Robert Estrin - piano expert

What’s the Difference Between Sforzando and Forte?

Learn the subtle difference between the two dynamics

In this video, Robert talks about the differences between "sforzando" and "forte."

Released on June 2, 2021

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Robert Estrin here. This is living The question today is, what's the difference between sforzando and forte? On the piano, it's really tough because you don't have much control of the shape of the tone, other than the pedals, which I'm going to get into in a moment. But to understand really what a sforzando is compared to a forte piano, you sometimes see a forte and right after the piano is like, what is it? Is it forte or is it piano?

Well, that's what we're going to talk about today. Forte of course means loud. So if you see something forte, it's a no-brainer, everything is played at a high level. Now the piano is such that when you play a note, it's fading away so you get that strong attack. In fact, when you play the piano without pedal or anything, everything is kind of a sforzando because a sforzando is basically a strong attack. So like, if I were to sing you forte, it'd be (singing). A sforzando would be (singing) whereas a forte piano is a little bit longer. (singing)

I also play French horn. So all those distinctions of tone on each note is something you could actually achieve with much more precision. So how do you do such a thing on the piano? Well, for example, the Pathétique Sonata of Beethoven starts with a forte piano, and it has one and the next core does it. And one technique is to let go of the pedal after the initial attack to make it fade away.

So you can fake that effect a little bit with a pedal. It's a very subtle difference but little touches of pedal sometimes can create that sforzando effect because we don't have as much to work with on the tone of a note once it's struck. All you've got is the pedals, really. You can do half pedals, you can incorporate soft pedal, but to understand the tone you're after is key for achieving the desired results. And if you listen to, for example, Vladimir Horowitz's performance of this is very stark in the way he pedals it to get that forte piano effect.

Other pianists are a little bit smoother about it, not being so angular in their forte piano or scherzandi. So there's a lot of different ways of approaching it but the simple answer is on the piano, you can use the pedal to try to achieve some sense of the beginning of the note compared to the end of the note, but on wind instruments and string instruments, there's infinite possibilities for the shape of every note. And that's why you see in the score all these different markings of accents, forte pianos, scherzandi, fortissimo piano, all these different things, and you have to understand what the sound would be like if it was played by a symphony orchestra, or a string quartet, or a brass choir, to get a sense of the sound you are after and try to do the best you can with your hands and your pedaling to achieve the sound that the composer intended.

I hope this is helpful for you. Again, I'm Robert Estrin. This is, your online piano resource. Thank you for subscribing and ringing the bell and lots more videos coming your way.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Monty Edwards on June 9, 2021 @7:23 am PST
The article talks about scherzando rather than sforzando as per the title. This is confusing and I expect that scherzando should be replaced by the word sforzando throughout, Am I correct?
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on June 9, 2021 @8:21 am PST
Thank you Monty for your comment, the video is actually about "sforzando." Is the transcription being wrong. We have just fixed it

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