The Complete Music Dictionary


This music dictionary will help you understand the musical terms, acronyms and definitions used in sheet music, piano tabs and music theory. For example, What’s the difference between “sheet music” and a “music tabs”? What’s PITCH – and why is it so important? What are “INTERVALS”? Find Classical Music Terms – Learn more!

The Music Dictionary answers such questions in simple, everyday language.

The Complete Music Dictionary

Music Dictionary – A

Absolute Music – “Music which exists purely for its own sake, in contrast to program music, which tells a story.”

Absolute pitch – “The ability to identify a musical tone by name, or to sing a particular tone, without the help of first hearing some other tone. Also known as perfect pitch.”

Accelerando (ä che”le rän’dô) – Italian. It means to speed up gradually.

Accent – > placed above a note to indicate stress or emphasis-play louder.

Accidental – A sharp, flat, or natural not included in the key signature .

Accompaniment – A vocal or instrument part that is background for a solo part.

Adagietto– ” Italian. (1) A tempo a little faster than adagio . (2) A composition or section in this tempo. (3) a short adagio (see adagio definition 2).”

Adagio – Slow; slower than andante , faster than largo .

Adagissimo – Italian. A very slow tempo.

Addolorato – Sorrowfully.

Ad libitum , ad lib – A term which permits the performer to vary the tempo, and/or to include or omit a vocal or instrumental part, and/or add notes of his own. (See also obbligato ).

A due – Return to unison after divisi.

Affabile Italian . Perform in a smooth, graceful manner.

Affettuoso – Italian. Perform tenderly, with feeling.

Affrettando – Italian . Hurrying.

Agilmente – Italian. Lightly and smoothly.

Agitato – Italian. Agitated; with excitement.

Air – “(1) a simple tune or melody, (2) a French word for song.”

Al , all’, alla, a` la – Means-to; used with other words, e.g. al Fine (to the end).

Albéniz, Isaac A Spanish composer.

Alberti bass A regular pattern of broken chords played as accompaniment by the left hand.

Album – A full length recording.

Al coda – “To the coda.”

Aleatory , or aleatoric music Music in which the performers are free to perform their own material and/or their own manner of presentation.

Al fine – To the end.

Alla breve Cut time; meter in which there are two beats in each measure and a half note receives one beat.

Allargando, allarg – Slowing of tempo usually with increasing volume; usually occurs at the end of a piece.

Allegretto – Slower than allegro but faster than andante.

Allegro –A fast tempo, faster than andante but not as fast as presto .

Allentando –Slow down.

Al segno – Return to the sign; Dal segno.

Alteration – The raising or lowering of a note by an accidental.

Alto Also called contralto. A term for female singers with a low range.

Alto clef – The C clef on the third line of the staff. Most of the time it is used by the viola.

Amabile Perform tenderly, with feeling.

Ancora – “(1) Repeat. (2) When combined with another term, ancora means “still”.”

Andante – Moderate tempo, faster than adagio but slower than allegro .

Andantino – Slightly faster or slower than andante.

A niente – To nothing, e.g. to ppp.

Anhemitonic – “Lacking semitones or halftones . An anhemitonic scale is one that contains no half tones, such as the whole-tone scale or a pentatonic scale .”

Animato – Animated; lively.

Antheil, George An Americ an composer.

A piacere – Freedom in performance. Synonymous with ad libitum.

Appassionato- Impassioned.

Appoggiatura – A nonharmonic tone, usually a half or whole step above the harmonic tone, which is performed on the beat and then resolved.

Arabesque – A fanciful piano piece. Ornate passage varying or accompanying a theme.

Aria A solo song, traditionally in operas but also in cantatas and oratorios .

Arpeggio – A term used to describe the pitches of a chord as they are sung or played one after the other, rather than simultaneously.

Arrache – Strong pizzicato.

Arrangement – An adaption of a composition. Also abbreviated arr.

Articulation – The degree to which notes are separated or connected, such as staccato or legato .

A tempo – Return to the previous tempo.

Atonality – Lacking a tonal center (key).

Augmentation – Compositional technique in which a melodic line is repeated in longer note values. The opposite of diminution.

Augmented – The term for a major or perfect interval which has been enlarged by one half-step, e.g. c-g , (an augmented fifth,) or c-d , (an augmented second). Also used for a triad with an augmented fifth, e.g. the augmented tonic triad in C major, C+, c-e-g .

Auric, Georges – A French composer.

Authentic cadence – See cadence def. 2.

Baby grand – A small grand piano.

Bach – The name of a family of musicians and composers.

Balakirev, Mily Alexeyevitch A Russian composer.

Balance – The harmonious adjustment of volume and timbre between instruments or voices; it can be between players or vocalists or electronically while recording or mixing.

Ballade – In the medieval period a form of trouvere music and poetry. In later time, German poetry set as a through-composed song.

Ballet A staged performance, generally with costumes and scenery, that is performed by dancers to music. Go to Some Famous Ballets .

Band – An instrumental ensemble, usually made up of wind and percussion instruments and no string instruments.

Barber, Samuel – An American composer.

Barcarolle– The type of song that was/is sung by the gondoliers of Venice.

Bar line – The vertical line placed on the staff to divide the music into measures.

Baritone – The middle range of the male voice.

Baroque – The period 1600-1750.

Bartók, Béla A Hungarian composer.

Bass clef – The other name for the F clef. Also see clef def. 3.

Basso continuo , Continuo , Thorough-bass – The Baroque practice in which the bass part if played by a viola da gamba(cello) or bassoon while a keyboard instrument performed the bass line and the indicated chords.

Baton – Conductor’s stick.

Battuta or measure. A due or a tre battuta, the musical rhythm in groups of two or three respectively.

Beam – The thick horizontal line that connects groups of eighth notes, sixteenth notes, etc…

Beat – 1 unit used to measure musical time.

Beethoven Well known German composer.

Bellini, Vincenzo An Italian composer.

Ben – Well. Used with other words, e.g. ben marcato, well accented, emphasized.

Berg, Alban – Austrian composer.

Berio, Luciano – Italian-American composer.

Berlin, Irving – An American composer.

Berlioz, Hector – A French composer.

Berstein, Leonard– An American conductor, composer and pianist.

Billings, William– An American composer.

Binary form – The term for describing a composition of two sections. AB, each of which may be repeated.

Binchois, Gilles – A Burgundian composer. See Music Masters .

Bis (bes)- Repeated twice. Encore!

Bitonality- The occurrence of two different tonalities at the same time.

Bizet, Georges – A French composer.

Bloch, Ernest – A Swiss-American composer.

Blow, John (blo)? An English composer and organist.

Boccherini, Luigi An Italian composer.

Borodin, Alexander – A Russian composer.

Boulez, Pierre A French composer.

Bourree – A French dance from the 17th century in brisk duple time starting with a pickup.

