ⓘ Glossary of musical terminology
This is a list of musical terms that are likely to be encountered in printed scores, music reviews, and program notes. Most of the terms are Italian, in accordance with the Italian origins of many European musical conventions. Sometimes, the special musical meanings of these phrases differ from the original or current Italian meanings. Most of the other terms are taken from French and German, indicated by Fr. and Ger. ", respectively.
Unless specified, the terms are Italian or English. The list can never be complete: some terms are common, and others are used only occasionally, and new ones are coined from time to time. Some composers prefer terms from their own language rather than the standard terms listed here.
1. 0–9I in violin family instrument music, used to indicate that the player should play the passage on the highest-pitched, thinnest string 1′ "sifflet" or one foot organ stop 1 3 ⁄ 5 ′ Tierce organ stop 2′ two feet – pipe organ indication; see Organ stop § Pitch and length II in violin family instrument music, used to indicate that the player should play the passage on the string adjacent to the highest-pitched, thinnest string 2 ⁄ 3 ′ pipe organ stop for the twelfth interval IV–VI mixture stop on pipe organ II cymbal stop on pipe organ III in violin family instrument music, used to indicate that the player should play the passage on string adjacent to but higher in pitch than the lowest-pitched, thickest string IV in violin family instrument music, used to indicate that the player should play the passage on the lowest-pitched, thickest string 4′ four feet – pipe organ rank that speaks one octave higher than 8′ 8′ eight-foot pipe – pipe organ indication 16′ sixteen-foot pipe – pipe organ indication calling for one octave below 8′ 32′ thirty-two-foot pipe – pipe organ indication calling for two octaves below 8′ also called sub-bass on most organs this is the lowest, deepest pitch 64′ sixty-four-foot pipe – pipe organ indication only a few organs have this deep a pitch
2. Aa or à Fr. at, to, by, for, in, in the style of. a battuta Return to normal tempo after a deviation. Not recommended in string parts, due to possible confusion with battuto qv.; use a tempo, which means the same thing. a bene placito Up to the performer a cappella i.e. without instrumental accompaniment a capriccio A free and capricious approach to tempo a due a 2 intended as a duet; for two voices or instruments; together; two instruments are to play in unison after a solo passage for one of the instruments a niente To nothing; indicating a diminuendo which fades completely away a piacere At pleasure i.e. the performer need not follow the rhythm strictly, for example in a cadenza a prima vista lit. "at first sight". Sight-reading i.e. played or sung from written notation but without prior review of the written material. Refer to the figure. a tempo In time i.e. the performer should return to the main tempo of the piece, such as after an accelerando or ritardando; also may be found in combination with other terms such as a tempo giusto in strict time or a tempo di menuetto at the speed of a minuet ab Ger. off, organ stops or mutes abafando Port. muffled, muted abandon or avec Fr. free, unrestrained, passionate abbandonatamente, con abbandono free, relaxed aber Ger. but accarezzevole Expressive and caressing accelerando accel. Accelerating; gradually increasing the tempo accelerato suddenly increasing the tempo accent Emphasize accentato/accentuato Accented; with emphasis acceso Ignited, on fire accessible Music that is easy to listen to/understand acciaccato Broken down, crushed; the sounding of the notes of a chord not quite simultaneously, but from bottom to top. acciaccatura Crushing i.e. a very fast grace note that is "crushed" against the note that follows and takes up no value in the measure accompagnato Accompanied i.e. with the accompaniment following the soloist, who may speed up or slow down at will accuratezza Precision; accuracy. con accuratezza: with precision acoustic Relating to music produced by instruments, as opposed to electric or electronic means ad libitum commonly ad lib ; Latin At liberty i.e. the speed and manner of execution are left to the performer. It can also mean improvisation. adagietto Fairly slow but faster than adagio At ease i.e. play slowly adagissimo Very, very slow affannato, affannoso Anguished affetto or con affetto with affect that is, with emotion affettuoso, affettuosamente, or affectueusement Fr. With affect that is, with emotion; see also con affetto affrettando Hurrying, pressing onwards agile Swiftly agitato Agitated al or alla To the, in the manner of al before masculine nouns, alla before feminine alcuna licenza Used in con alcuna licenza, meaning play with some freedom in the time, see rubato all ottava "at the octave", see ottava alla breve In cut-time; two beats per measure or the equivalent thereof alla marcia In the style of a march alla polacca In the style of a Polonaise, a 3/4 dance allargando Broadening, becoming a little slower each time allegretto A little lively, moderately fast allegretto vivace A moderately quick tempo allegrezza Cheerfulness, joyfulness allegrissimo Very fast, though slower than presto allegro Cheerful or brisk; but commonly interpreted as lively, fast alt Eng., alt dom, or altered dominant A jazz term which instructs chord-playing musicians such as a jazz pianist or jazz guitarist to perform a dominant V7 chord with at least one often both altered sharpened or flattened 5th or 9th altissimo Very high; see also in altissimo. alto High; often refers to a particular range of voice, higher than a tenor but lower than a soprano alzate sordini Lift or raise the mutes i.e. remove mutes am Steg Ger. At the bridge. See sul ponticello. amabile Amiable, pleasant ambitus Range between highest and lowest note amore or amor in Spanish/Portuguese and sometimes in Italian Love, con amore: with love, tenderly amoroso Loving anacrusis A note or notes that precede the first full bar; a pickup andamento Used to refer to a fugue subject of above-average