Glossary / Entertainment

Music Glossary

A Cappella: Choral music performed without instrumental accompaniment.
A Tempo: Return to the previous tempo.
Absolute Music: Music that has no literary, dramatic, or pictorial program. Also pure music.
Accelerando: A symbol used in musical notation indicating to gradually quicken tempo.
Accent: The emphasis on a beat resulting in that beat being louder or longer than another in a measure.
Accessible: Music that is easy to listen to and understand.
Accompagnato: Accompanied: also a recitative that is accompanied by orchestra.
Accordion: A musical instrument with a small keyboard and free-vibrating metal reeds that sound when air is gen
Acid Rock: Genre of American rock that emerged in the late 1960s, often associated with psychedelic drugs. Its
Ad Libitum: Indication that gives the performer the liberty to omit a section or to improvise.
Adagio: A tempo having slow movement: restful at ease.
Additive Meter: Groupings of irregular numbers of beats that add up to a larger, overall pattern (2 + 3 + 2 + 3 = 10
Aerophone: World music classification for instruments that produce sound by using air as the primary vibrating
Agitato: Agitated or restless.
Agnus Dei: A section of the Mass: the last musical movement of the Ordinary.
Aleatory: Indeterminate music in which certain elements of performance (such as pitch, rhythm or form) are lef
Allegro: A direction to play lively and fast.
Allemande: German dance in moderate duple time, popular during the Renaissance and Baroque periods: often the f
Alto: Lowest of the female voices. Also contralto.
Andante: Moderately slow or walking pace.
Answer: Second entry of the subject in a fugue, usually pitched a fourth below or a fifth above the subject.
Anthem: A religious choral composition in English: performed liturgically, the Protestant equivalent of the
Antiphonal: Performance style in which an ensemble is divided into two or more groups, performing in alternation
Antique Cymbals: Small disks of brass, held by the player one in each hand, that are struck together gently and allow
Arabesque: Decorative musical material or a composition based on florid embellishment.
Aria: Lyric song for solo voice with orchestral accompaniment, generally expressing intense emotion: found
Arioso: Short, aria-like passage.
Arpeggio: Broken chord in which the individual tones are sounded one after another instead of simultaneously.
Ars Antiqua: French sacred polyphonic musical style from the period c.1160-1320.
Ars Nova: Fourteenth century French polyphonic musical style whose themes moved increasingly from religious to
Art Rock: Genre of rock that uses larger forms and more complex harmonies than other popular styles: occasiona
Atonal: Music that is written and performed without regard to any specific key.
Atonality: Total abandonment of tonality (centering in a key). Atonal music moves from one level of dissonance
Attaca: Attack, proceed without a pause between movements.
Augmentation: Statement of a melody in longer note values, often twice as slow as the original.
Aulot: Double-reed pipe: played for public and religious functions in ancient Greece.
Bagpipe: Wind instrument popular in Eastern and Western Europe that has several tubes, one of which plays the
Balalaika: Guitar-like instrument of Russia with a triangular body, fretted neck and three strings: often used
Ballad Opera: English comic opera, usually featuring spoken dialogue alternating with songs set to popular tunes:
Ballade: French poetic form and chanson type of the Middle Ages and Renaissance with courtly love texts. Also
Ballet: A dance form featuring a staged presentation of group or solo dancing with music, costumes and scene
Banjo: Plucked-string instrument with round body in the form of a single-headed drum and a long, fretted ne
Baritone: Male voice of moderately low range.
Baroque: Time in music history ranging from the middle of the 16th to the middle of the 17th centuries. Chara
Bas: Medieval category of soft instruments, used principally for indoor occasions, as distinct from haut,
Bass: Male voice of low range.
Bass Clarinet: Woodwind instrument of the clarinet family with the lowest range.
Bass Drum: The bass drum is a large membranophone of indefinite pitch that is played with a soft-headed stick:
Basse Danse: Graceful court dance of the early Renaissance: an older version of the pavane.
Basso Continuo: Italian for 'continuous bass'. See figured bass. Also refers to performance group with a bass, chord
Bassoon: The bassoon is a double-reed instrument made of wood. Its relative, the contrabassoon, heard here, i
Beat: Regular pulsation: a basic unit of length in musical time.
Beat: The unit of musical rhythm.
Bebop: Complex jazz style developed in the 1940s. Also bop.
Bel Canto: Beautiful singing: elegant Italian vocal style characterized by florid melodic lines delivered by vo
Bell Tree: Long stick with bells suspended from it, adopted from Janissary music.
Bellows: An apparatus for producing air currents in certain wind instruments (accordion, bagpipe).
Big Band: Large jazz ensemble popular in 1930s and 1940s, featuring sections of trumpets, trombones, saxophone
Binary Form: Two-part (A-B) form is based on statement and departure. Also two-part form.
Biwa: A Japanese lute, similar to the Chinese pipa.
Blue Note: A slight drop of pitch on the third, fifth or seventh tone of the scale, common in blues and jazz. A
Blues: African-American form of secular folk music, related to jazz, that is based on a simple, repetitive
Bodhran: Hand-held frame drum with a single goatskin head: used in Irish traditional music.
Bongo: A pair of small drums of differing pitches, held between the legs and struck with both hands, of Afr
Bossa Nova: Brazilian dance related to the samba, popular in the 1950s and 1960s.
Bourrée: Lively French Baroque dance type in duple meter.
Branle: Quick French group dance of the Renaissance, related to the ronde.
Brass Family: The principal orchestral instruments of the brass family, from highest to lowest, are: trumpet, Fren
Break: Jazz term for a short improvised solo without accompaniment that 'breaks' an ensemble passage or int
Bridge: Transitional passage connecting two sections of a composition, also transition. Also the part of a s
Bugle: Brass instrument that evolved from the earlier military, or field, trumpet.
Burgundian Chanson: Fifteenth century French composition, usually for three voices, some or all of which may be played b
Cadence: A sequence of chords that brings an end to a phrase, either in the middle or the end of a compositio
Cadenza: Initially an improvised cadence by a soloist: later becoming an elaborate and written out passage in
Cakewalk: Syncopated, strutting dance of nineteenth century origin: developed among Southern slaves in a parod
Call And Response: Performance style with a singing leader who is imitated by a chorus of followers. Also responsorial
Canon: A musical form where the melody or tune is imitated by individual parts at regular intervals. The in
Cantabile: A style of singing which is characterized by the easy and flowing tone of the composition.
Cantata: Vocal genre for solo singers, chorus and instrumentalists based on a lyric or dramatic poetic narrat
Cantor: Solo singer or singing leader in Jewish and Christian liturgical music.
Cantus Firmus: Fixed melody, usually of very long notes, often based on a fragment of Gregorian chant that served a
Capriccio: A quick, improvisational, spirited piece of music.
Carol: English medieval strophic song with a refrain repeated after each stanza: now associated with Christ
Cassation: Classical instrumental genre related to the serenade or divertimento and often performed outdoors.
Castanets: Percussion instruments consisting of small wooden clappers that are struck together. They are widely
Castrato: Male singer who was castrated during boyhood to preserve the soprano or alto vocal register, promine
Cavatina: A short and simple melody performed by a soloist that is part of a larger piece.
Celesta: Percussion instrument resembling a miniature upright piano, with tuned metal plates struck by hammer
Chaconne: Baroque form similar to the passacaglia, in which the variations are based on a repeated chord progr
Chamber Choir: Small group of up to about twenty-four singers, who usually perform a cappella or with piano accompa
Chamber Music: Written for 2 to 10 solo parts featuring one instrument to a part. Each part bears the same importan
Chanson: French polyphonic song, especially of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, set to either courtly or popu
Chant: Singing in unison, texts in a free rhythm. Similar to the rhythm of speech.