Boyce William (bois) – An English composer.

Brahms, Johannes – A German composer.

Brass family – Wind instruments made out of metal with either a cup- or funnel-shaped mouthpiece, such as trumpet, cornet, bugle, Flugelhorn, trombone, tuba, baritone horn, euphonium, saxhorn, and French horn.

Britten, Benjamin – An English composer.

Broken chord – Notes of a chord played in succession rather than simultaneously. See Arpeggio .

Bruch, Max – A German composer.

Bruckner, Anton – An Austrian composer.

Bull, John (bool) – An English composer.

Burgundian school – A group of composers associat ed with the court of the Buchy of Burgundy.

Busoni, Ferruccio – An Italian-German composer and pianist.

Buxtehude, Dietrich A German organist and composer.

Byrd, William (bûrd) – An English composer.

C clef – A clef usually centered on the first line (soprano clef), third line (alto clef), fourth line (tenor clef), or third space (vocal tenor clef) of the staff. Wherever it is centered, that line or space becomes middle C.

Cadence – (1) The series of notes or chords that ends a melody or a section, giving the listener a sense of partial or complete finality. (2) Authentic cadence. A cadence that gives a sense of complete finality: the next-to-last chord is the dominant (V), the last chord is tonic (I). (3) Plagal cadence. A cadence that also gives a sense of complete finality: the next-to-last chord is the subdominant (IV), the last chord is the tonic (I). (4) Imperfect cadence. Also called half cadence. A cadence that gives the feeling that more is to come: the next-to-last chord is the tonic (I) and the last is the dominant (V) or sometimes subdominant (IV). (5) Deceptive cadence. Also called interrupted cadence. A cadence that the listener expects to end on the tonic but that surprises him with a different chord: the next-to-last chord is the dominant (V), the last is some other chord, often the submediant (VI). Phrygian cadence. cadence that gives the impression that more is to follow, and that is often fond in seventeenth and eighteenth-century music at the end of movement that is followed by another movement: the next-to-last chord, often the subdominant (IV), belongs to the key of the movement, which is major, and the last chord is the dominant (V) of the relative minor key (see key def. 3). Masculine cadence. Any cadence in which the final chord falls on a strong or accented beat in a measure. (8) Feminine cadence. Any cadence in which the final chord falls on an unaccented beat in a measure.”

Cadenza – a solo passage, often virtuosic, usually near the end of a piece, either written by the composer or improvised by the performer.

Caesura – A sudden silencing of the sound; a pause or break, indicated by the following symbol: //

Cage, John – An American composer. See Music Masters .

Calmo , calmato – Calm.

Calypso – A type of song that is popular in the Caribbean Islands.

Cambia- A direction found in scores to change tuning or instruments.

Camminando – Following easily and gently.

Canon – A melody in one voice is imitated by other voice parts. “(2) strict canon. A canon in which the imitation of the melody is exactly the same as the melody itself. (3) free canon. A canon in which the imitation of the melody differs in some way. (4) mixed canon. A canon accompanied by one of more independent voice-parts, which do not take part in imitating the melody. (5) double canon. A composition or section in which two independent canons occur simultaneously.”

Canonic – A term used to describe a polyphonic style of music in which all the parts have the same melody but which start at different times.

Cantabile – Singing manner.

Cantata- Baroque sacred or secular choral composition containing solos, duets, and choruses, with orchestral or keyboard accompaniment.

Capo, da – Italian for ‘from the beginning’. (1) repeat a section, (2) da capo al fine-repeat from the beginning until the word fine (fi-nay). (3) da capo al segno. Repeat from the beginning until the sign :8:

Carissimi, Glacomo – An Italian composer. See Music Masters .

Carol – The term was derived from a medieval French word, carole , meaning a circle dance. In England it was first associated with pagan songs celebrating the winter solstice. It developed into a song of praise and celebration, usually for Christmas.

Carter, Elliott – An American composer. See Music Masters .

Chamber music – Music for instruments where each part is played by only one instrument.

Chambonnieres, Jacques Champion de – A French composer and harpsichordist. See Music Masters .

Chance music – See aleatory music .

Chambonnières, Jacques Champion de – A French composer.

Chausson, Ernest –A French composer.

Chavez, Carlos – A Mexican composer

Cherbini, Luigi – An Italian composer.

Chopin (sho pan), Frederic (shô pan, fra da rek?)- A well-known Polish composer.

Chorale- Hymn-like song, characterized by blocked chords.

Chord – A combination of three or more tones sounded at the same time.

Chromatic – Regarding notes not belonging to a given key. Ascending or descending by half steps.

Chromatic scale – A scale composed of 12 half steps. See technique lesson in scales .

Circle of fifths – A circular arrangement of the key signatures. On the piano, the pairs of the keys have identical key signatures.

Classic – Style of music written between 1785 and 1820. See Music History and Music Masters .

Clef – A symbol placed at the beginning of the staff to indicate the pitch of one line on the staff which also gives the other notes as well. The most commonly used clefs are the G, or treble, clef, the F or bass clef, the alto clef and the tenor clef.

Clementi, Muzio – An Italian pianist, composer, and teacher. See Music Masters .


Col , coll’ , colla – With or “with the.”

Common time – Same as 4/4 meter.

Composer – A person who creates (composes) music.

Con – With.

Con brio – With spirit; vigorously.

Con calore – With warmth.

Concert – A public performance of music.

Concert grand piano – The largest of the grand pianos, usually about nine feet long.

Concertino – A short concerto. The group of soloists in a concerto grosso.

Concerto – A piece for a soloist and orchestra.

Concert pitch – The international tuning pitch — currently A 440 or 442.

Conducting – The directing a group of musicians.

Conductor – The person who directs a group of musicians.

Con intensita – With intensity.

Conjunct – Pitches on successive degrees of the scale; opposite of disjunct.

Con moto – With motion.

Consonance – Intervallic relationships which produce sounds of repose. Frequently associated with octave, third and sixth intervals; however, fourths and fifths may be sounds of consonance, as in both early and 20th-century music.

Consort – A 17th-century term for instrumental chamber ensembles and for the compositions written for these ensembles.

Con spirito – With spirit.

Contra – The octave below normal.

Copland, Aaron – An American composer.

Corelli, Arcangelo – A well-known Italian composer.

Corda , corde – String.

Countermelody – A vocal part which contrasts with the principal melody.

Counterpoint – The technique of combining single melodic lines or parts of equal importance.

Couperin, Francois – A well-known French composer.

Crescendo – Gradually louder. Also abbreviated cresc.

Cue – Indication by the conductor or a spoke word or gesture for a performer to make an entry. Small notes that indicate another performer’s part. Music occurrence in a film.

Cut time – Same as 2/2 meter.

Da capo, D. C. – Return to the beginning of the piece.

