What does leggiero mean?

The word leggiero is Italian for ‘light’ or ‘lightly’. The term is used on a musical score – typically in relation to swift passages – to indicate the musician should play the relevant section with a light, delicate and graceful touch.


While terms relating to a piece of music’s dynamics – i.e., its strength of sound (how quietly or loudly the piece is performed) – such as ‘piano’ (softly) or ‘pianissimo’ (very softly) can also introduce a ‘gentler’ mood to the music, such terms don’t embody the almost ethereal quality that leggiero demands.

For example, when playing the piano or a stringed instrument, such as the violin, leggiero would require only minimal pressure be applied to the keys or strings, producing a more delicate sound than merely playing ‘quietly’. Leggiero can be applied to legato or staccato sections but is most likely to be included in sections of music marked as having a softer or quieter dynamic profile.


Examples of leggiero

Grieg’s Old Norwegian Romance (Opus 51) and Mendelssohn’s Song Without Words No 2 (Opus 67) are just two classical pieces that feature the leggiero technique.