Musical Glossary

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 1-9

1-9


  • 1x10": refers to a speaker cabinet that contains one ten-inch loudspeaker. Used for small venue PA cabinets and small stage monitor speakers (with a horn), and lightweight bass guitar or electric guitar combination amplifiers ("combos") and cabinets designed for rehearsal monitoring or practice.
  • 1x12": ...with one twelve-inch loudspeaker. Used for mid-sized venue PA cabinets and stage monitor speakers (with a horn), and lightweight bass and guitar combos and cabinets.
  • 1x15": ...with one fifteen-inch loudspeaker. Used for PA cabinets and stage monitor speakers (with a horn), bass combos and cabinets, and in small venue subwoofer cabinets.
  • 1x18": ...with one eighteen-inch loudspeaker, typically used in subwoofer cabinets for PA applications.
  • 2x10": ...with two ten-inch loudspeakers. Used in electric guitar and bass combos and cabinets.
  • 2x12": ...with two twelve-inch loudspeakers. Used in electric guitar and bass combos and cabinets, and, with a horn, as a PA cabinet.
  • 2x15": ...with two fifteen-inch loudspeakers. Used in bass cabinets and, with a horn, as a PA cabinet.
  • 2x18": ...with one eighteen-inch loudspeakers, typically used as a subwoofer for PA applications or in dance clubs.
  • 4-track (or "four-track"): refers to a simple portable recording and mixing device widely used in the 1970s and 1980s which used compact cassettes.
  • 4x10": ...with four ten-inch loudspeakers. Used in electric guitar and bass combos and cabinets.
  • 5-string (or five-string): typically refers to an electric bass with five strings, which often means the addition of a low "B" string.'
  • 6-string (or six-string): typically refers to an electric bass with six strings, which often means the addition of a low "B" string and a high "C" string. (Note: in rare cases, basses with even more strings are used). Also common slang meaning guitar.
  • 7-string (or seven-string): typically refers to an electric guitar with seven strings, which often means the addition of a low "B" string. Seven-string guitars are associated with jazz, fusion, and metal styles.
  • 8-track: a tape format popular in the 1970s.
  • 8x10": ...with eight ten-inch loudspeakers. Used in electric guitar and bass cabinets. It is sometimes called a "stack", and, in the case of a bass cabinet, a "bass stack".

A


  • ängstlich (Ger.): anxiously
  • Ausdruck (Ger): expression
  • a 2: see a due in this list
  • a battuta: return to normal tempo after a deviation; same as 'a tempo'
  • a bene placito: up to the performer
  • a cappella: in the manner of singing in a chapel; i.e., without instrumental accompaniment
  • a due: intended as a duet; for two voices or instruments; together; two instruments are to play in unison after a solo passage for one of the instruments
  • a nessuna cosa: to nothing; an indication to hold a fermata until it dies away (this only works with instruments which cannot sustain a note)
  • a niente: to nothing; an indication to make a diminuendo which fades to pppp
  • a piacere: at pleasure; i.e., the performer need not follow the rhythm strictly, for example in a cadenza
  • a prima vista: Sight-read (lit. "at first sight"); i.e., (to be) played or sung from written notation but without prior review of the written material
  • a tempo: in time; i.e., the performer should return to the main tempo of the piece (after an accelerando or ritardando, etc.); also may be found in combination with other terms such as a tempo giusto (in strict time) or a tempo di menuetto (at the speed of a minuet)
  • a, à (Fr): at, to, by, for, in, in the style of
  • abbandonatamente, con abbandono: free, relaxed
  • aber (Ger): but
  • accarezzévole: expressive and caressing
  • accent: emphasize.
  • accentato/accentuato: accented; with emphasis
  • acceso: ignited, on fire
  • acciaccatura: crushing; i.e., a very fast grace note that is "crushed" against the note that follows and takes up no value in the measure
  • accompagnato: accompanied; i.e., with the accompaniment following the soloist, who may speed up or slow down at will
  • acid rock: a style of rock music from the late 1960s and early 1970s which emphasized psychedelic imagery, unusual sound effects, and distorted guitar playing.