Chart: Colloquial or jazz term for a score or arrangement.
Chimes: Percussion instrument of definite pitch that consists of a set of tuned metal tubes of various lengt
Chinese Block: Percussion instrument made from a hollowed rectangular block of wood that is struck with a beater.
Choir: A group of singers who perform together, usually in parts, with several on each part: often associat
Chorale: Baroque congregational hymn of the German Lutheran church.
Chorale Prelude: Short Baroque organ piece in which a traditional chorale melody is embellished.
Chorale Variations: Baroque organ piece in which a chorale is the basis for a set of variations.
Chord: Simultaneous combination of three or more tones that constitute a single block of harmony.
Chord Progression: A string of chords played in succession.
Chordal: Texture comprised of chords in which the pitches sound simultaneously: also homorhythmic.
Chordophone: World music classification for instruments that produce sound from a vibrating string stretched betw
Chorus: A group singing in unison.
Chorus: Fairly large group of singers who perform together, usually with several on each part. Also a choral
Chromatic: Melody or harmony built from many if not all twelve semitones of the octave. A chromatic scale consi
Chromatic Scale: Includes all twelve notes of an octave.
Clarinet: The wooden clarinet produces sound via a single reed: a small, thin piece of cane attached to its mo
Classical: The period of music history which dates from the mid 1700’s to mid 1800’s. The music was spare a
Classicism: The period of music history which dates from the mid 1800’s and lasted about sixty years. There wa
Clavecin: French word for harpsichord.
Claves: A Cuban clapper consisting of two solid hardwood sticks: widely used in Latin-American music
Clavichord: Stringed keyboard instrument popular in the Renaissance and Baroque that is capable of unique expres
Clavier: Generic word for keyboard instruments, including harpsichord, clavichord, piano and organ.
Clef: In sheet music, a symbol at the beginning of the staff defining the pitch of the notes found in that
Closed Ending: Second of two endings in a secular medieval work, usually cadencing on the final.
Coda: The last part of a piece, usually added to a standard form to bring it to a close.
Codetta: In sonata form, the concluding section of the exposition. Also a brief coda concluding an inner sect
Collage: A technique drawn from the visual arts whereby musical fragments from other compositions are juxtapo
Collegium Musicum: An association of amateur musicians, popular in the Baroque era. Also a modern university ensemble d
Commedia Dellarte: Type of improvised drama popular in sixteenth and seventeenth century Italy: makes use of stereotype
Compound Meter: Meter in which each beat is subdivided into three rather than two.
Computer Music: A type of electro-acoustic music in which computers assist in creating works through sound synthesis
Con Amore: With love, tenderly.
Con Fuoco: With fire.
Con Passione: With passion.
Concert Band: Instrumental ensemble ranging from forty to eighty members or more, consisting of wind and percussio
Concert Master: The first violin in an orchestra.
Concert Overture: Single-movement concert piece for orchestra, typically from the Romantic period and often based on a
Concertante: Style based on the principle of opposition between two dissimilar masses of sound: concerto-like.
Concertina: Small, free-reed, bellows-operated instrument similar to an accordion: hexagonal in shape, with butt
Concertino: Solo group of instruments in the Baroque concerto grosso.
Concerto: A composition written for a solo instrument. The soloist plays the melody while the orchestra plays
Concerto Form: Structure commonly used in first movements of concertos that combines elements of Baroque ritornello
Concerto Grosso: Baroque concerto type based on the opposition between a small group of solo instruments (the concert
Conductor: One who directs a group of performers. The conductor indicates the tempo, phrasing, dynamics, and st
Conga: Afro-Cuban dance performed at Latin-American Carnival celebrations. Also a single-headed drum of Afr
Conjunct: Smooth, connected melody that moves principally by small intervals.
Consonance: Concordant or harmonious combination of tones that provides a sense of relaxation and stability in m
Continuous Imitation: Renaissance polyphonic style in which the motives move from line to line within the texture, often o
Contrabassoon: Double-reed woodwind instrument with the lowest range in the woodwind family. Also double bassoon.
Contralto: Lowest female singing voice.
Contrapuntal: Texture employing counterpoint, or two or more melodic lines.
Contrast: Contrast of musical materials sustains our interest and feeds our love of change: it provides variet
Cool Jazz: A substyle of bebop, characterized by a restrained, unemotional performance with lush harmonies, mod
Cornet: Valved brass instrument similar to the trumpet but more mellow in sound.
Cornetto: Early instrument of the brass family with woodwind-like finger holes. It developed from the cow horn
Council Of Trent: A council of the Roman Catholic Church that convened in Trent, Italy from 1543 to 1565 and dealt wit
Countermelody: An accompanying melody sounded against the principal melody.
Counterpoint: The compositional art of combining two or more simultaneous melodic lines (polyphonic texture): term
Countersubject: In a figure, a secondary theme heard against the subject: a countertheme.
Country-Western: Genre of American popular music derived from traditional music of the rural South, usually vocal wit
Courante: French Baroque dance, a standard movement of the suite, in triple meter at a moderate tempo.
Cover: Recording that remakes an earlier, often successful, recording with a goal of reaching a wider audie
Cowbell: Rectangular metal bell that is struck with a drumstick: used widely in Latin-American music.
Credo: A section of the Mass: the third musical movement of the Ordinary.
Crescendo: The dynamic effect of gradually growing louder, indicated in the musical score by the marking '<'.
Crossover: Recording or artist that appeals primarily to one audience but becomes popular with another as well
Crotales: A pair of small pitched cymbals mounted on a frame: also made in chromatic sets.
Crumhorn: Early woodwind instrument, whose sound is produced by blowing into a capped double reed and whose lo
Cut Time: A type of duple meter interpreted as 2/2 and indicated as ¢: also called alla breve.
Cyclical Form: Structure in which musical material, such as a theme, presented in one movement returns in a later m
Cymbals: Cymbals are two circular brass plates of equal size, which when struck together produce a shattering
Da Capo: In sheet music, an instruction to repeat the beginning of the piece before stopping on the final cho
Da Capo Aria: Lyric song in ternary, or A - B - A, form, commonly found in operas, cantatas and oratorios.
Deceptive Cadence: A chord progression that seems to lead to resolving itself on the final chord: but does not.
Decrescendo: The dynamic effect of gradually growing softer, indicated in the musical score by the marking '>'. A
Development: Structural reshaping of thematic material. Second section of sonata-allegro form: it moves through a
Diatonic: Melody or harmony built from the seven tones of a major or minor scale. A diatonic scale encompasses
Dies Irae: Chant from the Requiem Mass whose text concerns Judgment Day.
Diminuendo: Growing softer.
Disco: Commercial dance music popular in the 1970s, characterized by strong percussion in a quadruple meter
Disjunct: Disjointed or disconnected melody with many leaps.
Dissonance: Harsh, discordant, and lack of harmony. Also a chord that sounds incomplete until it resolves itself
Divertimento: Classical instrumental genre for chamber ensemble or soloist, often performed as light entertainment
Divine Offices: Cycle of daily services of the Roman Catholic Church, distinct from the Mass.
Doctrine Of The Affections: Baroque doctrine of the union of text and music.
Dodecaphonic: Greek for 'twelve-tone': see twelve-tone music.
Dolce: Sweetly.
Dolente: Sad, weeping.
Dominant: The fifth scale step, sol.
Dominant Chord: Chord built on the fifth scale step, the V chord.
Double Bass: Largest and lowest-pitched member of the bowed string family. Also called contrabass or bass viol
Double Exposition: In the concerto, twofold statement of the themes, once by the orchestra and once by the soloist.