Da capo al Fine, D.C. al Fine -Return to the beginning of the piece and play until the word ‘fine’ (fi-nay).

Debussy, Claude – A French composer. See Music Masters .

Dal – “From the,” “by the.”

Dal segno, D. S. – Repeat from the sign .

Dal segno al Fine, D.S. al Fine – Return to the beginning of the piece and play until the sign :8:

Damper – Silences one of more notes on certain instruments. The piano has dampers which stop the vibrations of the strings once the piano key is lifted.

Damper pedal – Piano pedal on the right which raises the dampers thus allowing the sound of the notes to continue after the piano key is lifted.

Deceptive cadence – See cadence definition 4.

Decrescendo – Play gradually softer. Also called diminuendo and abbreviated decr. or decresc.

Degree – One of the eight tones in a major or minor scale.

Delicato – Delicately.

Delius, Frederick – An English composer.

Descant – The upper part in Polyphonic (many voiced) music. Also the highest-pitched instrument in a family.

Diminished Chord – A chord whose notes are separated by three half steps. e.g. C, E b , G b

Diminished Interval – An interval whose top note is lowered one half step past the corresponding perfect or minor interval. See interval .

Diminuendo, dim – Gradually softer. Also called decrescendo and abbreviated dim, dimin.

Diminution – Decreasing the note values evenly throughout a piece.

Dissonance – Discord. An interval or chord that sounds harsh, e.g. intervals of seconds and sevenths.

Dohnanyi, Ernast von – A Hungarian composer.

Dolce – Sweetly.

Dolcissimo – Very sweetly.

Doloroso – Sadly; mournfully.

Dominant – The fifth note (degree) of any major or minor scale. Also, the term for the triad built on the fifth note labeled V.

Donizetti, Gaetano – An Italian composer.

Dot – Directly on top or below a note indicates to play staccato . To the side of a note, indicates to play the note 1 and ½ of the note’s value. E.g. a dotted quarter note (in 4/4 time) would be held 1 and ½ beats.

Double bar – Two vertical lines placed on the staff to indicate the end of a section or a composition. When used with two dots it encloses repeated sections.

Double flat – A symbol that looks like bb for lowering pitch one whole step. Equivalent to 2 flats .

Double sharp – A symbol that looks like an X for raising pitch one whole step. Equivalent to 2 sharps .

Downland, John – An English composer.

Down beat – The first accented beat in a measure. Indicated by the conductor with a downward stroke.

Duet – A piece played by two performers.

Dufay, Guillaume – A composer.

Dukas, Paul – A French composer.

Dunstable, John – An English composer.

Duplet – A group of two notes with the same value played with the length of three indicated with a small 2 above or below the notes. Ex.- two quarter notes played for 1 ½ beats each.

Dynamics – Symbols that indicate loud and soft.


Term-Abbreviation or Sign-Meaning

Pianissaissamo (ppp) very, very soft

Pianissamo (pp) very soft

Piano (p) soft

Mezzo piano ( mp) – medium soft

Mezzo Forte (mf) – medium loud

Forte ( f ) – loud

Fortissamo ( ff ) very loud

Fortissaissamo ( fff ) very, very loud

Forte-piano ( f-p ) loud then soft when you repeat

Sforzando ( sfz ) sharply accented

Crescendo cres., cresc., ( < ) gradually louder

Decrescendo decr., decresc., ( >) gradually softer

Diminuendo dim., dimin., ( >) gradually softer

Ear training- “the process of teaching a person to recognize musical pitches, intervals and rhythms, and how to write them down”.

Eccossaise – A lively dance in 2/4 time that was popular in the 18th-19th centuries in France and England.

Eighth – An interval: same as an Octave.

Eighth note/rest – A note/rest half the length of a quarter note and an eighth of the length of a whole note. In 4/4 time it receives half a beat. The eighth note is also known as a quaver.

Elegante – Perform in a graceful, refined manner.

Eleventh – The interval of an octave plus a fourth- e.g. middle C to the E that is an octave higher than the next E.

Embellishment- see ornament.

Emphatique- Perform with emphasis.

Empresse`- perform in a hurried manner.

Encore – To repeat a piece or play an additional piece in response to the audience.

Enesco, Georges- A Rumanian composer. See Music Masters.

Enharmonic – A term used to describe notes of the same pitch which have different names: e.g. Bb (flat) and C, E# (sharp) and F. Also an interval that sounds the same as another but is written the same: e.g. on the piano a diminished fifth (C-Gb) is the same as an augmented fourth (C-F#). Enharmonic modulation is a change of key using an enharmonic chord.

Ensemble- a group of music performers.

Espressivo – Expressively.

Esuberante – Exuberant.

Etude- a piece designed to improve the player’s technique.

Fa – In solmization, the fourth note of the scale.

Facil- play in an easy, fluent manner.

Falla, de Manuel- A Spanish composer.

Fanfare – A prelude or opening usually played by brass instruments.

Faure`, Gabriel- A French composer.

Fasola – A system of solmization used in 17th- and 18th-century England and America where fa, so, and la were given to both c-d-e and f-g-a, with mi used for the seventh degree.

Fermata – The sign . which means to hold the note longer than it’s value.

Festivo, festoso – Festive; merry.

Fifth – Perfect fifth: The interval formed by the first and fifth tone in a scale, e.g. C to G. Augmented fifth: an interval a half step larger than a perfect fifth, e.g. C to G#. Diminished fifth: an interval a half step smaller than a perfect fifth, e.g. C to Gb.

Finale – The last movement of a symphony or sonata, or the last selection of an opera.

Fine – The end.

Five, The – A group of five Russian composers who worked together to develop a national style for Russian music. The Five were César Cui, Alexander Borodin, Mily Balakirev, Modest Mussorgsky, and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov.

Flat – An accidental that lowers the pitch of a note one half step.

Form – The structure of a music composition.

Forte (f) – Loud

Forte piano (f-p)- play loudly then softly.

Fortissimo (ff) – Very loud.

Fortner, Wolfgang – A German composer.

Foss, Lukas – A German-born American composer.

Foster, Stephen Collins – An American composer.

Fourteenth – An interval that is an octave plus a seventh, e.g. middle C to the B below high C.

Fourth – Perfect fourth: an interval made of the 1st and 4th tones of a scale, e.g. C-F. Augmented fourth: an interval one half step larger than a perfect fourth, e.g. C-F#. Diminished fourth: an interval one half step smaller than a perfect fourth, e.g. C-Fb.

Fourth chord – A chord made of two fourths, e.g. C-F-Bb.

Franck, Cesar – A Belgian composer.

Frescobaldi, Girolamo – An Italian composer.

Frettoloso – Perform quickly, hurridly.

Freudig – Perform in a happy, joyful manner.

Froberger, Johann Jakob – A German composer.

