If you’ve ever seen sheet music or listened to an orchestral performance, you may have come across the term “subito.” But what does subito mean in music theory? In this article, we’ll explore the definition and usage of subito in musical notation.

What is Subito?

Subito is an Italian word that translates to “suddenly” or “abruptly” in English. In music notation, subito is used as a direction to indicate a sudden change in tempo or dynamics. It can also indicate a quick shift in style, articulation, or mood.

Usage of Subito in Tempo and Dynamics

One of the most common uses of subito in music theory is to indicate a sudden change in tempo or dynamics. For example, if a piece of music begins with a slow and quiet introduction, the composer may use subito forte (suddenly loud) to signal an abrupt shift to a louder dynamic level. Similarly, if a piece of music is played at a steady pace, the composer may use subito accelerando (suddenly faster) to indicate that the tempo should speed up suddenly.

Usage of Subito in Style and Articulation

In addition to tempo and dynamics, subito can also be used to signal changes in style or articulation. For instance, if a piece of music is written with legato lines (smoothly connected notes), the composer may use subito staccato (suddenly detached) to instruct performers to play the notes more crisply and sharply.

Examples of Subito Use

Let’s take a look at some examples of how subito can be used in musical notation:


In summary, subito is a musical direction that indicates a sudden shift in tempo, dynamics, style, or articulation. It is commonly used in orchestral and instrumental music notation to provide guidance for performers on how to play a piece of music. By incorporating subito into their compositions, composers can add depth and complexity to their work and create a more engaging musical experience for listeners.