length andante At a walking pace i.e. at a moderate tempo andantino Slightly faster than andante but earlier it is sometimes used to mean slightly slower than andante angstlich Ger. Anxiously anima Life; feeling. con anima: with feeling animandosi Animated, lively animato Animated, lively antiphon A liturgical or other composition consisting of choral responses, sometimes between two choirs; a passage of this nature forming part of another composition; a repeated passage in a psalm or other liturgical piece, similar to a refrain. antiphonal A style of composition in which two sections of singers or instrumentalists exchange sections or music one after the other; typically the performers are on different sides of a hall or venue apaise Fr. Calmed appassionato Passionately appoggiatura or leaning note One or more grace notes that take up some note value of the next full note. arco The bow used for playing some string instrument ; normally used to cancel a pizzicato direction aria Self-contained piece for one voice usually with orchestral accompaniment which may be provided by a pianist using an orchestral reduction arietta A short aria arioso Airy, or like an air a melody i.e. in the manner of an aria; melodious armonioso Harmoniously arpeggio, arpeggiato like a harp i.e. the notes of the chords are to be played quickly one after another instead of simultaneously. In music for piano, this is sometimes a solution in playing a wide-ranging chord whose notes cannot be played otherwise. Arpeggios are frequently used as an accompaniment. See also broken chord. articulato Articulately assai Much, Very much assez Fr. Enough, sufficiently attacca Attack or attach; go straight on Ausdruck Ger. Expression ausdrucksvoll or mit Ausdruck Ger. Expressively, with expression avec Fr. With or with another
3. BB German for B flat ; H in German is B natural ballabile from the Italian Ballabile meaning "danceable" In ballet the term refers to a dance performed by the corps de ballet. The term Grand ballabile is used if nearly all participants including principal characters of a particular scene in a full-length work perform a large-scale dance. bar, or measure unit of music containing a number of beats as indicated by a time signature; also the vertical bar enclosing it. barbaro Barbarous notably used in Allegro barbaro by Bela Bartok pizzicato A term that instructs string performers to play a pizzicato note to pull the string away from the fingerboard so that it snaps back percussively on the fingerboard. bass The lowest of the standard four voice ranges ; the lowest melodic line in a musical composition, often thought of as defining and supporting the harmony; in an orchestral context, the term usually refers to the double bass. basso continuo Continuous bass, often with a bass instrument, to give harmonic structure), used especially in the Baroque period battement Fr. Used in the 17th-century to refer to ornaments consisting of two adjacent notes, such as trills or mordents battuto Ital. To strike the strings with the bow on a bowed stringed instrument beam Horizontal or diagonal line used to connect multiple consecutive notes. beat 1. The pronounced rhythm of music 2. One single stroke of a rhythmic accent belebt or belebter Ger. Spirited, vivacious, lively bellicoso Warlike, aggressive English cognate is "bellicose" ben or bene Well; in ben marcato "well marked" for example bend Jazz term referring either to establishing a pitch, sliding down half a step and returning to the original pitch or sliding up half a step from the original note. beschleunigt Ger. Accelerated, as in mit beschleunigter Geschwindigkeit, at an accelerated tempo bewegt Ger. Moved, with speed binary A musical form in two sections: AB birds eye A slang term for fermata, which instructs the performer to hold a note or chord as long as they wish of following cues from a conductor bis Lat. Twice i.e. repeat the relevant action or passage bisbigliando Whispering i.e. a special tremolo effect on the harp where a chord or note is rapidly repeated at a low volume bocca chiusa with closed mouth sometimes abbreviated B.C. bravura Boldness; as in con bravura, boldly breit Ger. Broad bridge 1. Transitional passage connecting two sections of a composition, or between two A sections e.g., in an A/B/A form. 2. Part of a violin family or guitar/lute stringed instrument that holds the strings in place and transmits their vibrations to the resonant body of the instrument. brillante Brilliantly, with sparkle. Play in a showy and spirited style. brio or brioso Vigour; usually in con brio: with spirit or vigour broken chord A chord in which the notes are not all played at once, but in some more or less consistent sequence. They may follow singly one after the other, or two notes may be immediately followed by another two, for example. See also arpeggio, which as an accompaniment pattern may be seen as a kind of broken chord; see Alberti bass. bruscamente Brusquely
4. Ccabaletta The concluding, rapid, audience-rousing section of an aria cadence A melodic or harmonic configuration that creates a sense of resolution cadenza A solo section, usually in a concerto or similar work, that is used to display the performers technique, sometimes at considerable length calando Falling away, or lowering i.e. getting slower and quieter; ritardando along with diminuendo calma Calm; so con calma, calmly. Also calmato meaning calmed, relaxed calore Warmth; so con calore, warmly cambiare To change i.e. any change, such as to a new instrument canon or kanon Ger. A theme that is repeated and imitated and built upon by other instruments with a time delay, creating a layered effect; see Pachelbels Canon. cantabile or cantando In a singing style. In instrumental music, a style of playing that imitates the way the human voice might express the music, with a measured tempo and flexible, legato. canto Chorus; choral; chant cantus mensuratus or cantus figuratus Lat. Meaning respectively "measured song" or "figured song". Originally used by medieval music theorists, it refers to polyphonic song with exactly measured