The A to Z Glossary to Musical Terminology

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Abbreviations: I: Italian, L: Latin, F: French, G: German, lit.: literally

A

A B form Form that can be represented as statement (A) and counterstatement (B).
A B A form Form that can be represented as statement (A); contrast (B); return of statement (A).
Aber (G) But
Absolute Music Instrumental music having no intended association with a story, poem, idea, or scene; nonprogram music.
A capella (I) Choral music without instrumental accompaniment.
Accelerando (I) Becoming Faster.
Accent Emphasis of a note, which may result from its being louder (dynamic accent), longer, or higher in pitch than the notes near it.
Accompanied recitative Speech-like melody that is sung by a solo voice accompanied by the orchestra.
Accordion Instrument consisting of a bellows between two keyboards (piano like keys played by the right hand, and buttons played by the left hand) whose sound is produced by air pressure which causes free steel reeds to vibrate.
Adadietto (I) Rather slow, but faster than adagio
Adagio (I) Slow (lit. ‘at ease’), generally held to indicate a tempo between andante and largo.
A deux (F) For two performers or instruments (in orchestral or band music, it means that a part is to be played in unison by two instruments)
Ad libitum, ad lib (L) At choice, meaning either that a passage may be performed freely or that an instrument in a score may be omitted.
Aerophone Any instrument-such as a flute or trumpet-whose sound is generated by a vibrating column of air.
Affettuoso (I) Tenderly
Affrettando, affret (I) Hurrying
Agitato (I) Agitated
Al, alla (I) To the, in the manner of
Allargando (I) Broadening, i.e. getting a little slower and probably also a little louder.
Aleatory Music Music composed by the random selection of pitches, tone colors, and rhythms; developed in the 1950s by John Cage and others.
Allegretto (I) Moderately fast.
Allegro (I) Fast.
Als (G) Than.
Alt (I) High (in alt is used in vocal music to refer to notes in the octave above the treble stave, starting with the G; in altissimo, in the octave above that)
Alto (contralto) Female voice of low range.
Amabile (I) Amiable, pleasant.
Amore (I), amour (F) Love
Amoroso (I) Loving
Andante (I) Moderately slow, a walking pace
Andantino (I) Slightly faster than andante (but it can also mean slightly slower the term is ambiguous)
Anima (I) Soul, spirit (con anima is ambiguous, meaning either ‘with feeling’ or ‘spirited’)
Animando (I) Becoming more lively
Animato (I), anime (F) Animated, lively
Answer Second presentation of the subject in a fugue, usually in the dominant scale.
Apaise (F) Calmed
A placer (I) As the performer wishes (lit. ‘at pleasure’)
Appassionato (I) With passion
Arco (I) Bow of a string instrument, a direction after pizzicato
Aria Song for solo voice with orchestral accompaniment, usually expressing an emotional state through its outpouring of melody; found in operas, oratorios, and cantatas.
Arioso A vocal solo more lyrical than a recitative and less elaborate than an aria
Arpeggio Sounding of the individual tones of a chord in sequence rather than simultaneously.
Art song Setting of a poem for solo voice and piano, translating the poem’s mood and imagery into music, common in the romantic period.
Assai (I) Very, extremely (but sometimes used in the same sense as assez)
Assez (F) Enough, sufficiently (but sometimes used in the same sense as assai)
A tempo (I) Intime, indicating a return to the original speed after e.g. rit., rall.
Atonality Absence of tonality, or key, characteristic of much twentieth-century music.
Attacca (I) Go straight on, indicating an immediate move to the next section of music.
Augmentation Variation of a fugue subject in which the original time values of the subject are lengthened.
Ausdruck (G) Expression (ausdrucksvoll expressively.)
Avec (F) With.

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B

Ballade In medieval music, a French poetic and musical form with the structure A A’ B, introduced by the troubadours.
Ballett (fa-la) Dancelike song for several voices, mostly homophonic in texture, with the melody in the highest voice and the syllables fa-la occurring as a refrain after each stanza; common in English Renaissance music.
Bar Another term for measure, often used in jazz.
Baritone A male voice lower than a tenor and higher than a bass.
Baritone horn Brass instrument similar in shape to the tubas, with a higher range, commonly used in bands.
Bass (1) Male voice of low range (2) See double bass.
Bass clarinet Member of the clarinet family, having a low range. Its shape is curved at the end before flaring into a bell.
Bass clef Symbol on the staff indicating relatively low pitch ranges, such as those played by a pianist’s left hand.
Bass drum Percussion instrument of indefinite pitch, the largest of the orchestral drums.
Bass fiddle Double bass. Largest string instrument, having the lowest range of the string family.
Basso continuo (figured bass) Baroque accompaniment made up of a bass part together with numbers (figures) indicating the chords to be played above it. Usually the basso continuo is played by two instruments, a keyboard plus a low melodic instrument.
Basso ostinato Variation form in which a musical idea in the bas is repeated over and over while the melodies above it constantly change; common in baroque music.
Bassoon Double-reed woodwind instrument, made of wood, having a low range.
Baton Thin stick, used by many conductors, to beat time and indicate pulse and tempo.
Beam Horizontal line connecting the flags of several eighth notes or sixteenth notes in succession, to facilitate reading these notes.
Beat Regular, recurrent pulsation that divides music into equal units of time.
Bebop (bop) Complete jazz style, usually for small groups, developed in the 1940s and meant for attentive listening rather than dancing.
Ben, bene (I) well, very.
Bestimmt (G) With decision, definite.
Bewegt (G) With movement, agitated.
Bis (I) Twice, indicating the repetition of a short passage.
Bitonality Approach to pitch organization using two keys at one time, often found in twentieth-century music.
Blues Term referring both to a style of performance and to a form; an early source of jazz, characterized by flatted, or “blue”, notes in the scale; vocal blues consist of 3-line stanzas in the form a a’ b.
Bop See bebop.
Bow Slightly curved stick strung tightly with horsehair, used to play string instruments.
Brass instrument Instrument, made of brass or silver, whose sound is produced by the vibrations of the player’s lips as he or she blows into a cup-or funnel-shaped mouthpiece. The vibrations are amplified and colored in tube that is flared at the end.
Bravura (I) Skill, brilliance (con bravura in a brilliant style.)
Breit (G) Broad, expansive.
Bridge (transition) In the exposition of the sonata form, a section which leads from the first theme in the tonic, or home, key to the second theme, which is in a new key.
Brillante (I), brilliant (F) Brilliant.
Brio (I) Vigour, animation (brioso, con brio with vigour)
Broken chord (arpeggio) Sounding of the individual tones of a chord in sequence rather than simultaneously.

