Paul Dell Aquila Pop-Up Music Glossary


Music Terms and Concepts

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

A

A Battuta

A Battuta

Played strictly in tempo, or as beaten.

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A Cappella

A Cappella

Vocal music performed without instrumental accompaniment. Italian for in chapel style.

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A Tempo

A Tempo

Resume earlier tempo.

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Absolute Music

Absolute Music

Music without text or a literary, dramatic, or pictorial program.

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Accelerando

Accelerando

A gradual increase in speed. Often abbreviated to accel.

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Accent

Accent

An emphasis or weight given to a particular note or rhythmic value.

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Ad Libitum

Ad Libitum

At the performer's discretion.

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Adagietto

Adagietto

Somewhat faster than adagio.

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Adagio

Adagio

A slow tempo. Faster than largo, and slower than andante.

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Added-Sixth Chord

Added-Sixth Chord

A triad that incorporates an added note that lies a sixth above the root.

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Affettuoso

Affettuoso

To perform a passage tenderly and with passion.

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Agitato

Agitato

In an agitated, hurried, or excited manner.

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Agogic Accent

Agogic Accent

Accent established by lengthening the duration of a note.

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Al fine

Al fine

To the end. Usually with the da capo or del segno designations.

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Alberti Bass

Alberti Bass

A type of left-hand piano accompaniment that was popular in the Classical period consisting of triads played as arpeggios, or broken chords, in repeated patterns.
Named after Domenico Alberti (1710-1740).

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Aleatory Music

Aleatory Music

A compositional technique that features unpredictability by making use of elements left to chance.

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Alla Breve

Alla Breve

A meter that employs the half note as the metric unit (beat).

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Allargando

Allargando

Getting slower, broader, and louder. Often abbreviated to allarg.

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Allegretto

Allegretto

Moderately fast. A fairly brisk tempo. Somewhat slower than allegro.

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Allegro

Allegro

Quick, lively, and bright. A brisk tempo.

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Allemande

Allemande

The first movement of a Baroque dance suite in a moderate duple meter.

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Altered Chords

Altered Chords

Chords that contain chromatically altered tones.

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Ambitus

Ambitus

A Medieval term that refers to the pitch range of a melodic line.

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Anacrusis

Anacrusis

An upbeat or pickup. An unstressed note (or notes) at the beginning of a composition occurring prior to the initial downbeat.

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Andante

Andante

Moderately slow. A walking tempo.

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Andantino

Andantino

A little faster and more lighthearted than andante.

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Animato

Animato

Animated. Full of life.

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Antiphon

Antiphon

A responsory by a choir or congregation (usually in Gregorian chant) to a psalm or other text in a Christian religious service or musical work.
The word antiphon gives rise to the general term antiphony, which is often used as a label for any call and response style of singing.

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Appassionato

Appassionato

With passion. Strong feeling.

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Arco

Arco

A directive to play with the bow as opposed to plucked or pizzicato. It cancels a pizzicato directive.

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Arpeggio

Arpeggio

The tones of a chord sounded melodically one after the other instead of simultaneously. A broken chord.

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Assai

Assai

Very or rather. A term used to modify a tempo marking. For instance, the directive allegro assai would mean very fast.

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Attacca

Attacca

A directive for the performer to continue to the next movement, or section, without pause. Commonly used in the performance of classical music and Broadway shows.

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Ausdrucksvoll

Ausdrucksvoll

With expression.

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B

Bar Form

Bar Form

A musical form of the pattern AAB used by the Meistersinger of the 15th to 18th century. The AAB pattern of the bar form denotes each musical stanza: two Stollen (A), called the Aufgesang, followed by one Abgesang (B). The musical form thus contains two repetitions of one melody followed by one statement of a different melody.

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Basso Seguente

Basso Seguente

When an instrumental bass line doubles the lowest sounding voice part.
The term derives from the Italian seguente meaning follower.

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Bel Canto

Bel Canto

Italian term for beautiful singing. A style of operatic singing that emphasizes the beauty of sound and is characterized by smooth phrasing and a pure, full tone.

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Bewegt

Bewegt

A directive to perform a passage in an animated manner or with motion. The German equivalent to the Italian term animato.

