An essential guide to classical technique, note reading, chords, songs and pieces. Taught by Larry Ferrara.




Absolute music Instrumental music with no explicit pictorial or literal associations. As opposed to program music.

a cappella Music for voices alone, without instrumental accompaniment.

accelerando Getting faster.

accent A conspicuous, sudden emphasis given to a particular sound, usually by an increase in volume.

accidental A notational sign in a score indicating that a specific note is to be played as a flat, sharp, or natural. The most common accidentals (flats and sharps) correspond to the five black notes in each octave of the keyboard.

accompaniment The subordinate material or voices that support a melody.

acoustics (1) the science of sound; (2) the art of optimizing sound in an enclosed space.

adagio Quite slow tempo.

allegro; allegretto Fast tempo; slightly fast tempo

alto (1) The lowest adult female voice; (2) the second-highest voice in a four-part texture.

andante; andantino Moderately slow (walking) tempo; a little faster than andante.

antiphon Originally, a plainchant that framed the singing of a psalm. The term derives from the early practice of singing psalms "antiphonally"- that is, with two or more alternating choirs.

appoggiatura A strong-beat dissonance that resolves to a consonance; used as an expressive device in much tonal music.

aria In opera or oratorio, a set piece, usually for a single performer, that expresses a character's emotion about a particular situation.

arioso A singing style between aria and recitative.

arpeggio A chord whose individual notes are played successively rather than simultaneously.

arrangement An orchestration of a skeletal score or a reorchestration of a finished composition.

ars nova The "new art" of fourteenth-century France; refers to the stylistic innovations, especially rhythmic, of composers around 1320.

articulation The manner in which adjacent notes of a melody are connected or separated.

art song A song focusing on artistic rather than popular expression.

a tempo At the original tempo.

atonality; atonal The absence of any sense of tonality.

augmentation The restatement of a theme in longer note values, often twice as long (and therefore twice as slow) as the original.

avant garde In the art, on the leading edge of a change in style.


ballade (1) One of several types of medieval secular songs, usually in A-A-B form; (2) a type of nineteenth-century character piece for piano.

ballad opera A popular eighteenth-century English dramatic form characterized by spoken dialogue on topical themes interspersed with popular folk songs.

ballata A type of fourteenth-century italian secular song, similar to the French virelai.

ballet The theatrical presentation of group or solo dancing of great precision to a musical accompaniment, usually with costumes and scenery and conveying a story or theme.

bar Same as measure.

baritone Adult male voice of moderately low range.

basic set The underlying tone row in a serial composition.

bass (1) The lowest adult male voice; (2) the lowest voice in a polyphonic texture.

bass clef The clef in the upper staff that shows pitches mostly below middle C

basse danse A popular Renaissance court dance for couples.

blue note In blues singing or jazz, the deliberate offpitch lowering of certain pitches.

blues (I)A form of African-American folk music, characterized by simple, repetitive structures and a highly flexible vocal delivery; (2) the style of singing heard in the blues.

bow In string playing, a bundle of bleached horsehairs stretched tautly between the ends of a wooden stick. To produce a sound, the bow is drawn over one or more of the strings.

branle A high-stepping Renaissance group dance.

brass A family of instruments with cup-shaped mouthpieces through which the player blows into a series of metal tubes. Usually constructed of brass or silver.

bridge (1) A passage connecting two sections of a composition; (2) on string instruments, a small piece of wood th I at holds the strings above the body.


cadence cadential The musical punctuation that separates phrases or periods, creating a sense of rest or conclusion that ranges from momentary to final.

cadenza An improvised passage for a soloist, usually placed within the closing ritornello in a concerto movement.

canon (1) Strict imitation, in which one voice imitates another at a staggered time interval; (2) a piece that uses canon throughout, such as "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."

cantata A Baroque genre for voice(s) and instruments on a sacred or secular poem, including recitatives, arias, and sometimes choruses.

cantus firmus ("fixed melody") A pre-existing plainchant or secular melody incorporated into a polyphonic composition, common from the twelfth through the sixteenth centuries.

castrato A male singer castrated during boyhood to preserve his soprano or alto vocal register. Castratos played a prominent role in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century opera.

