# A Question for Musicians

Do you folks have a problem with discerning the crescendo sign < (Louder) and the decrescendo > (Softer) signs, with the popular interpretation of > (Greater than) and the < (Less than) signs?
Drives me nuthouse!

not me, personally - the pipes just have one volume!

I’ve never had a problem with it, prolly because in music notation the symbols are usually drawn out and are much bigger (longer) than the mathematical symbols.

No doubt a GQ answered better in Cafe Society. Moved.

samclem, Moderator

But even in math, the left thing is left than the right thing:

left < RIGHT

You can always close off one of the drones to make them quieter.

And you could mic them and get a big amp!

Exactly. To me, both symbols are intuitively obvious.

Yeah, I think you’re confused. There’s no difference between the musical symbol and the mathematical one. < means “less than” in math, just as it does in music. Both are read left to right. Let’s say you have four quarter notes with a measure-long crescendo marking (<) underneath the entire measure… well, the first quarter note is the softest, the next one is a little louder, the next one is even louder, and the last one is the loudest. See? The one on the left is less than, dynamically speaking, the ones on the right, just as it would be if you said 1 < 2.

And of course the opposite is true as well, with decrescendos.

I’ve thought of them as starting out as an equals sign “=”, and then one side was pinched. So the one where the lines are closest together was the smaller side, and the one with the lines farther apart was the bigger side. That makes it real easy to remember.

Heck, it’s a popular way to teach crescendo and decrescendo in elementary school.

And, anyways, the symbols don’t really look alike–the crescendo or decrescendo is almost always much longer than the mathematical symbol. Accent marks would be the closest to a greater than sign.

And is the next question going to be whether we get # and ♯ confused, I’m sure.

Although I have on occasion confused a short decrescendo with an accent, I don’t understand in what context one would encounter both a less-than sign and a crescendo.

The only time it ever confused me was when I was doing my algebra homework during a band concert!

Like the others, no it’s never been confusing. It seems pretty intuitive to me: in both cases the smaller value/volume is on the smaller side of the symbol. To me, the crescendo sign abstractly represents something small (in this case, loudness/amplitude) getting bigger and bigger gradually as the space between the lines in the crescendo sign get bigger and bigger. Same abstraction applies with the greater than or less than symbols, except without the temporal element of continuous and gradual change over time from the small side of the symbol to the large side.

I don’t get how this is at all confusing. The two sets of signs work analogously.

Never confused me. Starts little, gets big. Starts big, gets little.

Simples!