Musical Terms

Musical terms

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Standard Abbreviations

Abbreviation Term Abbreviation Term
A alto mp mezzo-piano
accel. accelerando op opus
allarg. allargando P pedal
andte andante p piano
B bass pf pianoforte
calo calando pp pianissimo
can. canon ppp pianississimo
can. canto rall. rallentando
cresc. crescendo rf rinforzando
DC da capo rit. ritardando
decresc. decrescendo rit. ritenuto
dim. / dimin. diminuendo S soprano
dol. dolce sen. senza
DS dal segno sf / sfz sforzando
f forte T tenor
ff fortissimo ten. tenuto
fff fortississimo WoO Werke ohne Opuszahl
fp fortepiano 2/4 two-four time
fz forzando 3/4 three-four time
mf mezzo-forte 4/4 four-four time
mod. moderato

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A dictionary of terms


Click on any letter above to go straight to terms starting with that letter

Term Definition
A • the sixth note of the diatonic scale of C major / the key or scale having that note for its tonic
a cappella • one or more vocalists performing without an accompaniment
a poco • a little, gradually
a tempo • in time, ie revert to the previous or original tempo
accelerando • gradually faster
accessible • music that is easy to listen to and understand
adagietto • slow, but not as slow as adagio
adagio • very slow
affettuoso • tender / tenderly
agitato • agitated, rapid
al fine • to the finish
aleatoric • in which chance influences the choice of notes
aleatory • aleatoric / aleatoric music
alla • in the style of
alla marcia • in the manner of a march
allargando • gradually slower and broader
allegretto • light and moderately quick, but not as quick as allegro
allegro • rapid, lively
alternatim • alternating between polyphonic harmonization of plainsong and unadorned plainsong
altissimo • very high
alto • the highest male voice (properly countertenor) / the lowest female voice (also contralto) / a person possessing such a voice / a part for such a voice / an instrument of corresponding range
amoroso • in a loving or tender manner
andante • moderately slow, but moving
andantino • generally a little quicker than andante
animato • spirited
appassionato • intensely, passionately, with feeling
arco • (also coll’arco) with the bow (a direction marking the end of a pizzicato passage)
arco saltando • with rebounding bow
arioso • in the melodious manner of an aria, or between aria and recitative / a piece in this style
assai • very
athematic • not using themes as a basis
atonal • music that is written and performed without regard to any specific key
augmented • a semitone higher than perfect or major
authentic • applied in music to medieval modes (eg Gregorian chants) having their sounds within the octave above the final (cf plagal)
B • the seventh note of the diatonic scale of C major (H in German notation, B being used for B flat) / the key or scale having that note for its tonic
baroque • time in music history ranging from the middle of the 16th to the middle of the 17th centuries: characterized by emotional, flowery music; written in strict form
bass • a bass singer (often in the Italian form basso)
bass • the lowest part in music / low, deep / low in pitch and range / a bass instrument
bass clef • the clef in which the F a fifth below middle C is written on the fourth line of the stave
basso • a bass singer (Italian)
beat • the unit of musical rhythm
bis • a direction indicating that a section is to be repeated
brilliante • brilliantly
broken • (of a chord) played as an arpeggio
C • the first note of the diatonic scale of C major, the sound on which the system is founded / the key or scale having that note for its tonic
cadence • a sequence of chords that brings an end to a phrase, either in the middle or the end of a composition
cadenza • originally an improvised cadence by a soloist: later it became a written out passage to display performance skills of an instrumentalist or performer
calando • gradually slowing with diminishing volume
cancrizans • of a canon, having the imitating vocal part repeating the theme backwards
canon • a musical form where the melody or tune is imitated by individual parts at regular intervals: the individual parts may enter at different measures and pitches: the tune may also be played at different speeds, backwards, or inverted
cantabile • in a singing style
cantata • music written for chorus and orchestra: most often religious in nature
canto • the part in a piece of music that carries the melody / the highest part in a piece of choral music (also cantus)
cantus • a melody or chant, esp in medieval ecclesiastical music / the highest part in a piece of choral music (also canto)
capriccio • a quick, improvisational, spirited piece of music
capriccioso • in a free style
carol • a song or hymn celebrating christmas
castrato • male singers who were castrated to preserve their alto and soprano vocal range
cavatina • a short and simple melody performed by a soloist that is part of a larger piece
chamber music • written for 2 to 10 solo parts featuring one instrument to a part: each part bears the same importance