Fugue – “A composition in which two or more voice parts take up a short theme according to a set of fairly strict rules.”

Full score – An instrumental score in which all the parts for the instruments appear on their own staves in standard instrumental family order.

Fz – Forzando or forzato. Same as sforzando (sf or sfz).

Gabrieli, Andrea – An Italian composer.

Gabrieli, Giovanni – An Italian composer.

Gebunden – Play the series of notes in a connected or legato manner.

Gedehnt – Perform in a slow stately manner.

Gehalten – Hold each note for full value.

Geheimnisvoll – Perform mysteriously.

Gehend – a moderate tempo, walking speed. Same as Andante.

Geminiani, Francesco – An Italian composer.

Gershwin, George – An American Composer.

Gibbons, Orlando – An English composer.

Gigue – A very lively dance.

Gilbert and Sullivan – The creators of a series of comic operettas.

Alberto, Ginastera – An Argentine composer.

Giocoso – Playful.

Giordano, Umberto – An Italian composer.

Giubilante – Exultant, jubilant.

Glazunov, Alexander – A Russian composer.

Glee – An unaccompanied song for men’s chorus.

Glie`re, Reinhold – A Russian composer.

Glinka, Mikhail – A Russian composer.

Glissando – Moving up or down a scale vary rapidly. Abbreviated as gliss.

Gluck, Christoph Willibald – A German composer.

Gounod, Charles Francois – A French composer.

Grace note – an ornament. A grace note is usually printed small next to a main note and is played very quickly before that note.

Grainger, Percy – An Australian composer.

Granados, Enrique – A Spanish composer.

Grandioso – Grandiose, majestic.

Grand pause – A rest for the entire ensemble.

Grand piano – A piano with a winglike shape and a horizontal frame, strings, and soundboard.

Grand staff – The G (treble) and F(Bass) clef staves together.

Grave – Slow, solemn.

Grazia – Grace. Con grazia, with grace.

Grazioso – Graceful.

Gregorian chant – The choral music used in the Roman Catholic Church. See music history.

Grieg, Edvard – A Norwegian composer.

Griffes, Charles Tomlinson – An American composer.

Grosso, grosse – Great, large.

Guido d’Arezzo – An Italian musician and teacher.

Guthrie, Woodrow Wilson. An American composer.

Halevy, Jacques – A French composer.

Half note – A note equal in time to half of a whole note’s value.

Half rest – A rest which indicates silence for a length of time equal to a half note.

Half step – The interval from one pitch to the immediately adjacent pitch, ascending or descending, e.g. c-c; e-e; b-c. The smallest interval on the keyboard.

Handle, Georg Friedrich – A German composer.

Handy, William Christopher – An American composer..

Hanson, Howard – An American composer.

Harmony – The pattern of intervals and chords in music compositions.

Harris, Roy – An American composer.

Haydn, Franz Joseph – An Austrian composer

Hemiola – The rhythmic relation of 3:2, e.g. three half notes in place of two dotted half notes.

Henze, Hans Werner – A German composer.

Herbert, Victor – An American composer.

Hexachord – A scale of six tones following the Major pattern of steps, e.g. C-A.

Hindemith, Paul – A German composer.

Holst, Gustav Theodore – An English composer.

Homophony, Homophonic – Musical texture which is characterized by chordal support of a melodic line.

Honegger, Arthur – A Swiss composer.

Humperdinck Engelbert – A German composer.

Imitation – Where a section is repeated by a different voice-part. E.g. one section repeated in another clef.

Impressionism – A musical movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Inspired by the French impressionist painters, the movement had its impetus in the music of Debussy and Ravel.

Improvisation – Inventing music while performing.

Indy, d’ Vincent – A French composer. See Music Masters.

Instrument – Any object that produces a musical sound.

Instrumentation – The art of composing, orchestrating, or arranging for an instrumental ensemble.

Interval – The difference in pitch between two tones, or, the name for two notes sounded at the same time.

Inversion – Moving a note of an interval or chord so that what was originally on the bottom is now on the top. The position of a chord is changed from root position (root on the lowest pitch) to first inversion, with the third, or second inversion, with the fifth in the lowest voice. An example: root position c-e-g; first inversion e-g-c; second inversion g-c-e.

Ironico – Ironical.

Irresoluto – Perform in an undecided manner; hesitant.

Ives, Charles – An American composer.

Janácek, Leoš – A Moravian compser.

Janequin, Clément – A French composer.

Jaques-Dalcroze, Émile – A French-Swiss compser

Jazz – A style of American music that originated around 1900.

Josquin des Prez – A Flemish composer.

Kapellmeister – The music director of a court or private orchestra or choir in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Key signature – The sharps or flats placed at the beginning of the staff which are played throughout the piece.

Khatchaturian, Aram – An Armenian composer. See Music Masters.

Kreisler, Fritz – An Austrian-American composer. See Music Masters.

La – In solmization, the sixth tone of the major scale, e.g. a (la) in the C major scale.

Lacrimoso – sad, mournful.

Lamentoso – Mournful.

Landini, Francesco– An Italian composer.

Langsam – Slow.

Largamente – Broadly, stately.

Larghetto – Slower than largo.

Largo – Very slow.

Lasso, Orlando di – A Netherlands composer.

Leading tone – The seventh degree of the major scale, it has a tendency to lead to the tonic.

Ledger lines – Short lines placed above and below the staff for pitches beyond the range of the staff.

Legato – Smooth, connected.

Leggero – Light; graceful.

Lehár, Franz A Hungarian composer.

Leise (lize) soft, same as piano.

Lento – Slow; slightly faster than largo, slower than adagio.

Leoncavallo, Rugero – An Italian composer.

Leonin – A French composer.

Libretto – The text/words to which an opera or oratorio is set.

Lieto – gay, joyful.

Lievo – lightly, easily.

Linear – Melodic; horizontal lines.

Liszt, Franz (list, fränts) – A Hungarian composer.

Loewe, Karl – A German composer.

Lully, Jean Baptiste An Italian-born composer. See Music Ma

Ma – But. Used with other words.

MacDowell, Edward – An American composer.

Machaut, Guillaume de – A French composer.

Maestoso – Stately.

Mahler, Gustav – An Austrian composer. See Music Masters.

Major – The designation for certain intervals and scales. A key based on a major scale is called a major key.

The pattern for the major scale is:

Whole step Whole step Half step Whole step Whole step Whole step Half step

Also the term applied to keys based on the major scale.

Major chord – A triad composed of a root, major third, and perfect fifth.

Mancando – More and more softly; fading away.

Marcato – Emphasized, sharply accented.

Martinu, Bohuslav – A Bohemian composer.

Mascagni, Pietro – An Italian composer.

Massenet, Jules – A French composer.

