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So after writing ff when you want musicians to play very loud, would you rather write f alone or meno f if you want them to go a bit softer but still loud enough?

4 Answers 4

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As a general rule, seeing f after ff would present no confusion at all, especially if they are separated by a measure or two. If it's a significant concern, perhaps consider meno ff rather than f or meno f, since the former refers back directly to the previous dynamic.

If they're quite close together on the score, then something like meno f or even just meno could help clarify things visually.

As an interpretive matter, I might wonder whether a descrescendo is implied between the ff and f, so an indication in that regard might also be helpful. Say, sempre ff, followed by meno f.

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  • If they're only separated by a bar or so, then "ff > f" is clearest, where ">" is a decrescendo hairpin. But it depends a bit whether you want a gradual transition or a sudden one. Jul 23 at 15:08
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    It's going to be pretty difficult regardless to have a sudden transition from ff to f that sounds convincing and not just like the brass has suddenly run out of steam. If the aim is to bring out sudden decreases of volume then I'd suggest actually using crescendo hairpins and write f < subito mf <. Jul 23 at 20:08
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fff, ff, f,mf, mp, p, pp, ppp all have a distinct meaning on their own. So writing ff, then f means exactly what they should. There's no need to modify any in relation to changing from one to another - each is precise - as precise as volume in music can be. Should say relative, really.

So, just writing ff, followed by f will mean play loudly, followed by play less loudly. Since meno f means less f, you're actually asking for less than f, which I don't think is what you need. And if it is, then mf is the sign to use.

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    meno means "less", not "less than"; meno f means "less loud", not "less than loud".
    – Aaron
    Jul 23 at 7:48
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    @Aaron - using that info, then maybe the sign needed by OP should be 'meno ff'? Or even just 'meno'? If so, your answer is just right.
    – Tim
    Jul 23 at 7:53
  • Some instruments' sound changes (e.g. becoming more "scratchy" or "busy") when played as loud as possible. If "f" would indicate the loudest sound that can be produced cleanly, but one wants to indicate a change from "loudest practical sound" to "quiest possible sound that's still scratchy", a notation like "meno f" may be more likely to achieve that result than simply writing "f", but it might be better to include a performance note indicating what is actually desired.
    – supercat
    Jul 23 at 16:43
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I would rather write forte (or f) than "meno forte" (or "meno f"). In fact, I would rather write "più piano" than "meno forte", regardless of the dynamics. Both effectively mean the same thing, and "più piano" is more common than "meno forte" (at least if I trust my Google results returning queries of what "più piano" means such as https://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=34709.0 in the first page of results, while the first page of results for "meno forte" return no such query pages and a disturbingly high number of medication pages instead - also possibly notable: the current Wikipedia page about dynamics contains "più piano" instead of "meno forte"). But since "più piano" can still risk confusion about the volume level, I'd rather write f instead in your situation.

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If you want 'still ff but back off a bit' you could write 'meno ff'. If you want 'f' write 'f'.

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