What is exactly the difference between f (forte) and fz (forzato) ? I thought for long time that fz is similar to sf (sforzando), i.e. that it's a punctual dynamic that works only at the moment where it's written, but just after the fz we use the same nuance (for example, if we are in p, then we want an accent at some point, and thus write fz, but just after the accent, we go back to p). However, I'm actually playing a piece where we are indeed in p, at some point the composer wrote fz, but in several interpretation I know, pianists stay in f. So, maybe sf and fz are quite different, and I was wondering if maybe fz could be sf +f. Could someone gives more details ?

  • In my experience, the most common abbreviation for sforzando is not sf but sfz. I would also note that, in Italian, sforzando and forzato both mean forced.
    – phoog
    Commented May 26, 2022 at 14:46
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    Depends on who the composer was. Commented May 26, 2022 at 16:07
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    sf Is often glossed as subito forte
    – DjinTonic
    Commented May 27, 2022 at 0:55
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    Note, this question mentions pianists but is not tagged with any particular instrument in mind. String and wind instruments are able to shape the "envelope" of the note to emphasize the attack or to sustain the emphasis for the duration of the note. (The answer to "what's the difference between an accent and sfz" is still "depends on the composer and the context," but for such instruments the difference one way or the other is often the relationship of the attack to the sustain.) Commented May 27, 2022 at 12:53

2 Answers 2


Note that sf is often defined as subito forte rather than sforzando.

subito forte / sf / suddenly loud
sforzando / sfz / with a sudden accent
C. Humphries and R. Goldsby The Piano Handbook (2002)

sf / subito forte / suddenly loud
sfz / sforzando / suddenly loud
Matti Carter; Pianist's Handbook (2018)

It begs the question if a single note (or passage) marked sf (suddenly loud) after a piano passage means something different than an ordinary f after a piano passage if an accent isn't involved (i.e., sfz). Nonetheless, if I'm not mistaken, Schumann sometimes uses sf and sfz in the same piece.

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    I'm surprised by the suggestion that sf be taken for a subito forte. I would always assume it to be sforzando, and expect "sub. f" for subito forte. I would guess that such listings are descriptive rather than proscriptive?, and surely describe rarer usages. Commented May 27, 2022 at 12:49
  • I would potentially play piano followed by forte subito differently from piano followed by forte without “subito”. Specifically, with the subito there I interpret that I’m asked to not have any crescendo or interpretive dynamics leading up to the forte, and instead preserve and maybe enhance the dynamic contrast at the start of the f sub. section. Commented Aug 6, 2023 at 17:55

From The Oxford Companion to Music (ed. Alison Latham, 2003):

forte (It.). 'Strong', i.e., loud; it is abbreviated f.

forza (It.). 'Force', 'strength'; forzando, forzato, 'forcing', 'forced', i.e., strongly accented.

sforzando, sforzato (It.). 'Forcing', 'forced', i.e., accented. In the 19th century it was used to mark an accent within the prevailing dynamic, but it has now acquired the connotation of sudden loudness; it is abbreviated sf or sfz.

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