notes and is used in contrast to cantus planus. A later term for cantus mensuratus or cantus figuratus is cantus musicus "musical song". capo 1. capo short for capotasto: "nut": A key-changing device for stringed instruments e.g. guitars and banjos 2. head i.e. the beginning, as in da capo capriccio "A humorous, fanciful, or bizarre, composition, often characterized by an idiosyncratic departure from current stylistic norms." See also: Capriccio disambiguation capriccioso Capriciously, unpredictable, volatile cavalleresco Chivalrous used in Carl Nielsens violin concerto cedez Fr. Yield, give way cesura or caesura Lat. Break, stop; i.e. a complete break in sound sometimes nicknamed "railroad tracks" in reference to their appearance chiuso Closed i.e. muted by hand coda A tail i.e. a closing section appended to a movement codetta A small coda, but usually applied to a passage appended to a section of a movement, not to a whole movement col or colla with the col before a masculine noun, colla before a feminine noun; see next for example col legno With the wood i.e. the strings for example, of a violin are to be struck with the wood of the bow, making a percussive sound; also battuta col legno: beaten with the wood col pugno With the fist i.e. bang the piano with the fist collottava With the addition of the octave note above or below the written note; abbreviated as col 8, coll 8, and c. 8va colla parte With the soloist; as an instruction in an orchestral score or part, it instructs the conductor or orchestral musician to follow the rhythm and tempo of a solo performer usually for a short passage colla voce With the voice; as an instruction in a choral music/opera score or orchestral part, it instructs the conductor or orchestral musician to follow the rhythm and tempo of a solo singer usually for a short passage coloratura Coloration i.e. elaborate ornamentation of a vocal line, or a soprano voice that is well-suited to such elaboration colossale Tremendously come prima Like the first time i.e. as before, typically referring to an earlier tempo come sopra As above i.e. like the previous tempo common time The time signature 4 4: four beats per measure, each beat a quarter note a crotchet in length. 4 is often written on the musical staff as. The symbol is not a C as an abbreviation for common time, but a broken circle; the full circle at one time stood for triple time, 3 4. comodo Comfortable i.e. at moderate speed; also, allegro comodo, tempo comodo, etc. comp 1. abbreviation of accompanying, accompanying music, accompaniment 2. describes the chords, rhythms, and countermelodies that instrumental players used to support a musicians melody and improvised solos. 3. Ostinato comping 1. to comp ; action of accompanying. con With; used in very many musical directions, for example con allegrezza with liveliness, con amore with tenderness; see also col and colla con dolcezza See dolce con sordina or con sordine plural With a mute, or with mutes. Frequently seen in music as incorrect Italian con sordino, or con sordini plural. concerto Composition for solo instruments and orchestra conjunct An adjective applied to a melodic line that moves by step intervals of a 2nd rather in disjunct motion by leap. contralto Lowest female singing voice type contrapuntalism See counterpoint coperti plural of coperto covered i.e. on a drum, muted with a cloth corda String. On piano refers to use of the soft pedal which controls whether the hammer strikes one or three strings; see una corda, tre corde below. count Series of regularly occurring sounds to assist with ready identification of beat crescendo Growing; i.e. progressively louder contrast diminuendo cuivre Brassy. Used almost exclusively as a French Horn technique to indicate a forced, rough tone. A note marked both stopped and loud will be cuivre automatically custos Symbol at the very end of a staff of music which indicates the pitch for the first note of the next line as a warning of what is to come. The custos was commonly used in handwritten Renaissance and typeset Baroque music. cut time Same as the meter 2 2: two half-note minim beats per measure. Notated and executed like common time 4 4, except with the beat lengths doubled. Indicated by. This comes from a literal cut of the symbol of common time. Thus, a quarter note in cut time is only half a beat long, and a measure has only two beats. See also alla breve.
5. Dda capo From the head i.e. from the beginning see also capo dal segno D.S. From the sign dal segno al coda D.S. al coda Repeat to the sign and continue to the coda sign, then play coda dal segno al fine D.S. al fine From the sign to the end i.e. return to a place in the music designated by the sign and continue to the end of the piece dal segno al coda D.S.S. al coda Same as D.S. al coda, but with a double segno dal segno al fine D.S.S. al fine From the double sign to the end i.e. return to place in the music designated by the double sign see D.S. al coda and continue to the end of the piece) decelerando Slowing down; decelerating; opposite of accelerando same as ritardando or rallentando deciso Decisively declamando Solemn, expressive, impassioned decrescendo decresc. Gradually decreasing volume same as diminuendo deest From the Latin deesse meaning to be missing ; placed after a catalogue abbreviation to indicate that this particular work does not appear in it. The plural, desunt, is used when referring to several works. delicatamente or delicato Delicately detache Fr. Act of playing notes separately devoto Religiously diminuendo, dim. Dwindling i.e. with gradually decreasing volume same as decrescendo disjunct An adjective applied to a melodic line which moves by leap intervals of more than a 2nd as opposed to conjunct motion by step di Of dissonante Dissonant divisi div. Divided i.e. in a part in which several musicians normally play exactly the same notes they are instead to split the playing of the written simultaneous notes among themselves. It is most often used for string instruments, since with them another means of execution is often possible. The return from