Double-Stop: Playing two notes simultaneously on a string instrument.
Doubles: Variations of a dance in a French keyboard suite.
Down Beat: First beat of the measure, the strongest in any meter.
Drone: Sustained sounding of one or several tones for harmonic support, a common feature of some folk music
Duet: A piece of music written for two vocalists or instrumentalists.
Dulcimer: Early folk instrument that resembles the psaltery: its strings are struck with hammers instead of be
Duple Meter: Basic metrical pattern of two beats to a measure.
Duplum: Second voice of a polyphonic work, especially the medieval motet.
Duration: Length of time something lasts: e.g., the vibration of a musical sound.
Dynamics: Pertaining to the loudness or softness of a musical composition. Also the symbols in sheet music ind
Elegy: An instrumental lament with praise for the dead.
Embellishment: Melodic decoration, either improvised or indicated through ornamentation signs in the music.
Embouchure: The placement of the lips, lower facial muscles and jaws in playing a wind instrument.
Empfindsamkeit: German 'sensitive' style of the mid-eighteenth century, characterized by melodic directness and homo
Encore: A piece of music played at the end of a recital responding to the audiences enthusiastic reaction to
Energico: A symbol in sheet music a direction to play energetically.
English Horn: Double-reed woodwind instrument, larger and lower in range than the oboe.
Enharmonic Interval: Two notes that differ in name only. The notes occupy the same position. For example: C sharp and D f
Ensemble: The performance of either all instruments of an orchestra or voices in a chorus.
Ensembles: Musical performing groups: common Western ensembles include chorus, choir, men's chorus and women's
Entenga: Tuned drum from Uganda: the royal drum ensemble of the former ruler of Buganda.
Episode: Interlude or intermediate section in the Baroque fugue, which serves as an area of relaxation betwee
Equal Temperament: Tuning system based on the division of the octave into twelve equal half steps: the normal system us
Erhu: Bowed, two-string fiddle from China, with its bow hairs fixed between the strings: rests on the leg
Espressivo: A direction to play expressively.
Ethnomusicology: Comparative study of musics of the world, with a focus on the cultural context of music.
Etude: A musical composition written solely to improve technique. Often performed for artistic interest.
Euphonium: Tenor-range brass instrument resembling the tuba. Also baritone horn.
Exoticism: Musical style in which rhythms, melodies or instruments evoke the color and atmosphere of far-off la
Exposition: Opening section. In the fugue, the first section in which the voices enter in turn with the subject.
Expressionism: Atonal and violent style used as a means of evoking heightened emotions and states of mind.
Falsetto: A style of male singing where by partial use of the vocal chords, the voice is able to reach the pit
Fantasia: Free instrumental piece of fairly large dimensions, in an improvisational style: in the Baroque, it
Fermata: To hold a tone or rest held beyond the written value at the discretion of the performer.
Fiddle: Colloquial term for violin: often used in traditional music.
Fifth: The interval between two notes. Three whole tones and one semitone make up the distance between the
Figured Bass: Baroque practice consisting of an independent bass line that often includes numerals indicating the
Film Music: Music that serves either as background or foreground for a film.
Finale: Movement or passage that concludes the musical composition.
Fixed Forms: Group of forms, especially in medieval France, in which the poetic structure determines musical repe
Flat: A symbol indicating that the note is to be diminished by one semitone.
Flat Sign: Musical symbol (b) that indicates lowering a pitch by a semitone.
Fluegelhorn: Valved brass instrument resembling a bugle with a wide bell, used in jazz and commercial music.
Flute: The flute is a cylindrical metal tube closed at one end that is held horizontally and blown across t
Flutter Tonguing: Wind instrument technique in which the tongue is fluttered or trilled against the roof of the mouth.
Folk Rock: Popular music style that combines folk music with amplified instruments of rock.
Form: The structure or shape of a musical work, based on repetition, contrast and variation: the organizin
Formalism: Tendency to elevate formal above expressive value in music, as in Neoclassical music.
Forte: The Italian term for 'loud', indicated in the musical score by the marking 'f'.
Fortissimo: The Italian term for 'very loud', indicated in the musical score by the marking 'ff'.
Four-Hand Piano Music: Chamber music genre for two performers playing at one or occasionally two pianos, allowing home or s
Fourth: The interval between two notes. Two whole tones and one semitone make up the distance between the tw
Free-Verse Rhythm: A free-flowing, nonmetric line in which movement is linked to the text inflections, as in Gregorian
French Horn: The solo instrument featured here is the French horn, a mellow brass instrument that descended from
French Overture: Baroque instrumental introduction to an opera, ballet or suite, in two sections: a slow opening foll
Frequency: Rate of vibration of a string or column of air, which determines pitch.
Fugato: A fugal passage in a nonfugal piece, such as in the development section of a sonata-allegro form.
Fuging Tone: Polyphonic, imitative setting of a hymn or psalm, popular in Great Britain and the United States fro
Fugue: A composition written for three to six voices. Beginning with the exposition, each voice enters at d
Fusion: Style that combines jazz improvisation with amplified instruments of rock.
Gagaku: Traditional court music of Japan.
Galliard: Music written for a lively French dance for two performers written in triple time.
Gamelan: Musical ensemble of Java or Bali, made up of gongs, chimes, metallophones and drums, among other ins
Gavotte: A 17th century dance written in Quadruple time, always beginning on the third beat of the measure.
Genre: General term describing the standard category and overall character of a work.
Gesamtkunstwerk: German for 'total artwork': a term coined by Richard Wagner to describe the synthesis of all the art
Gigue: Popular English Baroque dance type, a standard movement of the Baroque suite, in a lively compound m
Gioioso: Joyous.
Glee: Vocal composition written for three or more solo parts, usually without instrumental accompaniment.
Glee Club: Specialized vocal ensemble that performs popular music, college songs and more serious works.
Glissando: Rapid slide through pitches of a scale.
Glitter Rock: Theatrical, flamboyant rock style popular in the 1970s.
Glockenspiel: Percussion instrument with horizontal, tuned steel bars of various sizes that are struck with mallet
Gloria: A section of the Mass: the second musical movement of the Ordinary.
Goliard Song: Medieval Latin-texted secular song, often with corrupt or lewd lyrics: associated with wandering sch
Gong: Percussion instrument consisting of a broad circular disk of metal, suspended in a frame and struck
Gospel Music: Twentieth century sacred music style associated with Protestant African-Americans.
Grace Note: Ornamental note, often printed in small type and not performed rhythmically.
Gradual: Fourth item of the Proper of the Mass, sung in a melismatic style, and performed in a responsorial m
Grand Opera: Style of Romantic opera developed in Paris, focusing on serious, historical plots with huge choruses
Grandioso: Word to indicate that the movement or entire composition is to be played grandly.
Grave: Word to indicate the movement or entire composition is to be played very slow and serious.
Grazioso: Word to indicate the movement or entire composition is to be played gracefully.
Gregorian Chant: Monophonic melody with a freely flowing, unmeasured vocal line: liturgical chant of the Roman Cathol
Gregorian Chant: Singing or chanting in unison without strict rhythm. Collected during the Reign of Pope Gregory VIII
Ground Bass: A repeating melody, usually in the bass, throughout a vocal or instrumental composition.