chant • singing in unison, texts in a free rhythm: similar to the rhythm of speech
choir • group of singers in a chorus
chorale • a hymn sung by the choir and congregation often in unison
chord • 3 or 4 notes played simultaneously in harmony
chord progression • a string of chords played in succession
chorus • a group singing in unison
chromatic • by semi-tones
chromatic scale • includes all twelve notes of an octave
classical • the period of music history which dates from the mid 1700’s to mid 1800’s: the music was spare and emotionally reserved, especially when compared to romantic and boroque music
classicism • the period of music history which dates from the mid 1800’s and lasted about sixty years: there was a strong regard for order and balance
clavier • the keyboard of a stringed instrument
clef • in sheet music, a symbol at the beginning of the staff defining the pitch of the notes found in that particular staff
coda • closing section of a movement
coll’arco / col arco • with the bow (a direction marking the end of a pizzicato passage)
coloratura • embellished vocal passages including runs, trills, etc / florid, embellished
coloratura soprano • a high and flexible soprano voice, capable of singing coloratura passages / a singer with such a voice
commodo / comodo • with ease, relaxed
compound time • time in which each bar is made up of two or more simple measures, each divided into three
con amore • with tenderness
con anima • with animation, spirited
con brio • with spirit, brilliantly
con calore • with warmth, passionately
con dolore • with grief, mournfully
con espressione • with expression
con forza • with force
con fuoco • with fire
con grazia • with graceful style
con moto • with motion
con sordino • (of an instrument) played with a mute
con spirito • with spirit, brilliance
concert master • the first violin in an orchestra
concerted • arranged in parts
concerto • a composition written for a solo instrument: the soloist plays the melody while the orchestra plays the accompaniment
conductor • one who directs a group of performers: the conductor indicates the tempo, phrasing, dynamics, and style by gestures and facial expressions
conjunct • of or relating to two adjacent degrees of a scale
consecutive • parallel
consonance • groups of tones that are harmonious when sounded together as in a chord
contralto • lowest female singing voice
counterpoint • two or three melodic lines played at the same time
countertenor • the highest alto male voice / a person possessing such a voice / a part for such a voice
courante • a piece of music written in triple time: also an old french dance
crab canon • a canon in which the notes of the theme are repeated in reverse order
crescendo • gradually louder /an increase of loudness /a passage of increasing loudness
D • the second note of the diatonic scale of C major / the key or scale having that note for its tonic
da capo • from the beginning / return to the beginning
dal segno • from the sign / an indication that the performer must return to the sign
deceptive cadence • a chord progression that seems to lead to resolving itself on the final chord; but does not
decrescendo • gradually softer / becoming quieter / diminuendo
development • where the musical themes and melodies are developed, written in sonata form
diastaltic • [Greek music] (of intervals) extended / (of style) bold
diazeuctic • [Greek music] the separation of two tetrachords by a whole tone
diminished • a semitone lower than perfect or minor
diminuendo • gradually softer / a decrease in loudness / a passage of decreasing loudness
disjunct • [Greek music] (of tetrachords) having the highest note of the lower and the lowest of the upper a tone or semitone apart
dissonance • harsh, discordant, and lack of harmony: also a chord that sounds incomplete until it resolves itself on a harmonious chord
do • the first note of the scale in sol-fa notation (anglicised to doh)
dodecaphonic • twelve-tone
doh • see do
dolce • sweet / sweetly / a soft-toned organ stop
dolcemente • softly and sweetly
doloroso • in a soft and sorrowful manner
Dorian mode • [Greek music] a mode of ancient Greek music consisting of two tetrachords with a semitone between the two lowest notes in each, the tetrachords separated by a whole tone (as efga or bcde, but reckoned downwards by the Greeks), traditionally of a stirring, solemn, simple and martial quality
double • duple, having two beats in a bar / sounding an octave lower
drone • dull, monotonous tone such as a humming or buzzing sound: also a bass note held under a melody
duet • a piece of music written for two vocalists or instrumentalists
duple • having two beats in the bar
dynamics • pertaining to the loudness or softness of a musical composition: also the symbols in sheet music indicating volume
E • the third note of the diatonic scale of C major / the key or scale having that note for its tonic
eight-foot • having the pitch of an open organ-pipe eight feet long, or having that pitch for the lowest note