divisi is marked unisono. doit Jazz term referring to a note that slides to an indefinite pitch chromatically upwards. dolce Sweetly; con dolcezza: with sweetness dolcissimo Very sweetly dolente Sorrowfully, plaintively dolore Pain, distress, sorrow, grief; con dolore: with sadness doloroso Sorrowfully, plaintively doppio movimento Twice as fast double dot Two dots placed side by side after a note to indicate that it is to be lengthened by three quarters of its value. double stop The technique of playing two notes simultaneously on a bowed string instrument downtempo A slow, moody, or decreased tempo or played or done in such a tempo. It also refers to a genre of electronic music based on this downtempo. drammatico Dramatically drone Bass note or chord performed continuously throughout a composition drop Jazz term referring to a note that slides to an indefinite pitch chromatically downwards duolo Ital. grief dumpf Ger. Dull Dur Ger. major; used in key signatures as, for example, A-Dur A major, B-Dur B ♭ major, or H-Dur B major. see also Moll minor) dynamics The relative volume in the execution of a piece of music
6. Ee Ital. or ed Ital., – used before vowels And eco The Italian word for "echo"; an effect in which a group of notes is repeated, usually more softly, and perhaps at a different octave, to create an echo effect ein wenig Ger. A little Empfindung Ger. Feeling en dehors Fr. Prominently en pressant Fr. Hurrying forward en retenant Fr. Slowing encore Fr. Again i.e. perform the relevant passage once more; a performer returning to the stage to perform an unlisted piece energico Energetic, strong enfatico Emphatically eroico Heroically espansivo Effusive; excessive in emotional expression; gushy. espirando Expiring i.e. dying away espressione Expression; expressively e.g. con gran, molta espressione: with great, much expression) espressivo, espress. or espr. Italian Expressively estinto Extinct, extinguished esultazione With Exultation etwas Ger. Somewhat
7. Ffacile Easily, without fuss fall Jazz term describing a note of definite pitch sliding downwards to another note of definite pitch. falsetto vocal register above the normal voice fantasia A piece not adhering to any strict musical form. Can also be used in con fantasia: with imagination feierlich Ger. Solemn, solemnly fermata Finished, closed i.e. a rest or note is to be held for a duration that is at the discretion of the performer or conductor sometimes called birds eye; a fermata at the end of a first or intermediate movement or section is usually moderately prolonged, but the final fermata of a symphony may be prolonged for longer than the notes value, typically twice its printed length or more for dramatic effect. feroce Ferociously festivamente Cheerfully, celebratory feurig Ger. Fiery fieramente Proudly fil di voce "thread of voice", very quiet, pianissimo fill Eng. A jazz or rock term which instructs performers to improvise a scalar passage or riff to "fill in" the brief time between lyrical phrases, the lines of melody, or between two sections fine The end, often in phrases like al fine to the end flat A symbol ♭ that lowers the pitch of a note by a semitone. The term may also be used as an adjective to describe a situation where a singer or musician is performing a note in which the intonation is an eighth or a quarter of a semitone too low. flautando or flautendo Flutelike; used especially for string instruments to indicate a light, rapid bowing over the fingerboard flebile Mournfully flessibile flexible focoso or fuocoso Fiery i.e. passionately forte f Strong i.e. to be played or sung loudly forte piano fp Strong-gentle i.e. loud, then immediately soft see dynamics, or an early pianoforte) fortissimo ff Very loud see note at pianissimo fortississimo fff As loud as possible forza Musical force con forza: with force forzando fz See sforzando freddo Coldly; hence depressive, unemotional fresco Freshly frohlich Ger. Lively, joyfully fugue Fr., fuga Latin and Italian Literally "flight"; hence a complex and highly regimented contrapuntal form in music. A short theme the subject is introduced in one voice or part alone, then in others, with imitation and characteristic development as the piece progresses. funebre Funeral; often seen as marcia funebre funeral march, indicating a stately and plodding tempo. fuoco Fire; con fuoco: with fire, in a fiery manner furia Fury furioso Furiously
8. GG.P. Grand Pause, General Pause; indicates to the performers that the entire ensemble has a rest of indeterminate length, often as a dramatic effect during a loud section gaudioso With joy gemachlich Ger. Unhurried, at a leisurely pace gemendo Groaningly gentile Gently geschwind Ger. Quickly geteilt Ger. See divisi getragen Ger. Solemnly, in a stately tempo giocoso or gioioso Gaily giusto Strictly, exactly e.g. tempo giusto in strict time glissando A continuous sliding from one pitch to another a true glissando, or an incidental scale executed while moving from one melodic note to another an effective glissando. See glissando for further information; and compare portamento. grace note An extra note added as an embellishment and not essential to the harmony or melody. grandioso Grandly grave Slowly and seriously grazioso Fr. gratieusement or gracieusement Gracefully guerriero War-like, militarily gustoso It. tasteful, agreeable With happy emphasis and forcefulness; in an agreeable manner
9. HH German for B natural; B in German means B flat Hauptstimme Ger. Main voice, chief part i.e. the contrapuntal line of primary importance, in opposition to Nebenstimme hemiola English, from Greek The imposition of a pattern of rhythm or articulation other than that implied by the time signature; specifically, in triple time for example in 3 4 the imposition of a duple pattern. See Syncopation. hervortretend Ger. Prominent, pronounced Hold, see Fermata Homophony A musical texture with one voice or melody line accompanied by subordinate chords; also used as an adjective homophonic. Compare with polyphony, in which several independent voices or melody lines are performed at the same time.
