What Do The Top 3 Musical Dynamic Markings and The Three Little Bears Have In Common?

musical dynamic markingsThe top 3 musical dynamic markings everyone learns first are piano, mezzo forte, and forteThese dynamic signs tell us how soft or loud to play the music.  They are written in the Italian language in your music.  In English, they mean soft, moderately loud, and loud.

What Does The Three Little Bears Have To Do With Dynamic Markings?

I like to compare these three instructional symbols to the story of Goldilocks and the Three Little Bears.

Kids love this story and you will too, especially if you are new to reading music.  The characters in the story will give you new perspective as to what piano, mezzo forte, and forte really mean.musical dynamic markings

If you recall, the three characters in the story are Papa bear, Mama bear, and Baby bear.  We really don’t need to know the whole story in detail to make this worthwhile, just the three characters.

Now, my version of this story begins and ends with the viewpoint of the three bears, not Goldilocks.  Each bear represents a different dynamic marking.

musical dynamic markingsBaby bear is the smallest of the family.  He signifies piano.  Papa bear is the biggest and the loudest.  When he talks, he means business.  He is forte.  Mama Bear is somewhere in the middle.  Not too loud and not too soft.  She symbolizes the volume of mezzo piano.

Read my version of the story with the 3 musical dynamic markings inserted for understanding from the viewpoint of the 3 bears.

A Musical Journey through the Story of Goldilocks and the Three Little Bears

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Goldilocks.  She went for a walk in the forest.  Pretty soon, she came upon a house.  She knocked and when no one answered, she walked right in.

At the table in the kitchen were three bowls of porridge.  Goldilocks was hungry.  She tasted the porridge from the first bowl.

“This porridge is too hot!” she exclaimed.   (fortePapa bear’s porridge)

So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl.

“This porridge is too cold,” she said.  (mezzo pianoMama bear’s porridge)

So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge.

“Ahhh, this porridge is just right,” she said happily and she ate it all up.  (piano Baby bear’s porridge)

After she’d eaten the three bears’ breakfasts she decided she was feeling a little tired.  So, she walked into the living room where she saw three chairs.  Goldilocks sat in the first chair to rest her feet.

“This chair is too big!” she exclaimed.  (fortePapa bear’s chair)

So she sat in the second chair.

“This chair is too big, too!” she whined.  (mezzo forteMama bear’s chair)

So she tried the last and smallest chair.

“Ahhh, this chair is just right,” she sighed.  (pianoBaby bear’s chair)  But just as she settled down into the chair to rest, it broke into pieces!

Goldilocks was very tired by this time, so she went upstairs to the bedroom.  She lay down in the first bed, but it was too hard. (fortePapa bear’s bed) Then she lay in the second bed, but it was too soft. (mezzo forteMama bear’s bed)  Then she lay down in the third bed and it was just right. (pianoBaby bear’s bed)  Goldilocks fell asleep.

As she was sleeping, the three bears came home.

“Someone’s been eating my porridge,” growled the Papa bear.  (forte)

“Someone’s been eating my porridge,” said the Mama bear.  (mezzo forte)

“Someone’s been eating my porridge and they ate it all up!” cried the Baby bear.  (piano)

“Someone’s been sitting in my chair,” growled the Papa bear.  (forte)

“Someone’s been sitting in my chair,” said the Mama bear.  (mezzo forte)

“Someone’s been sitting in my chair and they’ve broken it all to pieces,” cried the Baby bear.  (piano)

They decided to look around some more and when they got upstairs to the bedroom, Papa bear growled, “Someone’s been sleeping in my bed.”  (forte)

“Someone’s been sleeping in my bed, too” said the Mama bear.  (mezzo forte)

“Someone’s been sleeping in my bed and she’s still there!” exclaimed Baby bear.  (piano)

Just then, Goldilocks woke up and saw the three bears.  She screamed, “Help!”  And she jumped up and ran out of the room.  Goldilocks ran down the stairs, opened the door, and ran away into the forest.  And she never returned to the home of the three bears.


By using the story from the viewpoint of the three bears, you can see how the three sizes of objects indicate the three different sizes of the bears.  It is even more dramatic to see with pictures to really get a good idea as to small items representing soft, medium items equaling mezzo piano, and large items indicating forte.  These are all according to the sizes of the bears.

Tips for Teachers and Parents

Read this story (with pictures if possible) and have children hold up three different pictures during the story; Baby bear, Mama bear, and Papa bear.  You can even have the three musical dynamic markings written on the bears.

Papa Bear = Forte (loud)

Mama Bear = Mezzo Forte (medium or moderately loud)

Baby Bear = Piano (soft)

Have fun with this story!

Back to Adulthood

Adults, hopefully this story has given you a different viewpoint and more creative thought to understanding the top 3 musical dynamic markings.  They are pretty easy to understand, but the more ways you can think about them, the easier it will be to remember them.

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