  • ad libitum (commonly ad lib; Latin): at liberty; i.e., the speed and manner of execution are left to the performer
  • ad libitum (commonly ad lib; Latin): at liberty; i.e., the speed and manner of execution are left to the performer
  • adagietto: rather slow
  • adagio: at ease; i.e., play slowly
  • adagissimo: very, very slow
  • affannato, affannoso: anguished
  • affettuoso, affettuosamente, or affectueusement (Fr): with affect (that is, with emotion); see also con affetto
  • agile: swiftly
  • agitato: agitated
  • al, alla: to the, in the manner of (al before masculine nouns, alla before feminine)
  • all' ottava: "at the octave", see ottava
  • alla breve: in cut-time; two beats per measure or the equivalent thereof
  • alla marcia: in the style of a march
  • allargando: broadening, becoming a little slower each time
  • allegretto: a little lively, moderately fast
  • allegretto vivace: a moderately quick tempo
  • allegrezza: cheerfulness, joyfulness
  • allegrissimo: very fast, though slower than presto
  • allegro: cheerful or brisk; but commonly interpreted as lively, fast
  • als (Ger): than
  • alt (English) (also alt dom or altered dominant): a jazz term which instructs chord-playing musicians such as a jazz pianist or jazz guitarist to perform a dominant (V7) chord with altered upper extensions (e.g., sharp 11th, flat 13th, etc.).
  • alt (English) (also alt dom or altered dominant): a jazz term which instructs chord-playing musicians such as a jazz pianist or jazz guitarist to perform a dominant (V7) chord with altered upper extensions (e.g., sharp 11th, flat 13th, etc.).
  • altissimo: very high
  • altissimo: very high
  • alto: high; often refers to a particular range of voice or instrument, higher than a tenor but lower than a soprano (e.g., alto sax)
  • alto: high; often refers to a particular range of voice, higher than a tenor but lower than a soprano
  • alzate sordini: lift or raise the mutes; i.e., remove mutes
  • am Steg (Ger): at the bridge; i.e., playing a bowed string instrument near its bridge, which produces a heavier, stronger tone (see sul ponticello in this list)
  • amabile: amiable, pleasant
  • amoroso: loving
  • amp: an abbreviation for "amplifier"; i.e., a musical instrument amplifier or a PA system power amplifier; also an abbreviation for ampere.
  • anacrusis: a note or notes that precede the first full bar; a pickup
  • analog: sound equipment in which the signal containing the voice, electric guitar signal, etc. is electrical, rather than converted into digital "1's" and "0's" (binary system). Whether analog or digital recording and effects are "better" is a subject for debate. Proponents of analog effects and mixing boards often argue that analog gear has a "warmer" or more "natural" tone.
  • andamento: used to refer to a fugue subject of above-average length
  • andante: at a walking pace; i.e., at a moderate tempo
  • andantino: slightly faster than andante (but earlier it is sometimes used to mean slightly slower than andante)
  • anima: feeling
  • animandosi: animated, lively
  • animato: animated, lively
  • antiphon: a liturgical or other composition consisting of choral responses, sometimes between two choirs; a passage of this nature forming part of another composition; a repeated passage in a psalm or other liturgical piece, similar to a refrain.[1]
  • apaisé (Fr): calmed
  • appassionato: passionately
  • appoggiatura also called a "leaning note": one or more grace notes that take up some note value of the next full note.
  • arco: the bow used for playing some string instrument; i.e., played with the bow, as opposed to pizzicato (plucked), in music for bowed instruments; normally used to cancel a pizzicato direction
  • arietta: a short aria
  • arioso: airy, or like an air (a melody); i.e., in the manner of an aria; melodious
  • armonioso: harmoniously
  • arpeggiato: a way of playing a chord: starting with the lowest note, and with successively higher notes rapidly joining in. Sometimes the effect is reversed, so that the highest note is played first.
  • arpeggio: like a harp; i.e., the notes of the chords are to be played quickly one after another (usually ascending) instead of simultaneously. In music for piano, this is sometimes a solution in playing a wide-ranging chord whose notes cannot be played otherwise. Arpeggios are frequently used as an accompaniment. See also broken chord in this list.