elegy • an instrumental lament with praise for the dead
encore • a piece of music played at the end of a recital responding to the audiences enthusiastic reaction to the performance, shown by continuous applause
energico • energetically
enharmonic interval • two notes that differ in name only: the notes occupy the same position: for example: c sharp and d flat
ensemble • the performance of either all instruments of an orchestra or voices in a chorus
espressivo • expressively
etude • a musical composition or study written to improve technique and often performed for artistic interest
euharmonic • resulting in perfect harmony
exposition • the first section of a movement written in sonata form, introducing the melodies and themes
expressionism • atonal and violent style used as a means of evoking heightened emotions and states of mind
F • the fourth note of the diatonic scale of C major / the key or scale having that note for its tonic
fa • the fourth note of the scale in sol-fa notation (anglicised to fah)
fah • see fa
falsetto • a style of male singing where by partial use of the vocal chords, the voice is able to reach the pitch of a female
fermata • a hold or pause
fifth • the interval between two notes: three whole tones and one semitone make up the distance between the two notes
figurate • florid
finale • movement or passage that concludes the musical composition
flat • a symbol indicating that the note is to be diminished by one semitone
form • the structure of a piece of music
forte • loud / loudly / a loud passage
fortepiano • loud with immediate relapse into softness
fortissimo • very loud / a very loud passage
fortississimo • as loud as possible
forzando • see sforzando
forzato • see sforzando
four-four • with four crotchets to the bar
four-four time • the time signature indicating four crochets to the bar
fourth • the interval between two notes: two whole tones and one semitone make up the distance between the two notes
free-reed • Having a reed that does not touch the side of the aperture
fugue • a composition written for three to six voices: beginning with the exposition, each voice enters at different times, creating counterpoint with one another
furioso • furiously
G • the fifth note of the diatonic scale of C major / the key or scale having that note for its tonic
G clef • see treble clef
galliard • music written for a lively french dance for two performers written in triple time
gavotte • a 17th century dance written in quadruple time, always beginning on the third beat of the measure
giocoso • in a lively or humorous manner
giusto • suitable / regular / strict/ in strict time / at a reasonable speed
glee • vocal composition written for three or more solo parts, usually without instrumental accompaniment
glissando • sliding between two notes
grandioso • grand or noble style
grave • very slow and solemn / in a solemn manner
grazioso • gracefully
gregorian chant • singing or chanting in unison without strict rhythm: collected during the reign of pope gregory viii for psalms and other other parts of the church service
harmony • pleasing combination of two or three tones played together in the background while a melody is being played: harmony also refers to the study of chord progressions
heptatonic • consisting of seven notes
homophony • music written to be sung or played in unison
hymn • a song of praise and glorification: most often to honor god
hyperdorian • [Greek music] above the Dorian mode / applied in ancient Greek music to a mode having as its lower tetrachord the upper tetrachord of the Dorian (as: b c d e; e f g a; b)
hypophrygian • [Greek music] below the Phrygian mode / applied in ancient Greek music to a mode having as its upper tetrachord the lower tetrachord of the Phrygian (as: g; a b c d; d e f g), and in old church music to a plagal mode extending from b to b, with e for its final
Iastic • [Greek music] Ionian
Iastic mode • [Greek music] the Ionian, hypophrygian or hyperdorian mode of ancient Greek music
imperfect • (in mensural notation) a note value containing two of the next lower note values
impromptu • a short piano piece, often improvisational and intimate in character
in altissimo • in the octave beginning on the G two octaves and a fifth above middle C
instrumentation • arrangement of music for a combined number of instruments
interlude • piece of instrumental music played between scenes in a play or opera
intermezzo • short movement or interlude connecting the main parts of the composition
interpretation • the expression the performer brings when playing his instrument
interval • the distance in pitch between two notes
intonation • the manner in which tones are produced with regard to pitch
introduction • the opening section of a piece of music or movement
key • system of notes or tones based on and named after the key note
key signature • the flats and sharps at the beginning of each staff line indicating the key of music the piece is to be played
keyed • set to a particular key
