Glossary of Musical TermsCompiled by Samuel Stokes
Special Thanks to Naxos
8va - Notation placed above or below a note or notes to indicate that it is to be played or sung an octave higher or lower.
8vb - Notation placed below a note or notes to indicate that it is to be played or sung an octave lower.
A - A is the note of the musical scale used generally for tuning (= French, Italian, Spanish: la). Notes in English are given letter names, A,B,C,D,E,F & G.
A 2 - see A Dué.
A Cappella - "as in the Church"; unaccompanied (for voices only).
A Dué - Both instruments on the same part are to play.
A Punto d'arco - play with the point of the bow.
Accelerando - Accelerando (Italian: becoming faster) is a term in general use to show that the music should be played at an increasing speed.
Accompaniment - An accompaniment is an additional part for a performer of any kind that is less important than another, which it serves to support and enhance. The piano is often used to provide an accompaniment to a solo singer. In instrumental works for, say, violin and piano the roles may be reversed.
Ad libitum - freely.
Adagio - Adagio (Italian: slow) is an indication of tempo and is sometimes used to describe a slow movement, even when the indication of speed at the start of the movement may be different. The diminutive form adagietto is a little faster than adagio.
Affetuoso - affectionately.
Agitato - agitated.
Air - Air (Italian: aria) appearing sometimes with the earlier English spelling ayre, means a tune or melody, for voice or instrument.
Alla - The Italian alla means 'in the manner of' (= French: la) and may be found in titles like that of Mozart's 'Rondo alla turca', Rondo in the Turkish Style.
Allargando - slowing.
Allegretto - Fast, but not as fast as allegro.
Allegro - Allegro (Italian: cheerful, lively) is generally taken as fast, although not as fast as vivace or presto. Allegretto is a diminutive, meaning slightly slower than allegro. These indications of speed or tempo are used as general titles for pieces of music headed by instructions of this kind. The first movement of a classical sonata, for example, is often 'an Allegro', just as the slow movement is often 'an Adagio'.
Allemande - An allemande is a German dance (the word itself is French) in 4/4 time, often the first dance in a baroque dance suite, where it is frequently followed by a courante, a more rapid dance. The allemande, which appears in earlier English sources often as alman, almain or with similar spellings, is generally moderate in speed.
Alto - The alto (Italian: high) is the lower female or unbroken male voice, or male falsetto of similar range. The alto clef (see Clef) is a sign written on the musical stave to show that the middle line of the stave is middle C. It is now used for much of the music written for viola and other instruments of similar range. Female alto soloists are usually described as contralto rather than alto.
Amore - love.
Andante - Andante (Italian: walking) is a word used to suggest the speed of a piece of music, at walking pace. The diminutive andantino is ambiguous and means either a little faster or a little slower than andante, more often the former.
Anima - animation.
Animato - animated.
Anthem - An anthem is a short vocal composition. In the Church of England the word indicates such a composition often using a non-liturgical text (i.e. not part of the official service). A full anthem is for full choir, without soloists, while a verse anthem makes contrasting use of solo singers. Both these forms flourished in the Church of England from the late 16th century.
Appasionato - Passionately.
Appoggiatura - A non-harmonic tone that is approached by skip, left by step and accented.
Arabesque - The word 'arabesque' originally indicated a decorative pattern in Arab style found in painting or architecture. Its most common use in music has been as a descriptive title of short decorative piano pieces of the 19th or early 20th century. There are two well known Arabesques by the French composer Debussy.
Arco - Arco (Italian: bow) is used as an indication to string-players that they should use the bow, rather than pluck with the fingers (see pizzicato).
Aria - An aria is a song or air. The word is used in particular to indicate formally constructed songs in opera. The so-called da capo aria of later baroque opera, oratorio and other vocal compositions, is an aria in which the first section is repeated, usually with additional and varied ornamentation, after the first two sections. The diminutive arietta indicates a little aria, while arioso refers to a freer form of aria-like vocal writing.
Arioso - in the style of an air or song.
Arpeggio - the sounding of the notes of a chord in rapid succession.
Aspiratamente - breathy, flowing, smooth.
Assai - Assai (Italian: very) appears often in indications to performers of the speed of a piece of music, as in allegro assai, very fast, or allegro assai moderato, very moderately fast.
A Tempo - in the original tempo.
Atonal - Atonal music is music that has no specific tonality, is not in a specific key and therefore has no specific 'home' note or chord. The word atonality refers technically to various forms of 20th century music not in a key.
Aubade - An aubade is a morning-song. A well known example is the Siegfried Idyll, a work written by Richard Wagner to be played for his second wife Cosima on the morning of her birthday.
Attacca - go on immediately.
B - B is a note in the musical scale (German: H; French, Italian, Spanish etc.: si).
Badinerie - Badinerie (French: teasing), indicates a piece of music of light-hearted character. The best known badinerie is the lively last movement of Bach's Suite in B minor for flute, strings and continuo.
Bagatelle - Bagatelle, used as the title of a short light-hearted piece of music, was employed most notably by Beethoven in a series of such compositions for piano. The descriptive title was thereafter used by a number of other composers.
Bagpipe - The bagpipe is an ancient instrument, at least in its most primitive form, and is still found in a number of countries. It is a reed instrument, with the reed sounded by air expressed from a leather bag. It generally makes use of a single pipe that can be fingered to produce different notes, with additional drones, pipes that produce single notes, a marked feature of bagpipe music and of its imitations for other instruments. The sophisticated and more versatile French musette, a bagpipe operated by bellows, gave its name to a baroque dance suite movement, marked, usually in the bass, by the continuing sound of a drone, a repeated single note.
Ballad - Ballad, derived from the late Latin verb 'ballare', to dance, came to be used primarily to describe a folk-song of narrative character or a song or poem written in imitation of such a folk-song. The title Ballade was used by Chopin to describe four piano-pieces of otherwise concealed narrative content, apparently based on narrative poems of ballad type by the patriotic poet Mickieiwicz, while Brahms in one of his Ballades transfers into music an old Scottish narrative ballad. The Ballade of French music and poetry of the 14th and 15th centuries denotes a different and fixed literary and musical form.
Bar - In written Western music the bar-line came to be used, a vertical line through the stave, to mark metrical units or bars (measures). By the later 17th century the bar-line had come to be used immediately preceding a strong beat, so that a bar came to begin normally with an accented note. The double bar or double bar-line marks the end of a section or piece.
Barcarolle - A barcarolle is a boating-song, generally used to describe the boating-songs of gondoliers in Venice, imitated by composers in songs and instrumental pieces in the 19th century. Chopin wrote one such Barcarolle for piano, and Mendelssohn provided four shorter piano pieces of this kind. At the end of the century and in the early 20th century the French composer Gabriel Fauré wrote thirteen Barcarolles. There is a particularly well known barcarolle in Offenbach's opera The Tales of Hoffmann (Les contes d'Hoffmann).
Baritone - The word 'baritone' describes a type of male voice of middle range. The word is also used to specify pitched and valved brass instruments of lowish register and as an adjective to distinguish the rare lowest member of the oboe family, also known as a bass oboe, sounding an octave (eight notes) lower than the normal oboe.
Baroque - Once used as a term of critical disapproval, the word 'baroque' is now used in music to designate a period of musical history from about 1600 to about 1750, although any such periodisation in history can only be a rough guide. In musicology the term was borrowed from the history of art and architecture. In music the baroque era may conveniently be divided into three fifty-year periods, Early Baroque, Middle Baroque and Late Baroque. The first of these is typified by the Italian composer Monteverdi, the Middle Baroque by composers such as Henry Purcell in England or Lully in France and the Late Baroque by Johann Sebastian Bach, Handel and Vivaldi.
Bass - The word 'bass' describes the lower register and lower sonorities in music. In vocal music it indicates the lowest type of male voice, and in instrumental music is generally used to indicate the bottom part. As an adjective it is used to describe instruments of lower register, such as the bass clarinet. In common speech the word bass may indicate the double bass, the largest and lowest instrument of the string family, or, in brass bands, an instrument corresponding to the orchestral tuba, the bass of the brass family.
Bass-baritone - A bass-baritone is a male singer with a range that includes both bass and baritone registers, described by Wagner, who wrote for this kind of voice, as a high bass.
Basso continuo - The basso continuo or continuo is the figured bass commonly used in music of the baroque period. It was the normal practice to make use of a bass instrument of some kind, for example a cello or bass viola da gamba and a chordal instrument, a keyboard instrument or plucked string instrument, the part of the latter indicated by numbers added to the music for the bass instrument, showing the chords as a basis for improvised accompaniment or 'filling in' and embellishing of harmonies.
Bassoon - The bassoon is a double-reed wind instrument (= German: Fagott; Italian: fagotto). It is the bass of the woodwind section in the modern orchestra, which can be augmented by the use of a double bassoon of lower range.
Beat - The beat or pulse in a piece of music is the regular rhythmic pattern of the music. Each bar should start with a strong beat and each bar should end with a weak beat. These may be known as the down-beat (strong, at the beginning of a bar) and the up-beat (weak, at the end of a bar). Up and down describe the gestures of a conductor, whose preparatory up-beat is of even greater importance to players than his down-beat.
Bebop - "Bebop" refers to the style of jazz pioneered by alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Thelonius Monk and others during the early 1940s. The word Bebop is an onomatopoeia which describes quick staccato rhythms that often appeared in its melodies. "Bebop" is sometimes called "Bop" for short.
Ben marcato - well-marked.
Berceuse - A berceuse is a cradle-song or lullaby, in lilting triple or compound time. The most famous example of the use of this title is by Chopin, who wrote one Berceuse, followed by Liszt.
Bewegt - Bewegt (German: agitated) is used as a tempo indication meaning something the same as the Italian 'agitato', although mässig bewegt is used as the equivalent of allegro moderato.
Bolero - The bolero is a Spanish dance, popular in Paris in the time of Chopin and in Latin America. One of the best known examples of the dance in art music is Ravel's ballet music Boléro, music of mounting intensity described by the composer as an orchestrated crescendo.
Bop - see Bebop.
Bourrée - A bourrée is a duple-rhythm French dance sometimes found in the baroque dance suite, where it was later placed after the sarabande, with other lighter additional dances.
Brass - The brass section of the orchestra includes metal instruments where the sound is produced by forcing air through a cup-shaped or conical mouthpiece. The brass section usually consists of trumpets, trombones and tuba and French horns.'
Brillante - brilliantly.
Brio - Brio (Italian: vivacity, fire or energy) appears as an instruction to performers as, for example, in allegro con brio, fast with brilliance and fire, an indication used on a number of occasions by Beethoven.
Brioso - with vigor.
C - C is a note in the scale (French: ut; Italian: do).
Cadence - A cadence usually consists of two chords that provide musical punctuation at the end of phrases or sentences.
Cadenza - A cadenza, based often on an extended and embellished final cadence, at least in classical concertos, is a passage originally improvised by a performer in which virtuoso ability might be shown. Cadenzas are now more often written by the composer, although some modern performers continue to improvise. In classical concertos the cadenza often leads to the last section of a movement.
Calando - falling.
Calmato - calmed.
Camera - Camera (Italian: room,chamber) is found principally in the phrase 'sonata da camera', chamber sonata, to be distinguished in music of the baroque period from the sonata da chiesa, church sonata. The secular sonata da camera generally consists of dance movements.
Canon - A canon in music is a device in counterpoint in which a melody announced by one voice or instrument is imitated by one or more other voices or instruments, entering after the first has started, in the manner of a round. The word canon may describe the device as it occurs in a piece of music or a complete composition in this form, like Pachelbel's well known Canon.
Cantabile - Cantabile (Italian: in singing style) appears often at the beginning of movements as in andante cantabile - at walking speed and in a singing style.
Cantando - singing.
Cantare - to sing.
Cantata - A cantata is generally a choral work of some length that also uses solo voices, usually with instrumental accompaniment. The texts used may be sacred or secular. Some cantatas use solo voices without chorus or choir.
Cappella - Cappella, meaning chapel, is found particularly in the phrase 'a cappella' for unaccompanied choral singing. The words chapel, cappella and Kapelle, indicate a musical establishment rather than a place, as in the English Chapel Royal, the musicians of the monarch. The spelling capella may also be found.
Capriccio, caprice - Capriccio (Italian: caprice; French: caprice) appears in a variety of musical meanings, used differently at different periods and by different composers. In the later 16th century and 17th century it generally indicated a fugal composition (see Fugue), but later came to signify dances or dance suites or any composition that allowed a relatively free play of fancy, as in the Capriccio espagnol (Spanish Caprice) of Rimsky-Korsakov or the Capriccio italien (Italian Caprice) of Tchaikovsky.
Carol - a song of joy, praise, or emotion. (usually religious in nature)
Cassation - The word 'cassation' is of disputed origin and was used principally in the third quarter of the 18th century in South Germany to describe a piece of music akin to a divertimento or serenade, music intended primarily for entertainment. Mozart uses the word to describe three of his own serenades.
Celesta - A celesta (French: céleste) is a small keyboard instrument developed in the later 19th century and using hammers that strike metal bars to give a ringing sound. Tchaikovsky used the celesta, then a new instrument, in his Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy in his Nutcracker ballet.
Cello - The word cello is now in very general use instead of the longer word violoncello, a diminutive of the word violone, indicating the big viol, the double bass of the bowed viol family. The cello normally plays the bass line of the string section in an orchestra, its register the approximate equivalent of the lowest male voice.
Cembalo - The word 'cembalo' is usually used to indicate the harpsichord.
Chaconne - A chaconne (Italian: ciaconna; earlier English: chacony) is in origin a dance popular in Spain in the early 17th century. It came to signify a form in which there are a series of variations over a short repeated bass or chordal pattern. Famous examples of the form are found in Bach's Chaconne for unaccompanied violin in his D minor Partita or the earlier Chacony in G minor by Henry Purcell.
Chamber music - Chamber music is music for a small ensemble of instruments, intended for performance in a room or chamber, as opposed to a church or larger building.
Chamber orchestra - A chamber orchestra has come to indicate an orchestra smaller in size than the usual symphony orchestra.