Grunge Rock: Contemporary Seattle-based rock style characterized by harsh guitar chords: hybrid of punk rock and
Guitar: Plucked-string instrument originally made of wood with a hollow resonating body and a fretted finger
Habanera: Moderate duple meter dance of Cuban origin, popular in the nineteenth century: based on characterist
Half Step: Smallest interval used in the Western system, the octave divides into twelve such intervals: on the
Harmonica: Mouth organ: a small metal box on which free reeds are mounted, played by moving back and forth acro
Harmonics: Individual pure sounds that are part of any musical tone: in string instruments, crystalline tones i
Harmonium: Organ-like instrument with free metal reeds set in vibration by a bellows: popular in late nineteent
Harmony: The simultaneous combination of notes and the ensuing relationships of intervals and chords. Not all
Harp: The harp's strings are plucked, and its pitches are changed by means of pedals. Its ethereal tone is
Harpsichord: Early Baroque keyboard instrument in which the strings are plucked by quills instead of being struck
Haunt: Medieval category of loud instruments, used mainly for outdoor occasions, as distinct from bas, or s
Heavy Metal: Rock style that gained popularity in the 1970s, characterized by simple, repetitive ideas and loud,
Heptatonic Scale: Seven-note scale: in non-Western musics, often fashioned from a different combination of intervals t
Heterophonic: Texture in which two or more voices (or parts) elaborate the same melody simultaneously, often the r
Homophonic: Texture with principal melody and accompanying harmony, as distinct from polyphony.
Homophony: Music written to be sung or played in unison.
Hornpipe: Country dance of British Isles, often in a lively triple meter: optional dance movement of solo and
Hymn: Song in praise of God: often involves congregational participation.
Idée Fixe: Fixed idea, term coined by Berlioz for a recurring musical idea that links different movements of a
Idiophone: World music classification for instruments that produce sound from the substance of the instrument i
Imitation: Compositional technique in which a melodic idea is presented in one voice (or part), then restated i
Impromptu: A short piano piece, often improvisational and intimate in character.
Improvisation: Creation of a musical composition while it is being performed, seen in Baroque ornamentation, cadenz
Incidental Music: Music written to accompany dramatic works.
Inflection: Small alteration of the pitch by a microtonal interval. See also blue note.
Instrument: Mechanism that generates musical vibrations and transmits them into the air.
Instrumentation: Arrangement of music for a combined number of instruments.
Interlude: Piece of instrumental music played between scenes in a play or opera.
Intermezzo: Short, lyric piece or movement, often for piano. Also a comic interlude performed between acts of an
Interpretation: The expression the performer brings when playing his instrument.
Interval: Distance and relationship between two pitches.
Intonation: The manner in which tones are produced with regard to pitch.
Introduction: The opening section of a piece of music or movement.
Inversion: Mirror or upside-down image of a melody or pattern, found in fugues and twelve-tone compositions.
Irish Harp: Plucked-string instrument with about thirty strings: used to accompany Irish songs and dance music.
Isorhythmic Motet: Medieval and early Renaissance motet based on a repeating rhythmic pattern throughout one or more vo
Italian Overture: Baroque overture consisting of three sections: fast - slow - fast.
Jabissary Music: Music of the military corps of the Turkish sultan, characterized by percussion instruments such as t
Jarabe: Traditional Mexican dance form with multiple sections in contrasting meters and tempos, often perfor
Jazz: A musical style created mainly by African-Americans in the early twentieth century that blended elem
Jazz Band: Instrumental ensemble made up of reeds (saxophones and clarinets), brass (trumpets and trombones), a
Jia Hua: Literally 'adding flowers': an embellishment style in Chinese music using various ornamental figures
Jig: A vigorous dance developed in the British Isles, usually in compound meter: became fashionable on th
Jongleuresses: Female jongleurs, or wandering entertainer/minstrels.
Jongleurs: Medieval wandering entertainers who played instruments, sang and danced, juggled and performed plays
Jota: A type of Spanish dance song characterized by a quick triple meter and guitar and castanet accompani
Karaoke: Empty orchestra: popular nightclub style from Japan where customers sing the melody to accompanying
Key: Defines the relationship of tones with a common center or tonic. Also a lever on a keyboard or woodw
Key Signature: The flats and sharps at the beginning of each staff line indicating the key of music the piece is to
Keyboard Instrument: Instrument sounded by means of a keyboard (a series of keys played with the fingers). The most commo
Klangfarbenmelodie: The technique of altering the tone color of a single note or musical line by changing from one instr
Koto: Japanese plucked-string instrument with a long rectangular body, thirteen strings and movable bridge
Lamellophone: Plucked idiophone with thin metal strips: common throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Lamentoso: Like a lament.
Largo: Broad: very slow.
Latin Rock: Subgenre of rock featuring Latin and African percussion instruments (maracas, conga drums, timbales)
Leading Note: The seventh note of the scale where there is a strong desire to resolve on the tonic.
Legato: Word to indicate that the movement or entire composition is to be played smoothly.
Leitmotif: Leading motive, or basic recurring theme, representing a person, object or idea, commonly used in Wa
Libretto: Text, or script, of an opera, prepared by a librettist.
Lied: German for 'song': most commonly associated with the solo art song of the nineteenth century, usuall
Lieder: Plural of Lied.
Ligature: Curved line connecting notes to be sung or played as a phrase.
Lining Out: A call and response singing practice prevalent in early America and England: characterized by the al
Lute: Plucked-string instrument of Middle Eastern origin, popular in western Europe from the late Middle A
Lyre: Ancient plucked-string instrument of the harp family, used to accompany singing and poetry.
Lyric Opera: Hybrid form combining elements of grand opera and opéra comique and featuring appealing melodies an
Madrigal: Renaissance secular work originating in Italy for voices, with or without instruments, set to a shor
Madrigal Choir: Small vocal ensemble that specializes in a cappella secular works.
Maestro: Refers to any great composer, conductor, or teacher of music.
Magnificat: Biblical text on the words of the Virgin Mary, sung polyphonically in church from the Renaissance on
Major: One of the two modes of the tonal system. Music written in major keys have a positive affirming char
Major Scale: A collection of seven different pitches ordered in a specific pattern of whole and half steps.
Mambo: Dance of Afro-Cuban origin with a characteristic quadruple-meter rhythmic pattern.
Mandolin: Plucked-string instrument with a rounded body and fingerboard: used in some folk musics and in count
March: A style incorporating characteristics of military music, including strongly accented duple-meter in
Marching Band: Instrumental ensemble for entertainment at sports events and parades, consisting of wind and percuss
Mariachi: Traditional Mexican ensemble popular throughout the country, consisting of trumpets, violins, guitar
Marimba: Percussion instrument that is a mellower version of the xylophone: of African origin
Masque: English genre of aristocratic entertainment that combined vocal and instrumental music with poetry a
Mass: Central service of the Roman Catholic Church.
Mazurka: Type of Polish folk dance in triple meter.
Mbube: Lion: a cappella choral singing style of South African Zulus, featuring call and response patterns,
Measure: A rhythmic grouping or metrical unit that contains a fixed number of beats: in notated music, it app
Medium: Performing forces employed in a certain musical work.
Medley: Often used in overtures, a composition that uses passages from other movements of the composition in
Melismatic: Melodic style characterized by many notes sung to a single text syllable.
Melody: Succession of single tones or pitches perceived by the mind as a unity.
Membranophone: World music classification for instruments that produce sound from a tightly stretched membrane that
Meno: Less.
Mesto: Sad.
Metallophone: Percussion instrument consisting of tuned metal bars, usually struck with a mallet.
Meter: Organization of rhythm in time: the grouping of beats into larger, regular patterns, notated as meas
Metronome: Device used to indicate the tempo by sounding regular beats at adjustable speeds.
Mezzo: The voice between soprano and alto. Also, in sheet music, a direction for the tempo to be played at
Mezzo Forte: The Italian term for 'moderately loud', indicated in the musical score by the marking 'mf'.
Mezzo Piano: The Italian term for 'moderately soft', indicated in the musical score by the marking 'mp'.