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C

Cadence (1) Resting place at the end of a phrase in a melody. (2) Progression giving a sense of conclusion, often from the dominant chord to the tonic chord.
Cadenza Unaccompanied section of virtuoso display for the soloist in a concerto, usually appearing near the end of the first movement, and sometimes in the last movement.
Calando (I) getting softer, dying away (and usually slowing down)
Call and response (1) In jazz, a pattern wherein one voice or instrument is answered by another voice, instrument, or group of instruments (2) Performance style in which the phrases of a soloist are repeatedly answered by those of a chorus, often found in African and other non-western music.
Calmato (I), calme (F) calm, tranquil.
Cantabile (I) In a singing style.
Cantando (I) singing
Camerata (I) Fellowship or society; a group of nobles, poets, and composers who began to meet regularly in Florence around 1575 and whose musical discussions prepared the way for the beginning of opera.
Cantata Composition in several movements, usually written for chorus, one or more vocal soloists, and orchestra. The church cantata for the Lutheran service in Germany during the baroque period often includes chorales.
Cantus firmus Melody-often a Gregorian chant-used as the basis of a polyphonic composition.
Capriccioso (I) capricieux (F) In a whimsical, fanciful style.
Castrato Male singer castrated before puberty to retain a high voice range; the most important category of vocal soloists in opera during the baroque period.
Cedez (F) Yield, relax the speed
Celesta Percussion instrument of definite pitch, which metal bars that are struck by hammers controlled by a keyboard.
Cello (violoncello) String instrument with a range lower than that of the viola and higher than that of the double bass.
Chamber music Music employing a small group of musicians, with one player to a part.
Chance (aleatory) music Music composed by the random selection of pitches, tone colors, and rhythms; developed in the 1950s by John Cage and others.
Chimes Percussion instrument of definite pitch, with suspended metal tubes that are stuck with a hammer.
Chorale Hymn tune sung to a German religious text.
Chorale prelude Short composition for organ, based on a hymn tune and often used to remind the congregation of the melody before the hymn is sung.
Chord Combination of three or more tones sounded at once.
Chordophone Instrument-such as a harp or lute-whose sound is generated by a stretched string.
Chorus In jazz, a statement of the basic harmonic pattern or melody.
Chromatic harmony Use of chords containing tones not found in the prevailing major or minor scale but included in the chromatic scale (which has twelve tones); often found in romantic music.
Chromatic scale Scale including all twelve tones of the octave; each tone is a half step away from the next one.
Church modes Scales containing seven tones with an eighth tone duplicating the first an octave higher, but with different patterns of whole and half steps from major and minor scales; used in medieval, Renaissance, and twentieth-century music and in folk music.
Clarinet Single-reed woodwind instrument with a beak-shaped mouthpiece, cylindrical in shape with a slightly flared bell.
Clavichord Baroque keyboard instrument in which sound is produced by means of brass blades striking strings, capable of making gradual dynamic changes, but within a narrow volume range
Clef Symbol placed at the beginning of the staff to show the exact pitch of each line and space.
Climax Highest tone or emotional focal point in a melody or a larger musical composition.
Col, coll’, colla, colle (I) With, with the.
Coda In a sonata-form movement, a concluding section following the recapitulation and rounding off the movement by repeating themes or developing them further.
Colla parte (I) Keep with the soloist a direction to an accompanist.
Colla voce (I) Keep with the singer, a direction to an accompanist.
Col legno (I) With the wood, a direction to a string player to play with the wood of the bow rather than with the hair
Coll’ ottava (I) With the octave, a direction to a keyboard player to double notes an octave higher, or lower if bassa is added.
Come (I), comme (F) As, similar to.
Come prima (I) As before (not necessarily as at the beginning)
Come sopra (I) As above (= come prima)
Comodo (I) Convenient (tempo comodo at a comfortable speed)
Complete cadence Definite resting place, giving a sense of finality, at the end of a phrase in a melody.
Computer A tool used to synthesize music, to help composers write scores, to store samples of audio signals, and to control synthesizing mechanisms.
Con (I) With.
Concert overture Independent composition for orchestra in one movement, usually in sonata form, often found in the romatic period.
Concertmaster Assistant to the conductor, usually the principal first violinist in a symphony orchestra.
Concerto Extended composition for instrumental soloist and orchestra, usually in three movements.
Concerto grosso Composition for several instrument soloist and small orchestra; common in baroque music.
Conductor Leader of a performing group of musicians.
Consonance Tone combination that is stable and restful.
Contrabasson Double-reed woodwind instrument with a register one octave lower than the bassoon’s
Contralto (Alto) Female voice of low range.
Contrast Striking differences of pitch, dynamics, rhythm, and tempo that provide variety and chang of mood.
Cool Jazz Jazz style related to bebop, but more relaxed in character and relying more heavily on arrangements; developed around 1950.
Corda, corde (I) String, strings (see una corda, tre corde)
Cornet Brass instrument similar in shape to the trumpet, with a mellower tone.
Countermelody Melodic idea that accompanies a main theme.
Counterpoint Technique of combining two or more melodic lines into a meaningful whole.
Countersubject In a fugue, a melodic idea that accompanies the subject fairly constantly.
Crescendo (cresc.) (I) Gradually louder.
Cymbals Percussion instrument of indefinite pitch, consisting of a pair of metal plates, played by striking the plates against each other.


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D

Da (I) From
Da Capo, D.C. (I) From the beginning; an indication usually meaning that the opening section of a piece is to be repeated after the middle section.
De Capo aria (I) Aria in A B A form; after the B section, the term da capo is written; this means from the beginning and indicates a repetition of the opening A section.
Dal Segno, D.S. (I) From the sign.
Dampfer (G) Mute.
Deciso (I) With determination
Decrescendo, decres. (I) Gradually softer.
Delicato (I) Delicate.
Detache (F) Detached, usually applying to bowing on string instruments.
Development Second section of a sonata-form movement, in which themes from the exposition are developed and the music moves through several different keys.
Diminuendo (I) See decrescendo.
Diminution Variation of a fugue subject in which the original time values of the subject are shortened.
Dissonance Tone combination that is unstable and tense.
Divisi, div (I) Divided, a direction to orchestral players (usually strings) to divide into two or more groups.
Dixieland (New Orleans jazz) Group of melodic instruments which improvise on a melody, supported by the rhythm section.
Doch (G) However, yet.
Dolce (I) Sweet, soft (dolcissimo, dolciss. as sweetly as possible)
Dolente (I) Sad, mournful.
Dolore (I) Grief (doloroso sorrowful)
Dominant chord Triad built on the fifth note of the scale, which sets up tension that is resolved by the tonic chord.
Doppio Movimento (I) Twice as fast.
Dotted note Note with a dot to the right of it. This dot increases the note’s undotted duration by half.
Dotted rhythm Long-short rhythmic pattern in which a dotted note is followed by a note that is much shorter.
Double bass (“bass fiddle”; bass) Largest string instrument, having the lowest range of the string family.
Double stop See stop.
Double-reed woodwinds Instruments whose sound is produced by two narrow pieces of cane held between the player’s lips; these pieces vibrate when the player blows between them.
Douce, doux (F) Soft, sweet (doucement softly, sweetly)
Downbeat First, or stressed, beat of a measure.
Dubbing In recorded music, the insertion of sounds, which may themselves be live or prerecorded, which then become part of the resulting piece of music.
Duolo (I) = dolore.
Duple meter Pattern of 2 beats to the measure.
Dynamic accent Emphasis that a note receives when a performer plays it more loudly than the notes around it.
Dynamics Degrees of loudness or softness in music,

