Level: Units 7+
Use these flashcards to learn the names and meanings of dynamics terms. Plus, we’ve included a handy reference sheet with the most common terms and symbols used for dynamics. These terms and symbols let performers know how loud or soft to play.
- Print the resource double-sided on cardstock.
- Cut out the flashcards and practice reviewing the terms. Fun games and ideas are included below!
What is on these dynamics flashcards?
On one side of the card, you’ll see a symbol, also known as a dynamic marking. This symbol is written on sheet music to let a musician know how loud or soft to play. There are also crescendo and decrescendo (diminuendo) symbols. These are made of two lines that start at a point and then diverge for crescendo, or that start apart and then come together at a point for decrescendo or diminuendo.
On the other side of each card you’ll see the name of the dynamic marking. Notice that these names are Italian words. This is because much of the notation for Western music was developed in Italy during the Renaissance.
What is on the dynamic reference sheet?
This set of cards comes with a useful dynamics reference sheet. It lists all the dynamics in order from softest to loudest, and also includes the markings for changing dynamics from soft to loud and from loud to soft.
Pianissimo, symbol pp, means very soft
Piano, symbol p, means soft
Mezzo piano, symbol mp, means medium soft
Mezzo forte, symbol mf, means medium loud
Forte, symbol f, means strong and loud.
Fortissimo, symbol ff, means very loud
Crescendo means gradually get louder
Decrescendo or diminuendo means gradually get softer
What are dynamic markings used for in music?
Dynamic markings in music are important to let a musician know how loud or soft to make the music. They can also let the musician know if they should be getting louder or softer. Why does this matter? The same music can convey a very different feeling if it’s played loudly as opposed to softly.
Most of the time, a piece of music will have different dynamic markings written throughout. Changing the volume of music throughout a song not only helps keep the listener’s interest, but can create an emotional journey. The dynamic markings set out by the composer are a guide for the musician to help them recreate the composer’s intention for a piece.
The word “dynamic” means constantly changing and full of energy. Imagine playing an entire piece of music at the same volume. That might be kind of boring, right? By using different dynamics throughout a piece, a musician can create a more energetic and engaging performance.
Ideas for using these printable dynamics flashcards.
Use your double-sided cards to practice naming your dynamic markings.
When you begin learning, only choose a few cards at a time. This will be easier than trying to learn all the cards at once. Randomly choose three cards and place them symbol-side up. Point to a card, say the name of the dynamic marking, and turn the card over to see if you’re right. When you can do all three cards without making a mistake, add a fourth card. Continue practicing and adding cards until you can name all nine dynamics symbols in the set.
Use your double-sided cards to learn the volume for each dynamic marking.
Start by using your dynamic reference sheet. Speak each dynamic term at its indicated volume. Whisper “pianissimo” very softly, then say “piano” softly, then say “mezzo piano” medium softly, and so on. When you get to the word “crescendo,” try to start soft and get louder, and with “diminuendo” start loud and get soft.
Once you are familiar with each term and its volume, stack your dynamics cards with the terms facing up and shuffle them so they’re in random order. Look at the cards one at a time. For each card, say the term out loud at the volume level for that term.
Use your double-sided cards to practice listening for dynamics.
Lay out all the dynamics cards with either the symbols facing up, the terms facing up, or a combination of both. Choose any kind of music to listen to, like a classical piece, your favorite pop song, or a movie soundtrack you love. As you listen, point to the card that has the symbol or term that matches the dynamics you hear. Notice how quickly or how slowly the dynamics change. Also think about how the different dynamics affect the mood of the music.
Use your double-sided cards to practice playing piano with different dynamics.
This is a fun game to play with a practice partner. Tell your partner to randomly place a dynamics card on the piano music stand in front of you, and change the card whenever they want. Sit at the piano and start playing a song you know well. When your practice partner puts a dynamic term card on the piano, change the volume of your playing to match the dynamic.
Play a dynamic memory match with single-sided cards.
For this game, print a new set of dynamic term cards, only this time print them single-sided on heavy cardstock. Cut the cards out. You should have eighteen cards that are blank on one side and have dynamic symbols or words on the other.
To play the game, start by placing all the cards blank side up. With a partner, take turns turning over a pair of cards. If you have a dynamic symbol and a dynamic word that matches, you get to keep that pair of cards. For example, if you turn over pp and pianissimo, you keep those cards.
Enjoy learning about dynamics and using them to make your music more exciting.
Practice playing with different dynamics and open up a whole new level of excitement in your music making. Also, as you listen to music, be aware of what the dynamics are and how those changes in volume affect the way you feel.
Learn more about Dynamics in this blog post!