Mezzo-Soprano: Female voice of middle range.
Micropolyphony: Twentieth century technique encompassing the complex interweaving of all musical elements.
Microtone: Musical interval smaller than a semitone, prevalent in some non-Western musics and in some twentieth
MIDI: Acronym for musical instrument digital interface: technology standard that allows networking of comp
Minimalist Music: Contemporary musical style featuring the repetition of short melodic, rhythmic and harmonic patterns
Minnesingers: Late medieval German poet-musicians.
Minor: One of the two modes of the tonal system. The minor mode can be identified by the dark, melancholic
Minor Scale: A collection of seven different pitches ordered in a specific pattern of whole and half steps.
Minuet: Slow and stately dance music written in triple time.
Minuet And Trio: A moderate triple-meter dance form with two main sections (minuet = A, trio = B) that often occurs a
Misterioso: Mysteriously.
Modal: Characterizes music that is based on modes other than major and minor, especially the early church m
Mode: Scale or sequence of notes used as the basis for a composition: major and minor are modes.
Moderato: Moderate.
Modes: Either of the two octave arrangements in modern music. The modes are either major or minor.
Modified Strophic Form: Song structure that combines elements of strophic and through-composed forms: a variation of strophi
Modulation: The process of changing from one key to another.
Molto: Very.
Monody: Vocal style established in the Baroque, with a solo singer and instrumental accompaniment.
Monophonic: Single-line texture, or melody without accompaniment.
Monothematic: Work or movement based on a single theme.
Monotone: Repetition of a single tone.
Morality Play: Medieval drama, often with music, intended to teach proper values.
Motet: Polyphonic vocal genre, secular in the Middle Ages but sacred or devotional thereafter.
Motif: Primary theme or subject that is developed.
Motive: Short melodic or rhythmic idea: the smallest fragment of a theme that forms a melodic-harmonic-rhyth
Movement: Complete, self-contained part within a larger musical work.
MTV: Acronym for music television, a cable channel that presents non-stop music videos.
Muses: Nine daughters of Zeus in ancient mythology: each presided over one of the arts.
Musette: A Boroque dance with a drone-bass.
Music Drama: Wagner's term for his operas.
Music Video: Video tape or film that accompanies a recording, usually of a popular or rock song.
Musical: Genre of twentieth century musical theater, especially popular in the United States and Great Britai
Musical Saw: A handsaw that is bowed on its smooth edge: pitch is varied by bending the saw.
Musicology: The study of forms, history, science, and methods of music.
Musique Concrète: Music made up of natural sounds and sound effects that are recorded and then manipulated electronica
Mute: Mechanical device used to muffle the sound of an instrument.
Nakers: Medieval percussion instruments resembling small kettledrums, played in pairs: of Middle Eastern ori
Natural: A symbol in sheet music that returns a note to its original pitch after it has been augmented or dim
Neoclassical: Movement in music where the characteristics are crisp and direct.
Neumatic: Melodic style with two to four notes set to each syllable.
Neumes: Early musical notation signs: square notes on a four-line staff.
New Age: Style of popular music of the 1980s and 1990s, characterized by soothing timbres and repetitive form
New Orleans Jazz: Early jazz style characterized by multiple improvisations in an ensemble of cornet (or trumpet), cla
New Wave: Subgenre of rock popular since the late 1970s, highly influenced by simple 1950s-style rock and roll
Ninth Chord: Five-tone chord spanning a ninth between its lowest and highest tones.
Nocturne: A musical composition that has a romantic or dreamy character with nocturnal associations.
Noh Drama: A major form of Japanese theater since the late fourteenth century: based on philosophical concepts
Non Troppo: Not too much.
Nonet: A composition written for nine instruments.
Nonmetric: Music lacking a strong sense of beat or meter, common in certain non-Western cultures.
Notation: First developed in the 8th century, methods of writing music.
Obbligato: An extended solo, often accompanying the vocal part of an aria.
Oboe: A double-reed instrument made of wood with a nasal, 'reedy' timbre. The player blows directly into a
Octave: Interval between two tones seven diatonic pitches apart: the lower note vibrates half as fast as the
Octet: A composition written for eight instruments.
Ode: Secular composition written for a royal occasion, especially popular in England.
Offbeat: A weak beat or any pulse between the beats in a measured rhythmic pattern.
Ondes Martenot: Electronic instrument that produces sounds by means of an oscillator.
Opéra Comique: French comic opera, with some spoken dialogue.
Open Ending: The first ending in a medieval secular piece, usually cadencing on a pitch other than the final.
Open Form: Indeterminate contemporary music in which some details of a composition are clearly indicated, but t
Opera: Music drama that is generally sung throughout, combining the resources of vocal and instrumental mus
Opera Buffa: Italian comic opera, sung throughout.
Opera Seria: Tragic Italian opera.
Operetta: A short light musical drama.
Opus: Convenient method of numbering a composer’s works where a number follows the word "opus". For exam
Oral Tradition: Music that is transmitted by example or imitation and performed from memory.
Oral Transmission: Preservation of music without the aid of written notation.
Oratorio: Large-scale dramatic genre originating in the Baroque, based on a text of religious or serious chara
Orchestra: A performing group of diverse instruments: in Western art music, an ensemble of multiple string part
Orchestration: Arranging a piece of music for an orchestra. Also, the study of music.
Ordinary: Sections of the Roman Catholic Mass that remain the same from day to day throughout the church year:
Organ: Wind instrument in which air is fed to the pipes by mechanical means: the pipes are controlled by tw
Organal Style: Organum in which the tenor sings the melody (original chant) in very long notes while the upper voic
Organum: Earliest kind of polyphonic music, which developed from the custom of adding voices above a plaincha
Ornaments: Tones used to embellish the principal melodic tone.
Ostinato: A short melodic, rhythmic, or harmonic pattern that is repeated throughout a work or a section of on
Overture: An introductory movement, as in an opera or oratorio, often presenting melodies from arias to come.
Panpipe: Wind instrument consisting of a series of small vertical tubes or pipes of differing length: sound i
Pantomime: Theatrical genre in which an actor silently plays all the parts in a show while accompanied by singi
Parody: A composition based on previous work. A common technique used in Medieval and Renaissance music.
Part: A line in a contrapuntal work performed by an individual voice or instrument.
Part Song: Secular vocal composition, unaccompanied, in three, four or more parts.
Partial: A harmonic given off by a note when it is played.
Partita: Suite of Baroque dances.
Pas De Deux: A dance for two that is an established feature of classical ballet.
Passacaglia: Baroque form (similar to the chaconne) in moderately slow triple meter, based on a short, repeated b
Passepied: French Baroque court dance type: a faster version of the minuet.
Passion: Musical setting of the Crucifixion story as told by one of the four Evangelists in the Gospels.
Pastoral: A composition whose style is simple and idyllic: suggestive of rural scenes.
Pastorale: Pastoral, country-like.
Pavane: Stately Renaissance court dance in duple meter.
Pedal Point: Sustained tone over which the harmonies change.
Pentatonic Scale: Five-note pattern used in some African, Far Eastern and Native American musics: can also be found in
Percussion Instrument: Instrument made of metal, wood, stretched skin or other material that is made to sound by striking,
Performance Art: Multimedia art form involving visual as well as dramatic and musical elements.
Perpetuum Mobile: Type of piece characterized by continuous repetitions of a rhythmic pattern at a quick tempo: perpet
Phasing: A technique in which a musical pattern is repeated and manipulated so that it separates and overlaps
Phrase: A single line of music played or sung. A musical sentence.
Pianissimo: The Italian term for 'very soft', indicated in the musical score by the marking 'pp'.