klangfarbenmelodie • the technique of altering the tone color of a single note or musical line by changing from one instrument to another in the middle of a note or line
la • the sixth note of the scale in sol-fa notation (anglicised to lah)
labial • sounded by the impact of air on a lip-like projection, such as an organ flue pipe
lacrimoso • plaintive or plaintively
lagrimoso • plaintive or plaintively
lah • see la
larghetto • slow, but not as slow as largo
largo • very slow and broad
leading note • the seventh note of the scale where there is a strong desire to resolve on the tonic
legato • smooth and connected
leitmotif • a musical theme given to a particular idea or main character of an opera
lentamente • slowly, in slow time
lentando • slowing
lentissimo • very slow or slowly
lento • slow / slowly
libretto • a book of text containing the words of an opera
ligature • curved line connecting notes to be sung or played as a phrase
l’istesso • the same
ma non troppo • but not too much
madrigal • a contrapuntal song written for at least three voices, usually without accompaniment
maestoso • majestically
maestro • refers to any great composer, conductor, or teacher of music
major • one of the two modes of the tonal system: music written in major keys have a positive affirming character
mancando • fading away
marcato • marked, with emphasis
march • a form of music written for marching in two-step time: originally the march was used for military processions
martellato • played with a hammering touch, or with short quick detached strokes of the bow
marziale • martial
me • see mi
measure • the unit of measure where the beats on the lines of the staff are divided up into two, three, four beats to a measure
medley • often used in overtures, a composition that uses passages from other movements of the composition in its entirety
meno • less
meno mosso • not so fast
mensurable • having a fixed relative time-value for each note
mensural • measurable
mesto • sad
mezza voce • with medium volume or tone / played or sung in this style / singing in this style
mezzo • medium, half
mezzo • voice between soprano and contralto
mezzo-forte • moderately loud / moderately loudly
mezzo-piano • moderately soft / moderately softly
mezzo-soprano • voice between soprano and contralto / a person possessing such a voice
mi • the third note of the scale in sol-fa notation (anglicised to me)
microtone • an interval less than a semitone
minor • one of the two modes of the tonal system: the minor mode can be identified by the dark, melancholic mood
minuet • slow and stately dance music written in triple time
moderato • moderately / at a moderate speed / a movement or passage to be played at this speed
modes • either of the two octave arrangements in modern music: the modes are either major or minor
modulation • to shift to another key
molto • very
monotone • repetition of a single tone
morendo • dying away, in speed and tone
mosso • motion, movement
motif • primary theme or subject that is developed
movement • a separate section of a larger composition
musette • a boroque dance with a drone-bass
musicology • the study of forms, history, science, and methods of music
natural • a symbol in sheet music that returns a note to its original pitch after it has been augmented or diminished
neoclassical • movement in music where the characteristics are crisp and direct
nocturne • a musical composition that has a romantic or dreamy character with nocturnal associations
non troppo • not too much
nonet • a composition written for nine instruments
notation • first developed in the 8th century, methods of writing music
obbligato / obligato • an extended solo, often accompanying the vocal part of an aria
octave • eight full tones above the key note where the scale begins and ends
octet • a composition written for eight instruments
once-accented • marked with one accent, applied to the octave beginning with middle C
open • unstopped / without use of valve, crook or key
opera • a drama where the words are sung instead of spoken
operetta • a short light musical drama
opus • a musical work, especially one numbered in order of publication, e.g. opus 28 (abbreviated op 28)
oratorio • an extended cantata on a sacred subject
orchestra • a large group of instrumentalists playing together
orchestration • arranging a piece of music for an orchestra: also, the study of music
ornaments • tones used to embellish the principal melodic tone
orthian • high-pitched
ostinato • a repeated phrase
overture • introduction to an opera or other large musical work
parallel • having a constant interval (major and minor being reckoned alike
parlando • in declamatory style / recitative
parody • a composition based on previous work: a common technique used in medieval and renaissance music
part • a line in a contrapuntal work performed by an individual voice or instrument
partial • a harmonic given off by a note when it is played
partita • suite of baroque dances
pastoral • a composition whose style is simple and idyllic; suggestive of rural scenes
