Musical glossary D to G

Here's an alphabetical explanation of all those foreign musical words and terms that get scattered around a music score with the sole purpose of confusing! Hope it sheds some light...


Da capo, D. C. - Return to the beginning.

Dal - "From the," "by the."

Dal segno, D. S. - Repeat from the sign . Frequently followed by al Fine.

Damper pedal - On pianos, the pedal that lifts the dampers from the strings.

Deceptive cadence - Chordal progression dominant (V) to a chord other than the expected tonic.

Decrescendo - Gradually softer. Synonymous with diminuendo.

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

Delicato - Delicately.

Di - Of, with.
Diminished - The term for an interval which has been decreased from the major by two half steps and from the perfect by one half step. Also used for a triad which has a minor third and a diminished fifth.

Diminuendo, dim - Gradually softer. Synonymous with decrescendo.

Diminution - The shortening of note values; the opposite of augmentation.

Dirge - A piece that is performed at a funeral or memorial service.

Disjunct - The term used to describe intervals larger than a second; the opposite of conjunct.

Dissonance - Sounds of unrest, e.g. intervals of seconds and sevenths; the opposite of consonance.

Divisi, div - An indication of divided musical parts.

Do - The first degree of the major scale.

Dolce - Sweetly.

Dolcissimo - Very sweetly.

Doloroso - Sadly; mournfully.

Dominant - The fifth degree of the major or minor scale. Also, the term for the triad built on the fifth degree, labelled V in harmonic analysis.

Double bar - Two vertical lines placed on the staff to indicate the end of a section or a composition. Also, used with two dots to enclose repeated sections.

Double flat - A symbol for lowering pitch one step.

Double sharp - A symbol for raising pitch one step.

Double tonguing - On flute and brass instruments, the technique of rapidly articulating notes by using the front and the back of the tongue in alternation (t-k-t-k-t-k).

Down beat - The first beat; given by the conductor with a downward stroke.

Down bow - In the violin family, drawing the bow downward from its frog. The symbol is: .

Du - "From the," "of the."

Duet - A piece for two performers.

Duplet - A group of two notes performed in the time of three of the same kind.

Dynamics - Varying degrees of loud and soft.


E - Italian word meaning "and."

Eighth - An octave, interval of 12 semitones based on the notes of a major scale.

Eighth note/rest - A note/rest half the length of a quarter note and an eighth of the length of a whole note.

Encore - To repeat a piece or play an additional piece at the end of a performance.

Enharmonic - A term used to describe notes of the same pitch which have different names, e.g. c and d, f and g.

Espressivo - Expressively.

Esuberante - Exuberant.


Fa - In solmization, the fourth degree of the major scale.

Fanfare - A prelude or opening, a flourish, usually played by brass instruments.

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

Fermata - Hold; pause.

Festivo, festoso - Festive; merry.

Fifth - The fifth degree of the diatonic scale. Also, the interval formed by a given tone and the fifth tone above or below it, e.g. c up to g, c down to f. Intervals of the fifth may be perfect (corresponding to major), diminished, or augmented.

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

Fine - The end.

First ending - One or more measures which occur at the end of the stanza or stanzas. It is usually indicated:

Fixed do - The system of solmization in which c is always do.

Flat - A symbol which lowers the pitch of a note one half step.
Form - The design or structure of a musical composition .

Forte - Loud. Signified by f.

Fortissimo - Very loud. Signified by ff.
Fortississimo - Very loud. Signified by fff.

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

Fourth - The fourth degree of the diatonic scale. Also, the interval formed by a given tone and the fourth tone above or below it, e.g. c up to f; c down to g. Intervals of the fourth may be perfect, diminished, or augmented.

Fz - Forzando or forzato. Synonomous with sforzando (sf or sfz).


Gig - A job for a musician: typically a concert, event or performance.

Giocoso - Playful.

Giubilante - Exultant, jubilant.

Glissando or Gliss - The rapid scale achieved by sliding the nail of the thumb or third finger over the white keys of the piano. Glissando is commonly used in playing the harp. For bowed instruments glissando indicates a flowing, unaccented playing of a passage.

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, Great staff - The G and F clef staves together make the grand (great) staff.

Grave - Slow, solemn.

Grazia - Grace. Con grazia, with grace.

Grazioso - Graceful.

Grosso, grosse - Great, large.

Back to top