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E

E, ed (I) And.
Egal (F), eguale (I) Equal.
Ein (G) A.
Einfach (G) Simple.
Electronic instrument Instrument whose sound is produced, modified, or amplified by electronic means.
Embellishments Ornamental tones that are either improvised by the performer or indicated in the music by signs or notes in small print.
Empfindung (G) Emotion, feeling (empfindungsvoll with feeling.)
Emporte (F) Fiery, impetuous.
En animant (F) Becoming more lively.
En dehors (F) Yielding.
Energico (I) Energetic.
English horn Double-reed woodwind instrument, slightly larger than the oboe and with a lower range, straight in shape with an egg-shaped bell.
Enlevez (F) Take up, take off, a direction for a pedal or a mute.
En mesure (F) In time.
En pressant (F) Hurrying on
En retenant (F) Holding back (slowing a little.)
En serrant (F) Becoming quicker.
Ensemble In opera, a piece sung by three or more solo singers.
Episode Transitional section in a fugue between presentation of the subject, which offers either new material or fragments of the subject or countersubject.
Espressione (I) Expression
Espressivo, espress., espr. (I), expressif (F) Expressive.
Estino (I) As soft as possible, lifeless.
Et (F) And.
Etude (F) study; a piece designed to help a performer master specific technical difficulties.
Euphonium Brass instrument similar in shape to the tuba and the baritone horn, with a higher range than the tuba’s, commonly used in bands.
Etwas (G) Somewhat, rather.
Exoticism Use of melodies, rhythms, or instruments that suggest foreign lands; common in romantic music.
Exposition First section of a sonata-form movement, which sets up a strong conflict between the tonic key and the new key; and between the first theme (or group of themes) and the second theme (or group of themes).
Expressionism Musical style stressing intense, subjective emotion and harsh dissonance, typical of German and Austrian music of the early twentieth century.

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F

Fa-la See ballet.
Facile (I,F) Easy.
Fecile (I) Happy.
Feroce (I) Fierce.
Feurig (G) Fiery.
Figured bass See basso continuo.
Fin (F), Fine (I) End.
Flag Wavy Line attached to the stem on a note, indicating how long that note is to be held relative to the notes around it.
Flamenco A style of Spanish music, played esp. on the guitar and accompanied by singing and dancing.
Flat sign Symbol which notates a pitch one half step lower than the pitch that would otherwise be indicated-for example, the next lower key on the piano.
Flatterzunge, flzg. (G) Flutter-tonguing, a direction for wind instruments.
Flautato, flautando (I) Flute-like, a direction for natural harmonics on string instruments.
Flessible (I) Flexible, i.e. not in strict tempo.
Fliessend (G) Flowing.
Flottant (F) Floating.
Flute Woodwind instrument, usually made of metal, with a high rangem whose tone is produced by blowing across the edge of a mouth hole.
Form Organization of musical ideas in time.
Forte (f) (I) Loud.
Fortepiano (I) Loud, then immediately soft.
Fortissimo (ff) (I) Very loud.
Forza (I) Force (forzando, forzato- see sforzando, sforzato)
Fourth chord Chord in which the tones are a fourth apart, instead of a third; used in twentieth-century music.
Free jazz Jazz style which departs from traditional jazz by not being based on regular forms and established chord patterns; developed during the 1960s.
Frei (G) Free
French horn Brass instrument of medium range, whose tube is coiled into a roughly circular shape and fitted with valves; commonly used in symphony orchestras and in bands. (Sometimes called simply a horn.)
French overture Common opening piece in baroque suites, oratorios, and operas; usually in two parts the first slow, with characteristic dotted rhythms, full of dignity and grandeur; the second quick and lighter in mood, often starting like a fugue.
Fretta (I) Haste.
Frisch (G) Vigorous.
Frohlich (I) Fire.
Front line In Dixieland or New Orleans jazz, the group of melodic instruments which improvise on a melody, supported by the rhythm section.
Fugue Polyphonic composition based on one main theme, or subject.
Fuoco (I) Fire.
Furioso (I) Furious, frenzied.
Fusion See jazz rock.

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G

Gebunden (G) Joined.
Gehend (G) At a steady speed (lit. ‘going’), equivalent to andante.
Gesangvoll (G) Quick.
Giocoso (I) Playful, humorous.
Giojoso (I) Joyful, merry.
Giusto (I) Proper, exact (tempo giusto in strict time)
Glissando (I) Rapid slide up or down a scale.
G.P (G) An indication to individual performers that all are silent.
Glockenspiel Percussion instrument of definite pitch, made up of flat metal bars set in a frame and played by striking with small metal hammers.
Gong (tam-tam) Percussion instrument of indefinite pitch made up of a large flat metal plate that is suspended and struck with a mallet.
Gracieux (F) Graceful.
Grandioso (I) Grandly.
Grand Staff Combination of the treble and bass staves, used in keyboard music to encompass the wide range of pitches produced by both hands.
Grave (I, F) Very slow, broad.
Grazioso (I) Graceful
Gregorian chant Melodies set to a sacred Latin texts, sung without accompaniment; the official music of the Roman Catholic church.
Ground bass (basso ostinato) Variation form in which a musical idea in the bas is repeated over and over while the melodies above it constantly change; common in baroque music.
Guitar Plucked string instrument with six strings stretched along a fretted fingerboard.