pedal • each of a set of two or three levers on a piano, particularly (also sustaining pedal) one which, when depressed, prevents the dampers from stopping the sound when the keys are released; the second is the soft pedal; a third, if present, produces either selective sustaining or complete muffling of the tone / a foot-operated lever on other musical instruments, such as an organ
pedal note • the lowest or fundamental note of a harmonic series in some brass and wind instruments / also see pedal point
pedal point • an organ point / (also pedal note) a tone or tones (usu tonic and dominant) sustained normally in the bass, while other parts move independently
pentatonic • consisting of five tones or notes, applied esp to a scale, a major scale with the fourth and seventh omitted
pentatonic scale • a musical scale having five notes: for example: the five black keys of a keyboard make up a pentatonic scale
perdendo / perdendosi • slowing and softening at the same time
pesante • heavy / weighty
phrase • a single line of music played or sung: a musical sentence
Phrygian mode • [Greek music] (in ancient Greek music) a mode of two tetrachords with a semitone in the middle of each and a whole tone between the tetrachords (eg: d e f g; a b c d; but reckoned downwards by the Greeks)
Phrygian mode • [Greek music] a mode of ancient Greek music consisting of two tetrachords with a semitone in the middle of each and a whole tone between the tetrachords (eg: d e f g; a b c d; but reckoned downwards by the Greeks)
piacevole • in a pleasant or playful manner
pianissimo • very softly / a very soft passage
pianississimo • as soft or softly as possible
piano • soft / softly / a soft passage
pianoforte • soft then loud
pitch • the frequency of a note determining how high or low it sounds
più • more
più mosso • quicker
pizzicato • string instruments that are picked instead of bowed
plagal • of a Gregorian mode, having the final in the middle of the compass instead of at the bottom (cf authentic)
poco • a little
poco a poco • little by little
polyphony • combining a number of individual but harmonizing melodies: also known as counterpoint
polytonality • combination of two or more keys being played at the same time
portamento • a mild glissando between two notes for an expressive effect
prelude • an introduction to or first movement of a suite, or a movement preceding a fugue; a short independent composition with a recurring motif, especially for the piano
prestissimo • very fast, more so than presto
presto • very fast
progression • the movement of chords in succession
pulsatile • played by percussion
pythagorean • of a diatonic scale perfected by Pythagoras, with its intervals based on mathematical ratios
quadrille • a 19th century square dance written for 4 couples
quartet • a set of four musicians who perform a composition written for four parts
quintet • a set of five musicians who perform a composition written for five parts
rallentando • gradually slower / becoming slower / a passage played in this way
ray • see re
re • the second note of the scale in sol-fa notation (anglicised to ray)
recapitulation • a reprise
recital • a solo concert with or without accompaniment
recitative • a form of writing for vocals that is close to the manner of speech and is rhythmically free
reed • the piece of cane in wind instruments: the players cause vibrations by blowing through it in order to produce sound
refrain • a repeating phrase that is played at the end of each verse in the song
register • a portion of the range of the instrument or voice
related • (of a key) sharing notes with another key or keys
relative • having the same key-signature
relative major and minor • the major and minor keys that share the same notes in that key: for example: a minor shares the same note as c major
relative pitch • ability to determine the pitch of a note as it relates to the notes that precede and follow it
religioso • in a devotional manner
renaissance • a period in history dating from the 14th to 16th centuries: this period signified the rebirth of music, art, and literature
reprise • to repeat a previous part of a composition generally after other music has been played
requiem • a dirge, hymn, or musical service for the repose of the dead
resonance • when several strings are tuned to harmonically related pitches, all strings vibrate when only one of the strings is struck
rhythm • the element of music pertaining to time, played as a grouping of notes into accented and unaccented beats
ricercar • elaborate polyphonic composition of the boroque and renaissance periods
rigaudon • a quick 20th century dance written in double time
rinforzando • with sudden accent
ripieno • supplementary, reinforcing / for all, or nearly all, the orchestra or choir / a supplementary instrument or performer / a passage for the whole orchestra or choir, or its rendering (also tutti)
risoluto • with emphasis, boldly
ritardando • gradually slower / with diminishing speed / a passage played in this way / another term for rallentando
ritenuto • a steady pace, but slower than preceding tempo / restrained, indicating a sudden slowing-down of tempo / a passage played in this way
