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I've seen these dynamics that are notated with: 'm', 'r', 's', and 'z', but I don't know what the mean. I might have an idea to what 'm' means, which might mean 'medium' like in mp or mf, but I don't know about the others. Here are some dynamics that the others appear in.

sfp

sfz

rfz

and like I said earlier, mp and mf.

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    The letters don't generally make much sense by themselves; they're abbreviations. You can't write spz, for example.
    – phoog
    Oct 6, 2019 at 19:43

4 Answers 4

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mp and mf are mezzo-piano and mezzo-forte, respectively. Mezzo means "middle" or "medium", and so they're more towards the middle than piano and forte. So from softest to loudest, we have pp (pianissimo), p, mp, mf, f, and ff (fortissimo). More "p"s or "f"s are technically nonstandard, but are nevertheless used quite a lot.

sf or sfz is sforzando, a sudden emphasis. Literally, "straining".

rfz is rinforzando, and is more or less synonymous with sforzando for musical purposes. Literally, "reinforcing".

sfp is sforzando-piano, or sforzando followed immediately by piano. Slightly more dramatic than just fp. sfzp would be the same thing.

These abbreviations tend to get abused. You'll see things like sffz or sfffzp. These aren't proper abbreviations, the composer is simply adding more "f"s to mean more volume.

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    A ffine answer!
    – JiK
    Oct 6, 2019 at 10:40
  • Thanks, but what's the difference between rfz, and sfz?
    – Xboy1
    Oct 6, 2019 at 16:18
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    "more p's or f's are nonstandard": says who? Pianississimo (ppp) and fortississimo (fff) are entirely standard as far as I know, and I would be surprised to see a notation reference that did not mention pppp and ffff.
    – phoog
    Oct 6, 2019 at 19:45
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    @phoog they are nonstandard with sforzando, as there is no such thing as sforxandissimo and such. It's just mixing up forte and the sforzando, or thinking sfz means "suddenly forte," and thus "sffz" means "suddenly fortissimo."
    – trlkly
    Oct 7, 2019 at 4:55
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    @trlkly indeed, but the answer clearly says that fff and ppp are nonstandard, which is an assertion that I can most charitably describe as baffling.
    – phoog
    Oct 7, 2019 at 5:16
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A small addition to MattPutnam's answer:

rfz is seen a fair bit in the music of Elgar. The difference between rfz and sfz is that sfz is a more percussive hit. rfz was once described to me as like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube - it is played with much less attack than sfz, though equally strongly. (Of course, on percussive instruments like the piano you cannot make the distinction.)

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  • Pianist here. Pianos have a couple of pedals, as well as options for changing the (perceived) timbre through chord voicings. Sure we can make the distinction :-) Sep 13, 2021 at 9:51
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I think that "n" at then end of a hairpin decrescendo means "fade to nothing".

"m", "r", "s" and "z" are also dynamics symbols, separate from "mp", etc. Unfortunately, I, too, am trying to find out how they are used. I will ask on the MuseScore forum, because MuseScore supports these symbols.

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  • m, r, s and z are certainly glyphs used in dynamics symbols, but are you sure that MuseScore supports each of them on its own as a dynamic marking? I've never seen them used in print like that. "Mezza voce", occasionally, but never just m on its own.
    – Rosie F
    May 18, 2020 at 4:39
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rinforzando (rfz) is more typically used for a passage or sequence of notes, indicating it should be "reinforced", meaning made stronger/louder. How much stronger louder is left to the performer/conductor. As such, it can be used on any instrument, as can all the rest of these symbols.

sffz, sfffz are not uncommon. They, like any other sforzando indication (sfz, smfz, etc.) mean a forced attack at the beginning of the note and immediately lowering to the indicated volume. At fff, the sforzando is obviously enough very forced to be hearable in contrast to the following fff.

"n" is an abbreviation for "niente," meaning "nothing" as in fade to silence.

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