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H

Half Step Smallest interval traditionally used in western music; for example, the interval between ti and do.
Harmonics Very high-pitched tones, like a whistle’s, produced in string instruments by lightly touching the string at certain points while bowing/plucking.
Harmony How chords are constructed and how they follow each other.
Harp Plucked string instrument, consisting of strings stretched within a triangular frame and turned to a major scale.
Harpsichord Keyboard instrument, widely used from about 1500 to 1775, whose sound is produced by plectra which pluck its wire strings. The harpsichord has been revived during the twentieth century.
Heterophonic texture Simultaneous performance of the same basic melody is accompanied by chords.
Horn See French horn


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I

Idee fixe Single melody used throughout a long work to represent one idea.
Idiophone Instrument-such as bells, a gong, a scraper, a rattle, or a xylophone-whose sound is generated by the instrument’s own material with no applied tension.
Imitation Presentation of a melodic idea by one voice or instrument that is immediately followed by its restatement by another voice or instrument, as in a round.
Immer (G) Always.
Impetuoso (I) Impetuous.
Impressionism Musical style which stresses tone color, atmosphere, and fluidity, typical of Debussy (flourished 1890-1920)
Improvisation Creation of music at the same time as it is performed.
Incalzando (I) Getting quicker (lit. ‘pressing forward’)
Incidental music Music intended to be performed before and during a play, setting the mood for the drama.
Incomplete cadence Inconclusive resting point at the end of the phrase which sets up expectations for phrases to follow.
Innig (G) Heartfelt, sincere.
Inquieto (I) Restless
In relievo (I) Prominent (lit. ‘in relief’), a direction to make a melody stand out
Interval “Distance” in pitch between any two tones.
Inversion Variation of a fugue subject in which each interval of the subject is reversed in direction.

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J

Jazz Music rooted in improvisation and characterized by syncopated rhythm, a steady beat, and distinctive tone colors and performance techniques. Jazz was developed in the United States predominantly by black musicians and gained popularity in the early twentieth century.
Jazz rock (fusion) Style which combines the jazz musician’s improvisatory approach with rock rhythms and tone colors; developed in the 1960s.
Joyeux (F) Joyful.

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K

Kettledrums See timpani
Key (tonality) Central note, scale, and chord within a piece, in relationship to which all other tones in the composition are heard.
Key Signature Sharp or flat signs immediately following the clef sign at the beginning of a piece of music, indicating the key in which the music is to be played.
Keyboard instrument Instrument-such as the piano, organ, or harpsichord-played by pressing a series of keys with the fingers.
Keynote (tonic) Central tone of a melody or larger piece of music. When a piece is in the key of C Major, for example, C is the keynote.
Klangfarbenmelodie See tone-color melody
Koto Instrument with thirteen silk or nylon strings stretched over a hollow sound board about 6 feet long; each string is tuned by adjusting the placement of a movable bridge. The koto is an important instrument in Japanese music.
Kraftig (G) Strong.

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L

Lacrimoso, lagrimando, lagrimoso (I) Sad (lit. ‘tearful’)
Lamentoso (I) Lamenting.
Langsam (G) Slow, equivalent to adagio and lento.
Largamente (I) Broadly.
Largo Very slow, broad.
Larghetto (I) Rather slow, but slightly faster than largo.
Largo (I) Slow, stately.
Leap Interval larger than that between two adjacent tones in the scale.
Lebhaft (G) Lively, equivalent to vivace.
Ledger lines Short, horizontal lines above or below the staff, used to indicate a pitch that fall above or below the range indicated by the staff.
Legato (I) Smooth, connected manner of performing a melody.
Legrement (F), leggiero (I), leicht (G) Light, numble.
Leid (G) Grief, pain (leidvoll, leidensvoll sorrowful.)
Leidenschaft (G) Passion (leidenschaftlich passionate.)
Leise (G) Soft, gentle.
Leitmotif Short musical ideas associated with a person, object, or thought, characteristic of the opera of Wagner.
Lent (F), Lento (I) Slow (lentement slowly.)
Liberamente (I), librement (F) Freely.
Librettist Dramatist who writes the libretto, or text, of an opera.
Libretto Text of an opera.
Licenza (I) License, freedom (con alcuna licenza with some freedom, particularly with regard to tempo and rhythm.)
Lieblich (G) Lovely.
L’istesso (I) The same (l’isteso tempo at the same speed)
Loco (I) At the normal pitch (used to cancel an 8va direction – or to confirm that one is not intended)
Lointain (F), lontano (I) Distant.
Lourd (F) Heavy, equivalent to pesante.
Lugubre (I) Mournful.
Lunga (I) Long (lunga pausa
long pause)
Lusingando (I) Coaxing; in a sweet, persuasive style.
Lustig (G) Cheerful.

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M

M See main, mano, mezza.
Ma (I) But (e.g. Allegro ma non troppo quick but not too quick)
Madrigal Composition for several voices set to a short secular poem, usually about love, combing homophonic and polyphonic textures and often using the word painting; common in Renaissance music.
Maestoso (I) Majestic.
Main (F) Hand (main gauche, m.g. left hand; main droite, m.d. right hand)
Mais (F) But.
Major Key Music based on a major scale.
Major scale Series of seven different tones within an octave, with an eight tone repeating the first tone an octave higher, consisting of a specific pattern of whole and half steps; the whole step between the second and third tones is characteristic.
Mano (I) Hand (mano sinistra. M.s. left hand; mano destra, m.d. right hand)
Mancando (I) Fading away.
Marcato, marc. (I) Emphatic, accented.
Marimba Percussion instrument with tuned wooden bars, similar to the xylophone, but larger and having cylindrical acoustic resonators.
Martele (F), martellato (I) Strongly accented (lit. ‘hammered’), generally used in string music to denote a particular type of bowing, but can also be applied to music for piano or other instruments.
Marziale (I) In a military style
Mass Sacred choral composition made up of five sections Jyrie, Gloria, Credo, Agnus, Dei; Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.
Mass ordinary Roman Catholic church texts which remain the same from day to day throughout most of the year Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Santus, and Agnus Dei.
Massig (G) At a moderate speed
Measure Rhythmic group set off bar lines, containing a fixed number of beats.
Melody Series of single tones that add up to a recognizable whole.
Membranophone Instrument-basically, a drum-whose sound is generated by a stretched skin or other membrane.
Meno (I) Less.
Mesto (I) Sad.
Meter Organization of beats into regular groups.
Meter signature See time signature
Metronome Apparatus which produces ticking sounds or flashes of light at any desired constant speed.
Mezza, mezzo (I) Half (mezzo forte, mf moderately loud; mezzo piano, mp moderately soft; mezza voce; in an undertone)
Mezzo piano (mp) Moderatly soft.
Mezzo forte (mf) Moderately loud.
Microtone Interval smaller than a half step.
Middle C The note C nearest to the center of the piano keyboard, notated as the pitch on the ledger line below the treble clef and above the bass clef.
Minimalistic music Music characterized by steady pulse, clear tonality, and insistent repetition of short melodic patterns; its dynamic level, texture, and harmony tend to stay constant for fairly long stretches of time, creating a trancelike or hypnotic effect; developed in th 1960s.
Minor key Music based on a minor scale
Minor scale Series of seven tones within an octave, with an eighth tone repeating the first tone an octave higher, composed of a specific pattern of whole and half steps; the half step between the second and third tone is characteristic.
Minuet See minuet and trio
Minuet and trio (minuet) Compositional form-derived from a dance-in three parts minuet (A) trio (B) minuet (A). Often employed as the third movement of classical symphonies, string quartets, and other works, it is in triple meter, (3/4 time), and usually in a moderate tempo.
Misterioso (I) Mysterious.
Misura (I) Measure (alla misura in a strict time; senza misura in a free time.)
Mit (G) With.
Moderato (I), modere (F) Moderate tempo.
Modified strophic form Form in which two or more stanzas of poetry are set to the same music while other stanzas have new music; found in art songs of the Romantic period.
Modulation Shift from one key to another within the same piece.
Moins (F) Less.
Molto (I) Very Much.
Monophonic texture Single melodic line without accompaniment.
Morendo (I) Dying away.
Mosso (I) With motion, animated.
Motet Polyphonic choral work set to sacred Latin text other than that of the mass; one of the two main forms of sacred Renaissance music.
Motive Fragment of a theme, or short musical idea which is developed within a composition.
Moto, movimento (I) Movement, motion.
Mouvement, mouvt (F) Movement, motion (au movement in time; premier)
Movement Piece that sounds fairly complete and independent but is part of a larger composition.
Munter (G) Lively.
Musical texture Number of layers of sound that are heard at once, what kinds of layers they are, and how they are related to each other.
Musical (musical comedy) Type of American theatre created to entertain through fusion of a dramatic script, acting, and spoken dialogue with music, singing, and dancing-and scenery, costumes, and spectacle.
Muta (I) Change, e.g. as in changing the tuning of a kettle frum or in transferring from one instrument to another.
Mute Device used to veil or muffle the tone of an instrument. In string instruments, the mute is a clamp which fits onto the bridge; in brass instruments, it is a funnel-shaped piece of wood, metal, or plastic which fits into the bell.