rococo • a musical style characterized as excessive, ornamental, and trivial
romantic • a period in history during the 18th and early 19th centuries where the focus shifted from the neoclassical style to an emotional, expressive, and imaginative style
rondo • a musical form where the principal theme is repeated several times: the rondo was often used for the final movements of classical sonata form works
root • the principal note of a triad
round • a canon where the melody is sung in two or more voices: after the first voice begins, the next voice starts singing after a couple of measures are played in the preceding voice: all parts repeat continuously
rubato • temporary irregularity of time, lengthening certain notes
scale • successive notes of a key or mode either ascending or descending
scherzando • in a playful manner
scherzo • pertaining to the sonata form, a lively busy movement in triple time, usually with a trio,
sciolto • in a free manner
scordato • put out of tune
scordatura • the retuning of a stringed instrument in order to play notes below the ordinary range of the instrument or to produce an usual tone color
scorrendo • gliding
segno • the sign
semitone • half a tone, one of the lesser intervals of the musical scale, as from B to C
semplice • simple or simply, without embellishments
sempre • always, continuously
senza • without
senza sordino • (of an instrument) played without a mute
septet • a set of seven musicians who perform a composition written for seven parts
sequence • a successive transposition and repetition of a phrase at different pitches
serenade • a lighthearted piece, written in several movements, usually as background music for a social function
serial • using series as the basis of composition
sextet • a set of six musicians who perform a composition written for six parts
sforzando • forced, with sudden emphasis / a sforzando note / also sforzato, forzando, forzato
sforzato • see sforzando
sharp • a symbol indicating the note is to be raised by one semitone
si • the seventh note of the scale in sol-fa notation, superseded by ti
simile • the same, continue in same manner
simple • in or relating to simple time
simple time • any measure or time in which there are two, three or four beats to the bar, each divisible by two
slide • a glissando or portamento: also refers to the moving part of a trombone
slur • a curve over notes to indicate that a phrase is to be played legato
smorzando / smorzato • with a gradual fading away / growing slower and softer
soh • see sol
sol / so • the fifth note of the scale in sol-fa notation (anglicised to soh)
sol-fa • a system of syllables (do or ut, re, mi, fa, sol or so, la, ti or si) representing and sung to the notes of the scale
solfeggio • an exercise in sol-fa syllables
soli • more than one performer in unison
solito • in the usual manner
solo • a composition or passage for one performer
sonata • music of a particular form consisting of four movements: each of the movements differ in tempo, rhythm, and melody; but are held together by subject and style
sonata form • a complex piece of music: usually the first movement of the piece serving as the exposition, a development, or recapitulation
sonatina • a short or brief sonata
song cycle • a sequence of songs, perhaps on a single theme, or with texts by one poet, or having continuos narrative
sopra • above
sopranino • (of an instrument) higher than the corresponding soprano / such an instrument
soprano • the highest female voice / a person possessing such a voice / a part for such a voice / in a group of instruments of the same type but of different sizes, that with the range close to the range of a soprano voice
sordamente • gently, softly
sordino • a mute or damper to soften or deaden the sound of an instrument
sordo • muted / dampened
sostenuto • sustained
spiccato • with staccato bowing / a passage played in this way
spinto • denoting a voice (or the music written for it) having dramatic lyrical qualities
spiritoso • with spirit
staccato • separated, detached style / with each note detached or disconnected / a passage played in this way
staff • made up of five horizontal parallel lines and the spaces between them on which musical notation is written
strepitoso • noisy, boisterous
stretto • pertaining to the fugue, the overlapping of the same theme or motif by two or more voices a few beats apart
string quartet • a group of 4 instruments, two violins, a viola, and cello
stringendo • (played) with increasing speed
subito • suddenly
suite • a loose collection of instrumental compositions
supposed • placed below, or having a note below, the fundamental of the chord
symphony • three to four movement orchestral piece, generally in sonata form
syntonic / syntonous • tuned together
system • a combination of two or more staves on which all the notes are vertically aligned and performed simultaneously in differing registers and instruments
tablature • a system of notation for stringed instruments: the notes are indicated by the finger positions