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Binary Form

Binary Form

A movement (or portion of a movement) that consists of two main sections.
Note that periods and double periods are not usually referred to as binary forms.

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Briet

Briet

Broad or largo (slow).

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C

Calando

Calando

Getting weaker and slower.

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Canon

Canon

A compositional technique that involves a melody stated in one voice that is successively imitated by the remaining voices.
Derives from the Greek term for law or rule.

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Cantabile

Cantabile

Singing or song-like.

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Cantus Firmus

Cantus Firmus

In counterpoint, the fixed, given melody to which other parts are written.

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Cedez

Cedez

Slow down.

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Chanson

Chanson

A French song, usually polyphonic and secular, especially from the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. A singer specializing in chansons is known as a chanteur (male) or chanteuse (female).

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Chromatic Mediant

Chromatic Mediant

The relationship between two major triads, or two minor triads, with roots a minor third or major third apart.

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Chromaticism

Chromaticism

Refers to the use of pitches that do not belong to the key of the passage.

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Church Mode

Church Mode

The term church mode refers to one of the eight scales used to describe Gregorian chant. The traditional system of eight scales (modes), in use from the 8th century up to 1547, consisted of four pairs of authentic and plagal modes. The authentic and plagal designations described the overall range of the mode. The four authentic modes were called Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, and Mixolydian, while the plagal modes were called Hypodorian, Hypophrygian, Hypolydian, and Hypomixolydian.

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Clausula

Clausula

In late medieval music, a clausula (plural clausulae) was a newly composed polyphonic section for two or more voices sung in discant style (note against note) over a cantus firmus taken from the plainchant repertory. Clausulae were later used as substitutes for passages of the original plainchant. They were composed of melismatic figures based on a single word or syllable within an organum (a composition where one or more voices have been added to a plainchant melody to create polyphony). The text of a clausula differs from that of the plainchant melody underneath it. Each clausula is clearly delineated by a final cadence. The term derives from Roman rhetoric, where a clausula was a rhythmic figure used to add finesse and finality to the end of a sentence or phrase.

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Closely Related Keys

Coda

Coda

A special concluding section found at the end of a musical form.

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Col Legno

Col Legno

To be played with the wood of the bow.

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Comes

Comes

In imitative counterpoint, a second voice that enters copying the musical subject that was stated by the leading voice.

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Common-Chord Modulation

Common-Chord Modulation

A modulation that uses a chord that is diatonic to both keys as a hinge or pivot to link the two tonalities.

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Common-Tone Modulation

Common-Tone Modulation

When a single tone serves as the common element between the two keys.
Common-tone modulation often makes use of chromatic mediant relationships.

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Comodo

Comodo

Leisurely.

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Con Brio

Con Brio

With spirit or vigor.

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Con Fuoco

Con Fuoco

With fire.

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Con Grandezza

Con Grandezza

With dignity, grandeur.

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Con Gusto

Con Gusto

With style, taste.

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Con Sordino

Con Sordino

With the mute.

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Conductus

Conductus

In medieval music, conductus (plural: conductus) is a type of sacred, but non-liturgical vocal composition for one or more voices. The word derives from Latin conducere (to escort), and the conductus was most likely sung while the lectionary was carried from its place of safekeeping to the place from which it was to be read. The conductus was one of the principal types of vocal composition of the ars antiqua period of medieval music history. Almost all composers of conductus are anonymous.

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Continuous Binary Form

Continuous Binary Form

When the first section of a binary form ends with any other chord other than the tonic triad of the main key.

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Continuous Ternary Form

Continuous Ternary Form

When the first section of a ternary form ends with any other chord other than the tonic triad of the main key.

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Crescendo

Crescendo

Gradually getting louder. Often abbreviated to cresc.

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D

Da Capo

Da Capo

Repeat from the beginning. Often abbreviated to D.C.

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Da Capo Aria

Da Capo Aria

A type of vocal composition found in operas, cantatas, and oratorios that is set in a ternary design (ABA).
After the A and B sections are sounded, the performers are directed to go back to the beginning (da capo) to repeat the A section.

