Forte vs. Piano: Know the Difference
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on November 13, 2023
Forte means loud in music dynamics, while piano means soft.
Forte in music indicates a passage should be played loudly, with energy and strength. Conversely, piano signifies that the passage should be played softly and quietly. Both terms are essential for expressing dynamics in musical performance, guiding musicians in how to convey emotion and intensity.
In an orchestra, when the conductor signals forte, the musicians intensify their playing, whereas a piano signal reduces the ensemble's volume, showcasing the ebb and flow of musical storytelling. Each dynamic has its role, with forte grabbing attention and piano inviting introspection.
Forte is derived from the Italian word for "strong," a directive for musicians to increase the volume. Piano, on the other hand, is short for pianoforte, originally referring to the instrument capable of both soft and loud play, and in dynamic terms, it instructs a decrease in volume.
Forte and piano can dramatically change a piece of music's effect on the listener, with forte often used for impactful, energetic sections and piano for more delicate, expressive parts. The contrast between them can enhance the drama and emotional depth of a performance.
While forte demands a bold, pronounced sound, piano calls for a more subdued, gentle approach. These dynamic instructions contribute to the texture and mood of a piece, with forte often building excitement or climax and piano creating a sense of calm or intimacy.
Energetic and strong
Subtle and delicate
F or ff (fortissimo for very loud)
P or pp (pianissimo for very soft)
Can convey power or intensity
Often conveys calmness or tenderness
Forte and Piano Definitions
The part of a sword or blade that is strong and used for parrying.
He deftly blocked with the forte of his blade.
A musical instrument with keys, strings, and a hinged lid.
She played a haunting melody on the piano.
An activity one excels in.
Cooking is his forte; his meals are always delightful.
A dynamic direction in music indicating softness.
The pianist transitioned to piano as the song progressed.
Used to describe something one is particularly good at.
Strategic games are definitely my forte.
A musical instrument with a manual keyboard actuating hammers that strike wire strings, producing sounds that may be softened or sustained by means of pedals.
Something in which a person excels
“His forte was in defusing negative rumors before they ever exploded into news accounts” (Jane Mayer).
A passage to be played softly or quietly.
The strong part of a sword blade, between the middle and the hilt.
In a soft or quiet tone. Used chiefly as a direction.
A note, passage, or chord played forte.
(musical instruments) a percussive keyboard musical instrument, usually ranging over seven octaves, with white and black colored keys, played by pressing these keys, causing hammers to strike strings
The piano in his house takes up a lot of space.
She has been taking lessons for many years and now plays piano very well.
In a loud, forceful manner. Used chiefly as a direction.
To play the piano.
A strength or talent.
He writes respectably, but poetry is not his forte.
(of or with fingers) To move (the fingers) up and down on, similar to the motions of a pianist playing the piano.
The strong part of a sword blade, close to the hilt.
To equip with a piano.
A passage in music to be played loudly; a loud section of music.
This forte marks the climax of the second movement.
To become softer and less intense.
(music) Loud. Used as a dynamic directive in sheet music in its abbreviated form, "f.", to indicate raising the volume of the music. (Abbreviated in musical notation with an f, the Unicode character 1D191.)
This passage is forte, then there's a diminuendo to mezzo piano.
(music) softly, as a musical direction (abbreviated to p. in sheet music)
The musicians played the passage forte.
(music) Soft, quiet.
The strong point; that in which one excels.
The construction of a fable seems by no means the forte of our modern poetical writers.
(in extended use) Gentle, soft, subdued.
The stronger part of the blade of a sword; the part of half nearest the hilt; - opposed to foible.
Soft; - a direction to the performer to execute a certain passage softly, and with diminished volume of tone. (Abbrev. p.
Loudly; strongly; powerfully.
A well-known musical instrument somewhat resembling the harpsichord, and consisting of a series of wires of graduated length, thickness, and tension, struck by hammers moved by keys.
An asset of special worth or utility;
Cooking is his forte
A stringed instrument that is played by depressing keys that cause hammers to strike tuned strings and produce sounds
(music) with great loudness
(music) low loudness
The stronger part of a sword blade between the hilt and the foible
Used chiefly as a direction or description in music;
The piano passages in the composition
Used chiefly as a direction or description in music;
The forte passages in the composition
Used as a direction in music; to be played relatively softly
Used as a direction in music; to be played relatively loudly
Played softly in music.
The piece begins piano, with a gentle melody.
A person's strong suit or skill.
Mathematics is her forte.
Referring to gentle, quiet sound in music.
The piano passages in the symphony were exquisite.
Loudly in music dynamics.
The chorus entered forte, filling the hall with sound.
An instruction in sheet music to play quietly.
He marked the score with 'piano' to ensure a soft sound.
Repeatedly Asked Queries
How is piano used in music terminology?
Piano indicates music should be played softly.
Can forte apply to other areas besides music?
Yes, it can also mean a person's strong point.
Is piano only a musical term?
No, it's also an instrument with keys and strings.
What is the symbol for piano in musical notation?
The letter 'p' represents piano.
Is forte always loud?
In musical context, yes; in personal skill, it's about strength, not volume.
What does forte mean in music?
Forte means to play loudly or with strength.
What symbol represents forte in music?
The letter 'f' indicates forte in sheet music.
Are there degrees of forte and piano?
Yes, ff means very loud (fortissimo) and pp means very soft (pianissimo).
Can an entire piece be played forte or piano?
Yes, but varying dynamics typically add more interest.
Can forte and piano be combined in music?
Yes, composers often use both to create dynamics.
What dynamic is softer than piano?
Pianissimo (pp) is softer than piano.
What does a piano dynamic bring to a piece?
It brings subtlety and tenderness.
Can singers use forte and piano?
Yes, singers use these dynamics to add expression to their performance.
Can the terms forte and piano be used for all instruments?
Yes, they apply to all instruments capable of dynamic variation.
What's softer, piano or mezzo-piano?
Piano is softer than mezzo-piano.
How do you increase from piano to forte?
Gradually increase volume, possibly using a crescendo.
How does forte affect a musical performance?
It adds power and intensity.
Does piano always indicate a lower volume?
In music dynamics, yes; it does not refer to volume when discussing the instrument.
What's louder, forte or mezzo-forte?
Forte is louder than mezzo-forte.
Do forte and piano affect the tempo of music?
No, they refer to volume, not speed.
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Written byShumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.