I'm working on a piece where the volume is specified as fp. From what I can tell, this means "forte piano", which to me is meaningless. This is a piano piece, so:

1) Is it meaningless? 2) Do they perhaps mean that the upper voice is f and the lower voice is p? 3) Other options?

2 Answers 2


Forte, followed immediately by piano. On a wind or bowed string instrument, you can do this on a single note. On the piano, you can't change dynamics of a note once it's been struck, but you can play the first note forte and the following notes piano.

  • I think the main reason for writing "fp" as a single marking in a piano part is that "f" and "p" under two successive notes, with a small space in between, can look messy and untidy. As MattPutnam said, for other instruments you can change the dynamics within a single note.
    – user19146
    Jun 9, 2017 at 17:07
  • 3
    On some pianos, one could apply the effect to a chord if no other notes were being played simultaneously by pressing the damper pedal partially, striking the chord, and pressing the damper pedal fully just as the keys are being released. The exact timing required may vary between instruments, but the dampers on many pianos can be used to reduce the volume of playing notes without cutting them off entirely.
    – supercat
    Jun 9, 2017 at 19:30
  • @supercat - I posed a question a long time ago, about a similar, but not exactly the same technique with sustain pedal on piano, where the chord is struck, and the pedal pressed after the keys are released. It produces a sort of echo. Wonder if that's what is portrayed here.
    – Tim
    Jun 9, 2017 at 19:51
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    @Tim: Dampers which are fully sitting on the strings will absorb energy pretty quickly. Dampers which are lightly brushing against the strings will absorb energy less quickly. Different pianos will behave somewhat differently, and I strongly suspect that the only good way to figure out the best technique for a given instrument will be to try a variety of techniques on the instrument and either have someone else or an audio recorder give feedback as to what techniques work best.
    – supercat
    Jun 9, 2017 at 20:23
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    This technique can also be done without the pedal, just with the fingers, but it's tricky and not as effective: strike a loud chord, release quickly, and immediately depress the keys again, just slowly enough that they don't strike the notes again. It has the advantage over the pedal in that it's selective: you can choose which notes to let go on ringing softly. But it's tricky. Jun 10, 2017 at 20:21

Forte Piano is not meaningless it means loud soft or hard soft. So it is to be played loud and then immediately soft. As performance indications go this is anything but meaningless.

  • Which is all very well. But impossible to execute on some instruments.Please give more details.
    – Tim
    Jun 9, 2017 at 19:47

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