10. Iimmer Ger. Always imperioso Imperiously impetuoso Impetuously improvvisando With improvisation improvvisato Improvised, or as if improvised improvise To create music at the spur of the moment, spontaneously, and without preparation often over a given harmonic framework or chord progression in alt octave above the treble staff, G 5 to F 6 in altissimo Octave above the in alt octave, G 6 to F 7 in modo di In the art of, in the style of in stand A term for brass players that requires them to direct the bell of their instrument into the music stand, instead of up and toward the audience, thus muting the sound but without changing the timbre as a mute would incalzando Getting faster and louder innig Intimately, heartfelt insistendo Insistently, deliberate intimo Intimately intro Opening section of a piece irato Angrily -issimamente A suffix meaning as. as can be e.g. leggerissimamente, meaning as light as can be -issimo A suffix meaning extremely e.g. fortissimo or prestissimo izq. or iz. Spa. Left hand; abbreviation of izquierda
11. JJazz standard or simply "standard" A well-known composition from the jazz repertoire which is widely played and recorded. jete Fr. jete Jump; a bowing technique in which the player is instructed to let the bow bounce or jump off the strings.
12. Kkeyboardist Eng. A musician who plays any instrument with a keyboard. In Classical music, this may refer to instruments such as the piano, pipe organ, harpsichord, and so on. In a jazz or popular music context, this may refer to instruments such as the piano, electric piano, synthesizer, Hammond organ, and so on. Klangfarbenmelodie Ger. "tone-color-melody", distribution of pitch or melody among instruments, varying timbre kraftig Ger. Strongly
13. Llacrimoso or lagrimoso Tearfully i.e. sadly laissez vibrer, l.v. Fr. French for lasciare suonare "let vibrate". lamentando Lamenting, mournfully lamentoso Lamenting, mournfully langsam Ger. Slowly largamente Broadly i.e. slowly same as largo larghetto Somewhat slowly; not as slow as largo larghezza Broadness; con larghezza: with broadness; broadly larghissimo Very slowly; slower than largo Broadly i.e. slowly lasciare suonare "Let ring", meaning allow the sound to continue, do not damp; used frequently in harp or guitar music, occasionally in piano or percussion. Abbreviated "lasc. suon." leap or skip A melodic interval greater than a major 2nd, as opposed to a step. Melodies which move by a leap are called "disjunct". Octave leaps are not uncommon in florid vocal music. lebhaft Ger. Briskly, lively legato Joined i.e. smoothly, in a connected manner see also articulation leggierissimo Very lightly and delicately leggiero, leggiermente or leggiadro Lightly, delicately leidenschaftlicher Ger. Passionately lent Fr. Slowly lentando Gradual slowing and softer lentissimo Very slowly lento Slowly liberamente Freely libero Free, freely lilt A jaunty rhythm listesso, listesso tempo, or lo stesso tempo The same tempo, despite changes of time signature, see metric modulation lo stesso The same; applied to the manner of articulation, tempo, etc. loco place i.e. perform the notes at the pitch written, generally used to cancel an 8va or 8vb direction. In string music, also used to indicate return to normal playing position see Playing the violin. long accent Hit hard and keep full value of note > lontano From a distance; distantly lugubre Lugubrious, mournful luminoso Luminously lunga Long often applied to a fermata lusingando, lusinghiero Coaxingly, flatteringly, caressingly
14. Mma But ma non troppo, ma non tanto But not too much maestoso Majestically, in a stately fashion maggiore The major key magico Magically magnifico Magnificent main droite Fr. Change: either a change of instrument e.g. flute to piccolo, horn in F to horn in B ♭; or a change of tuning e.g. guitar muta 6 in D. Note: does not mean "mute", for which con sordina or con sordino is used. Muta comes from the Italian verb mutare to change into something.
15. Nnach und nach Ger. Literally "more and more" with an increasing feeling. Ex. "nach und nach belebter und leidenschaftlicher" with increasing animation and passion narrante Narratingly natural A symbol ♮ that cancels the effect of a sharp or a flat naturale nat. Natural N.C. No chord, written in the chord row of music notation to show there is no chord being played, and no implied harmony Nebenstimme Ger. Secondary part nicht Ger. Not niente "nothing", barely audible, dying away, sometimes indicated with a dynamic n nobile or nobilmente Ital. or Noblement Fr. In a noble fashion noblezza Nobility nocturne Fr. A piece written for the night notes inegales Fr. Unequal notes; a principally Baroque performance practice of applying long-short rhythms to pairs of notes written as equal; see also swung note notturno See nocturne. number opera An opera consisting of "numbers" e.g. arias, intermixed with recitative
16. Oobbligato Required, indispensable octave Interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. Twelve semitones equals an octave, so does the first and eighth hence "oct"ave note in a major or minor scale. ohne Dampfer Ger. Without a mute omaggio Homage, celebration one-voice-per-part OVPP The practice of using solo voices on each musical line or part in choral music. ordinario ord. Ital. or position ordinaire Fr. In bowed string music, an indication to discontinue extended techniques such as sul ponticello, sul tasto or col legno, and return to normal playing. The same as "naturale". organ trio In jazz or rock, a group of three musicians which includes a Hammond organ player and two other instruments, often an electric guitar player and a drummer. ossia or oppure Or instead ostinato Obstinate, persistent i.e. a short musical pattern that is repeated throughout an entire composition or portion of a composition ottava Octave e.g. ottava bassa: an octave lower overture An orchestral composition forming the prelude or introduction to an opera, oratorio, etc.
