Musical glossary R to T

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...

R

Rallentando, rall - Gradually slower. Synonymous with ritardando.

Range - The gamut of pitches, from low to high, which a singer may perform.

Rapide - Rapidly.

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

Recital - A performance by one or more performers.

Refrain - A short section of repeated material which occurs at the end of each stanza.

Relative major and minor scales - Major and minor scales which have the same key signature.

Renaissance - The period c. 1450-1600.

Repeat - The repetition of a section or a composition as indicated by particular signs.

Also D.C., repeat from the beginning and D.S., repeat from the sign.

Resonance - Reinforcement and intensification of sound by vibrations.

Rest - A symbol used to denote silence.

Rhapsody - A free style instrumental piece characterized by dramatic changes in mood.

Rhythm - The term which denotes the organization of sound in time; the temporal quality of sound.

Rinforzando - A reinforced accent.

Risoluto - Resolute.

Ritardando, rit - Gradually slower. Synonymous with rallentando.

Ritenuto - Immediate reduction in tempo.

Ritmico - Rhythmically.

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.

Round - Like the canon, a song in which two or more parts having the same melody, starting at different points. The parts may be repeated as desired.

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

Rudiments - On drums, the basic sticking patterns.

Ruhig - Quiet. German.

Run - A rapid scale passage.

Rustico - Pastoral, rustic, rural.

S

Sanft - Soft, gentle.

Sans - Without.

Scale - A succession of tones. The scale generally used in Western music is the diatonic scale, consisting of whole and half steps in a specific order.

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

Secco - "Dry." Unornamented.

Second - The second degree of the diatonic scale. Also, the interval formed by a given tone and the next tone above or below it, e.g. c up to d, or c down to b. Intervals of the second may be major, diminished, or augmented.

Section - A division of a musical composition.

Segno - "Sign."

Sehr - Very. German.

Sehr leise beginnend - Very soft in the beginning.

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

Sempre - Always. Used with other terms, e.g. sempre staccato.

Semplice - Simple.

Senza - Without. Used with other terms, e.g. senza crescendo.

Septet - A piece for seven instruments or voices. 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.

Seventh - The seventh degree of the diatonic scale. Also, the interval formed by a given tone and the seventh tone above or below it, e.g. c up to b, or c down to d. Intervals of the seventh may be major, minor, diminished, or augmented.

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 the pitch of a note one-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. Synonymous with changing meter.

Simile - An indication to continue in the same manner.

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. C is g-c-e.

Sixteenth note/rest - A note/rest half the length of an eighth note and a sixteenth the length of a whole note.

Sixth - The sixth degree of the diatonic scale. Also, the interval formed by a given tone and the sixth tone above or below it, e.g. c up to a, or c down to e. Intervals of the sixth may be major, minor, diminished, or augmented.

Sixth chord - The first inversion of a triad, made by placing the third of the chord in the lowest voice, e.g. C6 is e-g-c.

Skip - Melodic movement of more than one whole step.

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.

Smorzando - Fading away.

Soave - Sweet, mild.

Sognando - Dreamily.

Sol - In solmization, the fifth degree of the major scale.

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 or slackening of tempo.

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

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.

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

Stesso - Same.

String instrument family - Instruements 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.

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 nonharmonic tone to delay the resolution of a chord, frequently as it occurs in a cadence. Hence suspended chord.

Svelto - Quick, light.

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.

T

Tanto - Much, so much.

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.

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 third degree of the diatonic scale. Also, 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.

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 - Synonymous with meter signature.

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 instruements, articulation with the tongue.

Tonic - The first note of a key. 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. Literal meaning is 'sound' or 'note'.

Tono - Tone, key, pitch.

Tosto - Quick.

Tranquillo - Tranquilly; quietly; calm.

Transposition - The process of changing the key.
Transposing instrument - For size, pitch & practicality reasons, makes of instruments whose pitch is not 'concert'. Hence Bb & Eb saxophones, F French horns etc

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. The top part of a piano 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. Also called Tuplet.

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.

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