strophes (stanzas) of a poetic text; and progressive, in ...

What is 4/4 an example of in music? ›

Some examples of songs that keep the 4/4 rhythm are Sweet Child O' Mine, Photograph by Ed Sheeran, We Will Rock You by Queen, Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes, and Firework by Katy Perry. The 4/4 time signature is prevalent in pop, rock, blues, funk, and country music genres.

What is forte instrument? ›

A fortepiano [ˌfɔrteˈpjaːno], sometimes referred to as a pianoforte, is an early piano. In principle, the word "fortepiano" can designate any piano dating from the invention of the instrument by Bartolomeo Cristofori in 1698 up to the early 19th century.

What are the 4 types of time signatures? ›

There are various types of time signatures, including: simple (such as 3/4 or 4/4), compound (e.g., 9/8 or 12/8), complex (e.g., 5/4 or 7/8), mixed (e.g., 5/8 & 3/8 or 6/8 & 3/4), additive (e.g., 3+2+3/8), fractional (e.g., 2½/4), and irrational meters (e.g., 3/10 or 5/24).

What is 4/4 time signature example? ›

4/4 means there are 4 beats in each measure and a quarter note receives one count. 2/4 means there are 2 beats in each measure and a quarter note receives one count. 2/2 means there are 2 beats in each measure and a half note receives one count.
How to read a time signature.
Bottom numberNote value
8Eighth beats
2 more rows
19 Sept 2022

What type of music uses 3/4 time? ›

The waltz-time or the 3/4 time signature has 3 quarter notes or any combination of notes that equals three-quarter notes in every measure instead of the 4 quarter notes of the standard 4/4 time. So the rhythm mainly goes as “1, 2, 3 or bass, top, top.” First, it was mainly used in Waltz music in the Romantic era.


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