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I'm a lifelong musician, and this is something I've always wondered about. I know that decrescendo translates to "decreasing" and diminuendo to "diminishing", but does this have any practical difference when it comes to playing or writing music? In my experience I've noticed decrescendo markings used over shorter bars and phrases, and diminuendo used more often to mark longer passages and pages where the > would be clumsy. Should I be interpreting these two marking differently when I am reading music?

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    the abbreviation for both is dim. They mean the same. You can choose, it's up to you. – Albrecht Hügli Jun 7 at 20:24
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    Not sure about this but it seems to me that decrescendo always (or mostly) follows a passage of increased loudness. I can't imagine a piece beginning with mf being marked decrescendo a few bars later. But I can imagine a piece starting the same way, but then marked f, and then a few bars later, decrescendo. In other words, I don't think you can decresc unless you've recently got louder. Perhaps it suggests a return to the level of the previous dynamic marking, but I've certainly never heard anything about them being interpreted differently from each other. – Old Brixtonian Jun 7 at 22:37
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    @Albrecht Hügli 1 I'm sure I've seen decresc. Or was it just the start of a decresc - en - do? – Old Brixtonian Jun 7 at 22:43
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    Yes, of course: dim. or decresc. I was wrong, sorry! – Albrecht Hügli Jun 8 at 1:47
  • Dolmetsch defines them identically. – Carl Witthoft Jun 8 at 15:47
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There is some discussion about whether Franz Schubert used the two terms to mean slightly different things, 'diminuendo' being a 'decrescendo' combined with a slight slowing down. Otherwise the two terms are used completely interchangeably.

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