Chanson - A chanson is a French song. The word is used to indicate songs from the troubadour compositions of the Middle Ages to the art-songs of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Chant (see Plainchant and Gregorian Chant)
Chapel - The word chapel (Latin: cappella, capella; French: chapelle; German: Kapelle) signifies, in the ordinary sense, a place of worship. In music it may be used to indicate a group of musicians employed by the church or by the court, as in the English Chapel Royal, the group of musicians employed by the English monarch, or, in later continental terminology, any musical establishment.
Choir - A choir is a group of singers. The word is generally used to indicate such a group in a church, or the part of the church in which such a group is normally placed.
Chorale - A chorale is a German Lutheran hymn-tune, a number of which were composed or arranged by Luther himself and adapted in later centuries to various harmonies, the most famous of all by Johann Sebastian Bach. The word is also used in America to signify a choir or chorus.
Chorale prelude - The chorale prelude, an introduction to a chorale, was developed in 17th century Germany as an organ composition based on a chorale melody. The form is found in the later 17th century in the work of Buxtehude and in the early 18th century most notably in the 45 chorale preludes of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Chord - A chord is the simultaneous sounding of two or more notes. The adjective is chordal. The study of harmony involves the correct placing of chords with relation to each other.
Chorus - A chorus is a group of singers. The word is also used to indicate a refrain in a song.
Chromatic - Chromatic notes are those that do not belong to the diatonic scale. If an ascending scale is taken from the note C, in the form C, D, E, F, etc., chromatic notes would be C# (C sharp), D# (D sharp), etc., notes not found in the diatonic scale of C major, which has no sharps or flats.
Clarinet - A clarinet is a woodwind instrument with a single reed, as opposed to the oboe, which has a double reed. The clarinet was developed from the year 1800 onwards from the earlier chalumeau, which played notes only in the lower register. The new instrument added notes in the higher register. Clarinets are built in different keys, most commonly in B flat and in A.
Clarino - Clarino was the word often used in the 17th and 18th centuries for trumpet. Now the word describes the upper register of the trumpet, much used in the baroque period, when the trumpet, lacking valves, could only produce successive notes in the highest register, an art that later fell into temporary disuse.
Classical - In the most general meaning of the word, classical music may designate fine music or serious music. More technically the word may refer to a period in the history of music, the later 18th century, the age of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. The classical may be differentiated from the so-called romantic, the relatively experimental and less formally restricted kinds of music that became current in the 19th century.
Clavichord - The clavichord is a small early keyboard instrument with a hammer-action. The strings are struck by a tangent, a small oblong strip of metal, eliciting a soft sound. The limited dynamic range of the clavichord make it unsuitable for public performance, but it was historically much favoured by composers such as Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, second son of Johann Sebastian Bach and a leading keyboard-player in the middle of the 18th century.
Clef - The five lines generally used in musical notation have no precise meaning without the addition at the left-hand side of a clef, a sign that specifies the note to be indicated by one of the lines, from which other notes may be gauged. The so-called treble clef, familiar to pianists and violinists, otherwise known as a G clef, is used to show that the second line from the bottom is G. The so-called bass clef, otherwise known as an F clef, shows that the second line from the top is the F below middle C. C clefs are used on any line to show the position of the note known as middle C. Most frequently found are the alto clef, a C clef on the middle line of the stave (the group of five lines) and the tenor clef, a C clef on the second line from the top. The alto clef is the principal clef used for the viola, the tenor of the string family, while the tenor clef is used for the upper register of instruments like the cello and the bassoon. In plainchant, with its four-line stave, there are C clefs and F clefs which may appear on any line.
Coda - A coda (Italian: tail) is the ending of a piece of music. This may be very short, but in a composition on a large scale may be extended. The diminutive codetta may be used to indicate the closing part of a section of a composition.
Col - with.
Col Legno - play with the stick part of bow.
Colla - with.
Colla parte - with the part.
Colla voce - with the voice.
Coloratura - Originally signifying colouring, the word coloratura is generally used to describe vocal music that is extensively ornamented and calls for ability in a very high register. A typical part for a coloratura soprano is that of the Queen of the Night in Mozart's opera The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflte).
Comodo - convenient (pace)
Concertante - A concertante part in a piece of music is a part that calls for some element of solo performance, as in a classical concerto. The word is found in the phrase Sinfonia concertante, which is used to indicate an orchestral composition with two or more solo instruments, a title used from the late 18th century onwards.
Concertino - The concertino is the small group of solo instruments used in a concerto grosso in contrast to the whole body of the orchestra, consisting of ripieno players (see Concerto grosso). A concertino may also be a small concerto (see Concerto).
Concert-meister - the principal violinist in an orchestra.
Concerto - A concerto is a piece of instrumental music that contrasts a solo instrument or a small group of solo instruments with the main body of the orchestra. In the earlier 17th century the word had a more general significance, but in the early 18th century it came to mean primarily a work as described above.
Concerto grosso - The concerto grosso developed towards the end of the 17th century, particularly with the works in this form by Corelli, followed by Handel and many other composers. A small group of soloists, often two violins, cello and harpsichord, the concertino, is contrasted with the whole string orchestra, the concerto grosso, with its less skilled ripieno players. The concerto grosso may involve wind instruments as well as strings. The form has been revived by some 20th century composers, at least nominally.
Consort - Consort, used in earlier English, indicates a group of instruments, as, for example, a consort of viols in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. A broken consort is a consort of mixed instruments, strings and wind.
Continuo - A continuo part, a regular feature of much instrumental music in the 17th and 18th centuries, was played by a keyboard-player or performer on a chordal instrument such as a lute or harp, reading from the bass line of a composition, generally with numbers to indicate the choice of chords, which would then be filled out, with other melodic and contrapuntal embellishments. The continuo or basso continuo was a necessary part of instrumental music, but gradually fell into disuse towards the end of the 18th century, while remaining an important element in the accompaniment of operatic recitative.
Contralto (see Alto)
Cor anglais - The cor anglais is the English horn, a tenor oboe that sounds a fifth lower than it is written.
Cornet - The cornet is a valved brass instrument, resembling a trumpet but with a wider bore. It was used in the second quarter of the 19th century before the full development of the valved trumpet, but is now principally found in brass bands.
Cornetto - The cornetto or cornett is a wind instrument made of wood or ivory, or nowadays reproduced in fibre-glass. It has a cup-shaped mouthpiece, like brass instruments, but finger-holes, like a recorder, and was much used in the 17th and earlier 18th centuries, often to support or even replace treble voices. The bass of the cornetto family is the serpent, once found in village church bands in England and now revived.
Counterpoint - Counterpoint is the combination of two or more melodic lines, the second or later additional melodies described as counterpoints to the first. If harmony is regarded as vertical, as it is in conventional notation, signifying the simultaneous sounding of notes in chords, counterpoint may be regarded as horizontal. The adjective from counterpoint is contrapuntal. The phrase modal counterpoint is used to indicate 16th century counterpoint or Palestrina counterpoint and the phrase tonal counterpoint is used to indicate the later baroque counterpoint of Johann Sebastian Bach and his contemporaries.
Countertenor - A countertenor voice is that of a male alto. Sometimes a distinction is made between the two, the second indicating the English falsetto tradition and the first a natural voice of similar range.
Courante - The French courante, a triple-time dance movement found frequently in the baroque dance suite, generally follows the allemande, the opening German dance. It is sometimes not distinguished from the Italian corrente, although the corrente is generally simpler in texture and rhythm than its French counterpart.
Crescendo - Crecendo (Italian: growing, becoming louder) is frequently used as a dynamic instruction to performers.
Cycle - A song cycle is a set of songs intended to be performed as a group, as in Schumann's Dichterliebe (The Poet's Love) or Schubert's Winterreise (Winter Journey). The 19th century Czech composer Smetana wrote a cycle of symphonic poems, Ma Vlast (My Country).
Cymbals - Cymbals (Italian: piatti, German: Becken, French: cymbales) are pairs of round metal plates, generally made of an alloy of tin and copper, which may be struck together. A single cymbal may be suspended and struck with a hard or soft stick. The instrument is of ancient origin, but its more modern use occurs first principally in the later 18th century, as part of the Turkish music used, for example, by Mozart in The Abduction from the Seraglio (Die Entführung aus dem Serail). It found much fuller and more varied use in the 19th and 20th centuries.
D - D is a note of the scale (Italian, French: re).
Da capo - Da capo (Italian: from the beginning), abbreviated to the letters D.C. at the end of a piece of music or a section of it, means that it should be played or sung again from the beginning (De capo al fine) or from the beginning up to the sign (Da capo al segno). A da capo aria, often found in the later baroque period, is an aria in three sections, the third an ornamented repetition of the first.
Deciso - determined.
Decrescendo - Decrescendo (Italian: growing less) is used as a direction to performers, meaning becoming softer.
Deliberamente - deliberately.
Delicatamente - delicately.
Delicatezza - delicateness.
Delicatissimo - very delicate.
Delicato - delicate.
Detaché - a broad legato stroke with a slight space between each note.(Strings)
Di - of.
Diminuendo - Diminuendo (Italian: becoming less) is used as a direction to performers to play softer.
Divertimento - A divertimento is an instrumental composition intended for entertainment, usually in a number of movements. The term is used particularly in the second half of the 18th century. Haydn described his first string quartets as Divertimenti and the title is also used by Mozart and other composers of the period.
Divertissement - The French word divertissement (= Italian: divertimento) is used in English principally to indicate the additional dance entertainment that is often a part of classical ballet. A well known example would be the series of characteristic dances that entertain the heroine towards the end of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker.
Divisi - divided. Used to show that two or more different parts are to be played at the same time on a piece of music.
Dolce - sweet.
Dolcemente - sweetly.
Dolcissimo - very sweet.
Dolente - with grief.
Dolore - grief.
Doloroso - with grief.
Doppio - double, in duplicate.
Double bass - The double bass is the largest and lowest of the instruments of the string section of the orchestra. It has generally four or five strings and its music sounds an octave (eight notes) lower than it is written. If, as often in music before 1800, the double bass plays the same music as the cello, the sound will be an octave lower.
Double bassoon - A double bassoon plays an octave lower than the bassoon.
Down Bow - when bow is pulled down from the frog.
Drum - The form of drum generally found in the orchestra is the kettledrum or, in incorrect Italian, timpani, since the Italian singular timpano seldom appears in English usage. Other smaller and larger drums may also be used, including the snare-drum, a smaller instrument with a vibrating strip that can be switched on or off, and the bass drum. Timpani are tunable, nowadays usually by means of pedals that loosen or tighten the drum-skin.
Duet - A duet is a piece of music written for two performers. On the piano such a piece would involve two players on one instrument.
Duo - A duo is a piece of music for two performers. Written for the piano such a piece would need two performers and two pianos.
Duolo - grief.
Dynamics - Dynamics are the levels of sound, loud or soft, in a piece of music.
E - E is a note of the scale (Italian, French: mi).
Elegy-An elegy (French: élégie) is a lament, either vocal or instrumental.
Energia - energy.
Energico - energetic.
English horn - The English horn is more generally known in England as the cor anglais. It is the tenor oboe.
Ensemble - The word ensemble is used in three senses. It may refer to the togetherness of a group of performers: if ensemble is poor, the players are not together. It may indicate part of an opera that involves a group of singers. It can also mean a group of performers.
Entr'acte - As the word suggests, an entr'acte (German: Zwischenspiel) is music between the acts of a play or opera.
Espressione - expresssion.
Espressivo - expressive.
Et - and.
Etude - An étude is a study, intended originally for the technical practice of the player. Chopin, Liszt and later composers elevated the étude into a significant piece of music, no mere exercise.
Exposition - The exposition in sonata-allegro form is the first section of the movement, in which the principal thematic material is announced. In the exposition of a fugue (a fugal exposition) the voices (parts) enter one by one with the same subject: the exposition ends when all the voices have entered.
Expressione - expression.
F - is a note of the scale (Italian, French: fa).
Fagott - Fagott (German) or fagotto (Italian) is the bassoon, the bass of the woodwind section in the orchestra (see Bassoon).
Falsetto - an artificial singing voice that overlaps and extends above the range of the full voice. (also called the "head voice")
Fanfare - A fanfare is a flourish of trumpets or other similar instruments, used for military or ceremonial purposes, or music that conveys this impression.
Fantasy - Fantasy (French: fantaisie; Italian: fantasia; German: Fantasie) is a relatively free form in the 16th and 17th centuries, in which a composer may exercise his fancy, usually in contrapuntal form. In later periods the word was used to describe a much freer form, as in the written improvisations for piano of this title by Mozart, or Beethoven's so-called Moonlight Sonata, described by the composer as Sonata quasi una fantasia, Sonata like a Fantasia.
Fiddle - A fiddle is a violin, but the word is used either colloquially or to indicate a folk-instrument. The Australian composer Percy Grainger, who objected to the use of words of Latin origin, used the word fiddle for violin, middle-fiddle for viola and bass fiddle for cello, as part of his eccentric vocabulary of 'blue-eyed English'.
Flat - The word "flat", indicated by a sign derived from the letter b, shows that a note should be lowered by a semitone. In a more general sense music that is flat may simply be out of tune, its pitch below the accepted pitch.
Flautist - A flautist is a player of the flute.
Flute - The word flute may indicate a variety of wind instruments without reeds. The modern orchestra makes use of transverse flutes, augmented as necessary by a smaller transverse flute known as a piccolo and very occasionally by a larger instrument, the alto or bass flute, pitched a fourth lower. The straight flute is known in English as a recorder (French: flûte à bec; German: Blockflöte; Italian: flauto dolce) but was not used in the orchestra after the later Baroque period.
Follia, La - The Italian La Follia, (Spanish: Folía; French: Folie d'Espagne) is a well known dance tune popular from the 16th century or earlier and found in the work of composers such as Corelli (1653 - 1713), who used the theme for a set of variations forming a violin sonata, or later by Rachmaninov (1873 - 1943) in his incorrectly named Variations on a Theme of Corelli.
Forte - Forte (Italian: loud) is used in directions to performers. It appears in the superlative form fortissimo, very loud. The letter f is an abbreviation of forte, ff an abbreviation of fortissimo, with fff or more rarely ffff even louder.
Fortepiano - The word fortepiano, with the same meaning as pianoforte, the full name of the piano, with its hammer action and consequent ability to produce sounds both loud and soft, corresponding to the force applied to the keys, is generally used to indicate the earlier form of the piano, as it developed in the 18th century. A Mozart piano, for example, might be called a fortepiano. The instrument is smaller, more delicately incisive in tone than the modern instrument, and is in some respects more versatile.