Mazurka – A Polish dance that is in ¾ meter. The accent is on the second or third beat of the measure.

Measure – A group of beats that add up to a certain number of beats. Songs usually contain the same amount of beats for every measure. The space between two bar lines.

Medesimo – The same tempo even though the time signature has changed.

Mediant – The third degree of the major or minor scale. The triad built on this degree is labeled iii in the major scale, III in the natural minor scale, and III+ in the harmonic minor scale.

Medieval – Music written between c. 450-1450 marking the music of the early Christian church.

Meistersinger – The master of one of the German guilds.

Melody – “A group of musical tones sounded one after another, which together make up a meaningful whole.”

Mendelssohn, Felix – A German composer.

Meno – Less.

Meno mosso – Less motion; a little more slowly.

Menotti, Gian Carlo – An American composer.

Messa di voce – In singing, gradually increase then gradually decrease the volume of a single long note.

Messiaen, Olivier – A French composer.

Meter – The structure of notes in a regular pattern of accented and unaccented beats within a measure, indicated at the beginning of a composition by a meter signature.

Meter signature – The numbers placed at the beginning of a composition to indicate the meter of the music. The top number indicates the number of beats in a measure; the bottom number tells which note will receive one beat.

Metronome – “Invented by Maelzel in 1816, the instrument is used to indicate the exact tempo of a composition. An indication such as M.M. 60 indicates that the pendulum, with a weight at the bottom, makes 60 beats per minute. A slider is moved up and down the pendulum to decrease and increase the tempo. M.M. = 80 means that the time value of a quarter note is the equivalent of one pendulum beat when the slider is set at 80.” Taken from

Meyerbeer, Giacomo – A German composer.

Mezzo – Half, Medium.

Mezzo forte – Medium loud.

Mezzo legato – smoothly, more lightly than legato.

Mezzo piano – Medium soft.

Mi – In solmization, the third degree of the major scale.

Middle Ages – Music written between A.D. 450 and 1450.

Middle C – The note C in the middle of the Grand staff, and near the middle of the paino.

Milán, Luis – A Spanish composer.

Milhaud, Darius – A French composer.

Minnesinger – A Member of a group of poet-musicians in Germany from the twelfth to the fourteenth century.

Minor – The designation for certain intervals and scales. A key based on a minor scale is called a minor key. The three types of minor scales include natural, harmonic, and melodic. The patterns are:

natural: Whole step Half step Whole step Whole step Half step Whole step Whole step harmonic: Whole step Half step Whole step Whole step Whole step Whole +1/2 Half step


Ascending: Whole step Half step Whole step Whole step Whole step Whole step Half step Descending Whole step Whole step Half step Whole step Whole step Half step Whole step

The natural minor scale includes the sharps or flats of the relative major. The harmonic minor is the same as the natural minor except the 7th note is raised a half-step. The melodic minor is the same as the natural minor except the 6th and 7th notes are raised on the ascension and natural when descending.

Misterioso – Mysteriously.

Mit – With.

Mode – Any scalewise arrangement of pitches; more generally, the term refers to the patterns upon which medieval music was structured, the patterns which preceded the development of major and minor scales and tonality.

Moderato – Moderate speed.

Modern – Music written in the 20th century or contempory music.

Modulation – The process of changing from one key to another within a composition.

Molto – Very. Used with other terms, e.g. molto allegro.

Monteverdi, Cladio – An Italian composer.

Moore, Douglas – An American composer.

Mordent – “Biting.” An ornament consisting of an alteration (once or twice) of the written note. See ornament for example.

Morendo – Gradually decreasing in volume; dying away.

Morley, Thoman – An English composer.

Morton, Ferdinand – An American jazz pianist and composer.

Mosso – Rapid. Meno mosso, less rapid. Piu mosso, more rapid.

Motet – A type of vocal composition which developed during the Middle Ages.

Motive – A short melodic or rhythmic pattern.

Moto – Motion. Con moto, with motion.

Movable Do – The system of solmization in which do changes to accommodate the key, e.g. in the key of C major, do is c; in E major do is e. In the key of a minor do is c (relative major); in the key of c minor do is e (relative major).

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus – An Austrian composer.

Music – The organization of sounds with some degree of rhythm, melody, and harmony.

Music Sheet – ( other for Sheet Music, see “Sheet Music” )

Music theory – The study of how music is put together.

Mussorgsky, Modest – A Russian composer.

Nach – After (as “in the manner of”); behind.

Nachtmusik – “Night music.” A serenade.

Natural – A musical symbol which cancels a previous sharp or flat.

Neumatic – One style of chant in which two to four pitches occur on one syllable; in contrast to melismatic and syllabic.

Nielsen, Carl – A Danish composer.

Non – No; not.

Nonharmonic tones – A designation for tones outside the harmonic structure of the chord. Two frequently used examples are the passing tone and the appoggiatura.

Notation – A term for a system of expressing musical sounds through the use of written characters, called notes.

Note – The symbol which, when placed on a staff with a particular clef sign, indicates pitch.

Nuance – Subtle variations in tempo, phrasing, dynamics, etc., to enhance a musical performance.

Obbligato – A part that must be in performance.

Obrecht, Jacob – A Flemish composer.

Ockeghem, Johannes – A Flemish composer.

Octave – The eighth tone above a given pitch, with twice as many vibrations per second, or below a given pitch, with half as many vibrations.

Octet – A piece for eight instruments or voices.

Offenbach, Jacques – A French composer. See Music Masters.

Open fifth – A triad without a third.

Open strings – Strings are not stopped, fingured, or fretted.

Opus, Op – The term, meaning work, is used by composers to show the chronological order of their works, e.g. Op. 1, Op. 2.

Orchestra – A large group of musicians made up of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments.

Orchestration – The art of writing, arranging, or scoring music for the orchestra.

Orff, Carl – A German composer.

Ornamentation – Note or notes added to the original melodic line for embellishment and added interest.

Ornaments – Melodic embellishments, either written or improvised.

– Mordent: play the note, the note below it, then the note again. 2 16th and 1 8th for a quarter. Inverted mordent: play the note, the not above it, then the note again. 2 16th and 1 8th for a quarter. Double mordent. Play the note, the note below, the note, the note below, then the note. 4 32nd notes to a quarter. – Trill (17-18th Century): Play the note above, the note, the note above, then the note. 4 32nd notes to a quarter. Trill (19th Century): Play the note, the note above, the note, the note above. 4 32nd notes to a quarter. – Turn: play the note, the note above, the note, the note below, the note. 1 8th 4 32nd to a quarter. Inverted turn: play the note, the note below, the note, the note above, the note. 1 8th 4 32nd to a quarter. – Grace note: play the grace note as short as possible.

Ossia – “Or.” Indicating an alternative passage or version.

Ostinato – A repeated melodic or rhythmic pattern, frequently appearing in the bass line.