Piano: Keyboard instrument whose strings are struck with hammers controlled by a keyboard mechanism: pedals
Piano Quartet: Standard chamber ensemble of piano with violin, viola and cello.
Piano Quintet: Standard chamber ensemble of piano with two violins, viola and cello.
Piano Trio: Standard chamber ensemble of piano with violin and cello.
Pianoforte: Original name for the piano.
Piccolo: The highest member of the orchestra, the piccolo is a little flute whose shrill timbre stands out ag
Pipa: A Chinese lute with four silk strings: played as solo and ensemble instrument.
Pitch: Highness or lowness of a tone, depending on the frequency (rate of vibration).
Pizzicato: Performance direction to pluck a string of a bowed instrument with the finger.
Poco: A little.
Polka: Lively Bohemian dance: also a short, lyric piano piece.
Polonaise: Stately Polish processional dance in triple meter.
Polychoral: Performance style developed in the late sixteenth century involving the use of two or more choirs th
Polyharmony: Two or more streams of harmony played against each other, common in twentieth century music.
Polyphonic: Two or more melodic lines combined into a multivoiced texture, as distinct from monophonic.
Polyphony: Combining a number of individual but harmonizing melodies. Also known as counterpoint.
Polyrhythm: The simultaneous use of several rhythmic patterns or meters, common in twentieth-century music and i
Polytextual: Two or more texts set simultaneously in a composition.
Polytonality: The simultaneous use of two or more keys, common in twentieth century music.
Portamento: A mild glissando between two notes for an expressive effect.
Portative Organ: Medieval organ small enough to be carried or set on a table, usually with only one set of pipes.
Positive Organ: Small single-manual organ, popular in the Renaissance and Baroque eras.
Prelude: A short piece originally preceded by a more substantial work, also an orchestral introduction to ope
Prepared Piano: Piano whose sound is altered by the insertion of various materials (metal, rubber, leather and paper
Presto: A direction in sheet music indicating the tempo is to be very fast.
Program Music: Instrumental music endowed with literary or pictorial associations, especially popular in the ninete
Program Symphony: Multimovement programmatic orchestral work, typically from the nineteenth century.
Progression: The movement of chords in succession.
Proper: Sections of the Roman Catholic Mass that vary from day to day throughout the church year according t
Psalms: Book from the Old Testament of the Bible: the 150 psalm texts, used in Jewish and Christian worship,
Psaltery: Medieval plucked-string instrument similar to the modern zither, consisting of a sound box over whic
Punk Rock: Subgenre of rock popular since the mid 1970s, characterized by loud volume levels, driving rhythms a
Quadrille: A 19th century square dance written for 4 couples.
Quadrivium: Subdivision of the seven liberal arts: includes the mathematical subjects of music, arithmetic, geom
Quadruple Meter: Basic metrical pattern of four beats to a measure: also common time.
Quadruple Stop: Playing four notes simultaneously on a string instrument.
Quadruplum: Fourth voice of a polyphonic work.
Quartal Harmony: Harmony based on the interval of the fourth as opposed to a third: used in twentieth century music.
Quintet: A set of five musicians who perform a composition written for five parts.
Quotation Music: Music that parodies another work or works, presenting them in a new style or guise.
Raga: Melodic pattern used in music of India: prescribes pitches, patterns, ornamentation and extramusical
Ragtime: Late nineteenth century piano style created by African-Americans, characterized by highly syncopated
Range: Distance between the lowest and highest tones of a melody, an instrument or a voice. This span can b
Rap: Subgenre of rock in which rhymed lyrics are spoken over rhythm tracks: developed by African-American
Rebec: Medieval bowed-string instrument, often with a pear-shaped body.
Recapitulation: A reprise.
Recital: A solo concert with or without accompaniment.
Recitative: Solo vocal declamation that follows the inflections of the text, often resulting in a disjunct vocal
Recorder: End-blown woodwind instrument with a whistle mouthpiece, generally associated with early music.
Reed: The piece of cane in wind instruments. The players cause vibrations by blowing through it in order t
Reel: Moderately quick dance in duple meter danced throughout the British Isles: the most popular Irish tr
Refrain: A repeating phrase that is played at the end of each verse in the song.
Regal: Small medieval reed organ.
Reggae: Jamaican popular music style characterized by offbeat rhythms and chanted vocals over a strong bass
Register: Specific area in the range of an instrument or voice.
Registration: Selection or combination of stops in a work for organ or harpsichord.
Relative Key: The major and minor key that share the same key signature: for example, D minor is the relative mino
Relative Major And Minor: The major and minor keys that share the same notes in that key. For example: A minor shares the same
Relative Pitch: Ability to determine the pitch of a note as it relates to the notes that precede and follow it.
Renaissance: A period in history dating from the 14th to 16th centuries. This period signified the rebirth of mus
Repeat Sign: Musical symbol that indicates repetition of a passage in a composition.
Repetition: Within a form, repetition fixes the musical material in our mind and satisfies our need for the fami
Reprise: To repeat a previous part of a composition generally after other music has been played.
Requiem: A dirge, hymn, or musical service for the repose of the dead.
Requiem Mass: Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead.
Resolution: Conclusion of a musical idea, as in the progression from an active chord to a rest chord.
Resonance: When several strings are tuned to harmonically related pitches, all strings vibrate when only one of
Response: Short choral answer to a solo verse: an element of liturgical dialogue.
Responsorial Singing: Singing, especially in Gregorian chant, in which a soloist or a group of soloists alternates with th
Retrograde: Backward statement of melody.
Retrograde Inversion: Mirror image and backward statement of a melody.
Rhythm: The element of music pertaining to time, played as a grouping of notes into accented and unaccented
Rhythm And Blues: Popular African-American music style of the 1940s through 1960s featuring a solo singer accompanied
Ricercar: Elaborate polyphonic composition of the Boroque and Renaissance periods.
Rigaudon: A quick 20th century dance written in double time.
Ring Shout: Religious dance performed by African-American slaves, performed with hand clapping and a shuffle ste
Ripieno: The larger of the two ensembles in the Baroque concerto grosso. Also tutti.
Ritornando: Holding back, getting slower.
Ritornello: A short recurring passage that unifies an instrumental or vocal work.
Rock And Roll: American popular music style first heard in the 1950s: derived from the union of African-American rh
Rock Band: Popular music ensemble that depends on amplified strings, percussion, and electronically generated s
Rococo: A musical style characterized as excessive, ornamental, and trivial.
Romance: Originally a ballad: in the Romantic era, a lyric instrumental work.
Romantic: A period in history during the 18th and early 19th centuries where the focus shifted from the neocla
Ronde: Lively Renaissance 'round dance', associated with the outdoors, in which the participants danced in
Rondeau: Medieval and Renaissance fixed poetic form and chanson type with courtly love texts.
Rondo: Musical form in which the first section recurs, usually in the tonic. In the Classical sonata cycle,
Roneat-Ek: Cambodian xylophone with 21 tuned wooden keys.
Root: The principal note of a triad.
Rosin: Substance made from hardened tree sap, rubbed on the hair of a bow to help it grip the strings.
Round: A canon where the melody is sung in two or more voices. After the first voice begins, the next voice
Rounded Binary: Compositional form with two sections, in which the second ends with a return to material from the fi
Rubato: Borrowed time, common in Romantic music, in which the performer hesitates here or hurries forward th
Rumba: Latin-American dance of Afro-Cuban origin, in duple meter with syncopated rhythms.
Rural Blues: American popular singing style with raspy-voiced male singer accompanied by acoustic steel-string gu
Sackbut: Early brass instrument, ancestor of the trombone.
Sacred Music: Religious or spiritual music, for church or devotional use.