CD-ROM Compact disc-read only memory. A compact-disc technology that enables a personal computer to access digitally text, still images, moving pictures, and sound.

celesta A small keyboard instrument invented in 1886 whose hammers strike a series of resonating steel plates to produce a bell-like but veiled sound. Used by composers from Tchaikovsky to Boulez.

cell In certain twentieth-century compositions,a brief, recurring musical figure that does not undergo traditional motivic development.

chamber music Music played by small ensembles, such as a string quartet, with one performer to a part.

chance music A type of contemporary music in which some or all of the elements, such as rhythm or the interaction among voices, are left to chance.

chanson (French, "song") The most popular form of secular vocal music in northern Europe during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. character piece A short Romantic piano piece that expresses a single overall mood. choir (1) A vocal ensemble with more than one singer to a part; (2) a section of an instrumental ensemble, such as a brass choir.

chorale (1) A German hymn, especially popular in the Baroque; (2) a polyphonic setting of such a hymn, such as those by J. S. Bach.

chord A group of three or more pitches sounded simultaneously.

chordal style An alternate term for homophony. chorus (1) Same as choir; (2) each varied repetition of a 12-bar blues pattern; (3) the principal section of an American popular song, following the verse(s).

chromatic A descriptive term for melodies or harmonies that use all or most of the twelve degrees of the octave.

chromatic scale The pattern that results when all twelve adjacent semitones in an octave are played successively.

clef In musical notation, a symbol at the beginning of a staff that determines the pitches of the lines and spaces. The most common clefs are treble (4) for indicating pitches mostly above middle C and bass (9;) for indicating pitches mostly below middle C.

closing area In a movement in sonata form, the final stage in an exposition or recapitulation that confirms the temporary or home key with a series of cadences.

coda The optional final section of a movement or an entire composition.

combinatorial A descriptive term for tone rows in which the second half is a transposed version of the first half.

compound meters Duple or triple meters in which the individual beats are subdivided into triple units.

concertina The solo group in a Baroque concerto grosso.

concerto An instrumental composition for orchestra and soloist (or a small group of soloists).

concerto grosso The principal variety of Baroque concerto, for a small group of soloists (the concertino) and a larger ensemble (the ripieno).


disco A style of popular dance music characterized by slick, ostinato-like rhythms and propulsive, repetitive lyrics.

disjunct motion Melodic motion by a leap rather than by a step.

dissonance Intervals or chords that sound impure, harsh, or unstable.

dominant (1) The fifth degree of the diatonic scale. (2) the triad built on this degree; (3) the key oriented around this degree.

dominant seventh chord A dominant triad with an added seventh degree-for example, G-B-D-F. dotted rhythm The alternation of LONG and short notes, named after the notation used to record them.

downbeat A strong or accented beat, most frequently the first beat of a measure.

drone A sustained tone (a kind of permanent pedal point) over which a melody unfolds.

duet A composition for two performers.

duple meter The regular grouping of beats into twos (STRONG-weak). The most common duple meters have two or four beats per measure. dynamics The relative softness or loudness of a note or passage.


electronic music Music in which some or all of the sounds are produced by electronic generators. embellishment An ornamental addition to a simpler melody.

ensemble (1) A group of performers; (2) a musical number in an opera, oratorio, or cantata sung by two or more performers; (3) the extent to which a group of performers coordinate their performance.

entry In an imitative texture, the beginning of each statement of the theme.

envelope The graphic representation of a sound's attack, duration, and pattern of decay.

episode (1) In a fugue, a freer passage between full statements of the subject; (2) in ritornello form, a freer concertina passage between ripieno statements of the ritornello.

espressivo Expressively.

estampie A type of early instrumental (perhaps dance) music consisting of independent sections strung together.

Etude A musical piece designed to address a particular technical problem on an instrument.

exposition The first section of a movement in sonata form.

expression (I)The general character of a passage or work; (2) the blend of feeling and intellect brought to a performance by the performer.

Expressionism A short-lived Austro-German art movement at the beginning of the twentieth century, marked by a focus on the dark, mysterious side of the human mind.


Fauvism The French version of Austro-German Expressionism.

fermata In musical notation, a sign (-) indicating the prolongation of a note or rest beyond its notated value.

figure (1) In Baroque and Classical music, the numbers below a staff designating the harmonies to be filled in above; (2) a general term for a brief melodic pattern.

figured bass The Baroque system of adding figures to a bass line, indicating what harmonies are to be improvised on each beat.

final In plainchant, the concluding note in a mode; corresponds roughly to the tonic note in a tonal scale.

finale (1) The last movement of an instrumental work; (2) the large ensemble that concludes an act in an opera.

fine arts The realm of human experience characterized as aesthetic rather than practical or utilitarian, including music, painting, dance, theater, and film.

fingerboard A piece of wood extending from the body of a string instrument; the strings are attached to the end of the fingerboard.

flat (1) In musical notation, a sign (6) indicating that the note it precedes is to be played a half step lower; (2) the term used to specify a particular note, for example, B6.

