Musical glossary A to C
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...
Absolute - Absolute music. Music which is inspired by itself rather
than extramusical implications such as the stories legends of "program"
Accelerando, accel - Gradually faster.
Accent - > placed above a note to indicate stress or emphasis.
Accidental - A sharp, flat, or natural not included in the given key.
Accompaniment - A vocal or instrument part that supports or is background for a solo part.
Adagio - Slow; slower than andante, faster than largo.
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. Synonymous with a piacere.
A due - Return to unison after divisi.
Affrettando - Hurrying.
Agilmente - Lively.
Agitato - Agitated; with excitement.
Al, all', alla, alle - To; used with other words, e.g. al Fine (to the end).
Album - A full length recording. In pop music, it contains a number of songs.
Al coda - "To the coda."
Aleatory, or aleatoric music - Chance 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; most frequently occurs toward the end of a piece.
Allegretto - Slower than allegro.
Allegro - Quick tempo; cheerful.
Al segno - Return to the sign, Dal segno.
Alteration - The raising or lowering of a note by means of an accidental.
Alto clef - The C clef falling on the third line of the staff. Most of the time is used by the viola.
Ancora - Repeat.
Andante - Moderate tempo.
Andantino - Slightly faster than andante.
A niente - To nothing, e.g. to ppp.
Animato - Animated; lively.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Baby grand - A small grand piano.
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.
Band - An instrumental ensemble, usually made up of wind and percussion instruments and no string instruments.
Bar line - The vertical line placed on the staff to divide the music into measures.
Baroque - The period 1600-1750.
Bass clef - The other name for the F clef. Most commonly seen as the lower score line on piano pieces.
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 - A conductor's stick.
Battuto - Beat, bar, or measure. A due or a tre battuta, the musical rhythm in groups of two or three respectively.
Bebop scale - A major (ionian) scale with either an added flattened fifth note or flattened seventh note.
Ben - Well. Used with other words, e.g. ben marcato, well accented, emphasized.
Binary form - The term for describing a composition of two sections. AB, each of which may be repeated.
Bis - Repeated twice. Encore!
Bis key - The small Bb key on a saxophone between the 'A' and 'B' keys, operated by rolling the forefinger down from the 'B' key to press the two keys at once.
Bitonality - The occurrence of two different tonalities at the same time.
Bourree - A French dance from the 17th century in brisk duple time starting with a pickup.
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.
Broken chord - Notes of a chord played in succession rather than simultaneously. Arpeggio.
CCadence - A chordal or melodic progression which occurs at the close of a phrase, section, or composition, giving a feeling of repose; a temporary or permanent ending. The most frequently used cadences are perfect, plagal, and deceptive.
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: //
Calmo, calmato - Calm.
Cambia - A direction found in scores to change tuning or instruments.
Camminando - Following easily and gently.
Canon - The strictest form of imitation, in which two or more parts have the same melody but start at different points.
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 - In singing style.
Cantata - Baroque sacred or secular choral composition containing solos, duets, and choruses, with orchestral or keyboard accompaniment.
Carol - The term was derived from a medieval French word, carole, a circle dance. In England it was first associated with pagan songs celegrating the winter solstice. It then developed into a song of praise and celebration, usually for Christmas.
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.
Chance music - Aleatoric music.
Chorale - Hymn-like song, characterized by blocked chords.
Chord - A combination of three or more tones sounded simultaneously.
Chromatic - Ascending or descending by half steps.
Chromatic scale - A scale composed of 12 half steps. Circle of fifths - The succession of keys or chords proceeding by fifths.
Classical - Music conforming to certain form and structure. Usually music composed during the period 1770-1825.
Clef - A symbol placed at the beginning of the staff to indicate the pitch of the notes on the staff. The most commonly used clefs in choral music are the G, or treble, clef and the F or bass clef . On the keyboard, all the notes above middle C are said to be in the G clef; all the notes below middle C in the F clef.
Coda - Closing section of a composition. An added ending.
Col, coll', colla - With or "with the."
Common time - 4/4 meter.
Complete cadence - I-IV-V-I progression.
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.
Concert master - First chair violinist in an orchestra.
Concerto - A piece for a soloist and orchestra.
Concert pitch - The international tuning pitch -- currently A=440 or 442. The pitch for non-transposing (C) instruments.
Conducting - The directing of 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.
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.
Crescendo - Gradually louder.
Cue - Indication by the conductor or a spoken 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 - 2/2 meter.
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