Ottava – Octave.

Ottava alta – (8va) An octave higher.

Ottave bassa – (8va or 8vb) An octave lower.

Overtones – The almost inaudible higher tones which occur with the fundamental tone. They are the result of the vibration of small sections of a string (instrument) or a column of air. Other general terms for overtones are partials and harmonics.

Overture – The introductory music for an opera, oratorio or ballet. A concert overture is an independent work.

Pacato – Calm, quiet.

Paderewski, Ignace Jan – A Polish pianist and composer.

Paganini, Niccolo – An Italian violinist and composer.

Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi di – An Italian composer.

Parallel – In intervals and chords, the repetition of the same interval or chord over and over up the degrees of the scale.

Passing tones – A note between two chords that is dissonant to both of them.

Patetico – great feeling.

Pathetique – express great feeling.

Pausa – A rest.

Pensieroso – Contemplative, thoughtful.

Percussion family – Instruments made of sonorous material that produce sounds of definite or indefinite pitch when shaken or struck, including drums, rattles, bells, gongs, and xylophones.

Perfect – A term used to label fourth, fifth, and octave intervals. It corresponds to the major, as given to seconds, thirds, sixths, and sevenths.

Perfect cadence – The chordal progression of dominant to tonic, in a major key V-I, in minor V-i.

Perfect interval – Interval of an octave, fifth, or fourth without alteration.

Perfect pitch – The ability to hear and identify a note without any other musical support.

Pergolesi, Giovanni – An Italian composer.

Perl, Jacopo – An Italian composer.

Pesante – Heavy.

Petite – Little.

Peu a peu – Little by little.

Phrase – A division of a melody comparable to a line or sentence in poetry.

Piacere, a – Play as you want. Same as Ad Libitum.

Piacevole – smooth, graceful.

Piangendo – mournful, plaintive.

Pianissimo – Very soft.

Pianississimo – Very, very soft.

Piano – Soft. Also, the common name for the pianoforte.

Pianoforte – “Soft-loud.” A keyboard instrument, the full name for the piano, on which sound is produced by hammers striking strings when keys are pressed. It has 88 keys.

Picardy third – A Major third at the end of a minor piece. The practice originated in c. 1500 and extended through the Baroque period.

Piston, Walter – An American composer and teacher.

Pitch – The highness or lowness of a tone, as determined by the number of vibrations in the sound.

Piu – More. Used with other terms, e.g. piu mosso, more motion.

Pizzicato – “Pinched.” On string instruments, plucking the string.

Plagal cadence – See Cadence.

Poco – Little. Used with other terms, e.g. poco accel., also, poco a poco, little by little.

Poco ced., Cedere – A little slower.

Poco piu mosso – A little more motion.

Poi – Then or afterwards, e.g. poi No. 3, then No. 3.

Polyphony – “many voices”. Music with more than one voice.

Ponchielli, Amilcare – An Italian composer.

Porter, Cole – An American songwriter.

Postlude – “Play after.” The final piece in a multi-movement work. Organ piece played at the end of a church service.

Poulenc, Francis – A French composer.

Praetorius, Michael – A German composer.

Prelude – “Play before.” An introductory movement or piece.

Premiere – First performance.

Prestissimo – Very, very fast. The fastest tempo.

Presto – Very quick.

Prima, Primo – the first.

Prime – The first degree of the scale. Also, unison.

Principal – Instrumental section leader.

Prokofiev, Sergey – A Russian composer.

Prologue – An introductory piece that presents the background for an opera.

Puccini, Giacomo – An Italian composer.

Purcell, Henry – An English composer.

Quadruple meter – Any meter that has 4 beats in a measure. This meter is sometimes considered as a type of duple meter.

Quadruplet – A group of 4 notes, which have the same time value (all eighth notes, quarter etc…), which are to be played in the amount of time 3 usually occupy. E.g. four quarter notes in ¾ meter would receive three beats or four eighth notes would receive 1 ½ beats.

Quantz, Johann Joachim – A German flutist and composer.

Quarter note – A note one quarter the length of a whole note. In x/4 meter it receives one beat.

Quartet – A piece for four instruments or voices. Also, four performers.

Quasi – Almost. Used with other terms, e.g. quasi madrigal, almost or as if a madrigal.

Quintet – A piece for five instruments or voices. Also, five performers.

Quintuple meter – Any meter where there are five beats in a measure.

Rachmaninoff, Sergey – A Russian composer.

Rallentando – Gradually slower. Same as ritardando.

Rameau, Jean-Philippe – A French composer.

Range – The series of notes, from low to high, which a voice or instrument is capable of performing.

Rapide – Rapidly.

Ravel, Maurice – A French composer.

Re – In solmization, the second degree of the major scale.

Recital – A performance by one or more performers.

Refrain – A short section of material that is repeated at regular intervals.

Reger, Max – A German composer.

Relative major and minor scales – Major and minor scales which have the same key signature as each other.

Renaissance – The period between c.1425-1600.

Repeat – The repetition of a section or composition. :|| at the end of a composition or section means to play the entire composition or section over again. ||: within a composition with a later :|| indicates that the section between the two signs is to be repeated.

Resonance – Reinforcement and intensification of sound by vibrations.

Respighi, Ottorino – An Italian composer.

Rest – A symbol used to indicate a pause or silence.

Rhapsody – A relativly short piece in the 19th and 10th centuries that is in free style and expresses a particular mood.

Rhythm – The term which denotes the organization of sound in time.

Riegger, Wallingford – An American composer.

Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolay – A Russian composer.

Rinforzando – A reinforced accent. Abbreviated rf, rfz or rinf.

Risoluto – Resolute.

Ritardando, rit – Gradually slower. Same as rallentando.

Ritenuto – “hold back”. Immediate reduction in tempo.

Ritmico – Rhythmically.

Rodgers, Richard – An American composer.

Roll – On percussion instruments, a sticking technique consisting of a rapid succession of notes:

Romanticism – The period c. 1825-1900.

Root – The note upon which a triad or chord is built.

Root position – The arrangement of a chord in which the root is in the lowest voice.

Rossini, Gioacchino – An Italian composer.

Round – A song in which two or more parts having the same melody, starting at different points.

Roussel, Albert – A French composer.

Rubato – The term used to denote flexibility of tempo to assist in achieving expressiveness.

Rubinstein, Anton – A Russian composer and pianist.

Ruhig – Quiet.

Run – A rapid scale passage.

Rustico – Pastoral, rustic, rural.

Sachs, Hans – A German poet and composer.

Saint-Saens, Camille – A French composer.

Sanft – Soft, gentle.

Sans – Without.

Sarasate, Pablo de – A Spanish violinist and composer.

Satie, Erik – A French composer.