Forza - force.
Forzando - strongly accented.
Fuoco - fire.
Fugue - Fugue has been described as a texture rather than a form. It is, in essence, a contrapuntal composition. The normal fugue opens with a subject or theme in one voice or part. A second voice answers, with the same subject transposed and sometimes slightly altered, usually at the interval of a fifth, while the first voice continues with an accompaniment that may have the character of a countersubject that will be used again as the piece progresses. Other voices enter one by one, each of them with the subject, the third in the form of the first entry, the fourth in the form of the answer in the second voice. A fugue may have as few as two voices (the word voice does not necessarily imply singing in this context) and seldom more than four. The subject announced at the beginning provides the chief melodic element in a fugue. When all the voices have entered, the so-called fugal exposition, there will be an episode, a bridge that leads to a further entry or series of entries answering each other, now in different keys. The fugue, as it had developed by the time of Johann Sebastian Bach, continues in this way, often making use of stretto (overlapping entries of the subject) and pedal-point (a sustained note, usually below the other parts) as it nears the end. The fugue became an important form or texture in the Baroque period, reaching its height in the work of J. S. Bach in the first half of the 18th century. Later composers continued to write fugues, a favourite form of Mozart's wife Constanze, with Beethoven including elaborate fugues in some of his later piano sonatas and a remarkable and challenging Grosse Fuge (Great Fugue) as part of one of his later string quartets. Technically the writing of fugue remains an important element in the training of composers.
Furioso - furious.
G - G is a note of the musical scale (French, Italian: sol)
Galliard - The galliard is a courtly dance of the late 16th and early 17th century in triple metre usually following a slower duple metre pavan. The two dances are often found in instrumental compositions of the period, sometimes in suites.
Galop - The galop is a quick dance in duple metre, one of the most popular ballroom dances of the 19th century. The dance appears as a parody in Offenbach's operetta Orpheus in the Underworld in a can-can.
Gamba - Gamba (Italian: leg) is in English used colloquially to designate the viola da gamba or leg-viol, the bowed string instrument popular from the 16th until the middle of the 18th century and held downwards, in a way similar to that used for the modern cello, as opposed to the viola da braccio or arm-viol, the instrument of the violin family, held on the arm or shoulder.
German dance - The German dance (German: Deutsche, Deutscher Tanz) describes generally the triple metre dances of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, found in the Ländler and the Waltz. There are examples of this dance in the work of Beethoven and of Schubert.
Gigue - The gigue (Italian: giga; English: jig) is a rapid dance normally in compound duple metre (the main beats divided into three rather than two). The gigue became the accepted final dance in the baroque instrumental suite.
Giocosamente - cheerfuly.
Giocoso - Giocoso (Italian: jocular, cheerful) is sometimes found as part of a tempo instruction to a performer, as in allegro giocoso, fast and cheerful. The same Italian adjective is used in the descriptive title of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, a dramma giocoso.
Giusto - Giusto (Italian: just, exact) is found in tempo indications, as, for example, allegro giusto, as in the last movement of Schubert's Trout Quintet, or tempo giusto, in strict time, sometimes, as in Liszt, indicating a return to the original speed of the music after a freer passage.
Glass Harmonica - A set of wine glasses that resonate when a wetted finger is rubbed around the rim of the glass. The glasses are tuned by changing the amount of liquid that is inside the glass.
Glissando - Derived from the French glisser, to slide, the Italianised word is used to describe sliding in music from one note to another. On the harp or the piano this is achieved by sliding the finger or fingers over the strings or keys, and can be achieved similarly on bowed string instruments, and by other means on the trombone, clarinet, French horn and pedal timpani among others.
Glockenspiel - The glockenspiel is a percussion instrument similar in form to the xylophone, but with metal rather than wooden bars for the notes. The instrument appeared only gradually in the concert-hall and opera-house and is found in Handel's oratorio Saul and elsewhere. Mozart made famous use of the glockenspiel in The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte), where it is a magic instrument for the comic bird-catcher Papageno. It is now a recognised if sparingly used instrument in the percussion section of the modern orchestra.
Gong - The gong is a percussion instrument originating in the East. In the modern orchestra it is usually found in the form of the large Chinese tam-tam. The gong appears in Western orchestral music in the late 18th century, and notable use of sets of gongs of varying size is found adding exotic colour to Puccini's oriental operas Madama Butterfly and Turandot.
Gran - grand, big.
Grandioso - gracefully.
Grand pause - annotated by two slashes, //, it indicates a stop in the music in which the players wait until they are directed to continue. If one is playing a solo then he would decide when to continue.
Grave - Grave (Italian: slow, solemn) is used as an indication of tempo and mood, meaning slow and serious.
Grazia - grace.
Grazioso - Grazia (grace) forms the Italian adjective grazioso, used as an indication of expression and of tempo, particularly in the 18th century.
Gregorian chant - Plainchant, the modal chant of early Christian and continuing Catholic worship and its derivatives, is often known as Gregorian chant, after Pope Gregory the Great , St. Gregory, to whom the attempt at standardisation of the chant in the late 6th century is attributed.
Guitar - The modern concert guitar is a plucked string instrument generally with six strings. The instrument has a long history, in one form or another. In more recent times it became popular in Vienna in the early 19th century with the work of the Italian composer and guitarist Mauro Giuliani and in Paris with the Catalan Fernando Sor. In Spain it was, of course, the national instrument. The player Andrés Segovia had a strong influence on the form of the modern guitar, the repertoire of which now includes fine concertos by the composers Joaquín Rodrigo, Manuel Ponce, Villa-Lobos, Castelnuovo-Tedesco and others.
Gusto - pleasure.
H - The letter H is used in German to denote the English note B, while B in German signifies the English B flat. In the use of the letters of a word to form a musical motif, the presence of H allows a complete musical version of the name BACH (B flat - A - C - B = German: B - A - C - H), used by various composers, including Liszt. The Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich uses a musical cryptogram derived from the first letters of his name in German, DSCH, which becomes D - Es (= E flat) - C - H. This occurs in a number of his works as a kind of musical signature.
Habanera (Havanaise) - The Habanera is a Cuban dance from Havana, later introduced to Spain. One of the most famous examples is found in Bizet's Spanish opera Carmen, where Carmen herself sings a seductive Habanera. Ravel includes a Habanera in his Rapsodie espagnole and also wrote a Vocalise en forme de habanera, while Debussy makes use of the characteristic rhythm of the dance.
Half-step - the difference in pitch between any two adjacent keys on a piano keyboard. Also called a halftone or semitone.
Hand Vibrato - A technique used with a bell set where the player waves his hand back and forth above the bell that was played to produce a vibrato.
Harmonica - The Western harmonica or mouth-organ is an invention of the early 19th century, inspired by the ancient Chinese bamboo mouth-organ, the sheng. The 20th century chromatic harmonica, of which Larry Adler has been a leading exponent, has inspired a number of composers, including Vaughan Williams, who wrote a Romance for harmonica and orchestra.
Harmoniemusik - Harmoniemusik is music for wind band. In its more limited sense the term is used to signify music for wind bands or wind ensembles in the service of the nobility from the middle of the 18th century to the end of the third decade of the 19th century, and their popular counterparts. The Harmonie, the band itself, which varied in number from a duo to the often found sextet or octet or to a much larger number of players, had its counterpart in France and in England, as well as its successors among emigrants to the United States of America.
Harmonium - The harmonium, developed in the early 19th century from experiments in the last quarter of the century before, is a keyboard instrument that produces its sounds by means of air from bellows passing through free reeds, metal tongues that are made to vibrate. The instrument has a relatively small classical repertoire, its use either domestic or as a cheap substitute for the church organ. Dvořák wrote Bagatelles for two violins, cello and harmonium, and Schoenberg made some use of the harmonium in chamber arrangements of works of his own and in versions of two waltzes by Johann Strauss.
Harmony - Harmony describes the simultaneous sounding of two or more notes and the technique governing the construction of such chords and their arrangement in a succession of chords. Following the convention of writing music from left to right on a horizontal set of lines (staff or stave), harmony may be regarded as vertical, as opposed to counterpoint, which is horizontal. In other words harmony deals with chords, simultaneous sounds, and counterpoint with melody set against melody.
Harp - The harp is an instrument of great antiquity, represented from as early as 3000 B.C. in Sumeria. The form of the instrument has varied, but the modern double-action harp, a development of the early 19th century, is in general orchestral use. The strings are tuned in flats,starting from a bottom C flat, with seven pedals, each of which can change a given set of strings to a natural or a sharp. The C pedal, therefore, in its three positions, can make all the Cs on the instrument flat, natural or sharp. Other forms of harp survive. The Aeolian harp, with strings of the same length and pitch but of different thicknesses, was to be placed by an open window, its sounds produced by the wind blowing through the strings. Various forms of Celtic harp are still in use.
Harpsichord - The harpsichord is a keyboard instrument with strings running from front to back of its wing-shaped horizontal box and soundboard. Unlike the piano and the earlier clavichord with its hammers that strike the strings, the harpsichord has a mechanism by which the strings are plucked. The instrument seems to have existed in a simple form in the 14th century and assumed considerable importance from the early 16th until the fuller development of the pianoforte towards the end of the 18th century. Variations of dynamics on the harpsichord are possible through the use of stops that activate different lengths of string and by the use of a muting buff stop and of the two manuals often found on the instrument. In addition to its ubiquitous use in the music of the baroque period, the harpsichord has also been used by modern composers, since its revival at the end of the 19th century.
Head Voice - see Falsetto.
Heldentenor - The heroic tenor or Heldentenor is a tenor with a quality of voice suited to the heroic rôles of 19th century French Grand Opera and of the music-dramas of Wagner, as in the part of Tannhäuser in Wagner's opera of that name.
Hemiola - When the rhythmic structure in a piece gives the impression that the meter is different from the actual time signature, this is a hemiola. For example, a piece in 4/4 time could have an eighth note run where every third eighth note is accented, giving the run a triplet feel, this is a hemiola.
Homophonic - a piece or part of a piece with one melody with accompaniment.
Homorhythmic chordal - a piece or part of a piece where all parts have the same rhythm but different notes
Horn - The horn takes its name from the horn of an animal, the original form of this wind instrument in ancient times. The instrument was long associated with hunting and as a means of military signalling. The instrument now generally known as the French horn developed in France in its familiar helical form, but in one form or another the horn had come to be a frequent instrument in music for the church, the theatre and the chamber by the early 18th century. The natural horn was able to play the notes of the harmonic series, modified by the use of the right hand in the bell of the instrument, and in different keys by the use of different crooks that changed the length of the tube and hence the length of the air column. The valve horn was developed in the first quarter of the 19th century, its two and later three valves making variations possible in the length of tube and hence in the pitch of the fundamental and harmonic series stemming from it, but the natural horn continued in use at the same time. The double horn was developed in the late 19th century and is now in common use. Concertos for the French horn include the four concertos by Mozart. In the classical orchestra the two horns played a largely sustaining part. The modern orchestra normally has four French horns. The hunting associations of the horn led to its evocative use in Romantic music, as in Weber's opera Der Freischütz, and in the same composer's opera Oberon, in which the horn has a magic rôle to play.
Hornpipe - The hornpipe is a rapid British dance that exists in various metres, triple, duple and quadruple. In its earlier English form it is found in the keyboard suites and stage music of the English composer Henry Purcell, and in keyboard and orchestral movements by Handel. It later came to be popularly associated particularly with sailors in the so-called Sailors' Hornpipe derived from a fiddle-tune.
Humoresque - Schumann was the first composer to use the title Humoreske for a relatively long work for piano, the humour of the title used rather in the sense of a mood of one sort or another. The word later came to indicate very much shorter pieces, such as the well known G flat Humoresque by Dvořák, one of a set of eight.
Hurdy-Gurdy - A boxed, lute-like instrunment used by street musicians which is played by turning a crank attached to resined wheel which scrapes the strings producing sound.
Hymn - A hymn is a song of praise, whether to a god, saint or hero. The plainchant hymn has a place in the Divine Office. In Protestant Christian worship, where the hymn assumed considerable importance, after the chorales of Martin Luther and his followers, the metrical homophonic form dominated.
Ictus - the accent marking the rhythm; the intensity of delivery that distinguishes one note from others.
Idyll - a simple, pastoral composition.
Impetuoso - Impestuous.
Impressionism - Impressionism was a term at first used mockingly to describe the work of the French painter Monet and his circle, who later made use of the word themselves. It was similarly used to describe an element of vagueness and imprecision coupled with a perceived excess of attention to colour in the early music of Debussy, who did not accept the criticism or the label, although his harmonic innovations and approach to composition have points in common with the ideals of Monet.
Impromptu - The word impromptu was first used as a title for a musical composition in 1822 by the Bohemian composer Vorísek for six piano pieces, to be imitated by Schubert's publisher in naming a set of four piano Impromptus, to be followed by four more, perhaps so named by the composer. Chopin used the title for four compositions in this seemingly improvised form, and there are further impromptus by other composers from that period onwards, generally, but not always, for a single instrument.
Improvisation - Improvisation was once a normal part of a performer's stock-in-trade. Many of the greatest composer-performers, from Bach to Mozart and Beethoven, were masters of improvisation, but in the 19th century this became a less common part of public performance, although it remained and remains a necessary skill for a church organist, traditionally required to provide a musical accompaniment of varying length to liturgical ritual. In baroque music the realisation of a figured bass, the improvisation of a keyboard part from a given series of chords, was a necessary musical accomplishment, while the improvisatory element in the addition of ornaments to a melodic part remained normal in opera and other kinds of solo performance.
Instrumentation - Instrumentation is generally used to mean orchestration, the art of writing music for instruments, or, alternatively, the actual scoring of a particular composition.
Interlude - In the theatre an interlude performs the same function as an entr'acte, music between acts or scenes, designed to bridge a gap. It may also be used to indicate music played or sung between two other works or two sections of a work.
Intermezzo - Earlier signifying a comic interlude inserted between the acts of an opera seria, the 19th century intermezzo was often either a musical interlude in a larger composition or a piece of music in itself, often for solo piano. In this second sense it is used by Schumann and later by Brahms in their piano music, while both Mendelssohn and Brahms use the word as a movement title in chamber music.