FMsynthesis Frequency-modulation synthesis;a superior version of electronic synthesis introduced in the consumer market by Yamaha in 1982.

folk music Music indigenous to a particular ethnic group, usually preserved and transmitted orally.

form A term used to designate standardized musical shapes, such as binary form or sonata form.

forte; fortissimo Loud; very loud.

fortepiano The wooden-framed eighteenth-century piano used by Mozart, Haydn, and their contemporaries.

fragmentation The technique of developing a them,, by dividing it into smaller units, most common in the music of the Viennese Classicists.

frequency In acoustics, the number of times per second that the air carrying a sound vibrates as a wave. fret A raised strip across the fingerboard of a stringed instrument, designed to produce a specific pitch when stopped at that point.

frottola A light, popular Italian song, a precursor of the Italian madrigal.

fugato A fugal passage within a composition.

fugue A polyphonic composition that makes systematic use of imitation, usually based on a single subject, and that opens with a series of exposed entries on that subject.

fundamental The basic pitch of a tone.


gamelan A small Javanese orchestra consisting mainly of metal percussion instruments.

genre. The term used to identify a general category of music that shares similar performance forces, formal structures, and/or style-for example, "string quartet" or " 1 2-bar blues."

glissando Rapid sliding from one note to another, usually on continuous-pitch instruments such as the trombone or violin, but also on discrete-pitch instruments such as the piano or harp.

ground (bass) A repeating pattern, usually in the bass, over which a melody unfolds, as in Dido's lament from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas.


half cadence An intermediate cadence, usually on the dominant chord, within a musical period.

half step (semitone) The interval between any two adjacent notes on a keyboard; the smallest interval in common use in Western music.

harmonic (1) In acoustics, a synonym for overtone or partial; (2) in string playing, a high-pitched, whistling tone made by bowing a lightly stopped string. harmonic minor scale The scale that results from flatting the third and sixth degrees of the major scale. harmonic rhythm The rate at which harmony changes and the degree of regularity with which it changes.

harmonize To provide a melody with a chordal accompaniment.

harmony (1) In general, the simultaneous aspects of music; (2) specifically, the simultaneous playing of two or more different sounds.

harpsichord A Baroque keyboard instrument in which the strings are plucked by quills.

head The beginning of a theme.

heavy metal A descriptive term for rock bands since the 1970s whose heavily amplified electric and percussion sounds have been associated with youthful rebellion and defiance.

heterophony (heter-off-ony) A texture in which two or more variations of the same melody are performed simultaneously, common in folk music.

hexachord the six usable degrees of the modal scale, often used to organize Renaissance music.

hocket In late medieval polyphony, the alternation of short melodic phrases (or even single notes) between two voices.

homophony;homophonic (ho-mof-ony;homo-fonick) Texture in which all the voices move more or less together (often referred to as the chordal style).

hymn A simple religious song in several stanzas, sung in a church service by the congregation.


idee fixe (French, "fixed idea") Term used by Berlioz for the theme representing his beloved in every movement of his Symphonie fantastique.

imitation The successive repetition in different voices of a single musical idea.

Impressionism A French art movement of the late nineteenth century that rejected Romanticism in favor of fleeting, informal scenes from everyday life. improvisation The spontaneous, on-the-spot creation of music, preserved today largely in jazz but common in Western music well into the nineteenth century. incidental music Music performed before and during a play to intensify the mood.

intermedio In the Renaissance, a musical entertainment between the acts of a play.

interpretation The manner in which a performer carries out a composer's performance directions.

interval The acoustical distance between two pitches, usually reckoned by the number of intervening scale degrees.

introduction A passage or section, often in a slow tempo, that prepares the way for a more extended section.

inversion The playing of a melody upside down, with upward intervals played downwards and vice verse, most common in contrapuntal and serial music.

irregular meter The mixture at a single rhythmic level of more than one metric grouping.


jazz A style of performance developed largely by African-Americans after 1900; the most original form of American music in the twentieth century.

jongleur;jongleuress (zhong-ler;zhong-ler-ess)Male and female musical minstrels of the Middle Ages.


key (1) In tonal music, one of twelve possible tonalities organized around a triad built on the main note(2) on a keyboard, a lever pressed down to produce sound.

key signature Sharps or flats placed at the beginning of a staff to indicate the key of a passage or work.

K. numbers The common method of referring to works by Mozart, after the chronological catalogue first published by Ludwig Kochel in 1865.


largo; larghetto Very slow tempo; less slow than largo.

legato The smooth, seamless connection of adjacent notes in a melody.

Leitmotiv A term adopted by Wagner's disciples to designate the "leading motives" in his operas.

libretto A "little book" that contains the complete text of an opera, oratorio, and so forth.

