Lesson Eleven: Italian Terms

Music is played by people all over the world. It does not matter if you are in Finland or America or France, the musical notes on the page are the same in every language. However the composer will often want to write extra words on the music to say how fast he or she wants the music to go, when they want the players to slow down or become quiet or really loud. Because the music might be played all over the world, only one language is used to write in these special words and that language is ITALIAN. Italian is a beautiful language and you will have the pleasure of learning many Italian words through your music. You may already know some but here are the ones you will be tested on for 1st grade music theory.


adagio slowly
andante at an easy walking pace
moderato at a moderate speed
allego lively and fast
Changes to Speed  
accelerando (accel.) gradually speed up
rallentando gradually speed up
ritardando (ritard.)(rit.) slow down gradually
ritenuto (riten.)(rit.) slow down immediately
a tempo return to first speed
crescendo (cres.) (cresc.) gradually becoming louder
decrescendo (decres.) (decresc.) gradually becoming softer
forte (f) loud
piano (p) soft
Extra Terms  
staccato short and detached
legato smoothly , well connected
tie joins two or more notes so they become one sound
slur two or more notes played legato
double bar line Two lines at the end of every song



For this grade try to learn one or two words each week depending on your age.


To learn your Italian words it is a good idea to make them into playing cards and play games with them. Get two different coloured pieces of cardboard and rule it up into rectangles that are 10cm x 8cm. Write your Italian terms on one colour and the English meanings on the other colour. Keep them in two separate piles, shuffle them separately and you can play SNAP with a friend. You take turns with your friend and each put a card down. One has all the Italian terms and the other all the English meanings. When the English meaning fits with the Italian term then someone can SNAP it.


Another game you can play when you have learned some of your terms is MEMORY. To play this game put all the cards that you have learned so far face down on the floor or table. If you play by yourself turn one card of each colour over and see if they are a match. If they are you get to keep the pair. Keep doing this until they are all gone. If you are playing with others, take turns to turn over one card of each colour and keep any pairs you can find. The winner is the player with the most pairs when all the cards are gone or the time is up.

You will need to know what a tie, a slur, legato and staccato mean. A tie is a curved line that joins together more than one note to make the note a longer one.
The Tie
We need ties because our time signature tells us how our notes can be grouped. For example, in 3/4, if we want to have a note that went for four beats we would have to have a dotted minim tied over the bar line to a crotchet in the next bar.
The Slur
The slur tells us which notes to play legato. Legato means that there is no breath in between each note. The slur is a curved line over the notes to tell which ones should be played or sung legato.
Legato is a word which tells us how to play some notes. The word means to play or sing the notes like they are covered in syrup. There is no breaths in between the notes but a smooth gliding from one note to the next.

Staccato is just the opposite of legato and means the notes are to be played short and sharp. We know to play notes staccato when we see a dot above the note (not next to it).