Interval - In music an interval is the distance in pitch between two notes, counted from the lower note upwards, with the lower note as the first of the interval. The violin, for example, is tuned in intervals of a fifth, G to D, D to A and A to E, the double bass in fourths, from E to A, A to D and D to G. Harmonic intervals occur simultaneously, as when a violinist tunes the instrument, listening carefully to the sound of two adjacent strings played together. Melodic intervals occur between two notes played one after the other.
Intonation - Intonation is the exactness of pitch or lack of it in playing or singing. Collective intonation is that of a group of instruments, where slight individual variations in pitch can be lost in a generally more favourable effect.
Invention - The two-part Inventions of Johann Sebastian Bach are contrapuntal two-voice keyboard compositions, and the word is often understood in this sense, although it had a less precise meaning in earlier music.
Islancio - impetuousness.
Istesso tempo - L'istesso tempo, the same speed, is found as an instruction to the player to return to the previous speed of the music.
Jig - The jig (= French: gigue; Italian: giga), a lively dance in compound time, became the usual final dance of the baroque dance suite.
Jota - The jota is a traditional Spanish dance, transmuted into an orchestral composition by the Russian composer Glinka in his Jota aragonesa.
Kapelle - Chapel (German: Kapelle; Italian: cappella; French: chapelle) is a musical establishment, generally of a king, prince or other ruler.
Kapellmeister - The Kapellmeister is the director of music (= Italian: maestro di cappella; French: maître de chapelle) of a musical establishment, either of a king or prince, or of an opera-house or municipality. The term Kapellmeistermusik has a pejorative implication, suggesting music that is correct but uninspired, a criticism widely if inaccurately applied to a number of 19th century composers now subject to re-evaluation.
Key - (1) Keys on a musical instrument are the levers which when depressed produce a particular pitch of note. The word may be applied to keyboard instruments such as the piano, the organ and the harpsichord, or to the metal keys on woodwind instruments such as the flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon. (2) The key in which a piece of music is written indicates the scale used and the key note or home note, on the chord of which it must end. Not all music is in a key, since attempts have been made in the 20th century to extend music beyond the supposed limitations of key or tonality. It is, in any case, only the very simplest music that remains in one key throughout. Contrast is usually sought by changes of key during a composition, which will end in the key in which it began, although mode may change from major to minor (that is, a symphony in C minor may end with a movement in C major, after intervening movements in other keys). The Fifth Symphony of Beethoven, for example, is in C minor and opens with a movement in that key, followed by a slow movement in A flat major, a C minor third movement with a Trio section in C major and a last movement in C major.
Key signature - The key signature is the sharps or flats, or absence of either, at the beginning of a piece of music, indicating the sharps, flats and naturals belonging to the key of the music. Since a major or minor scale, the two now in common use, has a fixed order of tones and semitones (whole steps and half steps), these can only be preserved when there is a change of key note by the addition of sharps or flats. In the major scale, for example, there are semitones or half steps between the third and fourth degrees and seventh and eighth degrees of the scale. In the scale of C major, played on the white notes of the piano, these semitones fall between E and F and between B and C, a fact apparent from the piano keyboard, where there is no black key between the notes that form these pairs. To keep the same pattern in the scale of G, the note F must be raised to F sharp, so that there is still a semitone between the seventh and eighth notes of the scale. Major key signatures can be calculated on the same system. Each key with an extra sharp starts on a key note a fifth higher, while the keys with flats are in a descending order of fifths. C major itself has no sharps or flats, G has one sharp, D two, A three, E four, B five, F sharp six and C sharp major seven, each new sharp the seventh note of the scale. Descending in fifths, F has one flat, B flat two flats, E flat, three, A flat four, D flat five, G flat six and C flat seven, each new flat the fourth note of the scale.
Konzertmeister - The leader of an orchestra (that is, the principal first violin) is known in German as a Konzertmeister and in the United States as a concertmaster, the latter term now finding more general favour in other English-speaking countries, apart from Great Britain, where the word leader is still preferred.
Lament - Dirges or laments are an important element in primitive musical practice in mourning the dead or at other moments of parting. One of the most important and influential laments of Western music is Monteverdi's Lament of Arianna (Ariadne), abandoned by Theseus on the island of Naxos, where she became a follower of the god Dionysus. This is the only surviving part of a lost opera of 1608. The lament was much imitated, not least by the English composer Henry Purcell in the lament sung by Dido, betrayed by her lover Aeneas, in the short opera Dido and Aeneas.
Lamentations - The Lamentations of Jeremiah form part of the Catholic liturgy of Holy Week, the week before Easter, traditionally chanted, but from the middle of the 15th century providing material for polyphonic setting.
Ländler - The Ländler is an Austrian country dance in a slow triple metre, a precursor of the waltz.
Lagrimoso - tearful.
Languido - languidly, sluggishly, spiritless.
Larghetto - Larghetto is a diminutive form of Largo (Italian: broad, wide, large) usually a direction of tempo, meaning slow. Larghetto is slowish, not as slow as Largo.
Largamente - broadly and consequently slowly. Largo-Largo (Italian: broad, wide, large and consequently slow) is used as a frequent instruction to performers. Handel's Largo, an aria from his opera Serse, is in fact marked Larghetto, although this does not seem to affect its speed in popular performance.
Legato - Legato (Italian: smooth) is used as an instruction to performers. It is the opposite of staccato, which indicates a shortening and consequent detaching of notes.
Legatissimo - extremely legato.
Leggero(Leggiero)- Leggero means light (French: léger) and is used as a direction to performers.
Leggiero - light.
Leggierissimo - very light.
Legno - Legno, wood, appears in the phrase 'col legno', with the wood, an instruction to string players to hit the strings with the back of the bow. Examples of col legno are found in the Danse macabre of Saint-Säens and at the opening of Holst's The Planets.
Leitmotif - The leitmotif (German: Leitmotiv) is particularly associated with the music-dramas of Wagner, although the practice has a longer history. The leading motive is a theme or part of a theme, associated in the work of Wagner with a character, idea or event, and forming in his music-dramas an essential element in their construction.
Lento - Lento (Italian: slow; French: lent, lentement) is used in instructions to performers. Negatively some French composers, notably Couperin, use the direction sans lenteur, without slowness.
Libitum - see ad libitum.
Libretto - The libretto, the little book, is the text of an opera or similar vocal work, originally issued in a small printed book.
Lied - Lied,(German: song), Lieder in the plural, is used more specifically to indicate songs in the great German tradition of song-writing exemplified by the work of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Hugo Wolf, Richard Strauss and others. It should not be confused with Leid, sorrow, as in Kreisler's Liebesleid, the sorrow of love.
Loure - The loure is a French dance of the 17th and 18th centuries, the name derived from a bagpipe used in Normandy. The dance is usually in 6/4 time and has been described as a slow gigue. Examples are found in Bach's E major Partita for unaccompanied violin and in the fifth of his French Suites.
L'istesso Tempo - in the same tempo.
Lunga - long.
Lute - The lute, a plucked string instrument popular from the Middle Ages until the 18th century and now revived, came originally from the East, its name derived from the Arabic 'ud. It existed in many different forms and in its Western form is usually pear-shaped, with a flat belly and central soundhole or rose. Its neck has frets, pieces of gut tied to mark the notes on the fingerboard, and its peg-box is generally bent back to form a right angle with the neck. The number of strings has varied, although the six-string lute was common. The lute was one of the most popular instruments in the time of Shakespeare, when the leading performer was John Dowland, who wrote songs with lute accompaniment. In the first half of the 18th century Johann Sebastian Bach wrote for the instrument, of which one of the leading exponents and composers was Sylvius Leopold Weiss. A player of the lute is a lutenist, or, less commonly, lutanist. The meaning of luthier, originally a maker of lutes, has been extended to cover makers of all string instruments.
Lyre - The lyre, the symbol of a musician in Western cultural tradition, is an ancient instrument, found in characteristic form in ancient Greece, where it was the instrument of Apollo. Similar instruments, with strings stretched from a cross-bar to a lower sound-box, to be held in the left arm and plucked with the right hand, are found in other cultures.
Madrigal - Originally a form of vocal composition of 14th century Italy, the madrigal became, in the 16th and 17th centuries, a favourite form of part-song, stemming first from Italy. In England the madrigal became popular in the last two decades of the 16th century in adaptations of Italian compositions and in new works by English composers.
Maestoso - Maestoso (Italian: majestic) is used to suggest a majestic manner of performance, either in mood or speed.
Magnificat - The Magnificat is the canticle drawn from the biblical words attributed to the Mother of Christ, My soul doth magnify the Lord. It forms part of the evening service of Vespers, in the Divine Office of the Catholic liturgy, and thus appears in composed settings. As part of the evening service of the Church of England it has similarly been subjected to musical treatment. There are notable settings in the early 17th century by Monteverdi and a hundred years later by Johann Sebastian Bach and by Vivaldi, among many others.
Major - Major (Latin: greater) is used in musical terminology to describe a form of scale that corresponds to the Ionian mode, the scale on the white notes of the keyboard from C to C. The intervals between the first note or tonic (key note) and the second, third, sixth and seventh degrees of the major scale are described as major (that is, C to D, a major second; C to E, a major third; C to A, a major sixth; C to B, a major seventh). A major chord or major triad consists of a bottom note with a note a major third above, and, optionally, a note a perfect fifth above the bottom note. In this way the chord or triad C - E - G is described as major.
Malagueña - A malagueña is a Spanish dance from the region of Málaga. The word is later used to indicate a form of Spanish gypsy song. There is an example of the mood and rhythm of the Malagueña in Ravel's Rapsodie espagnole.
Mandolin - The mandolin, a plucked string instrument similar to the lute, exists in various forms. It has fixed metal frets and metal strings in pairs. The prevalent method of playing is tremolando, the notes rapidly repeated with a plectrum. It has been used in opera, notably in Verdi's Otello and in Falstaff, and in the concert-hall in Mahler's Seventh and Eighth Symphonies.
Manual - The manual is a keyboard for the hands, the word used for instruments such as the organ or harpsichord that often have more than one keyboard. It is opposed to the pedal-board found generally on the organ and much more rarely on the harpsichord or fortepiano.
Marcato - marked or accentesd.
Marimba - The marimba is a form of resonating xylophone occasionally used in the Western orchestra in compositions of the 20th century.
Martellato - hammered, accented stroke.
Mass - The Mass, the Eucharist of Catholic worship (Latin: Missa; Italian: Messa; French & German: Messe), has long provided texts for musical setting. The Ordinary of the Mass, the normally recurrent parts of the liturgy, consists of the Kyrie eleison (Lord have mercy), Gloria (Glory be to God in the highest), Credo (I believe), Sanctus (Holy, holy, holy), Benedictus (Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord) and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). These are the texts most often set. The Proper of the Mass changes from day to day, according to the season or the occasion. The texts of the Proper are less often set, except for texts that may be used with some frequency.
Mazurka - The mazurka is a Polish dance, transformed by Chopin in some fifty piano pieces in this form.
Measure - A measure is, in English, a bar, in the sense of the music written between the vertical bar-lines written on the stave to mark the metrical units of a piece of music.
Mélodie - The French art-songs of the 19th and 20th centuries are known as mélodies, the counterpart of the German Lieder.
Melodrama - A melodrama is a drama with musical accompaniment and interludes, although the word has come to have a different popular meaning in English. In the technical sense of the word, Bizet's collaboration with Alphonse Daudet in L'Arlésienne is a melodrama, and the word is used to describe the grave-digging scene in Beethoven's opera Fidelio.
Meno - Meno (Italian: less) is used in musical directions to qualify other words as in meno mosso, with less movement.
Mesto - Mesto (Italian: sad) is used in directions to performers as an indication of mood, as in the slow movement of the Horn Trio of Brahms, which is marked Adagio mesto.
Metamorphosis - Metamorphosis, change of shape, is used particularly to describe the process of thematic metamorphosis, the transformation of thematic elements used by composers such as Liszt, a procedure unkindly satirised by one contemporary critic as the life and adventures of a theme.
Metronome - The metronome is a device, formerly based on the principle of the pendulum, but now controlled more often by electronic means, which measures the equal beats of a piece of music, as a guide to players. The metronome mark of 60 indicates one beat a second, 120 is twice as fast and 240 twice as fast again. The principle was based on the work of Galileo, but the most frequently found clockwork metronome was devised in Vienna by Beethoven's contemporary and briefly his collaborator Count Maelzel.
Mezza - middle.
Mezzo - Mezzo (Italian: half) is found particularly in the compound words mezzo-forte, half loud, represented by the letters mf, and mezzo-piano, half soft, represented by the letters mp. Mezzo can serve as a colloquial abbreviation for mezzo-soprano, the female voice that employs a generally lower register than a soprano and consequently is often, in opera, given the parts of confidante, nurse or mother, secondary rôles to the heroine, usually a soprano. The instruction mezza voce directs a singer to sing with a controlled tone. The instruction can also occur in instrumental music.
Minimalism - music that uses short melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic patterns that are repeated again and again. These patterns often create a hypnotic effect. Notable composers: Phillip Glass, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley.
Minor - Minor (Latin: smaller) is used in musical terminology to describe a form of scale that corresponds, in its natural form, to the Aeolian mode, the scale on the white notes of the keyboard from A to A. Two other forms of the minor scale are commonly used, the melodic minor and the harmonic minor. The melodic minor scale is a form of minor scale that uses the natural minor form descending, but sharpens the sixth and seventh degrees ascending. The harmonic minor scale uses the natural minor with a sharpened seventh degree ascending and descending.The intervals between the first note or tonic (key note) and the third, sixth and seventh degrees of the natural minor scale are described as minor (that is, C to E flat , a minor third; C to A flat, a minor sixth; C to B flat, a minor seventh). C to D flat forms a minor second. A minor chord or minor triad consists of a bottom note with a note a minor third above, and, optionally, a note a perfect fifth above the bottom note. In this way the chord or triad C - E flat - G is described as minor.
Minstrel - The word minstrel has been used loosely to indicate a musical entertainer, providing his own accompaniment to his singing. The medieval minstrel, a secular musician, flourished between the 13th and 15th century, generally as an itinerant singer.
Minuet - A minuet (French: menuet; German: Menuett; Italian: minuetto) is a triple metre French dance popular from the second half of the 17th until at least the end of the 18th century. It appears as an occasional element of the baroque instrumental suite and later as a movement in the pre-classical and classical symphony and allied forms, gradually replaced by the scherzo. The minuet usually has a complementary trio, a contrasting section in similar metre.
