Dynamics refers to the relative loudness or softness of a note in a musical context. Musicians usually distinguish dynamics from volume; the former term depends upon the relative range of loudness and softness in a particular musical piece or performance setting, whereas the latter term is a more objective acoustical measurement. A musician performing in an outdoor setting, or in a large space, will likely play more loudly on the whole, even if a piece requires soft dynamics. Conversely, a musician playing in an intimate setting such as a hall designed for chamber music can play less loudly and still achieve a loud dynamic.
Dynamics are traditionally indicated by a range of Italian terms revolving around the terms piano (“soft”) and forte (“loud”), indicated in notated music with the letters p and f. These terms are further refined to include a range of louder and softer dynamics. The typical range proceeds as follows, from softest to loudest: pianissimo (pp), piano (p), mezzo-piano (mp), mezzo-forte (mf), forte (f), fortissimo (ff).