What Does Dim Mean in Music? Learning an instrument entails understanding many different musical terms. Some of these terms can be quite straightforward, while others may leave you scratching your head. If you are an aspiring musician who has begun learning classical pieces, you may have seen the term “dim” used in places.
Today we will be examining “What does Dim mean in music”, and the different ways in which it is used.
What is Dim, and What Does it Mean in Music?
If you have spent some time reading through classical sheet music, you may have encountered a symbol that looks like “>”. Such a symbol may look strange, especially when surrounded by other more-familiar musical notations.
This “>” symbol stands for “dim” or the Italian term “diminuendo”. Diminuendo instructs players to gradually reduce the volume and tempo of their playing until they reach a complete stop.
A diminuendo may be used at the end of compositions or at the end of a particular instrument’s section. You may be inclined to think of it as being similar to how a song fades out. However, you should note that the tempo of playing also gradually reduces while simultaneously playing more softly.
If you are attempting to perform a diminuendo in a group setting, you may find it difficult to slow down the pace gradually alongside your fellow performers. This is one of the reasons why musicians must practice such sections multiple times and ensure they are slowing down their pace together.
Decrescendo vs Diminuendo
The term diminuendo may be used interchangeably with the term decrescendo in some music circles. However, the latter term actually refers to a command in which musicians must gradually play more softly until they are inaudible, but without changing their tempo.
As you may have already guessed, decrescendo is the opposite of “crescendo”, which refers to a musical swell. With this in mind, decrescendo can be thought of like the music waning with time. In a sense, a decrescendo sounds similar to a song fading out towards the end of its runtime.
You may be puzzled the first time you encounter the “>” symbol in a set of sheet music. This is because the symbol alone won’t tell you if you need to perform a decrescendo or a diminuendo. The good news is that a diminuendo command is usually accompanied by the term “ritardando” or “rit”, instructing you to slow down.
How to Perform a Diminuendo on Different Instruments
A diminuendo must be performed in different ways depending on the type of instrument you are playing.
Diminuendo on a Piano
Performing a diminuendo on a piano is quite straightforward. You simply need to reduce the speed at which you are playing while hitting the keys more softly. This will gradually lower the volume of your instrument along with the tempo until you reach a complete stop.
Diminuendo on a Violin
Performing a diminuendo on a violin can be a bit trickier. However, there are more options for doing this effectively. As a violinist, you should gradually reduce your bow pressure once you see the “>” symbol. You can also use less bow or move your contract point gradually towards the fingerboard to lower your playing volume. Many violinists use a combination of all three strategies to achieve a natural-sounding volume decrease.
Diminuendo on a Guitar
Performing a diminuendo on an acoustic guitar is also straightforward. You simply need to pluck the strings with less pressure to achieve a reduction in volume while reducing your tempo.
You can use the same strategy if you are playing on an electric guitar. However, an easier option may be to continue playing with the same plucking force, while simultaneously using a volume pedal to gradually decrease your instrument volume.
The Importance of Understanding Terms and Symbols in Sheet Music
As you can see, diminuendo is a relatively simple concept to understand. Most musicians reading this guide will be prepared the next time they encounter the “>” during a practice session. You can then share this knowledge with your fellow musicians and help them understand the different ways to apply a diminuendo in their compositions. Happy practicing!