I've composed a short melody, however I'm very new to all this piano theory, how would I tell the pianist to play the entire piece softly? (mp, not pp), and how would I write exceptions for specific notes? For example, take this piece of music.enter image description here

How would I get the pianist to play the entire piece softly, but the bar in red, to be played regularly?

4 Answers 4


The conventional method is to write sempre mp in the first measure. Sempre means always.

The exceptional measure could be marked as più forte ("louder"), followed by sempre mp again.

Another possibility is rinforzando ("reinforced") with a dashed line after it to indicate the emphasized part. Individual notes can be marked as rfz.


Another approach would be to simply state the instructions either in a blob of text preceding the music page or perhaps somewhere between the title and the music:

vuvuzela concerto in D

This though would require translation should the work be published for e.g. Klingons or Lojbanists who may be familiar with classical music scoring conventions but not English.

% LilyPond engraving system - http://www.lilypond.org/
\version "2.18.0"
\header {
  title = "Vuvuzela Concerto in D"

\markup {
  \vspace #2
  \italic {
    "Play entire piece softly ("
    \dynamic mp
    ") except for measure 7." }

bbbb = {
 \tempo 4=96

\score {
  \new Staff << \bbbb >>
  \layout { }

(Redundant information may also help future translators link language to the musical notation of the time, and will otherwise help reinforce the composer's intentions—however bizarre they may seem.)

  • 9
    Yeah, that is pretty hilarious. It's got to be one of the more difficult pieces in the vuvuzela repertoire.
    – BobRodes
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 6:49
  • 16
    Can a vuvuzela be played ppp? Would circular breathing help that long note? So many questions...
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 8:07
  • 22
    Vuvuzela Concerto in D. Key signature is C. The entire song is a Bb played for seven measures. This checks out.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 15:46
  • 18
    @Kevin: Like most wind instruments, the vuvuzela is a transposing instrument. This concerto is scored for a vuvuzela in E. (Since the vuvuzela repertoire is mostly atonal, key signatures are typically not employed). Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 13:42
  • 5
    @Restioson youtube.com/watch?v=wf2P8SnOwLo Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 15:20

Why are we making such a fuss over this? If you want the piece to start mp, write 'mp' in the first bar. If you want a particular section played mf, write 'mf' at that point. Then 'mp' again. A confirmatory '(sempre mp)' might be useful at a new section of the piece.

BTW, there is no such thing as 'regular volume'. If you want mf, say so.

  • 6
    If the piece is longer than a few bars, then some pianists may interpret mp as merely a starting point, rather than as something that needs to be maintained throughout. I think that it is worth adding sempre if an even volume is important. Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 8:37
  • @AndrewWoods I'm not so sure; if there were no other markings then I'd say you're right. If there is a bar in the middle with a different marking and then back to mp in the subsequent bar, there is no ambiguity whatsoever. If you want to enforce dynamics in the player beyond what is conventional, I would like to point out that the player is free to ignore your markings anyway. Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 1:57
  • 2
    Blimey! My concise, common-sense answers aren't always THAT popular! :-)
    – Laurence
    Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 19:28

You can instruct the pianist to use the soft pedal by writing una corda above the score, at the very beginning.

Mark the louder passage with tutte le corde or tre corde to indicate normal volume.

Soft pedal can affect timbre. If you don't want that, you can just use the standard dynamic markings to indicate soft (piano) or loud (forte) in the appropriate sections.

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