Miserere - Miserere (Latin: have mercy) is the first word of Psalms 50, 54 and 55, and the word appears on numerous occasions in Latin liturgical texts. There is a famous setting of Psalm 50 (51 in the Hebrew and English Psalter) by the early 17th century Italian composer Gregorio Allegri, the property of the Papal Chapel, written down from memory by Mozart at the age of fourteen, during his visit to Rome in 1770.
Missa - The Latin word Missa, the Catholic Mass or Eucharist, is found in the title of many polyphonic settings of the liturgical texts. The phrase Missa brevis, short Mass, was at first used to indicate a Mass with shorter musical settings of the Ordinary. It later came to be used on occasion for settings that included only the first two parts of the ordinary of the Mass, the Kyrie and the Gloria. Mass titles, particularly in the 16th century, are often distinguished by the musical material from which they are derived, sacred or secular, as in Missa Adieu mes amours, or Missa Ave Regina. The Missa Papae Marcelli, the Mass of Pope Marcellus, is the setting of the Mass written by Palestrina, supposedly to preserve polyphony from condemnation by the Council of Trent.
Modal - Modal scales are found in various forms. Plainchant, the traditional music of the Catholic liturgy, makes use of eight modes, the church modes, with names derived from very different, earlier Greek modes. The first church mode is the Dorian, the third the Phrygian, the fifth the Lydian and the seventh the Mixolydian. These are the so-called authentic modes, their range from D to D, E to E, F to F and G to G respectively. Each authentic mode has an associated plagal mode using the same final note, but within an octave range that starts a fourth below the final and extends a fifth above it. These plagal modes take the Greek prefix hypo-, as in Hypodorian, Hypophrygian, Hypolydian and Hypomixolydian. Theorists later distinguished two further pairs of authentic and plagal modes, the Aeolian, A to A, and the Ionian, C to C. The Locrian mode, B to B, is inaccurately named, but was early distinguished as Hyperaeolian. Early polyphony, reaching a height of perfection in the 16th century, is modal, and its techniques continue to be studied as modal counterpoint, a necessary element in the training of a musician. These listed modes and a variety of other modes may be distinguished in folk-music, while composers of the 20th century have constructed their own synthetic scales or modes.
Moderato - Moderato (Italian: moderate) is used as an indication of the speed to be adopted by a performer. It may be used to qualify other adjectives, as allegro moderato, moderately fast.
Molto - Molto (Italian: much, very) is often found in directions to performers, as in allegro molto or allegro di molto, molto vivace or molto piano.
Monophonic - unsion or octave melody alone.
Morendo - dying.
Mosso - Mosso (Italian: moved, agitated) is generally found in the phrases più mosso, faster, and meno mosso, slower.
Motet - A motet is generally a choral composition for church use but using texts that are not necessarily a part of the liturgy. It is the Catholic equivalent of the anthem of the Church of England. Motets appear in very different forms from the 13th century onwards.
Motif - The word motif, coined from French, is used in English instead of the German Motiv, or English and American motive. It may be defined as a recognisable thematic particle, a group of notes that has a recognisable thematic character, and hence longer than a figure, the shortest recognisable element.
Moto - Moto (Italian: motion, movement) is found in the direction 'con moto', with movement, fast. A moto perpetuo is a rapid piece that gives the impression of perpetual motion, as in the Allegro de concert of Paganini or the last movement of Ravel's Violin Sonata.
Movement - A movement is a section of a more extended work that is more or less complete in itself, although occasionally movements are linked together, either through the choice of a final inconclusive chord or by a linking note, as in the first and second movement of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto.
Movimiento - movement, motion.
Mute - Mutes (Italian: sordino; French: sourdine; German: Dämpfer) are used to muffle the sound of an instrument, by controlling the vibration of the bridge on a string instrument or muffling the sound by placing an object in the bell of a brass instrument.
Nachtmusik - Nachtmusik (German: night-music) is best known from Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik, A Little Night Music, a serenade.
Natural - A natural is a note that is neither a sharp nor a flat. The adjective is used to describe the natural horn or natural trumpet, without valves.
Neoclassical - Neoclassical style in music indicates a 20th century eclectic return by some composers to various styles and forms of earlier periods, whether classical or baroque. The style is exemplified in the score for the ballet Pulcinella by Stravinsky or by the same composer's opera The Rake's Progress.
Niente - dying away.
Nocturne - A nocturne is a night-piece, music that evokes a nocturnal mood. It was developed as a form of solo piano music by the Irish pianist and composer John Field in the early 19th century, leading to its notable use by Chopin. The title has been used more recently by other composers for both instrumental and vocal compositions.
Non - not.
Nonet - A nonet is a composition for nine performers.
Notation - Notation is the method of writing music down, practices of which have varied during the course of history. Staff notation is the conventional notation that makes use of the five-line staff or stave, while some recent composers have employed systems of graphic notation to indicate their more varied requirements, often needing detailed explanations in a preface to the score. Notation is inevitably imprecise, providing a guide of varying accuracy for performers, who must additionally draw on stylistic tradition.
Note - A note in English is either a single sound or its representation in notation. American English refers to a single sound as a tone, following German practice.
Obbligato - Obbligato (Italian: obligatory) is often used virtually as a noun in English, in spite of its derivation. It is used to indicate an additional instrumental part that cannot be omitted, particularly when a solo instrument adds an accompanying melody in some baroque vocal forms. There is, for example, a well known violin obbligato to the mezzo-soprano aria Laudamus te, in the B minor Mass of Bach.
Oboe - The oboe is a double-reed instrument, an important part of the woodwind section of the modern orchestra. The mechanism of its keys underwent considerable development in the 19th century. In earlier times it formed an important part of the outdoor military band, but the Western symphony orchestra normally uses a pair of instruments. The oboe d'amore is the alto of the oboe family, used in the baroque period, and the tenor is found in the cor anglais or, in the mid-18th century, in the oboe da caccia. The tone of the instrument, much affected by different methods of cutting the reeds, can impart a characteristic sound to a whole orchestra.
Ocarina - a small and very simple wind instrument which is shaped like a sweet potato and is usually shaped like a sweet potato and usally made of terra cotta, with finger holes and a mouthpiece. The tones it produces are soft and hollow.
Octave - The octave is an interval of an eighth, as for example from the note C to C or D to D. The first note can have a sharp or flat providing the last note has the corresponding sharp or flat (i. e. C sharp to C sharp).
Octet - An octet is a composition for eight performers.
Ondes Martenot - The ondes Martenot, an electronic instrument invented by the French musician Maurice Martenot, produces single sounds by means of a keyboard that controls the frequencies from an oscillator. It has a wide range and offers the possibility of glissando. It became popular among French composers, including Milhaud, Honegger, Koechlin, Schmitt, Ibert, Jolivet, Messiaen and Boulez. Varèse also wrote for it, as he did for the less versatile electronic instrument, the theremin.
Opera - An opera is a drama in which most of the actors sing all or most of their parts. The form developed at the end of the 16th century in Italy, from where it spread to other regions of Europe, although it never became a regular part of London musical life until the early 18th century. Internationally Italian opera has proved immensely important and popular, while opera in France underwent independent development in the later 17th century under the Italian-born composer Lully. The 19th century brought particular developments in German romantic opera and in the innovative music-dramas of Wagner. The word opera covers a wide variety of musico-dramatic forms, from the Orfeo of Monteverdi to The Threepenny Opera (Dreigroschenoper) of Kurt Weill and Berthold Brecht of 1928, derived from the English anti-heroic Beggar's Opera two centuries earlier.
Opéra bouffe - Opéra bouffe is the French term for comic operetta of composers such as Offenbach in 19th century France.
Opera buffa - Opera buffa is Italian comic opera, particularly in the form it took in early 18th century Italy.
Opéra comique- French opéra comique originally purely comic and later more sentimental in mood, included spoken dialogue, interspersed with songs.
Opera seria - Opera seria was the form of Italian serious opera that held sway from the reforms of the early 18th century for a hundred years. It came to be governed by strict rules as to subject and structure, and underwent reform in the interests of greater realism in the second half of the 18th century with the composer Gluck.
Operetta - Operetta is light opera, a development largely of the 19th century, exemplified in the work of Offenbach in France and Johann Strauss the younger in Vienna.
Opus - Opus (Latin: work) is generally used in the listing of a composer's works by opus numbers, usually abbreviated to Op. Since the Latin plural opera would lead to unnecessary confusion it is best avoided, although the alternative opuses remains an unsatisfactory substitute. Opus numbers are not always a guide to the date of composition or even to the date of publication.
Oratorio - Oratorio has its origin in the musical performances used by the followers of St. Philip Neri, the Oratorians, a religious order founded in 1575, although it has a possible remoter origin in the liturgical drama of the Middle Ages. Forms of oratorio change, but it remains primarily a work in which religious texts often with a narrative content are set for performance by singers and instruments. The oratorio underwent various developments throughout Europe, with the 17th century composer Carissimi and his successors in Italy, Charpentier in France, and later with Telemann and others in Germany and, above all, Handel in the English oratorio of the early 18th century.
Orchestra - The orchestra, the dancing-place of the ancient Greek theatre, came, in the early 18th century, to have its modern meaning as a group of instrumental performers of varied number, although this meaning still met with objections at the time. The size and composition of the orchestra has differed from century to century, but during the course of the 17th century the string section developed as a five-part and later as a four-part section, with first and second violins, violas and cellos and double basses, the last two playing the same part, although the double basses would sound an octave lower. In the later 18th century it became usual to have in the orchestra an additional pair of French horns and a pair of oboes, doubling flute as necessary, with a bassoon doubling the bass. By the end of the 18th century a larger ensemble that included when necessary a pair of trumpets and drums was usual. In the 19th century clarinets, already used by Mozart and Haydn, became a regular part of the woodwind section, in addition to flutes, oboes and bassoons. The brass section came to include trombones, instruments earlier used for special purposes only, as well as trumpets, to be extended to instruments of lower range during the century. The 20th century has brought an extension of the percussion section. The number of players involved in a full symphony orchestra has grown very considerably, with over sixty string players, and a possible forty or more wind and percussion players. This compares with Mozart's Salzburg orchestra of 23 string players and a dozen or so wind-players and the orchestras of less prosperous princedoms, which might employ much smaller forces, a dozen or less string players and four or five wind players.
Orchestration - Orchestration is the art of arranging music for the orchestra or the way in which this is done.
Organ - The organ is a keyboard instrument in which the sound is produced by air passing through pipes of various size and construction to give a wide variety of pitches and timbres. The instrument has its probable Western origin in the Hellenistic period, with the water-organ of Alexandria. Varying in size and mechanical efficiency, the organ had by the later 17th century given rise to an important school of performance, leading directly to the achievement of Johann Sebastian Bach in the first half of the 18th century. Technical developments have taken place since then, giving still greater versatility to the king of instruments.
Ostinato - Ostinato (Italian: obstinate) indicates a part that repeats the same rhythm or melodic element. The basso ostinato or ostinato bass occurs in the ground bass of baroque arias where a melody is set over a repeated bass pattern. Ostinato is used by the Bavarian composer Carl Orff in his instrumental teaching methods, where it may form a basis for improvisation by pupils.
Overture - The overture (French: ouverture; German: Ouvertüre; Italian: sinfonia) is an introductory piece, often designed to initiate an opera or other dramatic work. The late 17th century French overture of Lully opens with a slow section in dotted (uneven) rhythm, followed by a fugal section, before the return of the slow opening. The Italian overture provides the origin of the symphony, with two fast movements framing a central slow movement. The word Ouvertüre or Ouverture is sometimes used to mean an orchestral suite, as in the four orchestral suites of Johann Sebastian Bach. In the 19th century the overture became also a possible independent composition, a concert movement, often with literary or geographical associations, or an occasional connotation. Early examples of these occur in Mendelssohn's Overture A Midsummer Night's Dream, originally intended as a concert overture, or in the programmatic overtures of Berlioz.
Pantomime - Although a pantomime in Britain has come to indicate a children's Christmas entertainment, making use of traditional and topical elements in a mixture of fairy-story, comic routine and popular song, the word originally indicated a performance entirely in mime, in this sense having a long history. In this second and original sense pantomime is sometimes found as part of a descriptive title of a musical work or part of a work originally so intended.
Parlando - speaking.
Parlante - spoken.
Part - A part may indicate the line or music intended for a particular performer. Earlier choral music, for example, was written in separate part-books, one for each part, as is the modern practice with orchestral parts, rather than in the full vocal score now usual. The art of part-writing or, in American, voice-leading, is the art of writing simultaneous parts according to the established rules of harmony. A part-song is a vocal work in which different voices are used, as distinct from a song in which all sing the same melody.
Parte - part.
Partita - Partita is another word for suite, used, for example, by Johann Sebastian Bach in the title of a set of keyboard suites or in the three Partitas for unaccompanied violin.
Passacaglia - The passacaglia is a baroque dance variation form on a short melodic formula usually occurring in the bass. It is similar in form to the chaconne, in which a recurrent bass pattern forms the basis of the composition, implying a recurrent harmonic progression. The two forms are sometimes confused by composers. Famous examples of the passacaglia include Johann Sebastian Bach's C minor Passacaglia for the organ. Something of the form appears in the last movement of the Fourth Symphony of Brahms, and passacaglias occur in Berg's opera Wozzeck and in Britten's opera Peter Grimes.
Passion - The four accounts of the suffering and death of Christ, as given in the first four books of the New Testament, were customarily sung during the Catholic rites of Holy Week to plainchant, with a division of parts where direct speech is involved. It became customary in the 15th century to allow the singing of the parts of the crowd (= Latin: turba) in the biblical narrative in polyphonic settings, with a gradual extension of the polyphonic element in the next century. The best known settings of the Passion are the surviving Lutheran settings by Johann Sebastian Bach of the accounts of the Passion in the Gospels of St. Matthew and of St. John.