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Damper Pedal

Damper Pedal

One of the three foot pedals located under the piano that effects the sound.
This pedal, located on the right, lifts felt dampers from the piano strings allowing them to sustain.

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Decrescendo

Decrescendo

Gradually getting softer. Often abbreviated to decr.

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Del Segno

Del Segno

Repeat from the sign. Often abbreviated to D.S.

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Detache

Detache

Broad, separate bow strokes.

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Diminuendo

Diminuendo

Gradually getting softer. Often abbreviated to dim.

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Diminution

Diminution

A systematic dividing of note durations; usually a halving of note values.

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Direct Modulation

Direct Modulation

When modulations occur without any attempt to smooth them over through the use of common chords or common tones.
Often called phrase modulation when it occurs between two phrases or two formal divisions of music.

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Discant

Discant

Discant (Latin for singing apart) was a style of liturgical music setting of the Middle Ages. It is a type of organum that includes a plainchant tenor part and a note-against-note upper voice that moves in contrary motion. It is a compositional technique, not a musical form. Discant can be identified by the following characteristics:
Both the tenor and upper part move at about the same rate, with between one and three notes in the upper part to every note in the tenor part. At the end of a phrase, however, the upper part may have more notes. This produces a melismatic cadence. The consonant intervals of the octave and fifth are used, as are the so called rhythmic modes (a way of notating rhythm developed by the Notre Dame composers that uses ligatures and six different rhythmic patterns). Discant is associated with the development of the Notre Dame school of polyphony.

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Divine Office

Divine Office

The Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours, or canonical hours, (also referred to as the Breviary) is the official set of daily prayers prescribed by the Roman Catholic Church to be recited by clergy, religious institutes, and laity. It is comprised of a series of eight services performed each day and night:
1) Matins (or Vigils) at 3 a.m.
2) Lauds at daybreak
3) Prime at 6 a.m.
4) Terce at 9 a.m.
5) Sext at noon
6) None at 3 p.m.
7) Vespers at twilight
8) Compline before going to sleep.
Prime, Terce, Sext, and None are referred to as the Little Hours. The Divine Office includes the use of psalms and canticles (with antiphons), lessons followed by responsories, hymns, versicles with responsories, and prayers. Together with the Mass, it constitutes the official public prayer life of the Church. Upon ordination to the Diaconate, the daily recitation of the Divine Office becomes a canonical obligation. It also forms the basis of prayer within Christian monasticism.

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Dolce

Dolce

Sweetly.

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Dolente

Dolente

Sorrowful.

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Doucement

Doucement

Gently or sweetly.

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Dux

Dux

In imitative counterpoint, the leading voice that states a musical subject to be copied by reaming voice parts.

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E

Echappee

Echappee

French term for escaped note.
A non-chord tone that is approached by step and left by skip.

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Eilig

Eilig

German term for hurried or hasty.
Directs the musician to perform a passage in a hurried, urgent manner.

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Enharmonically Equivalent Keys

Enharmonically Equivalent Keys

Keys which sound the same but are spelled differently.

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Ernst

Ernst

Serious.

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Espressivo

Espressivo

Expressively. Often abbreviated to espr.

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Essential Chromaticism

Essential Chromaticism

Refers to the use of tones that do not belong to the scale as members of chords.

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F

Facile

Facile

Directs the musician to perform a passage in a light, easy manner.

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Fantasia

Fantasia

A composition that follows no particular pattern or form allowing the composer to follow his imagination.

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Feierlich

Feierlich

Solemn, exalted.

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Festivo

Festivo

Festive.

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Fine

Fine

End.

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Fixed Forms

Flussig

Flussig

Flowing.

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Foreign Key Relationships

Foreign Key Relationships

Keys that differ by more than one accidental.
Foreign key relationships involve two keys that are not enharmonic, parallel, relative, or closely related.

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Forte

Forte

Loud.

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Fortissimo

Fortissimo

Very loud.

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G

Gallant Style

Gallant Style

Often called style galant, is an elegant, uncomplicated style of music composition that arose in contrast to the complex style of Baroque counterpoint. It is light, graceful, and pleasing.

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Ganze Pause

Ganze Pause

German term for whole rest.