Lied (German, "song") A vocal piece dating back to the polyphonic Lied of the fourteenth century. The solo German Lied, accompanied by piano, reached its zenith during the nineteenth century.

line A general term for a discrete voice or part in a vocal or instrumental composition.

liturgical drama A sung religious dialogue that flourished during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Liturgical in spirit even when performed outside the formal liturgy, liturgical dramas were the most elaborate form of medieval music.

lyre An ancient plucked string instrument in the shape of a box (Figure 5. 1), whose association with music especially with the mythological character Orpheus) is so strong that the word lyric is derived from it.


madrigal A vocal form that arose in Italy during the sixteenth century and developed into the most ambitious secular form of the Renaissance.

madrigalism An alternate term for wordpainting, reflecting the frequent use of word painting in the Renaissance madrigal.

major mode One of two colorings applied to a key, characterized by the major scale and the resulting predominance of major triads. Generally sounds bright and stable.

major scale A pattern of seven (ascending) notes, five separated by whole steps, with half steps between the third and fourth and the seventh and eighth degrees.

major seventh A highly dissonant interval a half step smaller than an octave.

major third An interval consisting of four half steps-, a major third forms the bottom interval of a major triad.

major triad A triad consisting of a major third plus a minor third bounded by a perfect fifth.

march A military style (or piece) characterized by strongly accented duple meter and clear sectional structures.

Mass (1) The central worship service of the Roman Catholic Church; (2) the music written for that service.

mazurka Polish folk dance in rapid triple meter with strong offbeat accents.

measure (bar) The single recurrence of each regular pattern in a meter, consisting of a strong first beat and weaker subsidiary beats and set off in musical notation by vertical lines known as bar lines. melisma;melismatic (muh-liz-muh;mel-iz-mat-ic) Technique of singing in which a single syllable receives many notes.

melody (1) The aspect of music having to do with the succession of single notes in a coherent arrangement; (2) a particular succession of such notes (also referred to as tune, theme, or voice).

meter The organization of strong and weak beats into a regular, recurring pattern.

metronome Mechanical (or, today, electrical) device that ticks (or blinks) out regular tempos from about 40 to 208 beats per minute.

metronome marking A number, usually placed at the top of a piece, that indicates tempo by telling how many beats of a certain note value will be heard per minute, for example, J = 60.

mezzo (met-zoh) Medium, as in mezzopiano (medium soft).

microtones Intervals smaller than a half step.

MIDI Acronym for "musical instrument digital interface," the industry-wide standard adopted in 1982 that permits personal computers and synthesizers to talk to one another.

miniature A descriptive term for a short Romantic piece, usually for piano.

minimalism A contemporary style marked by steady pulse, simple triadic harmonies, and insistent repetition of short melodic patterns.

minor mode One of two colorings, generally dark and unstable, applied to a key, characterized by the minor scale and the resulting predominance of minor triads.

minor scale The scale in which the third and sixth degrees are the lower of two options. The melodic minor scale raises the sixth and seventh degrees in ascending passages and lowers them in descending passages.

minor third An interval consisting of three half steps; a minor third forms the bottom interval of a minor triad.

minor triad A triad consisting of a minor third plus a major third bounded by a perfect fifth.

minuet A seventeenth-century court dance in moderate triple meter that later served as the model for the third movement of Classical instrumental works. mode (1) In the Middle Ages, a means of organizing plainchant according to orientations around the seven-note diatonic scale (corresponding to the white notes on a keyboard); (2) in the tonal system, one of the two colorings, called major and minor, that may be applied to any of twelve keys.

modulation The process of changing keys in a tonal work, as in "the modulation from C major to F minor."

molto allegro Very fast tempo.

monody A style of accompanied solo singing that evolved in the early Baroque in which the meaning of the text was expressed in a flexible vocal line.

monophony;monophonic (mo-nof-ony;mo-no-fonick) A musical texture consisting of a single voice, as in plainchant.

Moog Robert, American inventor of early synthesizers. During the 1970s his most popular synthesizer was itself known as "the Moog." morality play In the Middle Ages, a monophonic drama set to music to illustrate a moral point, such as the struggle between good and evil. An example is Hildegarde of Bingen's Play of the Virtues (pages 7982).

motet A descriptive term for the several varieties of polyphonic vocal music, mostly sacred, from the Middle Ages to the present.

motive The smallest coherent unit of a larger musical idea.

movement A self-contained, largely independent portion of a larger piece, such as a symphony or concerto.

multimedia Rapidly developing technology that enables information of all kinds-text, still images, moving pictures, sound-to be stored and retrieved on a single digital medium, such as CD-ROM or videodisc.

multi-timbral A descriptive term for the ability of a synthesizer to record different timbres simultaneously.

