Music dictionary




a tempo, al tempo, au mouvement, im tempo, tempo io, tempo primo - back to the original tempo (found after a rit., rall., or accel.)

adagio - a tempo marking; indicates the piece is to be played slowly

agitato - "agitated" or restless

allegro - a fast, lively tempo

allegretto - a little slower than allegro, but faster than largo

amplitude - volume (measured in decibels [Db]) - the difference between the high and low phases of a sound wave or sound cycle. Usually expressed in pressure as it effects the ear drum. Determines the loudness of sound

andante - moderately slow tempo

andantino - a little slower than andante

animato, animado - animated

animando - getting livelier

appassionato - passionately

attacca - continue without pause



bar - either individual barlines or the measure in between

barline - vertical lines dividing a certain number of beats into measures or bars

bass clef - the clef which places F on the fourth line - also known as the F clef

beam - used in place of flags to group together notes into metric patterns - but only notes smaller in value than a quarter note. If you beam a quarter note, it becomes an 8th note - it's like adding a flag

beat - the temporal unit of a musical composition

brio - roughly translated as "verve" or "gusto"



cantabile - "singing"; play emulating as much as possible the singing voice

chromatic scale - a scale consisting of twelve half steps to the octave

clef - signs written at the beginning of each staff which designate the pitches of the lines and spaces

con - with

con fuoco - with fire

con moto - with movement

con spirito - with spirit

concerto - composition for solo instrument and orchestra, usually in three movements with a fast - slow - fast pattern; in a concerto of classic form, both the soloist and the orchestra must state each theme in turn in each movement.

crescendo, cresc. - growing louder



diatonic - an order of tones expressed by the white keys of the piano keyboard; concerning scales with progressing degrees of different names

dim., diminuendo - getting softer

dolce,dolcemente - sweetly

dot - used after a note to indicate augmentation of its value by one-half

douloureux,doloroso - sorrowful

duration - a relative length of a tone or rest



e,et,ed - and

espressivo - expressively or with expression

etude - a study or exercise in technique, typically used by a composer for experimentation in style or sound quality or to provide a show piece for an accomplished soloist



f, forte - strong loud

fantasia - a composition type in which a more improvisational style is used, usually in a single movement

ff, fortissimo - very loud

flag - a symbol resembling a flag attached to the right side of a note stem in order to halve its value. i.e.: add a flag to an 8th note and it becomes a 16th note, etc

flat - a musical symbol which lowers a note by one half step

frequency - pitch (measured in hertz [Hz]) - the number of cycles of sound pressure waves which occur each second in producing sound

fugue - counterpoint composition in which two or more voices ("polyphony") are interwoven by the various parts at different intervals of pitch; the voices are often played by a single soloist. The name is a Germanicized form of the Latin word for "fleeing" or "running"



giocoso - merrily

grave - slowly, gravely, solemnly

grazioso - gracefully or with grace



half note - the second-largest unit in modern music notation. It receives one-half the value of a whole note



impromptu - as the name implies, a composition of an improvisational character without fixed form but linked by the use of themes

interval - the pitch relation or distance between two tones

invention - an exercise in two or three part counterpoint







langsam (Ger.) - slow

largo - broadly and slowly, but not as slow as grave

ledger lines - short lines used as extensions above and below the regular five-line staff

legato - play smoothly with no separation between the notes

lent,lento - slow



measure - the space between two barlines

meter - the basic scheme of note values and accents which remain unaltered throughout a composition or section thereof

mf - moderately loud

mp - moderately soft

m.s.,m.g.,l.h. - left hand

Ma non troppo - without rushing, not too much

Maestoso - majestic, stately

marcato, marque - marked, stressed

meno - less

Minuet - a moderate tempo dance type commonly found in works from the Baroque period; often found in Classical period works in the minuet and trio form.. Usually in 3/4 time and light in feel.

moderato,modere - moderate

Molto - very, much

Mosso - movement (or agitation)

movement - a distinct division of a composition with its own key, themes, rhythm, and character. In classical music performances one usually reserves applause until the completion of all the movements which make up the work being performed



nocturne - a romantic character piece written with an expressive melody over a broken chord accompaniment

note - a symbol used to express the pitch and duration of musical tones



octave - an interval consisting of eight diatonic tones

offbeats - any note event which isn't on the beat



p, piano - soft

pp, ppp,pianissimo - very soft

ped., con pedale - with pedal

pie, plus - more

pitch - the word used to describe the relative highness or lowness of a tone, scientifically determined by the number of vibrations per second

poco, poco a poco - little, little by little

prelude - an introductory movement complete in itself; often used to describe piano compostions written in a single movement

presto - fast

prestissimo - as fast as possible



quarter note - unit of music notation that receives one beat when the lower unit of the time signature is "4". A quarter note receives one-fourth the value of a whole note

quarter rest - a rest equal in time to a quarter note



rall., rallentando - slowing down

rest - a symbol used to indicate relative periods of silence

rhythm - the flow of musical time; the interference of sounds against an underlying pulse

rit.,ritard,ritardano,ritenuto,reteno - holding back

rondo - a composition where the first and third musical ideas are the same, with the second idea being different material. This form is often used in the last movement of sonatas or concertos.



sf,sff,sfz,fz - accent

sans - without

scale - a series of tones, comprised within an octave

scale degree - functional and numerical designation for the notes of a scale. The degrees are numbered from one to seven. If you progress up the scale degrees from any given note, by the time you reach what would have been the 8th scale degree, you are back at the same note name you started on - so you're considered to be back at "1" again

semitone or half-step - the smallest interval used in Western music. Located on the piano keyboard by progressing up and down from any black or white key to the nearest black or white key

semplice - with simplicity

sempre - always

sharp - a musical symbol which raises any note to which it is applied by one half step

simile - same

sonata - an instrumental composition usually in three movements in related keys with different forms and character; short for Sonata allegro. In a classic sonata form, the first movement is usually an allegro, followed by an adagio, then a rondo or minuet, ending with another allegro.

sonatina - a shorter version of the sonata, the movements are usually shorter and simpler, originally written as teaching pieces

sostenuto - sustained

staff - five parallel horizontal lines, upon and between which musical notes are written, thus indicating their relative pitch

subdivision - division of the beat into 2, 3, or 4 equal durations

subito - suddenly

symphony - a sonata for orchestra, usually in four movements; the movement structure usually follows Sonata allegro form although there can be fewer than four movements



tempo - the pace of musical time; the speed at which the beat progresses

tie - a curved line placed over a note and its repetition to show that the two shall be performed as one unbroken note

timbre - quality of tone, determined by the relative prominence of overtones (pronounced TAM-ber)

time signature - a numerical symbol written as a fraction which indicates the number of beats in a measure and the unit which is to receive one beat

tr - trill

tone - the basic building material of music; it has four distinct properties: pitch, duration, loudness, and timbre

tranquillo - calm, tranquil

treble clef - the clef which places G on the second line - also known as the G clef



un peu, un poco - a little



vite - Rapid

vivace - lively and fast

vivacissimo - as lively and fast as possible

volta - time (2da volta= second time through)






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