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Giocoso

Giocoso

Playful.

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Gioioso

Gioioso

Joyous.

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Glissando

Glissando

Sliding.

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Grave

Grave

Solemn, serious.

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Guidonian Hand

Guidonian Hand

The Guidonian hand was a mnemonic device used in the Middle Ages to assist singers in learning to sight-sing. It is attributed to Guido of Arezzo, a medieval music theorist. Each portion of the hand represents a specific note. An instructor could indicate a series of pitches by pointing to them on their hand and the students would sing them.

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H

Halbe Pause

Halbe Pause

German term for half rest.

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Half Cadence

Half Cadence

A harmonic cadential formula that concludes with a dominant harmony.

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Heimlich

Heimlich

Mysterious.

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Herzlich

Herzlich

Heartily, affectionate.

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Hocket





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I

Idée fixe

Idée fixe

French term for fixed idea. A recurring theme in a composition.

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Im

Im

In.

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Immer

Immer

Always.

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Innig

Innig

Heartfelt, fervent.

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Innigkeit

Innigkeit

Deep emotion.

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Interval

Interval

The tonal distance between two notes.

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Isorhythmic Motet

Istesso

Istesso

Same.

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Istesso Tempo

Istesso Tempo

Same tempo (after a change of time signature).

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J

Jongleur

Jongleur

An itinerant entertainer of medieval France that would provide entertainment for courts.

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Joyeux

Joyeux

Joyous.

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Just Intonation

Just Intonation

A tuning system in which the fifths are tuned smaller in order to produce pure thirds. In this system, the intervals do not beat.

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K

Kapellmeister

Kapellmeister

German term for chapel master. The director of music for a bishop, king, or nobleman.

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Kesselpauke

Kesselpauke

German term for timpani or kettledrums.

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Key

Key

The pitch relationships that establish a tonal center.

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Key Signature

Key Signature

The sharps or flats appearing at the beginning of each staff to indicate the key of the composition.

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Klagend

Klagend

Mourning, sad, gloomy.

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Kurz

Kurz

Short, crisp.

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L

La Bemolle

La Bemolle

Italian term for the pitch A flat.

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La Diesis

La Diesis

Italian term for the pitch A sharp.

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Lacrimoso

Lacrimoso

Tearful.

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Landini Cadence

Langsam

Langsam

Slow.

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Largamente

Largamente

Broadly.

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Largo

Largo

Slow, dignified tempo

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Legato

Legato

Smooth, connected.

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Leggiero

Leggiero

Light.

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Lento

Lento

Slow.

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Lo Stesso Tempo

Lo Stesso Tempo

The same speed.

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Lourd

Lourd

Heavy.

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Lustig

Lustig

Merry, cheerful.

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M

Madrigal

Madrigal

An Renaissance vocal form popular in Italy and England written for four to six voices.
Madrigals are usually set to short love poems and are characterized by word painting and harmonic and rhythmic contrast.

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Maestoso

Maestoso

Majestic.

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Magnificat

Magnificat

Part of the Roman Catholic service of vespers, a composition sung antiphonally in plainsong based on the words of the Virgin Mary.
During the Renaissance, and after, it was usually set polyphonically and often based on a chant tune.

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Marcando (also Marcato)

Marcando (also Marcato)

Marked.

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Meno

Meno

Less.

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Mesto

Mesto

Mournful.

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Mezza Voce

Mezza Voce

Half voice. In instrumental music, half volume.

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Mezzo

Mezzo

Half.

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Mit Empfindung

Mit Empfindung

With feeling.

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Moderato

Moderato

Moderate tempo.

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Modulation

Modulation

A shift of tonal center that takes place within an individual movement.

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Molto

Molto

Very.

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Monophonic Modulation

Monophonic Modulation

When a single unharmonized line establishes a new tonal center.

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Monophony

Motet

Motet

Typically, a polyphonic vocal composition based on a sacred text (usually Latin) and most often sung without accompaniment. The motet has undergone numerous transformations through the centuries. The term derives from the French mot (meaning word).

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Musica Ficta



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N

Natural Horn

Natural Horn

An early French horn without valves, keys, or slides.