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N

Nach und nach (G) Gradually.
Nationalism Inclusion of folk songs, dances, legends, and other national material in a composition to associate it with the composer’s homeland; characteristic of romantic music.
Natural sign Symbol used in notation of pitch to cancel a previous sharp or flat sign.
Naturale, nat. (I) In the ordinary way, a direction to a singer or instrumentalist to resume the normal method of performance (e.g. after a col legno passage in string music)
Neoclassicism Musical style marked by emotional restraint, balance, and clarity, inspired by the forms and stylistic features of eighteenth-century music, found in many works from 1920 to 1950.
New Orleans (Dixieland) jazz Jazz style in which the front line, or melodic instruments improvise several contrasting melodic lines at once, supported by a rhythm section that clearly marks the beat and provides a background of chords; usually based on a march or church melody, a ragtime piece, a popular song, or the 12-bar blues.
Nicht (G) Not.
Niente (I) Nothing.
Nobilmente (I) Nobly.
Noch (G) Still, yet.
Nocturne (F), night piece; a composition, usually slow, lyrical, and intimate in character, often for piano solo.
Non (I,F) Not.
Notation System of writing down music so that specific pitches and rhythms can be communicated.
Note In notation, a black or white oval to which a stem and flags can be added.
Nuovo (I) New (di nuovo again)

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O

Obbligato (I) Obligatory, indicating that an instrument has a special role and is essential (though the word is sometimes incorrectly used to mean ‘optional’.)
Obne (G) Without.
Oboe Double-reed woodwind instrument with a relatively high range, conical in shape with a small flared bell.
Octave Interval between two tones in which the higher tone has twice the frequency of the lower tone.
Opera Drama that is sung to orchestral accompaniment, usually a large-scale composition employing vocal soloists, chorus, orchestra, costumes, and scenery.
Oratario Large-scale composition for chorus, vocal soloist, and orchestra, usually set to a narrative text, but without acting, scenery, or costumes; often based on biblical stories.
Organ (pipe organ) Keyboard instrument with many sets of pipes controlled from two or more keyboards. Including a pedal keyboard played by the organist’s feet. The keys control valves from which air is blown across or through openings in the pipes. (The electric organ is an electronic instrument that is sometimes designed to imitate the sound of a pipe organ).
Organ point See pedal point.
Organum Medieval polyphony that consists of Gregorian chant and one or more additional melodic lines.
Ossia (I) Or, alternatively (often used to indicate a simpler version of a difficult passage.)
Ostinato (I) Motive or phrase that is repeated persistently at the same pitch, used in twentieth-century music to stabilize a group of pitches.
Ottava, ott. (I) Octave (ottava bassa octave lower; ottave alta octave higher)
Overture (prelude) Short musical compositions, purely orchestral, which opens an opera and sets the overall dramatic mood. Orchestral introductions for later acts of an opera are called preludes.