Salsa: Spicy: collective term for Latin-American dance music, especially forms of Afro-Cuban origin.
Saltarello: Italian 'jumping dance', often characterized by triplets in a rapid 4/4 time.
Samba: Afro-Brazilian dance, characterized by duple meter, responsorial singing, and polyrhythmic accompani
Sampler: Electronic device that digitizes, stores and plays back sounds.
Sanctus: A section of the Mass: the fourth musical movement of the Ordinary.
Sarabande: Stately Spanish Baroque dance type in triple meter, a standard movement of the Baroque suite.
Sarangi: Bowed chordophone from north India with three main strings and a large number of metal strings that
Saxophone: A woodwind instrument made of metal and sounded with a single reed: the saxophone is a more recent i
Scale: A series of tones or pitches in ascending or descending order. Scale tones are often assigned number
Scat Singing: A jazz style that sets syllables without meaning (vocables) to an improvised vocal line.
Scherzo: Composition in A-B-A form, usually in triple meter: replaced the minuet and trio in the nineteenth c
Scordatura: The retuning of a stringed instrument in order to play notes below the ordinary range of the instrum
Secco: Operatic recitative that features a sparse accompaniment and moves with great freedom.
Second Viennese School: Name given to composer Arnold Schoenberg and his pupils Alban Berg and Anton Webern: represents the
Secular Music: Nonreligious music: when texted, usually in the vernacular.
Semitone: Also known as a half step, the smallest interval commonly used in the Western musical system.
Septet: A set of seven musicians who perform a composition written for seven parts.
Sequence: A successive transposition and repetition of a phrase at different pitches.
Serenade: A lighthearted piece, written in several movements, usually as background music for a social functio
Serenade: Classical instrumental genre that combines elements of chamber music and symphony, often performed i
Serialism: Method of composition in which various musical elements (pitch, rhythm, dynamics, tone color) may be
Seventh Chord: Four-note combination consisting of a triad with another third added on top: spans a seventh between
Sextet: A set of six musicians who perform a composition written for six parts.
Sextuple Meter: Compound metrical pattern of six beats to a measure. (1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6). Notice that each beat
Sforzando: A sudden stress or accent on a single note or chord, indicated in the musical score by the marking '
Shakuhachi: A Japanese end-blown flute.
Shamisen: Long-necked Japanese chordophone with three strings.
Shape Note: Music notation system originating in nineteenth century American church music in which the shape of
Sharp: A symbol indicating the note is to be raised by one semitone.
Sharp Sign: Musical symbol (#) that indicates raising a pitch by a semitone.
Shawm: Medieval wind instrument, the ancestor of the oboe.
Sheng: A reed mouth organ from China.
Simple Meter: Grouping of rhythms in which the beat is subdivided into two, as in duple, triple, and quadruple met
Sinfonia: Short instrumental work, found in Baroque opera, to facilitate scene changes.
Singspiel: Comic German drama with spoken dialogue: the immediate predecessor of Romantic German opera.
Sitar: Long-necked plucked chordophone of northern India, with movable frets and a rounded gourd body: used
Ska: Jamaican urban dance form popular in the 1960s, influential in reggae.
Slide: A glissando or portamento. Also refers to the moving part of a trombone.
Slide Trumpet: Medieval brass instrument of the trumpet family.
Slur: A curve over notes to indicate that a phrase is to be played legato.
Snare Drum: Small cylindrical drum with two heads stretched over a metal shell, the lower head having strings ac
Soft Rock: Lyrical, gentle rock style that evolved around 1960 in response to hard-driving rock and roll.
Sonata: Music of a particular form consisting of four movements. Each of the movements differ in tempo, rhyt
Sonata Cycle: General term describing the multimovement structure found in sonatas, string quartets, symphonies, c
Sonata Da Camera: Baroque chamber sonata, usually a suite of stylized dances. Also chamber sonata.
Sonata Da Chiesa: Baroque instrumental work intended for performance in church: in four movements, frequently arranged
Sonata Form: A complex piece of music. Usually the first movement of the piece serving as the exposition, a devel
Sonata-Allegro Form: The opening movement of the sonata cycle, consisting of themes that are stated in the first section
Sonatina: A short or brief sonata.
Song Cycle: A sequence of songs, perhaps on a single theme, or with texts by one poet, or having continuos narra
Soprano: Highest-ranged voice, normally possessed by women or boys.
Sousaphone: Brass instrument adapted from the tuba with a forward bell that is coiled to rest over the player's
Spiritual: Folklike devotional genre of the United States, sung by African-Americans and whites.
Spiritual Minimalism: Contemporary musical style related to minimalism, characterized by a weak pulse and long chains of l
Sprechstimme: A vocal style in which the melody is spoken at approximate pitches rather than sung on exact pitches
Staccato: Short, detached notes, marked with a dot above them.
Staff: Made up of five horizontal parallel lines and the spaces between them on which musical notation is w
Stile Rappresentativo: A dramatic recitative style of the Baroque period in which melodies move freely over a foundation of
Stileconcitato: Baroque style developed by Monteverdi, which introduced novel effects such as rapid repeated notes a
Stopping: On a string instrument, altering the string length by pressing it on the fingerboard. On a horn, pla
Strain: A series of contrasting sections found in rags and marches: in duple meter with sixteen-measure them
Stretto: Pertaining to the fugue, the overlapping of the same theme or motif by two or more voices a few beat
String Family: The members of the string family include two types of instruments: bowed and plucked. The standard b
String Quartet: The string quartet was one of the most common chamber ensembles. Its makeup is two violins, viola an
String Quintet: Standard chamber ensemble made up of either two violins, two violas and cello, or two violins, viola
String Trio: Standard chamber ensemble made up two violins and cello, or violin, viola and cello.
Strophic Form: Song structure in which the same music is repeated with every stanza (strophe) of the poem.
Sturm Und Drang: Storm and stress: late eighteenth century movement in Germany toward more emotional expression in th
Style: Characteristic manner of presentation of musical elements (melody, rhythm, harmony, dynamics, form,
Subdominant: The fourth scale step, fa.
Subdominant Chord: Chord built on the fourth scale step, the IV chord.
Subject: Main idea or theme of a work, as in a fugue.
Suite: Multimovement work made up of a series of contrasting dance movements, generally all in the same key
Swing: Jazz term coined to describe Louis Armstrong's style: more commonly refers to big band jazz.
Syllabic: Melodic style with one note to each syllable of text.
Symphonic Poem: One-movement orchestral form that develops a poetic idea, suggests a scene or creates a mood, genera
Symphony: Three to four movement orchestral piece, generally in sonata form.
Syncopation: Deliberate upsetting of the meter or pulse through a temporary shifting of the accent to a weak beat
System: A combination of two or more staves on which all the notes are vertically aligned and performed simu
Tabla: Pair of single-headed, tuned drums used in north Indian classical music.
Tablature: A system of notation for stringed instruments. The notes are indicated by the finger positions.
Tabor: Cylindrical medieval drum.
Tag: Jazz term for a coda, or a short concluding section.
Tala: Fixed time cycle or meter in Indian music, built from uneven groupings of beats.
Tambourine: Percussion instrument consisting of a small round drum with metal plates inserted in its rim: played
Te Deum: Song of praise to God: a text from the Roman Catholic rite, often set polyphonically.
Temperament: Refers to the tuning of an instrument.
Tempo: Rate of speed or pace of music. Tempo markings are traditionally given in Italian: common markings i
Tenor: Male voice of high range. Also a part, often structural, in polyphony.
Tenor Drum: Percussion instrument, larger than the snare drum, with a wooden shell.
