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With ppp, pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff, fff, sfz one denotes the transition from 'regular' intensity to pianississimo, pianissimo, etc.

If I understand correctly placing one of those indicates playing with that intensity from that point of the score onward.

How to denote returning to what was before the regular intensity?

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    It's probably noteworthy that NinSheetMusic, a video game theme arranging website I contribute to, refuses to publish any transcriptions that do not start off with an initial dynamic marking (the pp-ff kind, not a crescendo/piu piano/sfz/etc.). – Dekkadeci Feb 10 at 16:45
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There is no 'regular intensity' in music notation, and no 'regular speed'. You need to specify both at the outset.

But I know what you mean. A DAW, unless instructed otherwise, will probably give MIDI notes a velocity of 100 (or another fixed value) and default to a tempo of 120 b.p.m. (ever noticed how MUCH sequenced music has that tempo? :-) MIDI velocity 100 is probably about 'mf'. And if a lazy composer neglects to specify a dynamic when writing for live players, he'll probably get about mf.

So, OK, I give in. mf.

  • 100 is not at all a common default velocity across DAWs, but it is true that each DAW has a default velocity for MIDI note on messages entered in the piano roll or in any way that doesn't have velocity data attached to it. Some other default velocity numbers I've seen are 70, 90, and 120(!!). Most DAWs I use have a way to choose what you want the default velocity to be going forward. The 120 BPM default tempo does seem to be essentially universal. – Todd Wilcox Feb 10 at 18:06
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I would have said: These dynamics are always relative to the preceding signs. If a composer writes dynamics at all, he seldom gives in a forte in somewhere in the middle of a piece without having started it in a probably lesser loudness.

Your link says:

Mezzo forte Moderately loud; softer than forte. If no dynamic appears, mezzo-forte is assumed to be the prevailing dynamic level.

I wouldn't fully agree with the statement in the link of your answer:

If no dynamic appears, mezzo-forte is assumed to be the prevailing dynamic level.

It means to me, that it's up to me which dynamic I will choose. It could be different from verse to verse or from performance to performance.

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    I remember being shocked that the sheet music for one of Beethoven's Bagatelles in C Minor has no dynamic indications at all. Both of the interpretations of that bagatelle I listened to have plenty of dynamics slapped on, especially crescendos and decrescendos. – Dekkadeci Feb 10 at 16:42
  • yes! I could even add that the dynamic is a question of the motives and the phrases. And another point is that e.g. the keyboard music of Bach is written for instruments that didn't have great dynamic possibilities. So purists will play baroque music with only little dynamic and I prefer this music played slowly and in a romantic style, as I am not a purist. – Albrecht Hügli Feb 10 at 18:27
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I think the clearest option would be to put your intended "base" dynamic at the very start of the score (as you said mf or mp would probably be good options) then you simply put the same marking in whenever appropriate.

I would personally find it a little confusing if there was no dynamic indications at all for the start of the piece and then a "p" or "f" or whatever after that, so I'd try to be explicit from the very start.

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Oh! I think I got my answer. I should use mf, is it?

In that page it says.

If no dynamic appears, mezzo-forte is assumed to be the prevailing dynamic level.

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    Can't agree with this assumption. There are too many factors, all movable, that come into play with these dynamics. There is nothing which correlates mp, mf, ff with a number of Decibels! It's all relative, and also rather personal.If it is indeed 'mf', then how loud should that be?? – Tim Feb 10 at 16:34
  • The funny part is that Musescore indeed plays back your music as mezzo forte if you don't put in any dynamics. – Dekkadeci Feb 10 at 16:40
  • @Dekkadeci - Aha. I wondered what to use for 'go back to normal' on Musescore. I take it from the answers here that there is no dynamic level between mf and mp so no need for a symbol. I find this odd. . . – PeterJ Feb 11 at 11:01

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