17. Pparlando or parlante Like speech, enunciated Partitur Ger. Full orchestral score passionato Passionately pastorale In a pastoral style, peaceful and simple patetico Passionately, with great emotion. A related term is Pathetique: A name attributed to certain works with an emotional focus such as Tchaikovskys 6th symphony. pausa rest pedale or ped In piano scores, this instructs the player to press the damper pedal to sustain the note or chord being played. The player may be instructed to release the pedal with an asterisk marking *. In organ scores, it tells the organist that a section is to be performed on the bass pedalboard with the feet. penseroso Thoughtfully, meditatively perdendosi Dying away; decrease in dynamics, perhaps also in tempo pesante Heavy, ponderous peu à peu Fr. Little by little pezzo A composition piacevole Pleasant, agreeable piangendo Literally crying used in Liszts La Lugubre Gondola no. 2. piangevole Plaintive: pianissimo pp very gently i.e. perform very softly, even softer than piano. This convention can be extended; the more p s that are written, the softer the composer wants the musician to play or sing, thus ppp pianississimo would be softer than pp. Dynamics in a piece should be interpreted relative to the other dynamics in the same piece. For example, pp should be executed as softly as possible, but if ppp is found later in the piece, pp should be markedly louder than ppp. More than three p s ppp or three f s fff are uncommon. piano p Gently i.e. played or sung softly see dynamics piano-vocal score The same as a vocal score, a piano arrangement along with the vocal parts of an opera, cantata, or similar Picardy third A Picardy third, Picardy cadence ˈpɪkərdi or, in French, tierce picarde is a harmonic device used in Western classical music.It refers to the use of a major chord of the tonic at the end of a musical section that is either modal or in a minor key. piena Full, as, for example, a voce piena = "in full voice" pietoso Pitiful, piteous più More; see mosso piuttosto Rather, somewhat e.g. allegro piuttosto presto pizzicato Pinched, plucked plop Jazz term referring to a note that slides to an indefinite pitch chromatically downwards. pochettino or poch. Very little; diminutive of poco pochissimo or pochiss. Very little; superlative of poco A little, as in poco più allegro a little faster poco rall a gradual decrease in speed poco a poco Little by little poetico Poetic discourse poi Then, indicating a subsequent instruction in a sequence; diminuendo poi subito fortissimo, for example: getting softer then suddenly very loud pomposo Pompous, ceremonious ponticello or sul ponticello pont. On the bridge ; the opposite of sul tasto portamento Carrying portato or loure Carried i.e. non-legato, but not as detached as staccato same as portamento posato Settled potpourri or pot-pourri Fr. Potpourri as used in other senses in English precipitato Precipitately prelude, prelude Fr., preludio It, praeludium Lat., praludium Ger. A musical introduction to subsequent movements during the Baroque era 1600s/17th century. It can also be a movement in its own right, which was more common in the Romantic era mid-1700s/18th century prestissimo Extremely quickly, as fast as possible presto Very quickly prima or primo the masculine form First prima donna Leading female singer in an opera company prima volta The first time; for example prima volta senza accompagnamento the first time without accompaniment
18. Qquartal Composed of the musical interval of the fourth ; as in quartal harmony quarter tone Half of a semitone; a pitch division not used in most Western music notation, except in some contemporary art music or experimental music. Quarter tones are used in Western popular music forms such as jazz and blues and in a variety of non-Western musical cultures. quasi Latin and Italian As if, almost e.g. quasi recitativo like a recitative in an opera, or quasi una fantasia like a fantasia quintal Composed of the musical interval of the fifth ; as in quintal harmony
19. Rrallentando or rall. Broadening of the tempo often not discernible from ritardando; progressively slower rapide Fr. Fast rapido Fast rasch Ger. Fast rasguedo Spa. on the guitar to play strings with the back of the fingernail; esp. to fan the strings rapidly with the nails of multiple fingers ravvivando Ital., "reviving" Quicken pace as "ravvivando il tempo", returning to a faster tempo that occurred earlier in the piece recitativo Recitatively; one voice without accompaniment religioso Religiously repente Suddenly reprise Repeat a phrase or verse; return to the original theme restez Fr. Stay in position, i.e., do not shift string instruments retenu Fr. Hold back; same as the Italian ritenuto see below Ridicolosamente or ridicolo Humorously, inaccurate, and loosely rilassato Relaxed rinforzando rf, rfz or rinf. Reinforced i.e. emphasized; sometimes like a sudden crescendo, but often applied to a single note risoluto Resolutely rit. An abbreviation for ritardando ; also an abbreviation for ritenuto ritardando, ritard., rit. Slowing down; decelerating; opposite of accelerando ritenuto, riten., rit. Suddenly slower, held back ; opposite of accelerato ritmico Rhythmical ritmo Rhythm e.g. ritmo di # battute meaning a rhythm of # measures ritornello A recurring passage for orchestra in the first or final movement of a solo concerto or aria also in works for chorus. rolled chord See Arpeggio rondo A musical form in which a certain section returns repeatedly, interspersed with other sections: ABACA is a typical structure or ABACABA roulade Fr. A rolling i.e. a florid vocal phrase rubato Robbed i.e. flexible in tempo, applied to notes within a musical phrase for expressive effect ruhig Ger. Calm, peaceful run A rapid series of ascending or descending musical notes which are closely spaced in pitch forming a scale, arpeggio, or other such pattern. See: Fill music and Melisma. ruvido Roughly