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P

P See piano.
Parlando (I) Speaking, a direction to sing in a conversational style.
Passacaglia See ground bass.
Patetico (I) With deep feeling, with pathos (not ‘pathetic’ in the sense of feeble!)
Pausa (I) A pause.
Pedal Point (organ point) Single tone, usually in the bass, which is held while the other voices produced a series of changing harmonies against it; often found in fugues.
Pedale (I), pedale (F) Pedal.
Pentatonic scale Scale made up of five different tones, used in folk music and music of the far east.
Per (I) By, for, through, to.
Percussion instrument Instrument of definite or indefinite pitch whose sound is produced by striking by hand, or with a stick or hammer, or by shaking or rubbing.
Perdendosi (I) Dying away.
Performer Person who plays or sings music.
Pesante (I) Heavy.
Peu (F) Little (peu a peu little by little, gradually)
Phrase Part of the melody.
Piacevole (I) Pleasant.
Piangevole (I) Plaintive, in the style of a lament.
Pianissimo (pp) (I) As soft as possible.
Piano (I) Widely used keyboard instrument of great range and versatility, whose sound is produced by felt-covered hammers striking against steel strings.
Piano (p) (I) Soft.
Piccolo Smallest woodwind instruments, having the highest range; a smaller version of a flute.
Pietoso, pietosamente (I) Tenderly (lit. ‘pitifully’.)
Pipe organ See organ.
Pitch Relative highness or lowness of a sound.
Pitch range Distance between the highest and lowest tones that a given voice or instrument can produce.
Piu (I) More.
Pizzicato, pizz. (I) Means of playing a string instrument by which the strings are plucked, usually with a finger of the right hand.
Placido (I) Calm, Peaceful.
Plus (F) More.
Pochettino, poch. (I) Rather little.
Pochissimo, pochiss. (I) Very little.
Poco (I) Little, slightly (poco a poco little by little, gradually.)
Poi (I) Then.
Polonaise Composition in triple meter with a stately character, often for piano solo; originally a Polish court dance.
Polychoral motet Motet for two or more choirs, often including groups of instruments.
Polychord Combination of two chords sounded at the same time, used in twentieth-century music.
Polyphonic texture Performance of two or more melodic lines of relatively equal interest at the same time.
Polyrhythm Use of two or more contrasting and independent rhythms at the same time, often found in twentieth-century music.
Polytonality Approach to pitch organization using two or more keys at one time, often found in twentieth-century music.
Portamento (I) Slide from one note to the next (lit. ‘carrying’), a direction to a voice, bowed instrument or trombone (but not to keyboard instruments since they always play in ‘steps’ of at least a semitone.)
Possibile (I) Possible (e.g. presto possibile as fast as possible.)
Postlude Concluding section; the section at the end of an art song which sums up its mood, played by the piano alone.
Precipitabdo, precipitato, precipitoso (I) Rushing, headlong.
Prelude (1) Short piece usually serving to introduce a fugue or other composition; a short piece for piano (2) see overture.
Presser, pressez (F) Hurry.
Prestissimo (I) As fast a tempo as possible.
Presto (I) Very fast tempo.
Prima, primo (I) First (prima volta first time, used to distinguish between two different interpretations of a repeated section of music; tempo primo, first speed.)
Primitivism Evocation of primitive power through insistent rhythms and percussive sounds.
Program Explanatory comments specifying the story, scene, or idea associated with program music.
Program symphony Symphony (a composition for orchestra in several movements) related to a story, idea, or scene, in which each movement usually has a descriptive title; often found in romantic music.
Progression Series of chords.
Prompter Person who gives cues and reminds singers of their words or pitches during an opera performance. The promoter is located in a box just over the edge of center stage, which conceals him or her form the audience.

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Q

Quadruple meter Pattern of 4 beats to the measure.
Quadruple stop See stop.
Quasi (I, L) As if, resembling (e.g. quasi recitative like a recitative)
Quintuple meter Pattern of 5 beats to the measure.
Quotation music Works which make extensive use of quotation from earlier music; common since mid-1960s.

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R

Raga Pattern of notes comprising a melodic framework used in the creation of an improvisation, characteristic of Indian classical music
Ragtime Style of composed piano music, generally in duple meter with a moderate march tempo, in which the pianist’s right hand plays a highly syncopated melody while the left hand maintains the beat with an “oom-pah” accompaniment. Ragtime was developed primarily by African American pianists and flourished from 1890 to about 1915.
Ralentir (F) Slacken, slow down.
Rallentando, rall. (I) Gradually getting slower.
Range See pitch range.
Rasch (G) Quick (rascher quicker.)
Recapitulation Third section of a sonata-form movement, in which the first theme, bridge, second theme, and concluding section are presented more or less as they were in the exposition, with one crucial difference all principal material is now the tonic key.
Recitative Vocal line an opera, oratorio, or cantata that imitates the rhythms and pitch fluctuations of speech, often serving to lead into an aria.
Recorder Family of woodwind instruments whose sound is produced by blowing into a “whistle” mouthpiece, usually made of wood or plastic.
Reed Very thin piece of cane, used in woodwind instruments to produce sound as it is set into vibration by a stream of air.
Register Part of the total range of an instrument or voice. The tone color of the instrument or voice may vary with the register in which it is played or sung.
Repetition Reiteration of a phrase, section, or entire movement, often used to create a sense of unity.
Repetizione, replica (I) Repetition.
Requiem Mass for the dead.
Resolution Progression from a dissonance to a consonance.
Rest In notation of rhythm, a symbol to indicate the duration of silence in the music.
Retenu (F) Held back, i.e. a little slower.
Retrograde Variation of a fugue subject in which the subject is presented by beginning with the last note and proceeding backward to the first.
Rhythm Ordered flow of music through time; the pattern of durations of notes and silences in music.
Rhythm section Instruments in a jazz ensemble which maintains the beat, ass rhythmic interest and provide supporting harmonies. The rhythm section is usually made up of piano, plucked double bass, percussion, and sometimes banjo or guitar.
Ricercar Polyphonic instrumental composition which makes extensive use of imitation, often found in Renaissance music.
Riff In jazz, a short repeated phrase that may be an accompaniment or a melody.
Rigoroso (I) Strict.
Rinforzando, rinforzato, rinf., rfz, rf (I) Reinforcing.
Risoluto (I) Bold, strong.
Ritardando, ritard., rit. (I) Becoming slower.
Ritenuto, riten., rit. (I) Held back.
Ritmico (I) Rhythmically.
Ritornello (I) Refrain; a repeated section of music usually played by the full orchestra, or tutti, in baroque compositions.
Ritornello form Compositional form usually employed in the baroque concerto grosso, in which the tutti plays a ritornellos, or refrain, alternating with one or more soloist playing new material.
Rock First called rock and roll, a style of popular vocal music which developed in the 1950s, characterized by a hard, driving beat and featuring electric guitar accompaniment and heavily amplified sound.
Romance In nineteenth-century music, a short lyrical piece for piano or solo instrument with piano accompaniment.
Rondo Compositional form featuring a main theme (A) which returns several times in alternation with other themes, such as A B A C A and A B A C A B A. Rondo is often the form of the last movement in classical symphonies, string quartets and sonatas.
Rubato, tempo rubato (I) Slight holding back or pressing forward of tempo to intensify the expression of the music, often used in romantic music.
Ruhig (G) Peaceful.

