On this page will be words that you will often see on your every day life as a musician. Some are meant to tell you how to play a section of you music in a particular way. These words are often in different languages. Most commonly they are in Italian. However you will also find words in French, German, Spanish, and English.
- To, at, in
Accelerando (accel.) growing faster
Accent - emphasis on a note or chord
a deux -(a 2) to be played by both inst.
ad libitum (ad ib.) Freely not in strict time.
Al fine - to the end
alla- in the style of
alla breve - cut time
Allargando (allarg.) -growing slower and louder
Allegretto - a bright tempo: faster then moderato but slower than allegro
Allegro - fast
Andante - a moderately slow but flowing tempo
Animato - animated with spirit
Appoggiatura - a grace note which takes the accent and part of the time value of the following principal note: often called a grace note
Arpeggio - notes of a chord played consecutively: a broken chord
Assai - very
A tempo - in the original tempo
Bassa - low, 8va bassa means play the notes an octave lower
Ben - well
Brio - vigor, spirit
Cadenza - an elaborate solo passage, frequently un-accompied, used as an embellishment.
Cantabile - in a singing voice
Chromatic - proceeding by semi-tones (half steps)
Coda - a closing passage
Con, col- with
Con Brio - with vigor and brilliance
Con Moto - with motion
Con Spirito - with spirit
Crescendo - increasing the volume or loud-ness of the tone
da capo (D.C.) -from the beginning
D.C.al fine - from the beginning to the word fine
dal segno - from the sign
D.S. al fine - from the sign to the word fine
Decrescendo (decresc.)- decreasing the volume of the tone
diminuendo (dim.) - gradually softer
Divisi (div.) divided; each part to be played by seprate instruments
dynamics - expression produced by the different degrees of volume of the tone.
E - and
elegante - elegant, graceful
enharmonic - a lke inpitch but different notation
finale - the concluding movement
fine- the end
forte (f) -loud
forte-piano - accent strongly, diminishing immediately to piano
fortissimo- (ff) very loud
forzando -(fz) the note or chord strongly accented
furioso - furious
giusto - exact: in strict time
glissando - slurred smoothly in a gliding manner
grace notes- small notes added for an ornament or embellishing effect
grandioso- in a grand manner
grave- solemnly and very slowly
gruppetto -a group of grace notes
key note - the tonic or first note in a scale
largamente - in a full, broad style
larghetto - slowly, but not as slowly as largo
largo - a slow broad tempo
ledger lines - short lines added above or below the staff for notes too high or too low to appear or within the staff
legato - in a smooth, connected manner indicated by a slur
lesto -lively quick
loco-play as written
loure- a bowing that gives a slight separation to each note of a slurred passage
maestro - A title given to respected composers, conductors or teachers
martele, martellato - A bowing technique where short strokes are released suddenly to produce a marked staccato sound.
mezzo forte - moderately loud, mf
misterioso - Mysteriously
Mixolydian - A mode that corresponds to the whole and half step patterns created when playing the notes G to G on the white keys of the piano.
moderato - In a moderate tempo
moto - Motion
movement- The complete and independent sections of a larger work such as a sonata, suite, or symphony.
niente - nothing, silence, abbrev. N,
non - not
obligato - an essential part of a piece that should not be omitted. More recently this term has come to mean a part that can be omitted if necessary.
opus - A number given to chronologically order the works of a composer. Literally means "work"
ostinato - An accompaniment figure that is repeated.
overtone series - the notes of the harmonic series except the fundamental.
passacaglia - A continuous set of variations based on a repeating bass line
pathetique - With great emotion
pentatonic scale - A scale having 5 tones to the octave. It usually avoids all half steps and corresponds to the black notes on the piano key board.
pesante - Heavy
petit - Little
peu a peu - Little by Little
Phrygian - A mode that corresponds to the whole and half step patterns created when playing E to E on the white keys piano.
piano - soft
pianoforte - The full name of the keyboard percussion instrument commonly known as the piano.
piatti - cymbals
piu - more
pizzacato - To pluck a string in abbreviated manner.
poco a poco - Little by Little
poi - then
presto - fast
Pythagorean Scale - a diatonic scale with all tones derived from the interval of a pure fifth
quasi- as if, almost
quaver- An eighth note
rallentando - Becoming gradually slower
recapitulation - The section of the movement in Sonata form, when the themes of the exposition are usually repeated.
refrain - A melody of a song that is repeated after each Stanza or verse.
relative keys - Minor and Major Keys that have the same key signature.
relative pitch - the ability to recognize and or produce any pitch after have been given one note as a point of reference.