20. Ssaltando Bouncing the bow as in a staccato arpeggio, literally means "jumping" sanft Ger. Gently scatenato Unchained, wildly scherzando, scherzoso Playfully scherzo A light, "joking" or playful musical form, originally and usually in fast triple metre, often replacing the minuet in the later Classical period and the Romantic period, in symphonies, sonatas, string quartets and the like; in the 19th century some scherzi were independent movements for piano, etc. schleppend, schleppen Ger. In a dragging manner, to drag; usually nicht schleppen "dont drag", paired with nicht eilen "dont hurry" in Gustav Mahlers scores schnell Ger. Fast schneller Ger. Faster schwer Ger. Heavy schwungvoll Ger. Lively, swinging, bold, spirited scioltezza Fluency, agility used in con scioltezza sciolto Fluently, with agility scordatura Altered or alternative tuning used for the strings of a string instrument) scorrendo, scorrevole Gliding from note to note secco sec Fr. Dry ; with basso continuo accompaniment, this often means that only the chordal instrument will play, with the sustained bass instrument not playing segno sign, usually Dal segno see above "from the sign", indicating a return to the point marked by segue Carry on to the next section without a pause sehr Ger. Very semitone The smallest pitch difference between notes in most Western music e.g. F–F ♯ semplice Simply sempre Always sentimento Feeling, emotion sentito Expressively senza Without senza misura Without measure senza replica Without repetition: "when a movement, repeated in the first instance, must, on the Da Capo, be played throughout without repetition." senza sordina or senza sordine plural Without the mute. See sordina. serioso Seriously sforzando sf or sfz Made loud i.e. a sudden strong accent shake A jazz term describing a trill between one note and its minor third; or, with brass instruments, between a note and its next overblown harmonic. sharp A symbol ♯ that raises the pitch of the note by a semitone. The term may also be used as an adjective to describe a situation where a singer or musician is performing a note in which the intonation is somewhat too high in pitch. short accent Hit the note hard and short ^ si Fr. Seventh note of the series ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si, in fixed-doh solmization. siciliana A Sicilian dance in 12 8 or 6 8 meter sign See segno silenzio Silence i.e. without reverberations simile Similarly sipario Curtain stage slancio Momentum, con slancio: with momentum; with enthusiasm slargando or slentando Becoming broader or slower that is, becoming more largo or more lento slur A symbol in Western musical notation generally a curved line placed over the notes indicating that the notes it embraces are to be played without separation that is, with legato articulation. smorzando smorz. Extinguishing or dampening; usually interpreted as a drop in dynamics, and very often in tempo as well soave Smoothly, gently sognando Dreamily solenne Solemn solo or soli plural Alone i.e. executed by a single instrument or voice. The instruction soli requires more than one player or singer; in a jazz big band this refers to an entire section playing in harmony. In orchestral works, soli refers to a divided string section with only one player to a line. solo break A jazz term that instructs a lead player or rhythm section member to play an improvised solo cadenza for one or two measures sometimes abbreviated as "break", without any accompaniment. The solo part is often played in a rhythmically free manner, until the player performs a pickup or lead-in line, at which time the band recommences playing in the original tempo. somma Ital. Sum; total, con somma passione: with great passion sonata A piece played as opposed to sung. sonatina A little sonata sonatine A little sonata, used in some countries instead of sonatina sonore Sonorous Deep or ringing sound sonoro Ringing sopra Above; directive to cross hands in a composition for piano, e.g. m.s. sopra: left hand over; opposite: sotto below sopra una corda or sullistessa corda To be played on one string soprano The highest of the standard four voice ranges sordina, sordine plural A mute, Note: sordina, with plural sordine, is strictly correct Italian, but the forms sordino and sordini are much more commonly used as terms in music. Instruments can have their tone muted with wood, rubber, metal, or plastic devices, or parts of the body guitar; French Horn, or fabric clarinet; timpani, among other means. In piano music notably in Beethovens Moonlight Sonata, senza sordini or senza sordina or some variant is sometimes used to mean keep the sustain pedal depressed, since the sustain pedal lifts the dampers off the strings, with the effect that all notes are sustained indefinitely. sordino See sordina. sortita A principal singers first entrance in an opera sospirando Sighing sostendo Galican holding back, notably used in El Camino Real by Alfred Reed sostenuto Sustained, lengthened sotto voce In an undertone i.e. quietly spianato Smooth, even spiccato Distinct, separated i.e. a way of playing the violin and other bowed instruments by bouncing the bow on the string, giving a characteristic staccato effect spinto Literally "pushed" spirito Spirit, con spirito: with spirit; with feeling spiritoso Spiritedly staccato Making each note brief and detached; the opposite of legato. In musical notation, a small dot under or over the head of the note indicates that it is to be articulated as staccato. stanza A verse of a song stem Vertical line that is directly connected to the head. stentando or stentato sten. or stent. Labored, heavy, in a dragging manner, holding back each note stornello Originally truly improvised now taken as appearing to be improvised, an Italian folk song, the style of which used for example by Puccini in certain of his operas. strascinando or strascicante Indicating a passage should be played in a heavily slurred manner strepitoso Noisy, forceful stretto Tight, narrow i.e. faster or hastening ahead; also, a passage in a fugue in which the contrapuntal texture is denser, with close overlapping entries of the subject in different voices; by extension, similar closely imitative passages in other compositions stringendo Gradually getting faster strisciando To be played with a smooth slur, a glissando subito Suddenly e.g. subito pp, which instructs the player to suddenly drop to pianissimo as an effect; often abbreviated as sub. sul Ital. Literally, "on", as in sul ponticello on the bridge; sul tasto on the fingerboard; sul E on the E string, etc. sul E "on E", indicating a passage is to be played on the E string of a violin. Also seen: sul A, sul D, sul G, sul C, indicating a passage to be played on one of the other strings of a string instrument. suono reale Actual sound. Primarily used with notated harmonics where the written pitch is also the sounding pitch. sur la touche Fr. Sul tasto syncopation A disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of downbeat rhythm with emphasis on the sub-division or up-beat e.g. in Ragtime music.