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Neumatic Setting

Neumatic Setting

A style of plainchant melody writing that sets one syllable of text to one neume.
A single neume denotes two to four notes, thus each syllable of text is set to two to four notes.

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Nicht Schleppend

Nicht Schleppend

Not dragging.

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Non-Essential Chromaticism

Non-Essential Chromaticism

The use of chromatically altered tones as non-chord tones.

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Non Troppo

Non Troppo

Not too much.

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O

Obbligato

Obbligato

Indispensable part. Opposite of ad libitum.

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Oblique Motion

Oblique Motion

Motion between two parts whereby one part is static and the other moves either toward it or away from it.

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Octatonic Scale

Octatonic Scale

A scale of eight pitches per octave arranged by alternating half steps and whole steps.

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Octave

Octave

An interval consisting of the distance of eight notes.

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Opera

Opera

A drama set to music for voices and instruments.

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Opus

Opus

The numbered grouping of written compositions.

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Oratorio

Oratorio

An extended dramatic vocal composition for soloists and chorus with orchestral accompaniment, based on a sacred text.

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Organ Point

Organ Point

Often considered synonymous with pedal point or pedal tone, the organ point differs from these in that it is a nonharmonic-tone entity consisting of a perfect fifth interval, usually the tonic and fifth of the prevailing key.

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Organum

Organum

An early form of counterpoint where voices sound against the main chant voice in parallel motion at fixed intervals (usually perfect fourths, fifths, and octaves).

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Ornamentation

Ornamentation

Either written or improvised, ornamentation is essentially a decorative process in which a note is preceded and/or followed by flourishes.

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Ossia

Ossia

Or.

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Ostinato

Ostinato

A short reiterated musical pattern or figure.

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Ottava

Ottava

Octave.

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Overtone

Overtone

The additional pitches generated by a fundamental pitch. They are fainter and much weaker than the fundamental pitch, but add to it the characteristic timbre.

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Overture

Overture

An introductory movement to a large-scale work, such as an opera.

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P

Parallel Keys

Parallel Keys

Major and minor keys that have the same tonic note.

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Parlando (also Parlante)

Parlando (also Parlante)

Speech like.

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Phrase Modulation

Phrase Modulation

A direct modulation that occurs between phrases.

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Piacevole

Piacevole

Agreeable.

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Piano

Piano

Soft.

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Pianissimo

Pianissimo

Very soft.

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Piu

Piu

More.

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Pizzicato

Pizzicato

Plucked instead of bowed. Often abbreviated to pizz.

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Poco

Poco

Little.

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Point of Modulation

Point of Modulation

The first chord in the new key.

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Polyphony

Psalm Tones

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Q

Quadruple Meter

Quadruple Meter

The regular grouping of rhythmic units by four.

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Quartal Harmony

Quartal Harmony

Chords structured primarily on intervals of fourths.

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Quasi

Quasi

As if, nearly.

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Quintal Harmony

Quintal Harmony

Chords structured primarily on intervals of fifths.

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Quodlibet

Quodlibet

A piece of music combining several different melodies, usually popular tunes, in counterpoint and often in a light-hearted or humorous manner.
The term is Latin, meaning whatever, or literally, what pleases.

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R

Rallentando

Rallentando

Gradually slowing. Often abbreviated to rall.

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Rasch

Rasch

Quick.

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Relative Keys

Relative Keys

Two major and minor keys that share the same key signatures.
It is the most commonly encountered altered chord in tonal music.

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Responsory

Ritardando

Ritardando

Gradually slowing. Often abbreviated to rit.

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Ritenuto

Ritenuto

Immediately slower.

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Rondo Form

Rondo Form

A form in which the first theme is heard three or four times with contrasting material occurring between its appearances.

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Rounded Binary Form

Rounded Binary Form

Refers to music in which the opening A section returns after contrasting material often in an abbreviated form.

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Rubato

Rubato

Flexible melody against an inflexible accompaniment.

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Ruhig

Ruhig

Peaceful.

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S

Scherzando

Scherzando

Playfully.

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Schnell

Schnell

Fast.