music Broadly speaking, sounds organized to express a wide variety of human emotions.

musical theater (musical) A hybrid form of twentieth-century American musical entertainment that incorporates elements of vaudeville, operetta, jazz, and popular song.

music drama Wagner's designation for his operas. musicology The scholarly study of music and its historical contexts.

musique concrete Natural sounds that have been recorded electronically.

mute A mechanical device used with string and brass instruments to muffle the tone.


nationalism A nineteenth-century political movement that led in music to the frequent use of national folk songs, styles, and historical subjects.

natural (1) In musical notation, a sign -- natural.jpg-- indicating that the preceding accidental applied to this note is to be cancelled; (2) the name given to such a note, for example, Cnatural.jpg.

neoclassicism A twentieth-century movement characterized by a selective and eclectic revival of the formal proportions and economical means of eighteenth century music.

neumatic In plainchant, a style in which each syllable of text receives several notes.

neume The stemless symbols used in medieval sources to notate plainchant (see Figure 4.12).

nocturne ("night piece") A nineteenth-century character piece for piano.

non-imitative counterpoint Same as unequal-voiced counterpoint.

non-legato The slight separation of adjacent notes.

note (1) A sound with a specific pitch and duration; (2) in musical notation, the symbol (e.g., J) for such a sound; (3) a single key on a keyboard.


octave The interval in which one pitch is doubled (or halved) in frequency by another pitch. The octave is found in virtually all music systems.

Office (Divine) The eight daily worship services, apart from the Mass, in the Roman Catholic Church.

ondes martenot An early electronic instrument invented in the late 1920s by Maurice Martenot.

opera A drama set to music; the dominant form of Western music from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries.

opera buffa A comic form of eighteenth-century Italian opera featuring everyday characters involved in outlandish plot intrigues.

opera seria A serious, heroic form of eighteenth century opera featuring historical or mythological figures in stereotypical plots stressing the tension between love and duty.

operetta A light, entertaining version of Romantic opera with spoken dialogue between numbers.

opus A "work"; opus numbers were introduced by publishers in the seventeenth century to identify each of a composer's works.

oratorio (English) A musical entertainment usually on a sacred subject and including recitatives, arias, choruses, and an overture.

orchestration The designation of what instruments are to play what voices or notes in a composition. The process of orchestrating is often referred to as scoring.

Ordinary of the Mass In the Roman Catholic liturgy, the five items (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) that arc part of every celebration of the Mass.

organ An instrument in which air forced through pipes by mechanical means is controlled by one or more keyboards, including a foot-operated pedal keyboard.

organum The earliest type of medieval polyphonic music, in which voices were added above a plainchant.

ornament An embellishment, such as a trill, used to decorate a melodic line.

ostinato A brief pattern repeated over and over again at the same pitch, often in the bass.

overtones The spectrum of the higher-pitched frequencies that accompany the fundamental of any pitch and determine its tone color (also called harmonic or partials).

overture An instrumental piece that precedes a dramatic work such as an opera (some overtures are nevertheless independent compositions).


paraphrase The practice by Renaissance composers of embellishing or elaborating a cantus firmus in polyphonic vocal works.

parlante Nineteenth-century operatic style in which the voices declaim in a rapid, speechlike manner against a backdrop of melody and accompaniment.

part (1) One of the voices in a polyphonic work; (2) the written music for a single player in an ensemble.

partial Same as overtone.

passacaglia Baroque technique in which a brief melodic idea repeats over and over while the other voices are varied freely.

passage work Descriptive term for figuration consisting of rapid runs and scales, common in keyboard music.

patch chords On early synthesizers, the cables required to connect various components.

PCM Pulse-code modulation. A more sophisticated method of sampling introduced into the consumer synthesizer market in the late 1980s.

pedal board An organ's foot-operated keyboard.

pedal point Long-held tones, usually in the bass of a polyphonic passage.

pentatonic scale A five-note scale found in numerous non-Western musics and adopted as an exotic element by many twentieth-century Western composers.

percussion Instruments, either tuned or untuned, that produce sounds by being struck, rattled, or scraped. Common percussion include drums, cymbals, and bells.

performance directions Words or symbols provided by composers to instruct performers in how their music is to be played, including articulation, dynamics, expression, and phrasing.

period The musical equivalent of a paragraph. period instrument An instrument of a type that was in use at the time a work was originally performed. phrase The coherent segments that make up a melody; roughly equivalent to a sentence in prose.

phrasing The manner in which a performer organizes and presents the parts of a composition.

piano A keyboard instrument whose tone is produced by hammers striking strings tightly stretched over a large soundboard. A foot pedal controls the damping of the strings.