Pastorale - Pastorale is a musical expression of a genre familiar in European literature from Hellenistic times or earlier, an idealisation of the rural, in literary form, in the lives and loves (often fatal) of shepherds and shepherdesses, and then, by extension, of the country in general. The word may be used as the title of a piece of music suggesting a rural idyll. In Italy it was associated particularly with the dance-form, the Siciliano, used to suggest the scene of shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem at the birth of Christ. Such pastoral movements formed part of the Christmas concertos of Corelli and his contemporaries and imitators. Adjectivally used, the Pastoral Symphony of Beethoven, in true Wordsworthian fashion, offers emotions experienced on a visit to the country, recollected in what passed for tranquillity in his life.
Pavan - The pavan (French: pavane), a stately duple metre dance of the 16th and early 17th centuries, appears in various English spellings, paven, pavin and other forms. Coupled with the quicker triple metre galliard, it was among the most popular dances of the time. The origin of the word is attributed either to the Italian town of Padua or to the peacock (Italian: pavone). Well known examples include the English composer John Dowland's Lachrimae, or Seaven Teares Figured in Seaven Passionate Pavans or Ravel's nostalgic Pavane pour une infante défunte, (Pavan for a Dead Infanta).
Pedale - (abbreviated Ped.) pedal.
Pentatonic - The pentatonic or five-note scale is formed by the black notes of the keyboard, or the white notes C, D, E, G and A - two whole tones, a minor third and a whole tone. This form of scale is the basis of folk melodies in many countries, from China to Scotland, and occasionally occurs, in passing at least, in the work of 20th century composers. It is an important element in the educational music of Carl Orff and in the choral method of the Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály.
Percussion - The percussion section of the orchestra includes all instruments that are played by being struck, including the piano and celesta. Originally consisting of a pair of kettledrums or timpani, appearing normally with a pair of trumpets, in the orchestra of the later 18th century, a military importation, the percussion section was significantly enlarged with the allegedly Turkish fashion of the later 18th century, involving the occasional use of bass drum, cymbals and triangle in an imitation of the Janissary band. Liszt shocked audiences by including a triangle in the orchestration of a piano concerto, dubbed a triangle concerto by a hostile critic, and gradually other percussion instruments were added for occasional effects, including even, by Erik Satie, the typewriter.
Perendosi - dying away (in intensity and tempo.)
Performance practice - Performance practice or performing practice (German: Aufführungspraxis) indicates the attempt to perform music in the way envisaged originally by the composer. The second half of the 20th century has brought a significant interest in musicology and the technology and scholarship necessary to the construction of copies of earlier instruments and to the study of methods of performance on these instruments. The study of performing practice extends from the study of music of the earliest periods to that of relatively recent periods of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Pesante - heavily.
Philharmonic - The adjective Philharmonic and noun Philharmonia are generally used as adopted titles by orchestras or by music-loving societies of one sort or another. The words have no other technical meaning.
Phrase - A phrase in music, on the analogy of syntactical use, is a recognisable musical unit, generally ending in a cadence of some kind, and forming part of a period or sentence. Phrasing in performance has a less precise use, indicating the correct grouping of notes, whether as phrases in the technical sense or in smaller distinct units, corresponding to the various possible syntactical uses of punctuation.
Piacare - freely
Piano - Piano (Italian: soft) is generally represented by the letter p in directions to performers. Pianissimo, represented by pp, means very soft. Addition of further letters p indicates greater degrees of softness, as in Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony, where an excessive pppppp is used.
Pianoforte - The pianoforte, known generally as the piano, was developed during the 18th century. A keyboard instrument, it is distinguished from the harpsichord by its hammer action, with hammers striking the strings when keys are depressed. Dynamic change is possible by applying more or less force to the keys. The instrument underwent a number of technical changes during the century and in the years following became the most popular instrument of domestic entertainment.
Piano trio - Piano trio, piano quartet and piano quintet indicate works for the piano with varying numbers of string instruments. The piano trio is scored for piano, violin and cello, the piano quartet for piano, violin, viola and cello, and the piano quintet for piano, two violins, viola and cello.
Piccolo - The piccolo (Italian: small) is the small flute, pitched an octave higher than the ordinary flute. Adjectivally the word may be applied to other instruments or groups, as in coro piccolo, small chorus. The violino piccolo, a smaller violin, is used by Johann Sebastian Bach in the first Brandenburg Concerto, where it is to be tuned a third higher.
Pienamente - fully, completely, absolutely.
Pitch - The pitch of a note is the frequency of its vibrations. The exact pitch of notes has varied over the years and nowadays differs to some extent between continent and continent or even between orchestra and orchestra. Earlier pitches were generally lower, but not necessarily standardised. Perfect pitch is the ability to distinguish the pitch of a note, according to generally accepted nomenclature. Relative pitch is the ability to distinguish the pitch of one note with relation to another, given note.
Più - Più (Italian: more) is found in directions to performers, as in più forte, louder, or più lento, slower.
Pizzicato - Pizzicato (Italian: plucked) is a direction to performers on string instruments to pluck the strings. A return to the use of the bow is indicated by the word 'arco', bow. Pizzicato notes on the violin, viola and cello are normally plucked with the index finger of the right hand. The great violinist Paganini, however, introduced the technique of left-hand pizzicato for occasional use, notably in one of the variations of his 24th Caprice, where it produces a very special effect.
Plainchant - Plainchant is the traditional monodic chant of the Catholic and Eastern Christian liturgies. In Western Europe plainchant was largely but not completly standardised under Pope Gregory the Great at the end of the sixth century. This form of chant is free in rhythm, following the words of the liturgical texts, and is modal, using the scales of the eight church modes. In its long history it has undergone various reforms, revisions and attempts at restoration.
Pochissimo - very little.
Poco - Poco (Italian: little) is found in directions to performers, as in poco allegro, although un poco allegro, a little fast, would be more accurate. Poco, in fact, is commonly used meaning un poco, a little.
Polacca - Polacca, Polish, appears often in the phrase Alla polacca, in the Polish manner, as in the last movement of the first Brandenburg Concerto of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Polka - The polka, a Bohemian dance, became one of the most popular ball-room dances of the 19th century, its title a possible reference to Poland. It is used by Smetana in his Czech opera The Bartered Bride and elsewhere and in William Walton's jeu d'esprit Façade.
Polonaise - The polonaise is a Polish dance in triple metre. Although the title is found in French Suite No. 6 of Johann Sebastian Bach and elsewhere in the earlier 18th century, the form is best known from the piano pieces written by Chopin a hundred years later, works that elevated the original dance to a higher level, while capturing the current spirit of Polish nationalism.
Polyphony - Polyphony is the writing of music in many parts or in more than one part, with reference in particular to contrapuntal practices. Monody or monophony are possible opposites.
Pomposo - pompous.
Ponticello - to play near the bridge (sur ponticello) resulting in a squeaky tone.
Portamento - Gliding from one note to the other.
Post Horn - The post horn is a relatively simple kind of horn once played by postilions as a signal of the departure, arrival or approach of a coach. Mozart made brief use of the instrument in his Post Horn Serenade, and its sound was imitated by various composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach in his harpsichord Capriccio on the Departure of His Beloved Brother, which includes a Postilion Aria and a fugue on the sound of the post horn.
Posthumous - published after author's death.
Postlude - A postlude is played at the end of a piece and indicates, in particular, the additional piano phrases that may appear at the end of a song, after the singer has stopped. The word is more widely used to describe the closing section of a work or to indicate a piece of music to be played as the conclusion of some ceremony, the opposite of a prelude.
Prelude - A prelude (Latin: praeludium, praeambulum; French: prélude; German: Vorspiel) is a movement or section of a work that comes before another movement or section of a work, although the word also has been used for short independent pieces that may stand alone, or even for more extended works, such as Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune.
Presto - Presto (Italian: quick) is used frequently as a direction to performers. An even faster speed is indicated by the superlative prestissimo or even il più presto possibile, as fast as possible.
Programme music - Programme music is music that has a narrative or descriptive extra-musical content. Music of this kind has a long history, but the term programme music was coined by Liszt, whose symphonic poems principally attempt to translate into musical terms works of literature, such as Goethe's Faust or Dante's Divina Commedia. It seems preferable that the term should be limited to instrumental music for concert use and should not include either incidental music or ballet music.
Psalm - Psalms are the texts included in the biblical Book of Psalms and retaining an important place in the services of the Catholic Divine Office, sung to plainchant. The biblical texts are not metrical and therefore use a relatively simple form of chant that can be expanded by the use of a longer reciting note, the final syllables sung to a short syllabic formula. After the Reformation of the early 16th century metrical versions of the Psalms became current, with texts that could be sung to hymn-tunes. Harmonized settings of the biblical and metrical Psalms have been current in Protestant churches and chapels since the 16th century.
Quadrille - The quadrille was one of the most popular ball-room dances of the 19th century, generally in a brisk duple metre.
Quarter-tone - Divisions of the tone smaller than a semitone are occasionally found in art-music, particularly in the 20th century. Quarter-tones occur in the solo violin part of the Second Violin Concerto of Belá Bartók.
Quartet - A quartet is a composition for four players or the name for a group of four players.
Quasi - almost.
Quintet - A quintet is a composition for five players or the name for a group of five players.
Quodlibet - A quodlibet (Latin: what you please) is a light-hearted composition generally containing a combination of well known tunes. There is an example in Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations, where the composer combines the theme of the variations with two popular songs of the time.
Rallentando - Rallentando (Italian: becoming slower) is a direction to a performer to play gradually slower.
Recitative - Recitative is used in vocal works, particularly opera and oratorio, usually for a solo voice, in relatively free rhythm. In this respect recitative is distinct from the formal aria. Recitative might be accompanied by basso continuo, harpsichord or other chordal instruments and a bass instrument (recitativo secco or dry recitative), or accompanied by a larger number of instruments (recitativo accompagnato, accompanied recitative). Recitative is often used for narrative or for the forwarding of the plot in opera.
Recorder - The recorder (German: Blockflte; French: fléte á bec; Italian: flauto dolce), the straight flute, exists in a variety of sizes, the principal of which are the descant or soprano, the treble or alto, the tenor and the bass, the first and third of which have a range upwards from C and the second and fourth of which have a range upwards from F, with similar fingering. Other sizes of recorder include the smallest, the sopranino, an octave higher than the treble and the great bass, an octave lower than the tenor. An even larger family of recorders existed in the later 16th century. The earlier recorder was used in consort music, while it was used rather as a solo instrument in music in the later 17th and early 18th centuries, with sonatas for the instrument by Handel and solo parts in the second and fourth of the Brandenburg Concertos of Johann Sebastian Bach. The revival of the instrument in the 20th century has led to a number of new solo works for recorder.
Reed - Reeds, made either from traditional material or from plastic or metal, are used to produce a musical sound from their vibration by means of an air column. The clarinet uses a single reed, fastened to a hollow mouthpiece, while the oboe and bassoon use a double reed, one side vibrating against the other. The reed-pipes of the organ are generally made of metal, with a thin vibrating tongue to produce the sound. Similar laminae are used in the mouth-organ and harmonica. Some instruments, like the bagpipes or the crumhorn, use covered double reeds, set inside an air chamber.
Register - The register of a voice or instrument is a distinct part of its range. The clarinet, for example, has a distinctive lower register known, from the origin of the instrument, as the chalumeau register, and an upper register of more flute-like timbre.
Registration - Registration is the choice of stops used by an organist or harpsichordist, a much more elaborate matter for the former.
Religioso - religious.
Requiem Mass - The Catholic Mass for the Dead opens with the words Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine (Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord), leading to the use of the word Requiem for the Mass for the Dead. Important settings of the Requiem include that by Mozart and the large scale settings of the Requiem by Berlioz and by Verdi. Brahams set a collection of Lutheran texts to form his German Requiem, while Fauré set a liturgical text that used parts of the burial service.
RFL - a slang term used primarily in drum and bugle corps to specify the loudest possible dynamic level - the anagram stands for "real f***ing loud."
Rhapsody - The title rhapsody (French: rapsodie) came into general use in music of the mid-19th century, notably with the Hungarian Rhapsodies of Liszt. It implies a work free in form and inspiration, often an expression of national temperament, as in the Slavonic Rhapsodies of Dvorák and the Rapsodie espagnole of Ravel.
Rhythm - Rhythm, an essential element in music in one way or another, is the arrangement of notes according to their relative duration and relative accentuation.
Rigaudon - The French folk-dance, the rigaudon, is occasionally found in instrumental dance suites of the 17th and 18th centuries. It was normally in a brisk duple metre.
Risoluto - resolute.
Ritardando - Ritardando (Italian: becoming slower) abbreviated often to rit., is often used as a direction to players.
Ritenuto - Ritenuto (Italian: held back) directs a player to slow down at once.
Ritornello - The ritornello, a recurrent phrase or passage, is a feature of baroque form, where an aria may be punctuated by re-appearances of a short instrumental phrase. It became a frequent element in baroque solo concertos by composers such as Vivaldi, and works with operatic connotations.
Rococo - Rococo, a term borrowed, as are so many other terms in musicology, from architecture and the visual arts, is used in particular to describe the light decorative French style as found in the work of Couperin and Rameau in the first half of the 18th century.
Romanticism - Romanticism in cultural history is a word that defies precise definition. In music it is most commonly applied to a period or the predominant features of that period, from the early 19th century until the early 20th. Features of romanticism in music include an attention to feeling rather than to formal symmetry, expressed in a freer use of traditional forms, an expansion of the instrumental resources of music and an extension of harmonic language. Music also reflected other preoccupations, influenced particularly by the arts of literature and painting, and their preoccupation with the remote and exotic, whether historical or geographical, or both. Early German romantic opera, for example, is found in Weber's Der Freischütz, with its plot involving woodmen and huntsmen and the mysterious midnight magic of the forest.
Rondo - Rondo (French: rondeau) form involves the use of a recurrent theme between a series of varied episodes, often used for the rapid final movement of a classical concerto or symphony.
Rubato - Rubato, (Italian: stolen), is a direction to allow a player a measure of freedom in performance. The phrase tempo rubato is also found.
Saltarello - The saltarello is a rapid Italian dance in triple metre, examples of which survive from the Middle Ages. The rhythm and energy of the dance are similar to those of the tarantella. A well known example appears in the final movement of Mendelssohn's 'Italian' Symphony.
Sarabande - The sarabande is a slow dance in triple metre, generally found in the baroque instrumental suite. The dance seems to have been Latin American in origin, imported from Latin America to Spain in the 16th century.
Sautillé - Fast spiccato that is created by the bow's own elasticity.