  • arpeggio: like a harp; i.e., the notes of the chords are to be played quickly one after another (usually ascending) instead of simultaneously. Arpeggios are frequently used as an accompaniment. See also broken chord in this list.
  • art rock: an avant-garde genre of rock that is related to progressive rock (Genesis; Rush; Gentle Giant); both genres tend to use unusual instruments, meters, and timbres, and both aim towards more complex, experimental compositions and novel sonic textures.
  • as is: a jazz term which instructs the performer to play the noted pitches as they are printed. Parts for jazz musicians in big bands often consist of lengthy sections of empty bars labelled with the changing time signatures and chord changes. Rhythm section members improvise an accompaniment (see comp), and lead instruments improvise solos. In sections where the jazz arranger wants the performers to read notated pitches rather than improvise, they indicate this with the notation "as is".
  • assai: very
  • assez (Fr): enough, sufficiently
  • attacca: attack or attach; go straight on; i.e., at the end of a movement, a direction to attach the next movement to the previous one, without a gap or pause
  • ausdrucksvoll/mit Ausdruck(Ger): expressively, with expression
  • avec (Fr): with or with another
  • axe: a slang term which refers to an electric guitar, or, by extension, to any instrument (e.g., a bandleader may tell a saxophone player to "get your axe").

B


  • back-beat: Beats 2 and 4 in 4/4 time, particularly when they are strongly accented. A term more used in rock 'n roll.
  • barbaro: barbarous (notably used in Allegro barbaro by Béla Bartók)
  • bark: a slang term used by keyboard players to refer to the growling, biting tone of a vintage Fender Rhodes electric piano.
  • barre chord (or "bar chord"): a guitar chord in which the first (or another finger) holds down two or more adjacent strings (that is it "bars" several notes)
  • bass: the lowest of the standard four voice ranges (bass, tenor, alto, soprano); the lowest melodic line in a musical composition, often thought of as defining and supporting the harmony; in a jazz or popular music context, the term usually refers to the double bass or the electric bass.
  • bass: the lowest of the standard four voice ranges (bass, tenor, alto, soprano); the lowest melodic line in a musical composition, often thought of as defining and supporting the harmony; in an orchestral context, the term usually refers to the double bass.
  • basso continuo: continuous bass; i.e., a bass part played continuously throughout a piece to give harmonic structure, used especially in the Baroque period
  • battement (Fr.): used in the 17th-century to refer to ornaments consisting of two adjacent notes, such as trills or mordents
  • beat: (1) the pronounced rhythm of music; (2) one single stroke of a rhythmic accent
  • beat: (1) the pronounced rhythm of music; (2) one single stroke of a rhythmic accent
  • bellicoso: warlike, aggressive
  • ben or bene: well; in ben marcato ("well marked") for example
  • bend: jazz term referring either to establishing a pitch, sliding down half a step and returning to the original pitch or sliding up half a step from the original note. With the electric guitar, bending is widely used in blues, blues-rock, and rock and, to a somewhat different fashion, in jazz.
  • bend: jazz term referring either to establishing a pitch, sliding down half a step and returning to the original pitch or sliding up half a step from the original note.
  • beschleunigte (Ger): accelerated, as in mit beschleunigter Geschwindigkeit, at an accelerated tempo
  • bewegt (Ger): moved, with speed
  • bin (or "bass bin"): a subwoofer cabinet that reproduces very low-frequency sounds, usually with some type of horn or transmission line system to enhance the bass response; typically used for the main, Front of House speaker system, but in rare cases, may also be used as part of a bass player's bass amplifier set-up. The term "bin" was more common in the 1980s; in the 1990s and 2000s, the term "subwoofer" or "sub" is much more widely used.
  • binary: a musical form in two sections: AB
  • binary: a musical form in two sections: AB
  • block chords: A style of piano playing, developed by Milt Buckner and George Shearing, with both hands 'locked' together, playing chords in parallel with the melody, usually in fairly close position. It is a technical procedure requiring much practice, and can sound dated if the harmonies are not advanced enough. Also called locked hands.