piano; pianissimo Soft; very soft. piano trio A chamber work for piano and two other instruments, usually violin and cello. pitch (1) The high and low of sounds, measured in acoustical frequencies; (2) a particular note, such as middle C.

pizzicato Playing a string instrument that is normally bowed by plucking the strings with the finger.

plainchant (plainsong, Gregorian chant) Monophonic unison music sung during Catholic church services since the Middle Ages.

poles of attraction A term introduced by Stravinsky to describe the harmonic equilibrium of his neoclassical works.

polyphony;polyphonic (po-lif-ony;poly-fon-ick)A musical texture in which the individual voices move independently of one another.

polyrhythm A texture in which the rhythms of various voices seem to exist independently of one another.

pop A generic term for popular music in contemporary America, overlapping but not identical with rock.

postmodern A term adopted around the mid- 1970s to describe our current eclectic, experimental age.

prelude An introductory piece (though Chopin and other nineteenth-century composers wrote independent preludes).

premiere The first public performance of a musical or dramatic work.

prepared piano In contemporary music, the modifying of a traditional grand piano by such techniques as placing various objects between the strings.

presto; prestissimo Very fast; extremely fast.

primary area In a movement in sonata form, the first stage in an exposition; establishes the tonic key with one or more themes.

program music An instrumental work associated explicitly by the composer with a story or other extramusical idea.

Proper of the Mass The parts of the Mass that vary from day to day according to the church calendar.

punk A descriptive term adopted by the most rebellious heavy metal bands and their followers.


quarter tone Half a semitone.

quartet (1) A piece for four singers or instrumentalists; (2) a group of four singers or instrumentalists.

quintet (1) A piece for five singers or instrumentalists; (2) a group of five singers or instrumentalists.


ragtime A type of popular American music, usually for piano, that arose around 1900 and contributed to the emergence of jazz.

range The pitch distance between the lowest note and the highest note of an instrument, a composition, or an individual part.

recapitulation The third principal section of a movement in sonata form whose function is to resolve the harmonic conflicts set up in the exposition and development.

recitative A flexible style of vocal delivery employed in opera, oratorio, and cantata and tailored to the accents and rhythms of the text.

reduction The compression of a complex, multi-stave score onto one or two staves.

reed In wind instruments such as the clarinet and oboe, a small vibrating element made of cane that serves as all (double reed) or part (single reed) of the mouthpiece.

register The relative location within the range of a voice or an instrument, such as "the piercing upper register of the oboe. "

resolution A move from a dissonance to a consonance.

rest (I) In music, a brief silence; (2) in musical notation, a sign indicating such a silence.

retransition In sonata form, the passage that leads from the harmonic instability of the development to the stability of the recapitulation.

retrograde Playing a theme backward.

rhythm (1) The pattern in time created by the incidence and duration of individual sounds; (2) used more loosely to refer to a particular rhythm, for example, "a dotted rhythm." rhythm & blues (R&B) A term coined in 1949 to describe the heavily rhythmic urban blues cultivated mainly by Midwestern African-American musicians.

rhythmic background The subdivisions of beats within a regular meter.

rhythmic foreground The regular beats provided by meter.

ripieno The largest of the two instrumental groups in a Baroque concerto grosso.

ritard; ritardando Slowing down the tempo.

ritornello (Italian, "the little thing that returns") A recurring theme in eighteenth-century arias and concertos.

ritornello form Baroque instrumental form based on recurrences of a ritornello.

rock'n'roll(rock) Style of popular vocal music, often for dancing, that developed in the United States and England during the 1950s, characterized by a hard, driving duple meter and amplified instrumental accompaniment. Currently the most widespread musical style in the world.

rondo A musical form in which a main theme alternates with other themes or sections, for example, A-B-A-C-A.

round A simple sung canon in which all voices enter on the same note after the same time interval.

rubato "Robbed" time; the subtle pressing forward and holding back the tempo in performance.


sampling The capacity of a synthesizer to extrapolate from a single example a homogeneous timbre over a wide pitch range.

scale An array of fixed, ordered pitches bounded by two notes an octave apart. The common Western scales contain seven notes; in non-Western cultures, scales may contain fewer or more than seven notes.

scherzo (Italian, "joke") A faster, often humorous transformation of a minuet, introduced into symphonies by Beethoven.

score The complete musical notation of a composition, especially for an ensemble; the individual parts are lined up vertically.

scoring The process of orchestration.

secondary area In a movement in sonata form, the theme or group of themes that follows the transition and establishes the new key in the exposition.

semitone Same as halfstep.

sequence (1) The repetition of a musical idea at progressively higher or lower pitches; (2) a form of medieval chant.

sequencing On a synthesizer, programming a series of sounds.

serialist The technique, introduced by Schoenberg, of basing a composition on a series, or tone row. Boulez and others have extended serialism to rhythm and timbre.

shape The interrelationship through time of the parts or sections of a piece. Standardized shapes are commonly referred to as forms.

sharp (1) In musical notation, a sign (#) indicating that the note it precedes is to be played a half step higher; (2) the means of designating particular notes, for example, F#.

simple meter A meter in which the main beats arc subdivided into twos, such as 2/4 or 3/4.

