Dynamics

Absolute dynamic marks are specified using a command after a note, such as c4\ff. The available dynamic marks are \ppppp, \pppp, \ppp, \pp, \p, \mp, \mf, \f, \ff, \fff, \ffff, \fffff, \fp, \sf, \sff, \sp, \spp, \sfz, \rfz, and \n. Dynamic marks may be manually placed above or below the staff; see Direction and placement.

\relative c'' {
  c2\ppp c\mp
  c2\rfz c^\mf
  c2_\spp c^\ff
}

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A crescendo mark is started with \< and terminated with \!, an absolute dynamic, or an additional crescendo or decrescendo mark. A decrescendo mark is started with \> and is also terminated with \!, an absolute dynamic, or another crescendo or decrescendo mark. \cr and \decr may be used instead of \< and \>; \endcr and \enddecr maybe used instead of \! to end a crescendo or decrescendo mark, respectively. Hairpins are engraved by default using this notation.

\relative c'' {
  c2\< c\!
  d2\< d\f
  e2\< e\>
  f2\> f\!
  e2\> e\mp
  d2\> d\>
  c1\!
}

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A hairpin that is terminated with \! will end at the right edge of the note that has the \! assigned to it. In the case where it is terminated with the start of another crescendo or decrescendo mark, it will end at the center of the note that has the next \< or \> assigned to it. The next hairpin will then start at the right edge of the same note instead of the usual left edge had it been terminated with \! before. A hairpin ending on a downbeat will stop at the preceding bar line.

\relative {
  c''1\< | c4 a c\< a | c4 a c\! a\< | c4 a c a\!
}

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Hairpins that are terminated with absolute dynamic marks instead of \! will also be engraved in a similar way. However, the length of the absolute dynamic itself can alter where the preceding hairpin ends.

\relative {
  c''1\< | c4 a c\mf a | c1\< | c4 a c\ffff a
}

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Often, marks like crescendo or decrescendo should begin or end at some point of time during a sustained note. This can be achieved with \after, which can also be used to create delayed articulations or text scripts:

<<
  \relative {
    \after 2 \< c'1
    d4\f\> e f g
    \after 2. \pp c,1
    \after 2. \fermata e
    \after 2. ^"Fine." f
  }
  \relative {
    \repeat unfold 12 c'4
    c c c c\fermata
    c c c c
  }
>>

[image of music]

Multiple instances of \after can be used to engrave multiple marks on one note. This is particularly useful when adding a crescendo and decrescendo to the same note:

\relative {
  c''4\< d\! e\> c\!
  \after 4 \< \after 2\> \after 2. \! f1
  \textLengthOn
  \after 4 \> \after 2. ^"hush!" c1
  g4\pp
}

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If the first in such a sequence of marks on a single note is supposed to coincide with the onset of the note, it is convenient to attach it to an empty chord <>. This way, all marks can be entered in their natural visual order:

{
  <>\< \after 4 \> \after 2 \! c'1
  % easier to write and read than:
  \after 4 \> \after 2 \! c'1\<
}

[image of music]

The \espressivo command can also be used to indicate a crescendo and decrescendo on the same note. However, be warned that this is implemented as an articulation, not a dynamic.

\relative {
  c''2 b4 a
  g1\espressivo
  \after 2. \espressivo c
}

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Textual crescendo marks begin with \cresc. Textual decrescendos begin with \decresc or \dim. Extender lines are engraved as required.

\relative {
  g'8\cresc a b c b c d e\mf |
  f8\decresc e d c e\> d c b |
  a1\dim ~ |
  a2. r4\! |
}

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Textual marks for dynamic changes can also replace hairpins:

\relative c'' {
  \crescTextCresc
  c4\< d e f\! |
  \dimTextDecresc
  g4\> e d c\! |
  \dimTextDecr
  e4\> d c b\! |
  \dimTextDim
  d4\> c b a\! |
  \crescHairpin
  \dimHairpin
  c4\< d\! e\> d\! |
}

[image of music]

To create new absolute dynamic marks or text that should be aligned with dynamics, see New dynamic marks.

Vertical positioning of dynamics is handled by DynamicLineSpanner.

A Dynamics context is available to engrave dynamics on their own horizontal line. Use spacer rests to indicate timing. (Notes in a Dynamics context will also take up musical time, but will not be engraved.) The Dynamics context can usefully contain some other items such as text scripts, text spanners, and piano pedal marks.

<<
  \new Staff \relative {
    c'2 d4 e |
    c4 e e,2 |
    g'4 a g a |
    c1 |
  }
  \new Dynamics {
    s1\< |
    s1\f |
    s2\dim s2-"rit." |
    s1\p |
  }
>>

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Note: Even if there is only a single absolute dynamic mark like \p in a score, LilyPond always creates two objects for it, a DynamicText and a DynamicLineSpanner object, and the properties to control the dynamic mark are shared between these two objects. For example, the size can be changed with the DynamicText.font-size property, while the vertical position is controlled by DynamicLineSpanner.Y-offset.

As a consequence, code like

\tweak font-size 5 \p

works but

\tweak Y-offset 5 \p

does not. You have to say

\tweak DynamicLineSpanner.Y-offset 5 \p

instead.

Predefined commands

\dynamicUp, \dynamicDown, \dynamicNeutral, \crescTextCresc, \dimTextDim, \dimTextDecr, \dimTextDecresc, \crescHairpin, \dimHairpin.

Selected Snippets

Setting hairpin behavior at bar lines

If the note which ends a hairpin falls on a downbeat, the hairpin stops at the bar line immediately preceding. This behavior can be controlled by overriding the 'to-barline property.