  • B: slang abbreviation for a B-3 organ (see below)
  • bleeding (or "bleed" or "bleed-through"): a slang term which refers to the ambient sounds that a microphone aimed at instrument A picks up from other instruments or singers in the same room. In some cases, "bleeding" is considered undesirable, if unwanted sounds from other instruments are picked up by a microphone. For example, if a guitar player plays an amazing solo during a recording, it may end up being unusable if mistakes by the drummer—20 feet away—are bleeding through into the mic in front of the guitar amp. To prevent "bleeding", studios use isolation booths and cloth-covered room dividers. In some cases, "bleed-through" is desirable, because it makes the recording sound fuller or more "live".
  • blow : a jazz term instructing a performer to improvise a solo over the chord progression of a jazz tune; may also be written "blowing section" or, in free jazz, "open blowing"
  • B-3: refers to the B-3, a widely-used version of the Hammond organ, an electromechanical, tonewheel-based keyboard instrument.
  • bird's eye: a slang term for fermata, which instructs the performer to hold a note or chord as long as they wish
  • bird's eye: a slang term for fermata, which instructs the performer to hold a note or chord as long as they wish
  • bis (Lat): twice; i.e., repeat the relevant action or passage
  • bisbigliando: whispering; i.e., a special tremolo effect on the harp where a chord or note is rapidly repeated at a low volume
  • blues : in a jazz context, when "blues" or "solo on blues" appears at the start of a solo section, it is an abbreviation for "blues progression"; it instructs the performer to improvise solos over a 12-bar blues progression based on I, IV, and V7 chords.
  • board: a shortened form of "mixing board", which refers to the audio mixing board used by live sound engineers and studio engineers to control the volume and tone of different instruments and voices, blend them in the desired proportions, add external effects (e.g., reverb), and route the final signal (or an intermediate signal) to desired locations (e.g., to a recording device; to Front of House speakers; to monitor speakers, etc.). The term "board" may also be used as a shortened form of "fingerboard".
  • bocca chiusa: with closed mouth
  • bouncer (or "doorman" or "cooler"): a security staffer who works at music and concert venues such as bars and clubs; the job of a doorman is to check for age of majority ID; search for concealed weapons, drugs, or alcohol; remove intoxicated or aggressive patrons; and enforce the rules of the venue (e.g., a rule against stage-diving or moshing).
  • bravura: boldness; as in con bravura, boldly
  • break: Transitional passage in which a soloist plays unaccompanied.
  • breit (Ger): broad
  • bridge: Transitional passage connecting two sections of a composition, also transition. Also the part of a stringed instrument that holds the strings in place and transmits their vibrations to the resonant body of the instrument. Some bridges on electric guitars have a see-saw action called a whammy bar which allows notes or chords to be "bent" down in pitch.
  • bridge: Transitional passage connecting two sections of a composition, also transition. Also the part of a stringed instrument that holds the strings in place and transmits their vibrations to the resonant body of the instrument.
  • brillante: brilliantly, with sparkle
  • brio: vigour; usually in con brio
  • brioso: vigorously (same as con brio)
  • broken chord: A chord in which the notes are not all played at once, but rather one after the other (i.e., an arpeggio).
  • bruscamente: brusquely
  • B: German for B flat (also in Finnish, Icelandic and Danish); H in German is B natural
  • Bartók pizzicato: a term which instructs string performers to play a pizzicato note to pull the string away from the fingerboard so that it snaps back percussively on the fingerboard.

C


  • cabinet (or "cab"): refers to a speaker cabinet, which is a wooden (or sometimes plastic) enclosure for a loudspeaker and, in some cases a horn or tweeter. Speaker cabinets are used to amplify instruments and vocals.
  • cadence: the point at which a melodic phrase "comes to rest" or resolves. A cadence often occurs on the "tonic" note (supported by the tonic chord—the "home chord" of the key). A cadence can also occur on other notes over the "tonic" chord, or over another chord such as the "dominant chord" (the chord built on the fifth scale degree).
  • cadenza: a solo section, usually in a concerto or similar work, that is used to display the performer's technique, sometimes at considerable length
  • calando: falling away, or lowering; i.e., getting slower and quieter; ritardando along with diminuendo
  • call and response: a way of writing a song in which after a singer sings a line, other singers (e.g., backup singers or band members) respond with a line that completes the thought. Call and response singing was originally part of African-American work songs, and it subsequently became an important part of the blues.