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Secondary Function

Secondary Function

A chord whose function belongs more closely to a key other than the main key of the passage.
It is the most commonly encountered altered chord in tonal music.

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Sectional Binary Form

Sectional Binary Form

When the first section of a binary form ends on the tonic triad of the main key.

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Sectional Ternary Form

Sectional Ternary Form

When the first section of a ternary form ends on the tonic triad of the main key.

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Segue

Segue

Continue without a break.

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Semplice

Semplice

Simple.

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Senza

Senza

Without.

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Sequence

Sequence

A transposition of a melodic segment to a different scale degree.

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Sequential Modulation

Sequential Modulation

When the transposition of a musical pattern (sequence) causes a change of tonal center.

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Sforzando

Sforzando

Sudden accent. Often abbreviated to sf.

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Slentando

Slentando

Slowing down.

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Soave

Soave

Gentle.

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Solmization Syllables

Solo

Solo

Alone. One player.

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Sonata Form

Sonata Form

Consists of an Exposition with two tonal centers, a tonally unstable Development, and a tonic-centered Recapitulation that returns the material from the Exposition.

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Sospirando

Sospirando

Sighing.

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Sostenuto

Sostenuto

Sustained; smoothly.

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Sotto Voce

Sotto Voce

In an undertone.

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Spiritoso

Spiritoso

Spirited.

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Staccato

Staccato

Disconnected. Opposite of legato.

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Staff

Staff

Five parallel lines used in musical notation.

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Strophic Forms


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T

Tacet

Tacet

Silent.

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Tempo

Tempo

Rate of speed.

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Tempo Giusto

Tempo Giusto

Strict time; fitting speed.

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Tenuto

Tenuto

Held, legato.

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Ternary Form

Ternary Form

Music that is in three parts.
The middle section provides contrast through the use of different melodic material, texture, tonality, or some combination of these.
The third part returns all of the material from the first section.

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Tonicization

Tonicization

Similar to modulation, but with the new key less strongly, and only temporarily, established.

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Transition

Transition

An auxiliary section of music that is used to connect different themes or tonal centers.

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Trecento Forms

Tremolo

Tremolo

Rapid reiteration of a single pitch.

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Trill

Trill

Rapid alternation of notes.

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Trope

Troubadours

Trouvères

Tutti

Tutti

All voices or instruments together.

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Two-Reprise Form

Two-Reprise Form

Any work, or portion of a work, that consists of two repeated sections of music.

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U

Un (Uno)

Un (Uno)

One, a, an.

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Un Poco

Un Poco

A little.

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Una Corda

Una Corda

Use of soft pedal on piano to achieve muting.

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Und

Und

And.

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Unisono

Unisono

Unison.

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Upper-Partial Chord

Upper-Partial Chord

A tertian constructed chord consisting of odd-numbered scale degrees above the octave.

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V

Variation

Variation

The harmonic, rhythmic, or melodic modification of a theme for the purpose of protraction.

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Variations

Variations

Literally, the varied restatement of a musical idea (usually the theme), accomplished by one or more of the following techniques: inversion, retrograde, augmentation, diminution, ornamentation, rhythmic modification, or transposition, or by any other means of modifying the idea.

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Veloce

Veloce

Fast.

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Vif

Vif

Lively.

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Vigoroso

Vigoroso

Vigorously.

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Vite

Vite

Quick.

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Vivace

Vivace

Very fast, quick, vivacious.

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Vivamente

Vivamente

Very fast.

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Vivo

Vivo

Lively.

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Voce

Voce

The voice.

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Voice Leading

Voice Leading

The practice of correctly resolving harmonic and contrapuntal notes.

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Volante

Volante

Flowing.

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Volti Subito

Volti Subito

Turn (the page) quickly. Often abbreviated to v.s.

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W

Whole-Tone Scale

Whole-Tone Scale

A six-tone scale comprised exclusively of whole steps.

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Y










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Z

Zart

Zart

Tender, delicate.

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Zartlich

Zartlich

Tenderly.

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Ziemlich

Ziemlich

Somewhat, rather.

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Zierlich

Zierlich

Delicate, graceful.

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Zögerend

Zögerend

Lingering.

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