Singspiel ("sung play") German folk or comic opera in which arias, ensembles, and choruses arc interspersed with spoken dialogue.

slur (1) In musical notation, a curved line connecting notes that are to be played legato; (2) in performance, the playing of legato.

sonata A chamber work in several movements; in the Baroque, typically for three parts (the continuo part normally requiring two instruments); in later periods, for one or two instruments.

sonata-concerto form A hybrid of Baroque ritornello form and sonata form often used in the Classical concerto.

sonata form A musical form or style, originating in the eighteenth century, based on successive stages of stability, tension, and resolution; the most influential form developed during the age of tonality.

sonata-rondo form A synthesis of sonata and rondo forms, especially popular in finales of Classical instrumental works.

song cycle A collection of poems set to music and tied together by mood or story line.

sonority A general term for sound quality, either of a brief moment or of an entire composition.

soprano (1) The high woman's (or boy's) voice; (2)the highest voice in a polyphonic texture.

spinning-out A translation of the German Fortspinnung, in reference to the single-minded use in Baroque music of a brief motive to generate a long, continuous phrase.

Sprechstimme A vocal delivery, developed by Schoenberg, intermediate between speech and song.

staccato (1) In musical notation, a dot placed above a notehead to indicate that it is to receive only about half its regular value; (2) in performance, the pronounced separation of adjacent notes.

staff (plural, staves) In musical notation, the five horizontal lines on which one or more voices are notated.

stanza In vocal works, poetic units two lines or longer of equal length and accent pattern, often sung to the same music.

stem In musical notation, the vertical line attached to a notehead.

stop On the organ, hand-operated levers that activate different means of sound production, thereby varying the tone color.

stop (double, triple, quadruple) In string playing, the sounding of two, three, or four strings at once.

stretto In a fugue, beginning an entry of a subject before a previous entry has finished.

string quartet (1) Ensemble consisting of two violins, viola, and cello; (2) a work composed for this ensemble.

strings Family of bowed or plucked instruments in which thin strings are stretched over a wooden frame.

strophic form Vocal form in which each stanza of a poem is set to the same music. structure A term often used in music to mean shape or form.

style The result of the interaction among rhythm, melody, harmony, texture, color, and shape that gives the music of a particular period or composer its distinctiveness.

stylistic modulation In contemporary music, the shifting among discrete styles (for example, Renaissance and Viennese Classicism) within the same composition.

subdominant (1) The fourth degree of the diatonic scale- (2) the triad built on this degree; (3) the key oriented around this degree.

subject The main theme of a fugue.

suite (I) A work consisting of a collection of dances, popular in the Baroque; (2) an abbreviated version of a longer work, for example, the suite from the film Star Wars.

swing (I)A style of jazz playing whose flexible, improvised rhythms resist notation; (2) name used to describe big band jazz from the 1930s and 1940s. syllabic In plainchant, a style in which each syllable of text receives a single note. symbolism French literary movement of the late nineteenth century favoring suggestion and allusion rather than realism or naturalism.

symphonic poem Same as tone Poem.

symphony A large orchestral composition in several movements- a dominant form of public music in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. syncopation The accenting, within a well-defined meter, of weaker beats or portions of beats. synthesizer An electronic device that can create a wide variety of sounds in response to the user's instructions.

system A group of staves connected by a brace, indicating that they are to be played simultaneously.


tail The end of a theme.

tailpiece The holder to which the strings are attached at the lower end of the body of a string instrument.

tango A duple-meter dance from Argentina that was popular in Paris in the early twentieth century.

tempo (Italian, "time") The speed of a piece of music, usually reckoned by the rate of its beats. tenor (1) The high male voice; (2) the second-lowest voice in a four-part texture; (3) the long-held voice in a medieval organum.

ternary form A three-part musical structure (A-B-A) based on statement (A), contrast (B), and repetition (A).

texture The musical weave of a composition, such as homophonic or contrapuntal

thematic anticipation The Romantic practice of introducing fragments of a theme before presenting it in its entirety.

thematic transformation A Romantic technique that preserves the essential pitch identity of a theme while altering its rhythm or character.