Ternary Form: Three-part (A-B-A) form based on a statement (A), contrast or departure (B), and repetition (A). Als
Terraced Dynamics: Expressive style typical of Baroque music in which volume levels shift based on the playing forces u
Tertian Harmony: Harmony based on the interval of the third, particularly predominant from the Baroque through the ni
Tessitura: The range of an instrumental or a vocal part.
Texture: The interweaving of melodic (horizontal) and harmonic (vertical) elements in the musical fabric. Tex
Thematic Development: Musical expansion of a theme by varying its melodic outline, harmony or rhythm. Also thematic transf
Theme: Melodic idea used as a basic building block in the construction of a composition.
Theme And Variations: Compositional procedure in which a theme is stated and then altered in successive statements: occurs
Theme Group: Several themes in the same key that function as a unit within a section of a form, particularly in s
Third: Interval between two notes that are two diatonic scale steps apart.
Third Stream: Jazz style that synthesizes characteristics and techniques of classical music and jazz: term coined
Through-Composed: Song structure that is composed from beginning to end, without repetitions of large sections.
Timbales: Shallow, single-headed drums of Cuban origin, played in pairs: used in much Latin-American popular m
Timbre: Tone color, quality of sound that distinguishes one verse or instrument to another. It is determined
Timbrel: Ancient percussion instrument related to the tambourine.
Time Signature: A numeric symbol in sheet music determining the number of beats to a measure.
Timpani: Percussion instrument consisting of a hemispheric copper shell with a head of plastic or calfskin, h
Tin Whistle: Small metal end-blown flute commonly used in Irish traditional music.
Toccata: Virtuoso composition, generally for organ or harpsichord, in a free and rhapsodic style: in the Baro
Tom-Tom: Cylindrical drum without snares.
Tonal: Based on principles of major-minor tonality, as distinct from modal.
Tonality: Principle of organization around a tonic, or home, pitch, based on a major or minor scale.
Tone: The intonation, pitch, and modulation of a composition expressing the meaning, feeling, or attitude
Tone Cluster: Highly dissonant combination of pitches sounded simultaneously.
Tone Less: Unmusical, without tone.
Tone Row: An arrangement of the twelve chromatic tones that serves as the basis of a twelve-tone composition.
Tonic: The first note of a scale (the tonic or keynote do), which serves as the home base around which the
Tonic Chord: Triad built on the first scale tone, the I chord.
Total Serialism: Extremely complex, totally controlled music in which the twelve-tone principle is extended to elemen
Traditional Music: Music that is learned by oral transmission and is easily sung or played by most people: may exist in
Tragédie Lyrique: French serious opera of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with spectacular dance scenes and
Transposition: Shifting a piece of music to a different pitch level.
Treble: The playing or singing the upper half of the vocal range. Also the highest voice in choral singing.
Tremolo: Quick repetition of the same note or the rapid alternation between two notes.
Triad: A common chord type consisting of three pitches built on alternate scale tones of a major or minor s
Triangle: The triangle is a slender rod of steel bent into a three-cornered shape and struck with a steel beat
Trill: Ornament consisting of the rapid alternation between one tone and the next above it.
Trio: A composition written for three voices and instruments performed by three persons.
Trio Sonata: Baroque chamber sonata type written in three parts: two melody lines and the basso continuo: require
Triple Meter: Basic metrical pattern of three beats to a measure.
Triple Time: Time signature with three beats to the measure.
Triple-Stop: Playing three notes simultaneously on a string instrument.
Triplet: Group of three equal-valued notes played in the time of two: indicated by a bracket and the number 3
Triplum: Third voice in early polyphony.
Tritone: A chord comprised of three whole tones resulting in an augmented fourth or diminished fifth.
Tritonic: Three-note scale pattern, used in the music of some sub-Saharan African cultures.
Trobairitz: Female troubadours, composer-poets of southern France.
Trombone: The trombone (Italian for 'large trumpet') features a moveable U-shaped slide that alters the length
Troubadours: Medieval poet-musicians of southern France.
Trouvères: Medieval poet-musicians of northern France.
Trumpet: The trumpet is the highest pitched member of the brass family: this example illustrates its clear an
Tuba: Bass-range brass instrument that changes pitch by means of valves
Tune: A rhythmic succession of musical tones, a melody for instruments and voices.
Tuning: The raising and lowering a pitch of an instrument to produce the correct tone of a note.
Tutti: Passage for the entire ensemble or orchestra without a soloist.
Twelve-Bar Blues: Musical structure based on a repeated harmonic-rhythmic pattern that is twelve measures in length (I
Twelve-Tone Music: Compositional procedure of the twentieth century based on the use of all twelve chromatic tones (in
Uilleann Pipes: Type of bellows-blown bagpipe used in Irish traditional music: bellows are elbow-manipulated.
Unison: Interval between two notes of the same pitch: the simultaneous playing of the same note.
Upbeat: Last beat of a measure, a weak beat, which anticipates the downbeat (the first beat of the next meas
Vamp: Short passage with simple rhythm and harmony that introduces a soloist in a jazz performance.
Variation: A formal principle in which some aspects of the music are altered but the original is still recogniz
Verismo: A form of Italian opera beginning at the end of the 19th century. The setting is contemporary to the
Verse: In poetry, a group of lines constituting a unit. In liturgical music for the Catholic Church, a phra
Vespers: One of the Divine Offices of the Roman Catholic Church, held at twilight.
Vibraphone: A percussion instrument with metal bars and electrically driven rotating propellers under each bar t
Vibrato: Small fluctuation of pitch used as an expressive device to intensify a sound.
Vielle: Medieval bowed-string instrument: the ancestor of the violin.
Viola: Bowed-string instrument of middle range: the second-highest member of the violin family
Viola Da Gamba: Family of Renaissance bowed-string instruments that had six or more strings, was fretted like a guit
Violin: The violin's four strings are set in vibration (usually one at a time) by drawing a bow across them
Violoncello: Bowed-string instrument with a middle-to-low range and dark, rich sonority: lower than a viola. See
Virelai: Medieval and Renaissance fixed poetic form and chanson type with French courtly texts.
Virtuoso: A person with notable technical skill in the performance of music.
Vivace: Direction to performer to play a composition in a brisk, lively, and spirited manner.
Vocable: Nonlexical syllables, lacking literal meaning.
Vocalise: A textless vocal melody, as in an exercise or concert piece.
Voice: One of two or more parts in polyphonic music. Voice refers to instrumental parts as well as the sing
Voices: The standard voice types, from highest to lowest, are: (female) soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto: (male)
Volume: Degree of loudness or softness of a sound. See also dynamics.
Waltz: Ballroom dance type in triple meter: in the Romantic era, a short, stylized piano piece.
West Coast Jazz: Jazz style developed in the 1950s, featuring small groups of mixed timbres playing contrapuntal impr
Whole Note: A whole note is equal to 2 half notes, 4 quarter notes, 8 eighth notes, etc.
Whole Step: Interval consisting of two half steps, or semitones.
Whole-Tone Scale: Scale pattern built entirely of whole step intervals, common in the music of the French Impressionis
Woodwind: The woodwind family is less homogeneous in construction and sound production than the strings: it in
Woodwind Quintet: Standard chamber ensemble consisting of one each of the following: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon an
Word Painting: Musical pictorialization of words from the text as an expressive device: a prominent feature of the
Work Song: Communal song that synchronized group tasks.
World Beat: Collective term for popular third-world musics, ethnic and traditional musics, and eclectic combinat
Xylophone: The xylophone, a pitched percussion instrument of African origin, consists of tuned blocks of wood l
Yangqin: A Chinese hammered dulcimer with a trapezoidal sound box and metal strings that are struck with bamb
Zither: Family of string instruments with a sound box over which strings are stretched: they may be plucked

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