Forte is a musical term that means ‘loud’. Forming part of a piece’s dynamic range, forte is usually abbreviated to a lowercase letter ‘f’ on a musical score and placed below the stave (or staff) it applies to. It may appear at the beginning of a score or later in a piece, to signify that section of music should be played with an increase in volume, compared with other sections.


Varying the volume throughout a piece of music can help create interest and reflect different moods – consider Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture, for example.

How loud is forte?

Generally, forte is described as having a volume that’s above that of an average speaking voice – think talking to friends in a room full of other people talking. In relation to the rest of a score’s dynamics, forte needs to be louder than ‘piano’ (soft) but not as loud as fortissimo (very loud and identified as double lowercase 'f' on a score).


Why is it called forte?

Across Europe, and elsewhere around the world, most musical terms in current use stem from the Italian language, and forte is no exception. The term literally translates as ‘strong’ (hence someone’s strong suit or speciality is also called their forte).