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.

 A - To, at, in

Accelerando (accel.) growing faster

Accent - emphasis on a note or chord

Adagio- slowly

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,dal -from

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

dolce -sweetly

dynamics - expression produced by the different degrees of volume of the tone.

E - and

elegante - elegant, graceful

enharmonic - a lke inpitch but different notation

espressivo expressive
fermata - a pause

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

il- the

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

lento- slow

lesto -lively quick

l'istesso-The same

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

molto- very

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.

scherzo - 1. A movement in symphonies, sonata's and quartets in a quick triple meter that replaced the minuet.
2. Light vocal music of the baroque period. Literally means joke.

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.