Scale – A succession of tones. Chromatic scale: a scale of 12 half-steps. Diatonic scale: eight tones in varying patterns of whole and half steps. Whole-tone scale: A scale, which contains only whole steps. Pentatonic scale: A scale of only five tones. Hexachord: A scale made of six tones.

Scarlatti, Alessandro – An Italian composer.

Scarlatti, Domenico – An Italian composer.

Scherzo – “Joke.” A piece in a lively tempo. A movement of a symphony, sonata, or quartet in quick triple time, replacing the minuet.

Schnell – Fast.

Schoenberg, Arnold – An Austrian composer.

Schubert, Franz – An Austrian composer.

Schuller, Gunther – An American composer.

Schuman, William Howard – An American composer.

Schumann, Robert –

Schutz. Heinrich –

Score – The written depiction of all the parts of a musical ensemble with the parts stacked vertically and rhythmically aligned.

Scriabin, Alexander – A Russian composer. See Music Masters.

Secco – “Dry.”

Second – Major: The interval formed by a given tone and the next tone using the key signature of the bottom note, e.g. c up to d using C’s key signature. Augmented: ½ step larger than the major interval. Minor: One half-step smaller than the major interval.

Section – A division of a musical composition.

Segno – “Sign.” :8:

Segue – Continue without interruption.

Sehr – Very.

Sehr leise beginnend – Very soft in the beginning.

Semibreve – British term for whole note.

Semiquaver – British term for sixteenth note.

Semitone – A half step. The smallest interval on the keyboard.

Semplice – Simple.

Sempre – Always.

Senza – Without.

Septet – A piece for seven instruments or voices. Also, seven performers.

Sequence – The repetition of a melodic pattern on a higher or lower pitch level.

Serenade – A love song or piece, usually performed below someone’s window in the evening.

Sereno – Serene, peaceful.

Sessions, Roger – An American composer. See Music Masters.

Seventh – Major: The interval formed by a given tone and the seventh tone using the bottom note’s keg signature. E.g. c up to b, or c down to d using C’s key signature. Minor: The interval one half-step smaller than the major interval. Diminished: The interval one half-step smaller than the minor interval. E.g. c-Bb Augmented: The interval one half-step larger than the major interval. E.g. D-C#

Seventh chord – When a seventh (above the root) is added to a triad (root, third, fifth), the result is a seventh chord, e.g. the dominant triad in the key of C major, g-b-d, with the added seventh becomes g-b-d-f and is labelled V7.

Sforzando, Sfz, Sf – Sudden strong accent on a note or chord.

Sharp – A symbol which raises a note a half step.

Sheet music – An individually printed song, most often for voice, piano, guitar, or a combination of the three. Any printed music.

Shifting meter – The changing of meter within a composition.

Shostakovitch, Dmitri – A Russian composer.

Sibelius, Jean – A Finnish composer.

Sightreading – Performing a piece at first sight.

Simile – An indication to continue in the same manner.

Simple meter – Any meter where there are two beats in a measure.

Sin’ – Until.

Sinistra – Left hand.

Sino – Until.

Six-four chord – The second inversion of a triad, made by placing the fifth of the chord in the lowest voice, e.g. Cis g-c-e.

Six, les – “A group of six French composers who, about 1916, formed a loose bond under the leadership of Erik Satie. There were Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Germaine Tailleferre, Georges Auric, and Francis Poulenc. Toward the end of World War 1 they joined forces in opposing the impressionist style of Debussy, supporting instead a return to classical clarity and simplicity.”*

Sixteenth note – A note a sixteenth the length of a whole note. E.g. in 4/4 meter a sixteenth note would receive ¼ of a beat.

Sixteenth rest – A rest with the value of 1/16th whole note. E.g. in 4/4 meter a sixteenth note would receive ¼ of a beat.

Sixth – Major: The interval formed by a given tone and the sixth tone that uses the key signature of the bottom note. E.g. c up to e, or c down to a using C’s key signature. Minor: One half step smaller than the major sixth. Diminished: One half step smaller that the minor sixth. Augmented: One half-step larger than the major sixth.

Sixth chord – The first inversion of a triad so called because the first and last note form a sixth interval. It is made by raising the bottom note up an octave, e.g. C6 is e-g-c.

Slur – A curved line placed above or below two or more notes of different pitch to indicate that they are to be performed in legato style.

Smetana, Bedrich – A Bohemian composer.

Smorzando – Fading away.

Soave – Gentle, mild.

Sognando – Dreamily.

Sol – In solmization, the fifth note of the major scale.

Solfège – Musical training which involves both sight-reading and ear training.

Solmization – The term for the use of syllables for the degrees of the major scale: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la ti, do. The minor scale (natural) is la, ti, do, re, mi, fa, sol, la.

Solo – To perform alone or as the predominant part.

Sonata – An instrumental piece, often in several movements.

Sonatina – A short sonata.

Sostenuto – Sustaining of tone, hold for full time value.

Sotto – A direction to place one hand under the other for a certain passage; to cross under.

Sousa, John Philip – An American bandmaster and composer.

Spianato – Play smoothly and evenly.

Spiccato – On string instruments, a bowing technique wherein the bow is bounced on the string at moderate speed.

Spiritoso – Livly, spirited.

Staccato – Detached sounds, indicated by a dot over or under a note. The opposite of legato.

Staff – The most frequently used staff has five horizontal lines, with four spaces, upon which the notes and other musical symbols are placed.

Stamitz, Johann Wenzel – A German composer and violinist.

Stanza – A selection of a song, two or more lines long, characterized by a common meter, rhyme, and number of lines.

Step – The distance between two adjacent notes of a scale.

Stesso – Same.

Stockhausen, Karl-heinz – A German composer.

Stradivari, Antonio – An Italian violin maker.

Strauss, Johann the Elder – An Austrian violinist and composer.

Strauss, Johann the Younger – An Austrian violinist and conductor.

Stravinsky, Igor – A Russian-born composer. See Music Masters.

String instrument family – Instruments with strings that produce sound when plucked, bowed, or struck.

Strophic – A term used to describe a song in which all the stanzas of the text are sung to the same music. The opposite of through-composed.

Subdominant – The fourth degree of the major or minor scale. Also, the name of the triad built on the fourth degree of the scale, indicated by IV in a major key and by iv in a minor key.

Subito – Suddenly.

Submediant – The sixth degree of a major or minor scale. Also, the name of the triad built on the sixth degree of the scale, indicated by VI in a major key and by vi in a minor key.

Sul – On the.

Sullivan, Arthur Seymour – An English composer.

Superdominant – Same as submediant.

Supertonic – The second degree of the major or minor scale. Also, the name of the triad built on the second degree of the scale, indicated by II in a major scale and iio in a minor scale.

Sur – On, over.

Suspension – The use of a non-harmonic tone to delay the resolution of a chord, frequently as it occurs in a cadence.