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S

Sans (I) Without.
Saxophone Family of a single-reed woodwind instruments.
Scale Series of pitches arranged in order from low to high or high to low.
Scherzando, scherzoso (I) Playful, joking
Scherzo (I) Compositional form in three parts (A B A), sometimes used as the third movement in classical and romantic symphonies, string quartets, and other works. A scherzo is usually in triple meter, with a fast tempo than a minuet.
Schnell (G) Fast (schneller faster)
Schwach (G) Weak (schwacher weaker)
Score Notation showing all the parts of a musical ensemble, with a separate staff for each part, and with simultaneously sounded notes aligned vertically; used by the conductor.
Secco recitative Speech-like melody that is sung by a solo voice accompanied only by basso continuo.
Sec (F), secco (I) Crisp (lit. ‘dry’), suppress the sound as quickly as possible – do not allow it to continue to reverberate.
Seconda, secondo (I) Second (seconda volta second time.)
Segue (I) Go straight on (lit. ‘follow’.)
Sehr (G) Very.
Semplice (I) Simple, plain.
Sempre (I) Always.
Senza (I) Without (e.g. senza vigour freely, lit. ‘without strictness’)
Septuple meter Pattern of 7 beats to the measure.
Sequence In a melody, the immediate repetition of a melodic pattern on a higher or lower pitch.
Serenade Instrumental composition, light in mood, usually meant for evening entertainment.
Serialism Method of composing which uses an ordered group of musical elements to organize rhythm, dynamics, and tone color, as well as pitch; developed in the mid-twentieth century.
Series See tone row.
Serrer, serrez (F) Hurry, quicken, equivalent to stringendo.
Set See tone row.
Seul (F) alone.
Sextuple meter Pattern of 6 beats to the measure.
Sforzando, sforzato, sfz, sf (F) Accented, forced.
Sharp sign (#) Symbol which notates a pitch one half step higher than the pitch that would otherwise be indicated-for example, the next higher black key on the piano.
Side drum See snare drum.
Simile, sim. (I) Continue in the same way.
Single-reed woodwinds Instruments whose sound us produced by a single piece of cane, or reed, fastern over a hole in the mouthpiece, which vibrates when the player blows into it.
Sitar Most popular chordophone of north India. It is a long-neck lute with nineteen to twenty-three movable frets. Seven strings are plucked and nine to thirteen strings vibrate sympathetically.
Slargando, slentando (I) Getting Slower.
Smorzando, smorz. (I) dying away in tone and speed.
Snare drum (side drum) Percussion instrument of indefinite pitch, in the shape of a cylinder with a stretched skin at either end. A “snare” of gut or metal is stretched below the lower skin and produced a rattling sound when the drum is struck.
Soave (I) Gentle, smooth.
Solenne (I) Solemn, grave.
Sonata In baroque music, an instrumental composition in several movements for one to eight players. In music after the baroque period, an instrumental compostion usually in several movements for one or two players.
Sonata form Form of a single movement, consisting of three main sections the exposition, where the themes are presented; the development, where themes are treated in new ways; and the recapitulation, where the theme return. A concluding section, the coda, often follows the recapitulation.
Sonata-rondo Compositional form that combines the repeating theme of rondo form with a development section similar to that in sonata form, outlined A B A-development-A B A.
Song cycle Group of art song unified by a story line that runs through their poems, or by musical ideas linking the songs; often found in romantic music.
Sonoramente (I), sonore (F), sonoro (I) Resonant, with rich tone.
Sopra (I) Above, on, e.g. a direction for keyboard players to place one hand over the other.
Soprano Female voice of high range.
Sordino, sord. (I) Mute (con sordini with mutes; senza sordini without mutes)
Sostenuto, sost. (I) Sustained.
Sotto (I) Below, e.g. a direction for keyboard players to place one hand below the other.
Sotto voce (I) In an undertone (lit. ‘below’ the voice’)
Sound Vibration which are transmitted, usually through air, to the eardrum, which sens impulses to the brain.
Sourdine (F) Mute.
Sous (F) Under.
Spiccato (I) Detached, used to denote a particular ‘bouncing’ bow technique on string instruments.
Spiritoso (I) Spirited.
Sprechstimme In German, speech-voice; a style of vocal performance halfway between speaking and singing, typical of Schoenberg and his followers.
Staccato, stacc. (I) Short detached manner of performing a melody.
Staff In notation, a set of five horizontal lines between or on which notes are positioned.
Stark (G) Strong.
Strepitoso (I) Noisy, boisterous.
Stem Vertical line on a note indicating how long that note is to be held relative to the notes around it.
Step Interval between two adjacent tones in the scale.
Stretto (I) Quickening the speed (also means overlapping entries of a fugue subject.)
Stringendo (I) Gradually getting faster.
Stop (double, triple, quadruple) Means of playing a string instrument by which the bow is drawn across two, three, or four strings at the same time, or almost the same, time.
Stretto Compositional procedure used in fugues, in which a subject is imitated before it is completed; one voice tries to catch the other.
String Instrument Instrument whose sound is produced by the vibration of strings.
String quartet Composition employing two violins, a viola, and a celoo; usually consisting of four movements (Also, the four instrumentalists.)
Strophic form Vocal form in the same music is repeated for each stanza of a poem.
Style Characteristic way of using melody, rhythm, tone, color, dynamics, harmony, texture, and form in music.
Subdominant Fourth note (fa) of the scale, or the triad (chord) based on this note.
Subito (I) Suddenly.
Subject Theme of a fugue.
Suite In baroque music, a set of dance-inspired movement that are all written in the same key but differ in tempo, meter and character.
Sul, sulla (I) On the (e.g. sul G on the G string; sul ponticello on the bridge.)
Suss (G) Sweet.
Swing band Typically, a large band made up of fourteen or fifteen musicians grouped in three sections saxophones, brasses, and rhythm. They play swing, a jazz style which was developed in the 1920s and flourished between 1935 and 1945.
Symphonic poem (tone poem) Programmatic composition for orchestra in one movement, which may have a traditional form (such as sonata or rondo) or original, irregular form.
Symphony Orchestral composition, usually in four movements, typically lasting between 20 and 45 minutes, exploiting the expanded range of tone color and dynamics of the orchestra.
Syncopation Accenting of a note at an unexpected time, as between two beats or on a weak beat. Syncopation is a major characteristic of jazz.
Synthesizer System of electronic components which can generate, modify, and control sound; used to compose music and to perform it.