Renaissance: The period of music roughly from 1450 to 1600.
ritardando - Becoming gradually slower
ritenuto- Held back, becoming slower immediately.
ritornello- A conclusion that restates previously heard material.
rondo - A musical form characterized by a repeated theme that alternates with other themes. With "A" representing the reoccurring theme. The following are examples of rondo forms: ABA, ABABA, ABACA, and ABACABA.
rubato - To perform with a free, flexible tempo, tastefully slowing down and speeding up at the discretion of the performer.
sackbut - An early version of the trombone.
sans - without
SATB - abbrreviation in choral music for soprano, alto, tenor, bass.
scat - A type of improvisational Jazz singing that uses nonsense syllables rather than words.
- 1. A movement in symphonies, sonata's and quartets
in a quick triple meter that replaced the minuet.
segno - A sign used to indicate the beginning or ending of a section that is to be repeated.
segue - to play the following movement or section without a break.
semiquaver - sixteenth note
sempre - always
senza - without
sereno - tranquil, serene
seventh chord - A chord consisting of the root, third, fifth, and seventh degree's.
sforzando (sfz. abbrev.) Strong accent
simile - Continue to perform in the same style.
slur - A curved line notated between 2 or more notes that indicate that they are to be played legato.
smorzando - Fading away
soli - To play in unision with others
solo - 1. To play alone or with accompaniment. 2. An indication in orchestral parts for a performer to play alone and bring out their part
sordino - Mute
sostenuto - Sustained
sotto - Under
spicatto- A bowing style where the bow bounces off the string.
staccatissimo - as short as possible
staccato - Short, detached. Indicated by a dot above or below the note.
steso - Slow
stesso- The same
stretto - When, in a fugue the answer begins before the subject is completed. It usually occurs towards the end of the fugue in order to create excitement.
stringendo - Quickening the tempo
subdominant - The fourth degree of a scale
subito - Suddenly
sur - On, over
suspension - When a cononant note is held over while the harmony changes, thus becoming a dissonant note that is then resovled
swing - A style of Big Band music popular in the 1930's and 1940's
syncopation - To shift the accent of a note to a weak beat or the weak part of a beat
tacet - Be silent. In an orchestra or vocal part it indicates that the performer does not play or sing a movement or section.
tam tam- A suspended cicular metal plate that is struck with a large felt mallet. Also known as a gong.
temple blocks - Percussion instruments made of hollow wooden (sometimes plastic) blocks of wooden which are struck with a drum stick.
tenutot - to hold a note for its full value. Indicated by a line under or over the note.
tie - A curved line that attaches two or more notes of the same pitch that last the duration of the combined value note values.
timbal, timbale, timballo - Timpani
timbales - 1. Timpani 2.Cuban drums similar to bongo's that are struck with 2 sticks.
time signature - A sign placed after the clef and key signature that indicates the time meter of a piece. It can be placed any where else throughout the piece if the meter changes.
timpani - Large tunable drums shaped like kettles and usually made of copper or brass with plastic or vellum heads. They are available in various sizes and (usually in pairs) played with 2 mallets. Also known as kettle drums
tone - The quality of sound produced by an instrument
tranquillo - Tranquill, calm, quiet
treble clef- The G clef on the second line of the staff.
tremolo - Rapidly repeating a single note or chord.
trepak - A Lively Russian dance in 2/4
trill - An ornament consisting of a rapid alternation of the written note and a note a 2nd above. A sharp or flat sign after the trill symbol indicates to trill the sharp or flatted note above the written note.
tromba - Trumpet
troppo - Too, or too much.
tuning - To match the pitch of an instrument to the standard pitch of another instrument.
tutti - All. Usually placed at the end of an extended solo passage when the entire ensemble enters.
veloce - Rapid, fast
vibrato - A rapid fluctuation of pitch slightly higer and lower than the main pitch.