tacet • silently
tanto • so much, too much
te • see ti
temperament • refers to the tuning of an instrument
tempered • to tune the notes on (a piano or other keyboard instruments) so that the intervals between them are correct, or to adjust the pitch of the notes of (a scale)
tempo • time, speed
tenor • the adult male voice intermediate between baritone and alto / a person who sings tenor / of the tenor range / an instrument of corresponding range
tenor clef • the clef on which middle C is placed on the fourth line of the stave
tenuto • sustain full value / sustained / a sustained note or chord
tessitura • the range of an instrumental or a vocal part
tetrachord • [Greek music] a series of four sounds, forming a scale of two tones and a half / a four-stringed instrument
theme • a melodic or, sometimes a harmonic idea presented in a musical form
thetic • (of a song) having different music for each verse
three-four • with three crotchets to the bar
three-four time • the time signature indicating three crochets to the bar
through-composed • (of a song) having different music for each verse
ti • the seventh note of the scale in sol-fa notation, a substitute for si (anglicised to te)
timbre • tone color, quality of sound that distinguishes one verse or instrument to another: it is determined by the harmonies of sound
time signature • a numeric symbol in sheet music determining the number of beats to a measure
tonal • pertains to tone or tones
tonality • the tonal characteristics determined by the relationship of the notes to the tone
tone • a major second, one of the larger intervals between successive notes in the scale, as between C and D
tone • the intonation, pitch, and modulation of a composition expressing the meaning, feeling, or attitude of the music
tone less • unmusical, without tone
tongue • to produce or play by tonguing / to practise tonguing
tonguing • articulation to separate the notes in playing wind instruments
tonic • the first tone of a scale also known as a keynote
tonic sol-fa • a system of naming the notes of the scale (usually do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti) used especially to teach singing, with do as the keynote of all major keys and la as the keynote of all minor keys
transient • passing
treble • the playing or singing the upper half of the vocal range: also the highest voice in choral singing
treble clef • the clef in which the G immediately above middle C is placed on the second line of the stave
tremolando • played with a tremolo effect / a piece in this style
tremolant • tremolo
tremolo • quick repetition of the same note or the rapid alternation between two notes at least a third apart
triad • three note chords consisting of a root, third, and fifth
trill • rapid alternation between notes that are a half tone or whole tone apart
trio • a composition written for three voices and instruments performed by three persons
triple time • time signature with three beats to the measure
triplet • three notes played in the same amount of time as one or two beats
tritone • a chord comprised of three whole tones resulting in an augmented fourth or diminished fifth
troppo • too much
tune • a rhythmic succession of musical tones, a melody for instruments and voices
tuning • the raising and lowering a pitch of an instrument to produce the correct tone of a note
tutti • passage for the entire ensemble or orchestra without a soloist
twelve-tone music • music composed such that each note is used the same number of times
two-four • with two crotchets to the bar
two-four time • the time signature indicating two crochets to the bar
unaccompanied • having no instrumental accompaniment
unison • two or more voices or instruments playing the same note simultaneously
ut • the first note of the scale in sol-fa notation, superseded by do
veloce • with great rapidity
verismo • a form of italian opera beginning at the end of the 19th century: the setting is contemporary to the composer’s own time, and the characters are modeled after every day life
vibrato • creating variation pitch in a note by quickly alternating between notes
virtuoso • a person with notable technical skill in the performance of music
vite • quickly
vivace • vivacious, lively
vivamente • in a lively manner
vivo • lively
voice • one of two or more parts in polyphonic music: voice refers to instrumental parts as well as the singing voice
volante • moving lightly and rapidly
waltz • a dance written in triple time, where the accent falls on the first beat of each measure
well-tempered • tuned in equal temperament
Werke ohne Opuszahl • works (by Beethoven) without an opus number (prefixed to assigned number)
whole note • a whole note is equal to 2 half notes, 4 quarter notes, 8 eighth notes, etc
whole-tone scale • a scale consisting of only whole-tone notes: such a scale consists of only 6
zeloso • with fervour
zoppa • syncopated, usually in phrase alla zoppa, with syncopation

Last updated 02 May 2010

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