  • calore: warmth; so con calore, warmly
  • cambiare: to change; i.e., any change, such as to a new instrument
  • canon or kanon (Ger): a theme that is repeated and imitated and built upon by other instruments with a time delay, creating a layered effect; see Pachelbel's Canon.
  • cantabile or cantando: in a singing style
  • canto: chorus; choral; chant
  • capo: a clip-on metal or plastic device with a rubber-padded bar which holds down all six strings of the guitar in a fret position selected by the performer. It is attached with an elastic or spring-loaded mechanism. It allows a guitar player to have the open strings start at a higher pitch, thus facilitating the transposition of songs and the use of the "ringing", rich sound of open chords in unusual keys.
  • capo: Capo: a key-changing device for guitars and banjos;head; i.e. the beginning (of a movement, normally).
  • changes: a jazz term which is an abbreviation for "chord changes", which is the harmonic progression (or "chord progression") upon which a melody is based.
  • channel: in the context of a mixing board, a channel is one of the input sections into which a microphone or output from an instrument amplifier or instrument (e.g., an electronic keyboard) is plugged so that its volume and tone can be altered and so that it can be blended with other instruments and voices; in the context of an electric guitar amplifier or a bass amplifier, the term "channel" is used to refer to amplifiers which have two or more separate preamplifier, equalization, and effect settings ("channels") which a performer can switch between in a performance via a footswitch.
  • Condenser microphone (or "condenser mic"): A microphone that uses the technique of "variable capacitance" to pick up sound. The diaphragm is on a charged metal plate, and as such, condenser microphones need power to operate. The power comes either from batteries or from a mic preamp or a mixing board. The power that is provided from a preamp or mixing board is called "phantom power".
  • capriccioso: capriciously, unpredictable, volatile
  • cesura or caesura (Latin form): break, stop; i.e., a complete break in sound (sometimes nicknamed "railroad tracks" in reference to their appearance)
  • chiuso: closed; i.e., muted by hand (for a horn, or similar instrument; but see also bocca chiusa, which uses the feminine form, in this list)
  • chops: a slang term which refers to a player's strong technique or endurance ("That alto sax player has great chops; she can play for hours.")
  • chord: a group of three or more notes that, when played simultaneously, can form a harmonic structure that can support a melody or a solo line. The simplest chords are triads, which are made of the first note of a scale and then alternate notes. For example, in the scale of C Major (C,D,E,F,G,A, B,C), the triad would be C,E,G. Seventh chords use four notes: they consist of a triad with an added interval. For example, in the scale of G Dominant (G,A, B,C,D,E,F,G), the four-note seventh chord would be G,B,D,F. There are also more complicated chords which add additional intervals (see ninth chord, "alt dom"). A chord can also be played one note at a time (see "arpeggio" and "broken chord").
  • chorus: the refrain of a song which is repeated a number of times, in alternation with verses and other sections (e.g., a guitar solo). In contrast to the verses of a song, the chorus tends to be simpler and more memorable, and it often uses more repetition of lyrics (e.g., "She loves me yeah, yeah, yeah..."). The term "chorus" may also be a synonym for "choir"--a group of singers; or it may refer to a chorus effect--the sound created when a voice or instrumental tone is doubled by other pitches which are not exactly the same, which creates a rich, shimmering sound.
  • chromatic scale: a sequence of all twelve notes in an octave, played in a row (either ascending or descending). Fragments of the chromatic scale are used in many styles of popular music, but more extensive use of chromatic scale tends to occur in jazz, fusion, and the more experimental genres of rock.
  • clam: a slang term which refers to a mis-played or out of tune note, often by a horn player.
  • clean: in reference to the sound of an electric guitar, Fender Rhodes electric piano, or other electric or electronic instrument, or to a recording of a singer or instrument or to an entire mix, "clean" means that the sound is undistorted and not muddy. For an electric instrument, the opposite of a "clean" tone is an overdriven, "clipped" (see "clipping"), or "dirty" sound.
