Music > Musical terms
Term
Definition
A Cappella Music sung without instrumental accompaniment
Acoustic Any instrument that produces sound by means of physical vibrations, without the use of electronic amplification.
Adagio A tempo which is slow and stately
A due For two / for a duet
Agitito Play quickly; with agitation and excitement.
Alla breve Play in cut time, in which one beat = half-note.
Allegretto A tempo which is moderately fast
Allegro A tempo which is fast, quickly and bright.
Alto The lowest female singing voice and highest male singing voice.
Andante A tempo which is at a walking pace.
Arietta A short aria
Arpeggio The notes of a chord played in successsion, (harp-like); a broken chord.
Assai Very
Baritone A low male singing voice (between tenor and bass ).
Bass The lowest male singing voice.
Bass clef The F clef falling on the fourth line of the staff.
Bel canto Beautiful song
Cantata A vocal work for concert or church
C clef Wherever the clef is centered, that line or space becomes middle C.
Chamber music Music for small ensemble.
Chord Three or more notes played simultaniously.
Clef The symbol at the beginning of a staff that indicates which lines and spaces represent which notes.
Coloratura Elaborate ornamentation of the melodic line, usually by a vocalist.
Con brio With vigor
Counterpoint The combination of two or more melodic lines played simultaneously.
Countertenor The highest male singing voice, above tenor .
Crescendo A gradual increase in volume.
Descant A soprano or tenor voice
Dies Irae Day of wrath
Dirge A piece performed at a funeral service
Elegy A melancholy piece.
Etude A study or exercise piece written to improve technique.
Falsetto A high, artificial voice used for notes that lie above the normal register.
Flats Notes that lower a neighboring note by one half-step. (B flat is 1/2 tone lower then B) Some black keys on a piano keyboard.
Forte Loud
Fret On certain string instruments, a thin, raised bar placed across the fingerboard to indicate a specific position of a note.
G clef A clef that indicates which line represents G on a staff, as opposed to a C clef , or an F clef .
Hymn A song or poem that praises.
Kapellmeister Director of music for a church or royalty.
Meaning “Master of the chapel.”
Key signature The sharps or flats written on the staff at the beginning of a piece to indicate the key.
Leitmotif Recurring theme written for a specific character or event in opera or television and film music.
Lento A slow tempo.
Libretto The text (lyrics and any spoken parts) of an opera, or musical.
Lyric soprano A female singer with a slightly higher range than a dramatic soprano .
Lyric tenor A male singer with a slightly higher range than a dramatic tenor .
Madrigal A Renaissance choral piece, usually unaccompanied.
Main droite Play with right hand
Main gauche Play with left hand
Motet A choral composition, generally on a sacred text.
Motif A short melodic pattern or musical idea that runs throughout a piece.
Opus With a number, used to show the order in which pieces were written or published.
Oeuvre A piece of work/composition..
Perfect pitch The ability to hear and identify a given note without any musical or tonal support.
Piano Soft
Pizzicato Pluck the string with the finger
Polonaise A stately Polish dance in moderate triple time, often with a repeated rhythmic pattern.
Presto A tempo whch is extremely fast .
Rall, Rallentando Slowing the tempo down
Rit, Ritardando Slowing the tempo down
Roulade Musical flourish or embellishment
Scale A progression of notes in a specific order.
Segno A repeat symbol
Sharp An note that raises a given pitch by one half-step. (F# is a half -tone above F)
Soprano The highest female vocal range , above alto.
Sospiro A quarter or half note rest
Staccato Play the note slightly shorter
Staff The five horizontal lines upon which music is written.
Tempo Speed that music is to be played;: Measures per minute or bars per minute sets the tempo.
Tenor A high male voice between alto and baritone .
Time signature The numbers written on staff of any piece indicating which type of note gets a single beat and how many beats are in each measure.
Treble The highest voice, instrument, or part.
Treble clef The G clef falling on the second line of the staff.
Tremolo A singer's vibrating effect
Trill A flourish played consisting of a rapid alternation between two adjacent notes.
Tutti All together
Vivace Play in an upbeat (lively) tempo
 
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