Dynamic modifiers

Just wondering what effect on playback is expected when adding meno, poco, molto etc.

In my current instance, the composer simply writes meno, which I assume is in reference to the dynamic level. Then the horn has a series of three short phrases marked with <. I entered meno F < for the first, and then poco F < for the subsequent phrases. I have Reset dynamic level… unchecked in playback options, and was expecting each phrase to begin at the same dynamic. What I’m getting is a single cresc to FFF.

My expectation of the modifiers is that they would adjust half a step between standard levels, so poco F would be halfway between MF & F; molto F halfway between F & FF, etc. etc. Or else, the modifier has no playback effect at all. It seems, though, that the modifier is negating the dynamic altogether.

I believe that meno f means “less loud”. In other words, one dynamic step less than you were. Similarly, meno p, meaning “less quiet” actually gets louder. So it’s a relative term.

I’m not sure what poco f or molto f means. As modifiers, I’ve only seen them on hairpins, qualifying the scale of the change.

But a quick check in the Dynamics lane of the Key Editor shows that Dorico treats them as relative modifiers, too. poco f is +1 dynamic level; and molto f is +2.

Thanks for that, Ben. When you say +1 dynamic level, are you saying it turns F into FF, for instance?

Personally I’d say ‘ben F’ rather than ‘molto F’; and rarely at that – but the score I’m looking at is late 19th/early 20th C, and in several respects rather vague.

Dynamic was unambiguously F 2 measures previously.

“poco f” seems to go up by half a step, whatever the preceding dynamic. (“A little louder.”)

Dorico uses a dynamic range of +6 to -6, and this gets converted to CC1 according to the dynamic curve in Playback Options. Depending on your curve, the effect of half a step may not be noticeable.

Oh the niceties…! Maybe I’d say poco f is mf played with f attitude.

I can see that a succession of piu fs could result in an overall increase beyond the normal ff step.

Take the point about the curve (which in my case is the default), but it should be visible, the difference, I would have thought.

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The best bet in that situation, I would think, would be to suppress playback on all the poco/meno stuff and draw appropriate likes in the Key Editor.


Yeesh, I don’t even know if I’ve really seen meno used much, and for good reason. As a player, especially if I was sight-reading, I would find that terribly easy to trip over, to see a dynamic direction, but then a smaller print meaning to literally go in the opposite direction of the marking. Combining that direction with hairpins is additionally confusing.

Anecdotally. I do come across poco f quite frequently. But rather than mf with attitude, I interpret it as a gentle f.

I’d always interpret piu f just means louder than before, even if it follows a ppp. So, yes, a succession of piu fs could end up as fff. How quickly it got there would be context specific.

meno f is just the opposite - quieter than before. But I admit it is rarer (I wonder why?)

(Just my ha’penny worth)

I imagine that these various modifiers turn up often enough for Dorico to have made them available. On the matter of interpretation, it occurred to me that the original ‘meno … < < <’ would be easily interpreted by a musician in context, listening to what others are doing in the moment. The computer/playback, though…

…anyway, removing the ‘poco’ and changing the f to mf cured the problem

Quite a good thread here: theory - Più, meno, poco & molto: How to write incremental dynamics? - Music: Practice & Theory Stack Exchange although it ends up with a shrug as far as poco f is concerned.

It appears that Dorico’s implementation is definitely “a bit more than whatever was before”, ‘whatever’ being the specified dynamic level prior to engagement