Saxophone - The saxophone, a single-reed instrument, was invented in the middle of the 19th century by Adolphe Sax. It is used widely in jazz, and has never been a permanent member of the symphony orchestra. Notable use is made of the saxophone by Ravel in his Boléro and in his orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, and other composers have used the instrument for special effects.
Scale - A scale is a sequence of notes placed in ascending or descending order by step.
Scherzando - literally- joking or jesting. Played in a light-hearted manner.
Scherzo - A scherzo is a light-hearted movement found from the early 17th century in various forms, but used by Beethoven as an alternative to the minuet in symphonies, sonatas and other instrumental forms. Chopin expanded the form very considerably. The diminutive scherzino or scherzetto is occasionally found, while scherzando occurs as a direction to performers. The scherzo, like the minuet, is generally used to frame a trio section of contrasted material.
Scherzoso - in a light-hearted manner.
Score - A musical score is written music that shows all parts. A conductor's score, for example, may have as many as thirty different simultaneous instrumental parts on one page, normally having the woodwind at the top, followed below by the brass, the percussion and the strings. A distinction is made between a vocal score, which gives voice parts with a simplified two-stave version of any instrumental parts, and a full score, which includes all vocal and instrumental parts generally on separate staves. To score a work is to write it out in score. A symphony, for example, might be sketched in short score, on two staves, and later orchestrated or scored for the required instruments.
Seguidilla - The seguidilla or seguidillas is a fairly quick triple-metre Spanish dance. There is a famous imitation of the form in Carmen's seguidilla in the first act of Bizet's opera Carmen.
Semi-opera - The term semi-opera has been coined to describe the English dramatic works of the later 17th century that combined spoken drama with a significant element of music, as in Purcell's King Arthur, with a text by Dryden, or in the same composer's The Fairy Queen, an adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Semplice - simply.
Sempre - Sempre (Italian: always) is found in directions to performers, as in sempre piano, always soft.
Senza - Senza (Italian: without) is found in directions to performers, particularly in phrases such as senza sordino, without mute.
Septet - A septet is a composition for seven players or the name for a group of seven players.
Serenade - A serenade (German: Serenade, Ständchen) is often similar in form to the divertimento. Etymologically a piece for evening performance, usually outdoors, the counterpart of the morning Aubade, the title came to have a much more general meaning, although it often suggests a piece of music in honour of someone or something, an extension of the traditional performance of a lover beneath the window of his mistress.
Serialism - Serialism is the important 20th century compositional technique that uses, as a basis of unity, a series of the twelve semitones of the octave in a certain order, which may then be taken in retrograde form, in inversion and in retrograde inversion, and also in transposition. The technique, an extension of late romantic chromaticism, was formulated by Arnold Schoenberg in the 1920s followed by his pupils Alban Berg and Anton Webern, and thereafter by many other composers. Problems arise for the listener in the difficulty of hearing the series, however visually apparent from the written score.
Sforzando - with sudden accent.
Serioso - serious.
Sextet - A sextet is a composition for six players or the name of a group of six players.
Sharp - A sharp, represented by the sign #, added before a note, raises its pitch by a semitone. In general terms music that is sharp may be simply out of tune, at too high a pitch.
Siciliana - The siciliana or siciliano (French: sicilienne) had its probable origin in a Sicilian shepherd dance or song. It came to be associated in the later 17th century with the pastoral, particularly in the Christmas Concerto of the period. The siciliana is normally in compound dotted rhythm and is slow and sometimes melancholy in mood.
Side-drum - The side-drum or snare drum is military in origin. It is a small drum, played with two wooden sticks, with a band of gut strings or wires that can be stretched across the under-surface of the drum to add a rattling effect when it is struck.
Simile - to continue to do something in the same way it was formerly notated such as pedaling or stacattos.
Simplice - simply.
Sinfonia - Sinfonia (Italian: symphony) in earlier usage indicated a passage or piece of instrumental music, sometimes an introductory piece, leading later to the Italian overture, known as the sinfonia before the opera, the origin of the Italian symphony.
Sinfonia concertante - The sinfonia concertante is a concerto that uses two or more solo instruments. The title was used in the later 18th century by Mozart, Haydn and their contemporaries, and has occasionally been used by composers since then.
Sinfonietta - A sinfonietta is a small symphony. The word is sometimes used to indicate a small orchestra.
Singspiel - A Singspiel is a German form of play with music. The word is used to indicate a stage work that makes some use of spoken dialogue, even in a context of primarily musical interest. Examples are found in Mozart's The Magic Flute and in Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio.
Slentando - gradually slower
Smorzando - dying away (in intensity and tempo.)
Sognando - dreaming.
Soli - plural of solo.
Solo - a piece or part of a piece of music played by one instrumentalist or vocalist.
Sonare - to sound.
Sonata - The title sonata originally designated music that was to be played rather than sung. The baroque sonata developed in two parallel forms. The first, the sonata da chiesa or church sonata, was generally of four movements in the order slow-fast-slow-fast, the faster movements fugal in character. The second, the sonata da camera or chamber sonata, was in essence a dance suite. Sonatas of this kind might be played by a melodic instrument with basso continuo or with a realised keyboard part, or in the form of trio sonatas, with two melody instruments and basso continuo, therefore normally involving four players. The classical sonata, instrumental music again generally in several movements, might involve one or more instruments. There was in particular a development of the solo keyboard sonata, from Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach to Beethoven. Duo sonatas, generally using a keyboard instrument and a melody instrument, developed from an earlier form in which the melody instrument predominated to a form in which the keyboard assumed greater importance, with an optional accompaniment from a melody instrument. Greater degrees of equality between the two were achieved in the later violin sonatas of Mozart and the violin sonatas and cello sonatas of Beethoven. The 19th century brought an expansion of the sonata and greater freedom in the treatment of existing forms, often with more considerable technical demands on performers, as in the violin and piano sonatas and cello and piano sonatas of Brahms.
Sonata-form - Sonata-form, otherwise known with similar inaccuracy as first movement form or sonata-allegro form, developed during the second half of the 18th century as a principal form in instrumental music, from Haydn onwards. The form is based on a triple division of a movement into exposition, development and recapitulation. The first section normally contains two contrasting subjects, the first in the tonic key and the second in the dominant key or in the relative major of a minor key movement. The section ends with a coda or codetta. The middle section, the development, offers varied treatment of themes or parts of themes that have already been heard. The recapitulation brings back the first and second subjects now in the tonic key. The movement ends with a coda. The form is used for all kinds of instrumental music, from sonatas to symphonies, and is expanded and varied in a number of ways.
Sonatina - A sonatina is a little sonata, simpler in structure and shorter in length than a sonata.
Soprano - The soprano is the highest kind of female voice. The word may be used as an adjective to describe instruments of higher range, such as the soprano saxophone, or to qualify the word clef, the soprano clef, now little used, puts a C clef on the bottom line of the stave.
Sordino - mute.
Sospirando - sighing.
Sostenuto - Sostenuto (Italian: sustained) is a direction to performers to play smoothly.
Sotto - lower.
Sotto voce - in a subdued manner.
Spiccato - a controlled bouncing bow.
Spinet - The spinet is a small form of harpsichord.
Staff - The staff or stave (plural: staves) indicates the set of lines used for the notation of notes of different pitches. The five-line stave is in general use, with a four-line stave used for plainchant. Staves of other numbers of lines were once used. The system, with coloured lines for C and for F, followed principles suggested first by Guido of Arezzo in the 11th century. Staff notation is the system of notation that uses the stave.
Stentando - expanding.
Stop - The stop on an organ is the device that brings into operation a particular set of pipes.
Strepitoso - clacking.
Stretto - In a fugue stretto is the device by which a second voice enters with the subject overlapping a first voice, rather than starting after the completion of the subject by the first voice. The word is sometimes used to indicate a faster speed, particularly at the climax of a movement.
String - String instruments are chordophones, instruments that sound by the vibration of a string of a certain tension. The string section of the modern orchestra uses first and second violins, violas, cellos and double basses. A string trio consists of violin, viola and cello; a string quartet consists of two violins, viola and cello and a string quintet either of two violins, two violas and cello, as in the case of Mozart's work in this form, or of two violins, viola and two cellos, as in the case of Schubert's famous C major String Quintet and the Quintets of Boccheri. Other numbers and combinations of string instruments are possible in other ensembles.
Stringendo - pressing onwards.
Study - A study (French: étude; German: Etüde) is a piece of music originally designed primarily for the technical development of the player. Studies came, however, to be compositions of considerable musical distinction, as in the case of the Etudes of Chopin or of Debussy.
Subito - suddenly.
Subject - A subject is a theme or group of themes.
Suite - A suite is an instrumental piece consisting of several shorter pieces. The baroque suite generally contains a series of dance movements, in particular the allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue. Later suites of all kinds exist, some formed by extracts of a larger work, an opera, ballet or incidental music.
Sympathetic Vibration - Sympathetic vibration occurs when the vibration of one drumhead, cymbal, etc. causes another drumhead, or cymbal to vibrate. For example, when the top head a snare drum is struck the vibrations from the top head cause the bottom head to vibrate.
Symphony - Originally indicating a generally instrumental section or composition, as in the case of the brief instrumental introduction to Monteverdi's opera Orfeo, the symphony came to be the principal serious orchestral form of the later 18th century and thereafter. This later form of the symphony (Italian: sinfonia) has its immediate origin in the three-movement Italian overture to opera found in the work of Alessandro Scarlatti in the late 17th and early 18th century. The Italian overture opens with a fast movement, followed by a slow movement and a final fast dance-movement in triple metre. The function of the symphony as an overture continued into the second half of the 18th century, to be replaced more generally by its new function as an isolated orchestral form. The classical symphony of Haydn and Mozart is generally in four movements, opening with a sonata-form allegro, followed by a slow movement, a minuet and trio and a rondo finale. With Beethoven the symphony grew in size and ambition, an example followed later by Brahms, Bruckner and others. In the 19th century and into the 20th century the symphony, now much expanded, remained the most respected and demanding form that a composer might tackle. A symphony may loosely be defined as an orchestral composition generally in several movements.
Tacet - used to indicate to the musician not to play this piece or section.
Tafelmusik - Tafelmusik (German: table-music; = French: musique de table), indicates music used to accompany banquets. Telemann provides a well known example in three sets of Musique de Table, more commonly seen now under the German title, Tafelmusik.
Tambourine - The tambourine is a small single-headed hand-drum with jingles in its wooden frame. It is an instrument of some antiquity, but first found an occasional place in the symphony orchestra only in the 19th century, when it came to be used for exotic effects, as in the Capriccio espagnol and Sheherazade of Rimsky-Korsakov, where it gives a touch of the Spanish and the Middle Eastern respectively.
Tam-tam - The tam-tam is a gong, an instrument of Chinese origin in its Western orchestral form. It is first found in this context towards the end of the 18th century, when it is used for dramatic effect. Gustav Holst makes use of the tam-tam in Mars, from The Planets, and sets of gongs of a more obviously oriental kind are used by Puccini in his operas Madama Butterfly and Turandot.
Tanto - Tanto (Italian: so much) is occasionally found in tempo indications, as in allegro ma non tanto, similar in meaning, if slightly weaker than allegro ma non troppo, allegro but not too much.
Tarantella - The tarantella is a folk-dance from the Southern Italian town of Taranto. A 6/8 metre dance of some rapidity, it has been connected, by a process of false etymology, with the tarantula spider and either the effects of its bite or a means of its cure. There are well known examples in piano pieces by Chopin and by Liszt.
Te Deum - The Te Deum (Latin: We praise Thee, O Lord) is a canticle sung in thanksgiving and forming a part of the Divine Office, where it appears after Matins on Sundays and major feast days. It later formed part of the Church of England morning service. Well known examples are found in two settings by Handel, the Utrecht Te Deum and the Dettingen Te Deum , with more elaborate settings in the 19th century from Berlioz and Bruckner.
Temperaments - Temperaments are the various alterations of strict tuning necessary for practical purposes. Equal temperament, now in general use, involves the division of the octave into twelve equal semitones, a procedure that necessitates some modification of intervals from their true form, according to the ratios of physics. Equal temperament, exemplified in Johann Sebastian Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues for the Well-Tempered Clavier, won gradual acceptance in the 18th century, replacing earlier systems of tuning. It has been plausibly suggested that the system of equal temperament was borrowed from China, where its mathematical basis was published towards the end of the 16th century.
Tempo - Tempo (Italian: time) means the speed at which a piece of music is played. Sometimes the exact tempo is given at the beginning of a piece of music with the number of beats to a minute, as measured by a metronome. More often tempo indications give the performer more latitude, although the Hungarian composer Belá Bartók, for example, gives exact timings, often of each section of a work. In much earlier music the tempo is implicit in the notation or in the type of music.
Tempo Giusto - in exact tempo.
Tempo I - resume opening tempo.
Tempo Primo - resume opening tempo.
Tempo Rubato - in tempo ad libitum.
Teneramente - tenderly.
Tenerezza - tenderness.
Tenor - The tenor voice is the highest male voice, except for the falsetto or otherwise produced register of the male alto and male soprano. In the Middle Ages the word had a different meaning. The tenor part of a vocal composition was the thematic basis, borrowed often from plainchant. The tenor voice came to assume the principal rôles in opera, largely replacing the castrato by the later 18th century. Various forms of tenor voice are demanded, particularly in opera, where the strong Heldentenor, (heroic tenor), met the requirements of Wagner, while other composers made use of lighter-voiced lyric tenors. The word tenor is also used adjectivally to describe instruments with a pitch lying between bass and alto, as, for example, the tenor trombone or, in earlier times, the tenor violin. The tenor clef, a C clef placed on the second line from the top of the five-line stave, is used for the upper registers of the cello and bassoon and for the tenor trombone.
Tenuta - see tenuto.
Tenute - see tenuto.
Tenuto - held on.
Ternary form - Ternary form is a tripartite musical structure, three-part song-form, in which the third part is an exact or modified repetition of the first. Standard examples of ternary form can be heard in the minuet and trio movements of Haydn and Mozart or in the more expanded scherzo and trio movements of Beethoven.
Theme - A theme is a complete tune or melody which is of fundamental importance in a piece of music. Thematic metamorphosis or thematic transformation describes a process used by Liszt and others in which a theme may undergo transformation to provide material to sustain other movements or sections of a work, where new and apparently unrelated themes might otherwise have been used.