\relative c'' {
  e4\< e2.
  e1\!
  \override Hairpin.to-barline = ##f
  e4\< e2.
  e1\!
}

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Setting the minimum length of hairpins

If hairpins are too short, they can be lengthened by modifying the minimum-length property of the Hairpin object.

<<
  {
    \after 4 \< \after 2 \> \after 2. \! f'1
    \override Hairpin.minimum-length = 8
    \after 4 \< \after 2 \> \after 2. \! f'1
  }
  {
    \repeat unfold 8 c'4
  }
>>

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Aligning the ends of hairpins to NoteColumn directions

The ends of hairpins may be aligned to the LEFT, CENTER or RIGHT of NoteColumn grobs by overriding the property endpoint-alignments, which is a pair of numbers representing the left and right ends of the hairpin. endpoint-alignments are expected to be directions (either -1, 0 or 1). Other values will be transformed with a warning. The right end of a hairpin terminating at a rest is not affected, always ending at the left edge of the rest.

{
  c'2\< <c' d'>\! |
  \override Hairpin.endpoint-alignments = #'(1 . -1)
  c'2\< <c' d'>\! |
  \override Hairpin.endpoint-alignments = #`(,LEFT . ,CENTER)
  c'2\< <c' d'>\! |
}

[image of music]

Moving the ends of hairpins

The ends of hairpins may be offset by setting the shorten-pair property of the Hairpin object. Positive values move endpoints to the right, negative to the left. Unlike the minimum-length property, this property only affects the appearance of the hairpin; it does not adjust horizontal spacing (including the position of bounding dynamics). This method is thus suitable for fine-tuning a hairpin within its allotted space.

{
  c'1~\<
  c'2~ c'\!
  \once \override Hairpin.shorten-pair = #'(2 . 2)
  c'1~\<
  c'2~ c'\!
  \once \override Hairpin.shorten-pair = #'(-2 . -2)
  c'1~\<
  c'2~ c'\!
  c'1~\p-\tweak shorten-pair #'(2 . 0)\<
  c'2~ c'\ffff
}

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Printing hairpins using al niente notation

Hairpin dynamics may be printed with a circled tip (“al niente” notation) by setting the circled-tip property of the Hairpin object to #t.

\relative c'' {
  \override Hairpin.circled-tip = ##t
  c2\< c\!
  c4\> c\< c2\!
}

[image of music]

Printing hairpins in various styles

Hairpin dynamics may be created in a variety of styles.

\paper { tagline = ##f }

\relative c'' {
  \override Hairpin.stencil = #flared-hairpin
  a4\< a a a\f
  a4\p\< a a a\ff
  a4\sfz\< a a a\!
  \override Hairpin.stencil = #constante-hairpin
  a4\< a a a\f
  a4\p\< a a a\ff
  a4\sfz\< a a a\!
  \override Hairpin.stencil = #flared-hairpin
  a4\> a a a\f
  a4\p\> a a a\ff
  a4\sfz\> a a a\!
  \override Hairpin.stencil = #constante-hairpin
  a4\> a a a\f
  a4\p\> a a a\ff
  a4\sfz\> a a a\!
}

[image of music]

Vertically aligned dynamics and textscripts

All DynamicLineSpanner objects (hairpins and dynamic texts) are placed with their reference line at least 'staff-padding from the staff, unless other notation forces them to be farther. Setting 'staff-padding to a sufficiently large value aligns the dynamics.

The same idea, together with \textLengthOn, is used to align the text scripts along their baseline.

music = \relative c' {
  a'2\p b\f
  e4\p f\f\> g, b\p
  c2^\markup { \huge gorgeous } c^\markup { \huge fantastic }
}

{
  \music
  \break
  \override DynamicLineSpanner.staff-padding = 3
  \textLengthOn
  \override TextScript.staff-padding = 1
  \music
}

\paper { tagline = ##f }

[image of music]

Breaking vertical alignment of dynamics and textscripts

By default, LilyPond uses DynamicLineSpanner grobs to vertically align successive dynamic objects like hairpins and dynamic text. However, this is not always wanted. By inserting \breakDynamicSpan, which ends the alignment spanner prematurely, this vertical alignment can be avoided.

{ g1\< |
  e''\f\> |
  c'\p }

{ g1\< |
  e''\breakDynamicSpan\f\> |
  c'\p }

\paper { tagline = ##f }

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Hiding the extender line for text dynamics

Text style dynamic changes (such as cresc. and dim.) are printed with a dashed line showing their extent. This line can be suppressed in the following way:

\relative c'' {
  \override DynamicTextSpanner.style = #'none
  \crescTextCresc
  c1\< | d | b | c\!
}

[image of music]

Changing text and spanner styles for text dynamics

The text used for crescendos and decrescendos can be changed by modifying the context properties crescendoText and decrescendoText.

The style of the spanner line can be changed by modifying the 'style property of DynamicTextSpanner. The default value is 'dashed-line, and other possible values include 'line, 'dotted-line and 'none.

\relative c'' {
  \set crescendoText = \markup { \italic { cresc. poco } }
  \set crescendoSpanner = #'text
  \override DynamicTextSpanner.style = #'dotted-line
  a2\< a
  a2 a
  a2 a
  a2 a\mf
}

[image of music]

See also

Music Glossary: al niente, crescendo, decrescendo, hairpin.

Learning Manual: Articulations and dynamics.

Notation Reference: Direction and placement, New dynamic marks, Enhancing MIDI output, Controlling MIDI dynamics.

Snippets: Expressive marks.

Internals Reference: DynamicText, Hairpin, DynamicLineSpanner, Dynamics.


LilyPond Notation Reference v2.25.13 (development-branch).