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T

Tabla Pair of single-headed drums in which the right-hand drum is generally tuned to the tonic note and the left-hand drum functions as a bass drum; the most important percussion instrument in north Indian music.
Tablature A form of musical notation indicating fingering rather than the pitch of notes.
Tacet (L) Silent, a direction that a particular part has nothing to play in a section of music.
Tala Repeated cycle of beats organizing the rhythm in Indian classical music.
Tambourine Percussion instrument of indefinite pitch, consisting of a skin stretched across a shallow cylinder, with small circular plates set into the cylinder which jingle when the skin is struck or the cylinder is shaken.
Tambura Long-necked lute with four metal strings that are plucked in succession continually; the main drone instrument in Indian music.
Tam-tam See gong.
Tanto (I) So much.
Tape studio Studio with tape recorders and other equipment used to create electronic music by modifying and combining recorded sounds.
Tasto (I) The fingerboard of a string instrument (sul tasto on the fingerboard) or the key of a keyboard (tasto solo, T.S. a direction to a continuo player not to add anything above the given bass.)
Tempo (I) Basic pace of the music.
Tempo indication Words, usually at the beginning of a piece of music, often in Italian, which specify the pace at which the music should be played.
Teneramente, tenerezza (I) Tenderly
Tenor Male voice of high range.
Tenuto, ten. (I) Held.
Terraced dynamics Abrupt alternation between loud and soft dynamic levels; characteristic of baroque music.
Thematic transformation Alteration of the character of a theme by means of changes in dynamics, orchestration, or rhythm, when it returns in a later movement or section; often found in romantic music.
Theme Melody which serves as the starting point for an extended piece of music.
Theme and variations Form in which is a basic musical idea (the theme) is repeated over and over and is changed each time in melody, rhythm, harmony, dynamics, or tone color. Used either as an independent piece or as one movement of a larger work.
Three-part form (A B A) Form that can be represented as statement (A); contrast (B); return of statement (A).
Through-composed form Vocal form in which there is a new music for each stanza of a poem.
Tie In notation of rhythm, an arc between two notes of the same pitch indicating that the second note should not be played but should be added to the duration of the first.
Timbre See tone color.
Time signature (meter signature) Two numbers, one above the other, appearing at the beginning of a staff or the start of a piece, indicating the meter of the piece.
Timpani (kettledrums) Percussion instruments of definite pitch, shaped like large kettles with calfskin or plastic stretched across the tops, played with soft padded mallets.
Tonality See key.
Tone Sound that has a definite pitch, or frequency.
Tone cluster Chord made up of tones only a half step or a whole step apart, used in twentieth-century music.
Tone color (timbre) Quality of sound that distinguished one instrument or voice from another.
Tone-color melody Succession of varying tone colors serving as a musical idea in a composition, used by Schoenberg and his followers.
Tone poem See symphonic poem.
Tone row (set, series) Particular ordering of the twelve chromatic tones, from which all pitches in a twelve-tone composition are derived.
Tonic See keynote.
Tonic chord Triad built on the first, or tonic, note of the scale, serving as the main chord of a piece and usually beginning and ending it.
Tonic key (home key) Central key of a piece of music, usually both beginning and ending of the piece, regardless of how many other keys are included.
Tosto (I) Swift, rapid.
Tranquillo (I) Calm.
Transition See bridge.
Taurig (G) Sad.
Tre (I) Three (tre corde three strings, a direction to pianists to release the left pedal.)
Treble clef Notation of a staff to indicate relatively high pitch ranges, such as those played by a pianist’s right hand.
Tremololandom, tremolo, trem. (I) Rapid repetition of a tone, produced in string instruments by quick up-and-down strokes of the bow or rapid finger plucking for the guitar.
Tres (F) Very.
Triad Most basic of chords, consisting of three alternate tones of the scale, such as do, mi, sol.
Triangle Percussion instrument of indefinite pitch, consisting of a triangular length of metal suspended from a hook or cord, played by striking with a metal rod.
Trill Musical ornament consisting of the rapid alternation of two tones that are a whole or half step apart.
Trionfale (I) Triumphant.
Tristamente (I), triste (I, F) Sad.
Triplet meter Pattern of 3 beats to the measure.
Triple stop See stop.
Triplet In notation of rhythm, three notes of equal duration grouped within a curved line with the numeral 3, lasting only as long as two notes of this same length normally would last.
Trio sonata Baroque composition which has three melodic lines two high ones, each played by one instrument; and a basso continuo, played by two instruments.
Trombone Brass instrument of moderately low range, whose tube is an elongated loop with a movable slide, commonly used in symphony orchestras, bands, and jazz ensembles.
Troppo (I) Too much.
Trumpet Brass instrument with the highest range, commonly used in symphony orchestras, bands, and jazz and rock groups.
Tuba Largest brass instrument, having the lowest range, commonly used in symphony orchestras and bands.
Tutti (I) All; the full orchestra, or a large group of musicians contrasted with a smaller group, often heard in baroque music.
12-bar blues In vocal blues and jazz, a harmonic framework that is 12 bars in length, usually involving only three basic chords tonic (I), subdominant (IV), and dominant (V).
Twelve-tone system Method of composing in which all pitches of a composition are derived from a special ordering of the twelve chromatic tones (tone row or set); developed by Schoenberg in the early 1920s.
Two-part form (A B) Form that can be represented as statement (A) and counterstatement (B).

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U

Un (F), una, uno (I) One (una corda one string, a direction for pianists to press the left pedal.)
Und (G) And.
Unisono, unis. (I) Performance of a single melodic line by more than one instrument or voice at teh same pitch or in different octaves.
Upbeat Unaccented pulse preceding the downbeat.

V

Variation Changing some features of a musical idea while retaining others.
Veloce (I) Swift.
Vibraphone Percussion instrument of definite pitch with metal bars, similar to the marimba, with tubular metal resonators driven by electronic impulses.
Vibrato (I) Small fluctuation of pitch which make the tone warmer, produced in string instruments by rocking the left hand while it presses the string down.
Viel (G) Much.
Vif (F) Lively.
Vigoroso (I) Vigorous, strong.
Viola String instrument with a lower range than the violin and a higher range than the cello.
Violin String instrument with the highest range of the string family.
Violoncello See cello.
Virtuoso Performing artist of extraordinary technical mastery.
Vite (F) Quick.
Vivace (I), vivement (F), vivo (I) Lively tempo.
Voce (I), voix (F) Voice (mezza voce in an undertone, softly.)
Voice Categories of opera Voice ranges which include coloratura soprano, lyric soprano, dramatic soprano, lyric tenor, dramatic tenor, basso buffo, and basso profundo, among others.
Volante (I) Flying, fast.
Voll (G) Full.
Volta (I) Time (prima volta first time)
Volti subito, V.S. (I) Turn (the page) at once.
Vorgetragen (G) Brought out, prominent.

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W

Wenig (G) Little.
Whole step Interval twice as large as the half step; for example, the interval between do and re.
Whole-tone scale Scale made up of six different tones, each a whole step away from the next, which conveys no definite sense of tonality; often found in the music of Debussy and his followers.
Wieder (G) Again.
Woodwind instrument Instrument whose sound is produced by vibrations of air in a tube; holes along the length of tube are opened and closed by the fingers, or by pads, to control the pitch.
Word painting Musical representation of specific poetic images-for example, a falling melodic line to accompany the word descending-often found in Renaissance and baroque music.

X

Xylophone Percussion instrument of definite pitch, consisting of flat wooden bars set in a frame and played by striking with hard plastic or wooden hammers.

Z

Zahizeit (G) Beat
Zart (G) Tender, delicate
Ziehen (G) To draw out
Ziemlich (G) Moderately
Zu (G) To, too.
Zuruckhalten (G) Held back