Theremin - The theremin, an electronic instrument invented by Léon Thérémin, a scientist of French origin who lived and worked in Russia, has the original feature of being played without the performer touching it. Frequencies and dynamics are controlled by the movement of the player's hands in the air, with pitch varying according to the distance of the right hand from an antenna and dynamics varying by the similar use of the left hand.
Time - Time, unlike the word tempo, which means speed or pace, is used in music for the metrical divisions or bar-lengths of a piece of music. These are indicated by two numbers at the beginning of a work or at the introduction of a changed time by two numbers that form a time-signature. The higher of the two numbers shows how many beats there are in a bar, while the lower number shows what kind of note it is. In this way a duple time-signature of 2/4 means that each bar consists of two quarter notes or crotchets or their equivalent in notes of shorter or longer duration. An indication of compound time such as 6/8 shows that there are six quavers or eighth notes in each bar, although in faster speeds these will be in two groups of three. Prime higher numbers such as five or seven necessitate asymmetrical groupings of notes.
Timpani - Timpani, kettledrums, unlike most other drums, have a definite pitch, tuned nowadays by pedals, but in earlier times by taps that served the same purpose, tightening or slackening the skin to produce higher or lower notes. In the later 18th century pairs of timpani were generally used in conjunction with pairs of trumpets, both instruments being of military origin. Beethoven made novel use of the timpani, as in his Violin Concerto, where they play an important part. Other composers made still greater use of the timpani, most eccentrically Berlioz, who calls for sixteen timpani and ten players in his Grande Messe des morts (Requiem).
Toccata - A toccata is an instrumental piece, often designed to display the technical proficiency of a performer and found particularly in keyboard music from the 15th century onwards. There are notable examples in the organ music of Johann Sebastian Bach, with some toccatas containing a series of movements.
Tombeau - Tombeau (French: tomb, tomb-stone) is a title used by French composers in tributes offered to predecessors or contemporaries. Ravel had recourse to this baroque title in his 1914 Tombeau de Couperin.
Tone poem - A tone poem (German: Tondichtung) is a symphonic poem, an orchestral composition that seeks to express extra-musical ideas in music. The term Tondichtung was preferred by Richard Strauss, a master of the form.
Tranquillamente - tranquilly.
Tranquillo - tranquil.
Transcription - Music may be transcribed or arranged for instruments other than those for which it was originally designed. Well known transcriptions are found among the short pieces arranged for violin and piano by the famous violinist Fritz Kreisler.
Transposition - Music may be transposed when the original key is changed, a process all too necessary in accompanying singers and for whom a transposition of the music down a tone or two may be necessary. Some instruments are known as transposing instruments because the written notes for them sound higher or lower than the apparent written pitch, when they are played.
Transverse flute - The orchestral flute (Italian: flauto traverso) is transverse, held horizontally, as opposed to the recorder, which is held vertically.
Tre Corda - three strings. Means to release the soft pedal.
Treble - The treble voice is a voice in the higher register. The word is generally used for the unbroken voice of boys, although the register may be similar to that of the female soprano. Treble instruments are instruments of higher register and the G clef in use for this register is commonly known as the treble clef. Originally the treble or triplum was the third part added above a duplum or second additional part, lying above the lowest part, the tenor of the medieval motet.
Tremolo - Tremolo (Italian: trembling) indicates the quick repetition of a note, particularly in string-playing. This is impossible on the keyboard with a single note, but tremolo effects can be achieved by playing in rapid alternation two notes of a chord.
Triangle - The triangle is now part of the orchestral percussion section. It is an instrument of indefinite pitch made from a steel bar bent into the shape of an equilateral triangle and is played by being struck with a steel beater or, for softer effects, a wooden stick. It was used occasionally in opera in the earlier 18th century, but came into its own with the Turkish music of, for example, Mozart's opera The Abduction from the Seraglio (Die Entführung aus dem Serail). Its appearance in Liszt's E flat Piano Concerto in 1853 caused some amusement among hostile critics. Tremolo effects are occasionally demanded.
Trill - A trill is a musical ornament made by the more or less rapid alternation of a note and the note above, in the classical period generally starting on the latter.
Trio - A trio is a composition designed for three players or the name of a group of three players. The word also indicates the central contrasting section framed by a repeated minuet or scherzo.
Trio sonata - The trio sonata, the most popular of middle and late Baroque instrumental forms, is a sonata for two melody instruments and basso continuo, usually a bass instrument and a chordal instrument, and consequently usually calls for four players. Trio sonatas are found at their best in the work of Corelli at the end of the 17th century. These consist of two sets of a dozen church sonatas (sonate da chiesa) and two sets of a dozen chamber sonatas (sonate da camera). There are distinguished later examples by Telemann, Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach, although the six organ Trio Sonatas by Bach interweave three strands of melody, one for each hand and one for the feet, and are, of course, for one player.
Trombone - The trombone made its first appearance in the middle of the 15th century. It is a brass instrument with a cup-shaped mouthpiece and a slide that enables the player to shorten or lengthen the tube and hence the notes of a particular harmonic series. The early trombone was known in English as a sackbut. The instrument had ceremonial associations and in the later 18th century was only occasionally used in the orchestra, notably by Mozart in his masonic opera The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) and in his Requiem Mass. With Beethoven the trombone becames an accepted if not indispensable part of the orchestra.
Troppo - Troppo (Italian: too much) is found in tempo indications, warning a player not to overdo an effect, as in allegro ma non troppo, allegro but not too much.
Troubadour - Troubadours were the court poets and composers of Southern France in the 12th and 13th centuries. The trouvères flourished particularly in the 13th century to the north of the country. Their surviving music forms an important body of secular song from this period.
Trumpet - The trumpet has a long remoter ancestry. The modern trumpet, a standard member of the brass section of the orchestra, differs from its predecessors in its use of three valves, by which the length of the tube can be changed to produce the notes of the harmonic series from different fundamentals. Baroque trumpeters came to specialise in the use of the upper or clarino register of the valveless natural trumpet, a register in which adjacent notes were possible. Experiments during the 18th century led to the short-lived keyed trumpet, which could play adjacent notes in the lower register as well. This was used by Haydn in his 1796 Trumpet Concerto. The valve trumpet came into relatively common use in the second quarter of the 19th century. Trumpets are built in various keys, although the B flat and C trumpets are now most often found.
Tuba - The tuba provides the bass of the orchestral brass section, with varying numbers of valves to allow the shortening and lengthening of the tube. It was developed in the second quarter of the 19th century.
Tubular bells - Tubular bells, tuned metal tubes suspended from a vertical frame, are used in the percussion section of the modern orchestra for special effects, making their earlier appearance primarily in opera.
Tuning-fork - The tuning-fork, an English invention of the early 18th century, is a two-pronged metal device used to give a note of fixed pitch when it is struck against a hard surface. Its musical use is for the tuning of other instruments to a standard pitch.
Turca - Alla turca (Italian: in the Turkish manner) is found in descriptive titles of music towards the end of the 18th century and thereafter, as in Mozart's well known Rondo alla Turca, Rondo in the Turkish Style. Turkish music, at that period, was superficially imitated, principally by the use of triangle, cymbals and bass drum, added to a supposedly typical melody of martial character, derived remotely from the Janissary band.
Tutti - Tutti (Italian: all) is used in orchestral music to distinguish the part of a solo instrument from that of the rest of the section or orchestra. In English this Italian plural adjective has come to be used as a noun, as in the phrase 'an orchestral tutti', meaning a passage played by the whole orchestra, or at least not specifically by solo instruments.
Twelve-note composition - Twelve-note composition is composition by the use of the twelve semitones of the octave in a predetermined order or series, which may be inverted, written in retrograde form or in retrograde inversion, and transposed. The system of composition, developed by Arnold Schoenberg in the early 20th century, has had a strong influence over the course of music of the 20th century (see Serialism).
Un - one.
Una - one.
Una Corda - one string. Means to apply the soft pedal on a piano. It is so named because on grand pianos, applying the soft pedal moves the hammers to such a position that they strike only one string instead of three.
Unison - Unison is the simultaneous sounding of the same note by two or more singers or players. Unison songs are not in different parts, with all singers singing the tune together.
Up Bow - the bow is pushe up from tip.
Valse - waltz.
Variations - Variation form involves the repetition of a theme in changed versions. It is possible to vary the melody, its rhythm and its harmony, or to vary by addition. Early variation forms include the chaconne and the passacaglia, originally dances based on variations on a simple repeated bass or chordal pattern. Later examples of variations include Elgar's well known Enigma Variations and the Handel, Haydn and Paganini Variations of Brahms.
Veloce - rapidly.
Verismo - Verismo (Italian: realism) is used in connection with the attempts at realism in late 19th century Italian opera, particularly with Mascagni's opera Cavalleria rusticana, followed by Leoncavallo's Pagliacci.
Vespers - Vespers is the evening service of the Divine Office, elements of which have proved suitable for more elaborate setting than the normal plainchant. Particularly notable in this respect is the 1610 compilation by Monteverdi for his published Vespers in Honour of the Blessed Virgin.
Vibraphone - A vibraphone is a form of metallophone with resonators below its horizontally arranged metal bars and a mechanism to allow a vibrato effect, giving the instrument a characteristic resonance. It has been used for special effects by a number of 20th century composers.
Vibrato - Vibrato is a technique of vibration used on various instruments and by singers, at one time used sparingly or not at all, but tending to over-use from performers anxious to conceal poor intonation. In strings-even pulsation or rapid vibration of the fingers of the left hand produced by a combination of finger and arm movement.
Vigoroso - vigorous.
Viol - Viols are bowed string instruments usually held downwards and therefore described as viole da gamba, (leg-viols), as opposed to instruments like the violin and its predecessors, held horizontally and described as viole da braccio, (arm-viols). Viols are made in various sizes, generally with six strings and with frets, lengths of gut tied round the neck and fingerboard of the instrument to show the position of the notes. Viols were the most important bowed string instruments from the 15th century, but were gradually superseded by instruments of the violin family, leaving only one form of double bass as a survivor. The revival of interest in earlier music has brought a marked revival in the fortunes of the viol, most recently in cinematic attention to the famous 17th century player and composer Marin Marais. In the 16th and 17th centuries consorts or chests of viols, sets of matched instruments of different size and range, were much in use, often as a means of domestic music-making. The viol is often incorrectly referred to in English as a gamba, an etymological solecism.
Viola - The viola (German: Bratsche; French: alto) is the tenor of the modern violin family, with a range that extends a fifth below that of the violin and starts an octave above that of the cello. Violas are built in various sizes and were at one time used for both the alto and tenor registers. Experiments were made, starting in the later 19th century, to produce an instrument of sufficient size to provide the desired resonance while remaining small enough to be manageable, and more recently a larger instrument, played downwards like a cello and not held horizontally like a violin, has been devised. Violas take the tenor part in the string section of the modern orchestra and in string quartets, while the solo concerto and duo sonata repertoire of the instrument, starting in the early 18th century, has been considerably enlarged in the 20th.
Viola d'amore - The viola d'amore, used principally in the 17th and 18th centuries, is a bowed instrument generally with seven bowed strings and seven sympathetic strings, tuned to vibrate in sympathy with the playing strings. The instrument has a peculiar resonance of its own and has a small but interesting modern repertoire.
Violin - The violin, a bowed instrument with four strings, is used to provide the soprano and alto parts in the string section of the modern orchestra and the string quartet. It was developed in something approaching its modern form in the 16th century, gradually coming to occupy an unrivalled position because of its remarkable acoustical properties and its versatility. Particular distinction was added by the great violin-makers of Northern Italy and of the Austrian Tyrol, while the later 18th century brought gradual changes of construction of both bow and instrument to provide greater resonance.
Violone - The violone is the double bass of the viol family, although the word was once occasionally used with less accuracy to indicate the cello or any large viol.
Virginal - The virginal is a small harpsichord of varied shape and size. The word was used very generally in England in the 16th and 17th centuries for instruments of this type, with a keyboard and a mechanism by which quills plucked the horizontally stretched strings. The etymology of the word is uncertain, although it allowed obvious scope for Elizabethan and Jacobean punsters.
Vivace - Vivace, lively, is commonly used as an indication of tempo.
Vivacity - vivacity, liveliness.
Vivo - life, vivacity.
Vocalise - A vocalise is a vocal work, whether an exercise or not, that has no words. There is a well known and frequently transcribed Vocalise by Rachmaninov, and vocalisation is also called for in an orchestral context with the chorus parts of Neptune in Holst's suite The Planets.
Voce - voice.
Voci - voices.
Voice - Voice is used technically in music to indicate a particular musical line, even if this is intended for an instrumentalist and not a singer. The American 'voice-leading' is the equivalent of the English 'part-writing', writing different parts or lines of music for simultaneous performance.
Volante - in a light flying manner.
Volti Subito(V.S.) - turn over quickly.
Waltz - The waltz (French: valse; German: Walzer), a dance in triple time, became the most popular of all ball-room dances in the 19th century, typified in Vienna by the compositions and performances of the Strauss family. As a purely instrumental form, the waltz provided an apt vehicle for composers from Chopin to Ravel.
Woodwind - The woodwind section of the modern orchestra includes flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons and related instruments, although flutes are generally no longer made of wood. These instruments are all aerophones, blowing instruments, the sound produced by blowing across an aperture in the case of the flute, by the vibration of a single reed in the case of the clarinet and by the vibration of double reeds in the case of the oboe and the bassoon.
Xylophone - The xylophone, a percussion instrument with sets of horizontally arranged wooden bars to be struck by wooden sticks is used by composers from the 19th century onwards for special effects, as in the Danse macabre of Saint-Saëns, with its dancing skeletons, and in Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly.
Yodel - a type of singing that utilizes abrupt alernation between the chest voice and falsetto. Many times, yodeling is done with nonsence syallables. Popular among the mountain people of Switzerland and the Austrian Tyrol.
Yodeler - one who yodels. (also yodeller or yodler)
Yodle - same as Yodel.
Zinke - an obsolete wind instrument in the shape of the cornet.
Zither - an instrument that has 30-40 strings stretched across a soundboard; played with a plectrum.
Zitherist - one who plays the zither.
Zithern - same as Zither.
Samuel Stokes ● Samuelstokes@yahoo.com ● 816-509-2207