21. Ttacet Silent; do not play tasto, sul tasto or tastiera tast. On the fingerboard i.e. in string playing, an indication to bow or to pluck over the fingerboard; playing over the fingerboard produces a duller, less harmonically rich, gentler tone. The opposite of sul ponticello. tasto solo single key; used on a basso continuo part to indicate that the notes should be played only by the bass instrument, without harmony/chords played by the harpsichordist/organist tempo Time i.e. the overall speed of a piece of music tempo di marcia March tempo di mezzo The middle section of a double aria, commonly found in bel canto era Italian operas, especially those of Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and their contemporaries as well in many early operas by Verdi. When present, the tempo di mezzo generally signals a shift in the drama from the slow cantabile of the first part to the cabaletta of the second, and this can take the form of some dramatic announcement or action to which the characters react in the cabaletta finale. tempo di valse Waltz tempo giusto In strict time tempo primo, tempo uno, or tempo I sometimes tempo I° or tempo 1ero Resume the original speed tempo rubato "Robbed time"; an expressive way of performing a rhythm; see rubato ten. See tenuto teneramente; tendre or tendrement Fre Tenderly tenerezza Tenderness tenor The second lowest of the standard four voice ranges tenuto Held i.e. touch on a note slightly longer than usual, but without generally altering the notes value ternary Having three parts. In particular, referring to a three-part musical form with the parts represented by letters: ABA tessitura The best or most comfortable pitch range, generally used to identify the most prominent / common vocal range within a piece of music Tierce de Picardie See Picardy third timbre The quality of a musical tone that distinguishes voices and instruments time In a jazz or rock score, after a rubato or rallentendo section, the term "time" indicates that performers should return to tempo this is equivalent to the term "a tempo" tosto Rapidly tranquillo Calmly, peacefully trattenuto tratt. held back with a sustained tone, similar to ritardando tre corde tc Three strings i.e. release the soft pedal of the piano see una corda tremolo Shaking. As used in 1) and 2) below, it is notated by a strong diagonal bar or bars across the note stem, or a detached bar or bars for a set of notes.
- A rapid, measured or unmeasured alternation between two or more notes, usually more than a whole step apart. In older theory texts this form is sometimes referred to as a "trill-tremolo" see trill.
- A rapid, repeated alteration of volume as on an electronic instrument;
- A rapid, measured or unmeasured repetition of the same note. String players perform this tremolo with the bow by rapidly moving the bow while the arm is tense;
- vibrato: an inaccurate usage, since vibrato is actually a slight undulation in a sustained pitch, rather than a repetition of the pitch, or variation in volume see vibrato.
22. Uun, una, or uno One or "a" indefinite article, as exemplified in the following entries. un poco or un peu Fr. A little. una corda One string. For most notes in modern pianos, this results in the hammer striking two strings rather than three. Its counterpart, tre corde three strings, is the opposite: the soft pedal is to be released. unisono unis Fr. In unison. Often used to mark the return from divisi. uptempo A fast, lively, or increased tempo, or played or done in such a tempo. It is also used as an umbrella term for a quick-paced electronic music style. ut Fr. First note of the series ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si, in fixed-do solmization.
23. Vvagans Lat., "wandering" The fifth part in a motet, named so most probably because it had no specific range vamp Improvised accompaniment, usually a repeating pattern played before next musical passage. See vamp till cue. See comp and comping. vamp till cue A jazz, fusion, and musical theatre term which instructs rhythm section members to repeat and vary a short ostinato passage, riff, or "groove" until the band leader or conductor instructs them to move onto the next section variazioni Variations, con variazioni: with variations/changes veloce Velocity, con veloce: with velocity velocissimo As quickly as possible; usually applied to a cadenza-like passage or run via Away, out, off; as in via sordina or sordina via: mute off vibrato Vibrating i.e. a more or less rapidly repeated slight variation in the pitch of a note, used as a means of expression. Often confused with tremolo, which refers either to a similar variation in the volume of a note, or to rapid repetition of a single note. vif Fr. Quickly, lively violoncello cello virtuoso noun or adjective performing with exceptional ability, technique, or artistry vite Fr. Fast vittorioso Victoriously vivace Very lively, up-tempo vivacissimo Very lively vivamente Quickly and lively vivezza Liveliness, vivacity vivo Lively, intense vocal score or piano-vocal score A music score of an opera, or a vocal or choral composition with orchestra like oratorio or cantata where the vocal parts are written out in full but the accompaniment is reduced to two staves and adapted for playing on piano voce Voice volante Flying volti subito V.S. Turn suddenly i.e. turn the page quickly. While this indication is sometimes added by printers, it is more commonly indicated by orchestral members in pencil as a reminder to quickly turn to the next page.
24. ZZahlzeit Ger. Beat zart Ger. Tender Zartheit Ger. Tenderness zartlich Ger. Tenderly Zeichen Ger. Sign, mark ZeitmaS or Zeitmass Ger. Time-measure i.e. tempo zelo, zeloso, zelosamente Zeal, zealous, zealously ziehen Ger. To draw out ziemlich Ger. Fairly, quite, rather zitternd Ger. Trembling i.e. tremolando zogernd Ger. Hesitantly, delaying i.e. rallentando zuruckhalten Ger. Hold back
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