  • clean channel: many electric guitar amplifiers have two "channels": a clean channel, which is undistorted, and an "overdrive" (or "dirty" channel), in which the signal is heavily preamplified and/or run through a distortion effect, thus producing a distorted signal. Amps with two channels come with a footswitch which allows the performer to switch between the two channels.
  • clipping: a synonym for distortion. With vocals, mic'd acoustic instruments, Front of House mixes, and monitor mixes, clipping is almost always deemed to be undesirable, and it is minimized by reducing gain levels, using compression devices, adding "pads" (attenuation circuits), etc. With electric guitars, electric basses, Hammond organs, electric piano, and other electric instruments, performers often purposefully add clipping to the signal by boosting the gain or using an overdrive pedal.
  • clonewheel (or clonewheel organ): refers to an electronic or digital instrument which recreates or imitates the sound of a tonewheel-based Hammond organ, typically in an instrument that is much lighter and smaller than an actual Hammond organ (e.g., the Roland VK-7 or the Korg CX-3).
  • coda: a tail; i.e., a closing section appended to a piece of music (also called a "tag" or "outro").
  • coda: a tail; i.e., a closing section appended to a movement
  • codetta: a small coda, but usually applied to a passage appended to a section of a movement, not to a whole movement
  • col legno: with the wood; i.e., the strings (for example, of a violin) are to be struck with the wood of the bow, making a percussive sound; also battuta col legno: beaten with the wood
  • col pugno: with the fist; i.e., bang the piano with the fist
  • col, colla: with the (col before a masculine noun, colla before a feminine noun); (see next for example)
  • colla voce: with the voice; as an instruction in a choral music/opera score or orchestral part, it instructs the conductor or orchestral musician to follow the rhythm and tempo of a solo singer (usually for a short passage)
  • coloratura: coloration; i.e., elaborate ornamentation of a vocal line, or (especially) a soprano voice that is well-suited to such elaboration
  • colossale: tremendously
  • combo: an abbreviation for "combination", which is used in two senses in jazz and pop music. "Combo" can be the equivalent of "group" or "ensemble" (e.g.,"a jazz combo"). As well, "combo" refers to a "combination amplifier", so named because it includes an amplifier and a speaker in a single cabinet.
  • come prima: like the first (time); i.e., as before, typically referring to an earlier tempo
  • come sopra: as above; i.e., like the previous tempo (usually)
  • common time: the time signature 4/4: four beats per measure, each beat a quarter note (a crotchet) in length. 4/4 is often written on the musical staff as . The symbol is not a C as an abbreviation for common time, but a broken circle; the full circle at one time stood for triple time, 3/4.
  • comodo (or, commonly but less correctly, commodo): comfortable; i.e., at moderate speed; also, allegro comodo, tempo comodo, etc.
  • comp: a jazz term which instructs a jazz rhythm section performer (usually a chordal instrument such as jazz guitar, jazz piano, Hammond organ, etc.) to play accompaniment chords. In a recording context, the term is an abbreviation for "composite", which refers to recording composite tracks.
  • comp tickets: an abbreviation for "complimentary tickets", which promoters give out to ensure that a concert will have a good-sized crowd; as well band members and touring staff may be given comp tickets that they can give to friends or family, as a "perk"
  • compressor: an electronic audio effect which automatically reduces the gain of a signal (vocals, instruments, etc.) to a pre-set threshold, thus preventing unwanted peaks which could cause clipping. A compressor with extreme settings becomes a limiter, which protects speakers and horns from peaks.
  • con: with; used in very many musical directions, for example con allegrezza (with liveliness), con amore (with tenderness); (see also col, colla, above)
  • con (gran, molto) espressione: with (great, much) expression
  • con affetto: with affect (that is, with emotion)
  • con amore, or (in Spanish and sometimes in Italian) con amor: with love, tenderly
  • con anima: with feeling
  • con brio: with spirit, with vigour
  • con dolore: with sadness
  • con forza: with force
  • con fuoco: with fire, in a fiery manner
  • con larghezza: with broadness; broadly
  • con moto: with motion
  • con slancio: with enthusiasm
  • con somma passione: with great passion
  • con sordina, or con sordine (plural): with a mute, or with mutes; several orchestral instruments can have their tone muted with wood, rubber, metal, or plastic devices (for string instruments, mutes are clipped to the bridge, and for brass instruments, mutes are inserted in the bell); compare senza sordina in this list (which instructs the musicians to remove their mutes); see also Sordino. Note: sordina, with plural sordine, is strictly correct Italian, but the forms con sordino and con sordini are much more commonly used as terms in music.
