June 19, 2018



  • acapella – Italian for “in the chapel”; choral music sung without musical accompaniment


  • accent – emphasis placed on a particular note thru metric placement, dynamic level, articulation, duration, or register; a strong sound



  • adagio – “at ease” or leisurely; a movement with slow tempo


  • allegro – quick; a movement in lively tempo


  • alto – low female voice


  • andante – moderately slow; a movement at a moderate or walking pace


  • aria – Italian for “air”; a song which is either independent or part of a larger work


  • arpeggio – the notes of a chord played rapidly one at a time


  • atonality – the avoidance of a tonic note and of tonal relationships in music


  • avant garde – leaders in the development of new and unconventional styles


  • ballads – song like instrumental pieces, particularly for piano



  • bass – low male voice; lowest line of music


  • bebop – a complex, highly improvised style of jazz


  • Bel canto – “beautiful singing”; referring to the Italian vocal style of the 17th-19th centuries; characterized by beautiful tone, florid delivery, shapely phrasing, and effortless technique


  • brass – wind instruments, including trumpet, french horn, trombone, and tuba


  • break – a dramatic, unstable, strongly rhythmic section, as in a march


  • cadence – the conclusion or punctuation point in a musical phrase; the most effective waaay of affirming or establishing the tonality of a passage


  • cadenza – a virtuoso passage near the end of a concerto movement or aria


  • cantata -a dramatic vocal work intended for performance in a church service


  • chamber music – the term applied to instrumental (altho sometimes vocal) music played by an ensemble of usually 3-8 players, with one player per part


  • chorale – a religious song with a simple tune and vernacular language


  • chord – the simultaneous sounding of two or more notes


  • choromaticism – the use of notes that are not in the scale upon which a composition is based


  • clavier – general term for a keyboard instrument


  • clef – a sign that fixes the tone represented by each line in space on the staff


  • coda – “tail”; the last part of a piece or melody


  • concertmaster – the conductor’s assistant and the orchestra’s first or principle violinist


  • concerto – a term applied in the 17th century to ensemble music for voices and instruments; since then, it usually denotes a work in which a solo instrument contrasts with an orchestral ensemble



  • consonants – harmonious sounding together of two or more notes that are “consonant” or pleasing to the ear


  • consort – an ensemble of several members of the same instrument family


  • contour – shape or outline of a melody formed by its notes


  • crescendo – Italian for “growing”; an instruction to become louder; opposite is decrescendo” or “diminuendo”




  • diminution – doubling the tempo


  • dissonance – two or more notes sounding together and forming a discord that is not pleasing to the ear


  • drone – a single tone, sounded continuously or repeated


  • ensemble – a term for a group of players and/or singers



  • ethos – the moral and ethical qualities of music


  • falsetto – the treble range produced by adult male singers produced by a slightly artificial technique whereby the vocal cords vibrate in a length shorter than usual


  • fanfare – a flourish of trumpets or other brass instruments, often with percussion for ceremonial purposes




  • glissando – an expressive “slide” between pitches


  • harmony – the combining of two notes simultaneously to produce chords and their successive use to produce chord progressions


  • hymn – a religious song with a non-liturgical text


  • impromptus – pieces of an improvisatory character



  • key – pitch


  • libretto – the text of a dramatic vocal work


  • lieder – means “songs” in German; the term generally used for romantic art songs


  • lyric – term that is used for the words of a song


  • measure – an American term, equivalent to the English “bar”, for the metrical units marked off along the staff by vertical lines


  • melody – a series of musical notes arranged in succession, in a particular rhythmic pattern, to form a recognizable unit


  • meter – the organization of rhythm into strong and weak beats


  • metronome – an instrument to measure tempo


  • mezzo – half, moderate or medium




  • minimalism – a style of music based upon many repetitions of simple melodic and rhythmic patterns


  • modulation – the movement of one key into another as a continuous musical process


  • motif – a short musical idea that is melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, or all three


  • movement – a term applied to any portion of a musical work sufficiently complete in itself to be regarded as a separate entity



  • note – a tone or specific pitch


  • octave – the interval of an eighth, as from C to C


  • opera – a musical dramatic work in which the actors sing some of all of their parts



  • oratorio – an extended musical setting of a sacred, usually non-liturgical text


  •  Overture (2) – an orchestral piece introducing an opera or other longer work


  • percussion – instruments played by shaking or striking




  • pitch – the quality of a sound that fixes its position in the scale


  • pizzicato – the technique of plucking instead of bowing stringed instruments


  • Quartet– a piece for four voices or instruments or a group that performs such a piece


  • requiem – a mass for the dead in the Roman Catholic Church


  • rhythm – the grouping of musical sounds, principally by means of duration and stress


  • roulade – a decorative passage, usually in vocal music


  • scale – a sequence of notes, ascending or descending in order of pitch



  • sonata – a piece of music, almost invariably instrumental and usually in several movements for a soloist or a small ensemble




  • staff – five lines and four spaces upon which music is notated


  • suite – an ordered set of instrumental pieces, meant to be performed at a single setting


  • symphony – an extended work for orchestra, usually in 4 movements. it is traditionally regarded as the central form for orchestral composition


  • syncopation – the shifting of stressed beats in a measured pattern, ahead of or behind its normal position in that pattern


  • tempo – the “time” of a musical composition, therefore the speed of its performance


  • theme – the musical material on which part or all of a work is based


  • timbre – the term describing the tonal quality of a sound


  • tutti – in orchestral music, refers to the full orchestra


  • unison – the same pitch, performed at the same or at different octaves


  • vibrato – a fluctuation of pitch (less often intensity) on a single note in performance, especially by string players and singers


  • woodwind – a term for wind instruments