theme A self-contained melodic idea on which musical works are frequently based.

theme and variations Popular form in which a theme is followed by variations that preserve the phrase lengths and harmonization of the theme while varying its rhythms, melodies, and textures.

through-composed A descriptive term for a song or an instrumental movement in which there is no largescale repetition.

timbre (tam-burr) Same as tone color.

time signature The two numbers that appear in a score immediately after the clefs. The upper number indicates how many beats each measure is to receive; the lower number indicates the value of the note that receives each beat.

toccata An improvisatory style of keyboard music especially popular during the Baroque.

tonality; tonal A harmonic system in which triads are arranged hierarchically around a central triad called the tonic.

tone A more general term for pitch or note.

tone duster The simultaneous sounding of adjacent pitches.

tone color (timbre) The acoustical properties of a sound, including its envelope and the distribution of overtones above the fundamental. tone poem (symphonic poem) A piece of orchestral program music in one long movement. tone row In serial music, the ordering of all twelve notes of the chromatic scale to serve as the basis of a composition.

tonic (1) The first degree, or central note, of the diatonic scale; (2) the triad built on this degree; (3) the key oriented around this degree. total serialist The application of serial techniques to all aspects of musical style.

transcription An arrangement, usually for a solo instrument such as a piano, of an orchestral or vocal work.

transition In a movement in sonata form, the unstable stage in an exposition that undertakes the modulation from the tonic to the new key.

transpose; transposition To move a passage (or section or entire work) from one pitch level to another.

treble clef The clef (@) in the upper staff that shows pitches mostly above middle C.

tremolo In string playing, repetitions of a tone produced by rapid alternation between up-and-down strokes of the bow.

triad A chord consisting of three pitches constructed around intervals of interlocking thirds (on the white notes, this amounts to every other note).

trill Musical ornament that consists of two notes a half step or a whole step apart played in rapid alternation.

trio (1) A work for three performers; (2) the second section of a Baroque dance such as a minuet.

trio sonata A Baroque sonata for two treble instruments and continuo, generally requiring four performers.

triple meter The regular grouping of beats into threes, as in a waltz.

triplet The grouping of three notes per beat, usually in contrast to the standard grouping of two notes per beat.

tritone A dissonant interval consisting of three whole steps, known in medieval music as "the devil in music."

trope An addition to the plainchant, usually in the form of new text set to either existing or new music.

troubadors, trouveres Poet/musicians, usually aristocratic, active in southern and northern France during the Middle Ages.

tune A less formal term for a melody, especially a catchy melody.

tutti (Italian, "all") The full ensemble.


under-third cadence A fourteenth-century cadence, closely associated with Francesco Landini, in which the melody proceeds from the seventh to the sixth degree of the modal scale before rising a third to the tonic note.

unequal-voiced counterpoint (non-imitative counterpoint) A musical texture in which independent voices of different character compete for attention.

unison A descriptive term for music sung or played at the same pitch by two different voices or instruments.

unit pulse A rhythmic technique in which meter is replaced by a focus on the shortest rhythmic value.

upbeat A weak or unaccented beat that anticipates a strong downbeat.


variation (1) Generally, an altered version of a rhythm, motive, or theme; (2) in theme and variations, each regular section following the theme, in which the phrase lengths and harmonization remain true (or close) to the theme while the rhythms, melodies, and textures change.

verismo A descriptive term for a realistic, often sensational, type of late-Romantic Italian opera, whose disreputable characters are caught up in lust, greed, betrayal, or revenge.

vernacular dramas A sung monophonic play presented in the Middle Ages by roving minstrels, who freely mixed secular texts, instrumental music, and plainchant.

verse One of two sections (verse and bridge) of many American popular songs, especially common in the sequence verse-verse-bridge-verse.

vibrato On string instruments, small but rapid fluctuations in pitch used to intensify a sound.

virtuosity In a composition, a focus on exceptional technical demands; in a performance, a focus on exceptional technical display.

virtuoso A performer with exceptional technical skills.

voice (1) The human voice; (2) an independent line in any polyphonic piece.


walking bass A Baroque pattern in which a bass part moves steadily in constant rhythms.

waltz A popular nineteenth-century dance in moderate to fast triple meter.

white noise Sounds containing every audible frequency at approximately the same intensity.

whole step (whole tone) An interval equal to two half steps.

whole-tone scale An exotic non-Western scale employed by Debussy and other Western composers.

woodwinds A family of instruments, constructed largely of wood, that produce sound by means of blowing air across an aperture or through a vibrating reed.

word painting A technique that became prominent in the Renaissance, in which musical figures are used to represent specific images-falling, sighing, weeping, rejoicing, and so forth.