Svelto – Quick, light.

Sweelinck, Jan – A Dutch composer and organist.

Symphony – A piece for large orchestra, usually in four movements, in which the first movement often is in sonata form. A large orchestra.

Syncopation – Accent on an unexpected beat.

Tallis, Thomas – An English composer and organist.

Tanto – Much, so much.

Tartini, Giuseppe – An Italian violinist and composer.

Tchaikovsky, Piotr Ilyitch – A Russian composer.

Technique – The physical skills used in singing or in playing and instrument including dexterity, breath control, etc…

Telemann, Georg, Philipp – A German composer and organist.

Tempo – The rate of speed in a musical work.

Tempo primo – Return to the original tempo.

Teneramente – Tenderly.

Tenor clef – The C clef falling on the fourth line of the staff.

Tenuto, ten – Hold or sustain a note longer than the indicated value, usually not as long a duration as the fermata.

Ternary form – Three-part form in which the middle section is different from the other sections. Indicated by ABA.

Terraced dynamics – The Baroque style of using sudden changes in dynamic levels, as opposed to gradual increase and decrease in volume.

Tertian harmony – A term used to describe music based on chords arranged in intervals of thirds.

Tessitura – The general pitch range of a vocal part.

Tetrachord – Four notes that form the intervals of a whole tone, whole tone, half tone.

Texture – The term used to describe the way in which melodic lines are combined, either with or without accompaniment. Types include monophonic, homophonic, and polyphonic, or contrapuntal.

Theme – The musical subject of a piece (usually a melody), as in sonata form or a fugue. An extramusical concept behind a piece.

Theme and variations – A statement of musical subject followed by restatements in different guises.

Theory – The study of how music is put together.

Third – The interval formed by a given tone and the third tone above or below it, e.g. c up to e, or c down to a. Intervals of the third may be major, minor, diminished, or augmented.

Thirty second note/rest – A note or rest equal in time to 1/32 of a whole note.

Thompson, Randall – An American composer.

Thompson, Virgil – An American composer and music critic.

Through-composed – A term used to describe a song in which the music for each stanza is different. The opposite of strophic.

Ti – In solmization, the seventh degree of the major scale. Also called the leading tone.

Tie – A curved line over or below two or more notes of the same pitch. The first pitch is sung or played and held for the duration of the notes affected by the tie.

Time signature – A sign which states how many beats are in each measure and which type of note receives one beat. This sign is composed of two numbers, one on top of the other. The top number indicates the number of beats and the bottom number indicates which note gets one beat. See the theory lessons for more explanation.

Tinctoris, Johannes – A Belgian composer and theorist.

Tonality – The term used to describe the organization of the melodic and harmonic elements to give a feeling of a key center or a tonic pitch.

Tone – A note; the basis of music.

Tone clusters – The simultaneous sounding of two or more adjacent tones.

Tonguing – On wind instruments, articulation with the tongue.

Tonic – The first note of a key—in the key of C it is C, in D-D, etc… Also, the name of the chord built on the first degree of the scale, indicated by I in a major key or i in a minor key.

Tono – Tone, key, pitch.

Torelli, Giuseppe – An Italian composer and violinist.

Tosto – Quick.

Tranquillo – Tranquilly; quietly; calm.

Transposing – Changing the key of a piece.

Tre – Three. Used with other terms, e.g. a tre voci, in three parts.

Treble clef – The G clef falling on the second line of the staff.

Triad – A chord of three tones arranged in thirds, e.g. the C-major triad c-e-g, root-third-fifth.

Trill, tr – A musical ornament performed by the rapid alternation of a given note with a major or minor second above.

Triple meter – Meter based on three beats, or a multiple of three, in a measure.

Triplet – A group of three notes performed in the time of two of the same kind or sometimes three notes being performed in the time which one usually occupies.

Troppo – Too much. Used with other terms, e.g. allegro non troppo, not too fast.

Turn – A musical ornament characterized by the rapid performance of a given note, the major or minor second above and below, and a return to the given note. Tutti – All. A direction for the entire ensemble to sing or play simultaneously.

Twelve-tone technique – A system of composition which uses the twelve tones of the chromatic scale in an arbitrary arrangement called a tone row or series. The row may be used in its original form, its inversion, in retrograde, and in the inversion of the retrograde. The system was devised by Arnold Schoenberg in the early 20th century.

Una corda – Soft pedal.

Unison – Singing or playing the same notes by all singers or players, either at exactly the same pitch or in a different octave.

Un peu – A little.

Un poco – A little.

Upbeat – One or more notes occurring before the first bar line that do not make a complete measure. Also, the unaccented beat of a measure.

Varèse, Edgar – A French-born composer.

Variation – The manipulation of a theme by the use of melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic changes.

Vaughan Williams, Ralph – An English composer.

Venetian school – A Group of composers in the 16th century that worked in Venice, Italy.

Verdi, Gluseppe – An Italian composer.

Vibrato – Repeated fluctuation of pitch.

Victoria, Tomás Luis de – A Spanish composer.

Villa-Lobos, Heitor – A Brazillian composer.

Viotti, Giovanni Battista – An Italian violinist and composer.

Virtuoso – A brillant, skillful performer.

Vivace – Lively, brisk, quick, and bright.

Vivaldi, Antonio – An Italian composer and violinist.

Vivo – Lively, bright.

Volti subito – Turn [the page] quickly.

Wagner, Richard – A German composer.

Walton, William – An English composer.

Weber, Carl Maria von – A German composer.

Webern, Anton – An Austrian composer.

Weill, Kurt – A German composer.

Whole note/rest – A note/rest equal to two half notes and four quarter notes.

Whole step – Same as two half steps or a major second.

Widor, Charles-Marie – A French organist, teacher and composer.

Wieniawski, Henryk – A Polish violinist and composer.

Willaert, Adrian – A Flemish composer.

Wind instrument family – Instruments in which sound is produced by the vibration of air, including brass and woodwind instruments.

Wolf, Hugo – An Austrian composer.

Wolf-Ferrari, Ermanno – An Italian-German composer. See Music Masters.

Woodwind family – Instruments, originally made of wood, in which sound is produced by the vibration of air, including recorders, flutes, clarinets, saxophones, oboes, and bassoons.

Xenakis, Yannis – A Greek composer.

Music Dictionary – References

Ammer, Christine, Harper’s Dictionary of Music, Harper & Row publishers, 1972.

Leonard, Hal, Pocket Music Dictionary, Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation, 1993.

Something to Sing About, G. Schirmer and Co., 1984

Other Sheet Music and Tabs

Bass Tabs
Banjo Tabs
Mandolin Tabs
Ukulele Tabs
Dulcimer Tabs

Free Classical Violin Sheet Music

The Musical Tastes of Microbes: From Bacterial Beats to Fungal Funk