  • con sordino, or con sordini (plural) (incorrect Italian): see con sordina, above
  • con variazioni: with variations/changes
  • conjunct: an adjective applied to a melodic line that moves by step (intervals of a 2nd) rather in disjunct motion (by leap).
  • contrapuntalism: see counterpoint
  • coperti (plural of coperto, which may also be seen): covered; i.e., on a drum, muted with a cloth
  • cover (or "cover tune"): when a band plays a song that has been composed and recorded by another band, this is called a "cover tune"; also used as a verb (e.g., "to cover" a song by a certain band). The term may also refer to a cover charge, the door fee charged to customers for admission to a band's performance at a bar (the cover charge may go entirely to the band or it may be split with the bar, based on the agreement between the band and the establishment).
  • crescendo: growing; i.e., progressively louder (contrast diminuendo)
  • crossfader: on a DJ mixer, a crossfader is a control that slides on a left-to-right track. It allows a DJ to alternate between two channels, into which an audio input is plugged (e.g., a record player, CD player, iPod, etc.). The left-most position of the slider control gives only Channel A. The right-most position gives only Channel B. The area of the sliding track between these two extremes is a blend of the two Channels. Crossfaders can be used to create smooth transitions between two songs on different sound inputs, or, when moved rapidly at the same time that a record is manipulated on a turntable, they can be used in create rhythmic scratching sounds and effects.
  • crossover: in a music industry context, a "crossover artist" or "crossover band" is a performer or group from one style that has managed to garner a following amongst fans of a different musical style. For example, some country performers have managed to get "crossover" hits in the pop charts. In an audio engineering context, a crossover is a frequency filter system that divides the frequencies in a signal into low and high or low, mid, and high components. In this way, the different frequencies can be routed to the appropriate speakers.
  • crunch: used to describe a specific type of highly distorted electric guitar tone used in heavy metal and thrash metal music, typically by the rhythm guitarist. When played with palm muting, it creates a characteristic heavy rhythmic sound.
  • cuivré: brassy. Used almost exclusively as a French Horn technique to indicate a forced, rough tone. A note marked both stopped and loud will be cuivré automatically[1]
  • cut time: Same as the meter 2/2: two half-note (minim) beats per measure. Notated and executed like common time (4/4), except with the beat lengths doubled. Indicated by three quarters of a circle with a vertical line through it, which resembles the cent symbol '¢'. This comes from a literal cut of the 'C' symbol of common time. Thus, a quarter note in cut time is only half a beat long, and a measure has only two beats. See also alla breve.
  • cut time: Same as the meter 2/2: two half-note (minim) beats per measure. Notated and executed like common time (4/4), except with the beat lengths doubled. Indicated by . This comes from a literal cut of the symbol of common time. Thus, a quarter note in cut time is only half a beat long, and a measure has only two beats. See also alla breve.
  • cédez (Fr): yield, give way

D


  • downtuned (or "detuned"): a guitar or bass that is tuned to a lower pitch than the standard tuning, which is (from low to high) EADGBE for guitar and EADG for bass.
  • drive: an abbreviated form of "overdrive", which refers to the distortion that occurs when a tube amplifier is pushed to its limits.
  • drop: jazz term referring to a note that slides chromatically downwards to an indefinite pitch .
  • dead: an adjective that means non-reverberant, as in the case of a room in a recording studio that has very little natural reverb or ambience (e.g., a "dead room"). To "liven up" the sound of a track recorded in a "dead room", engineers will typically add electronic reverb effects. Alternately, the track could be re-recorded in a room with more reflective surfaces, to add natural reverb.
  • desk: British term for a "mixing board".
  • doloroso: sorrowfully, plaintively
  • doppio movimento: twice as fast
  • double stop: the act of playing two notes simultaneously on a melodic percussion instrument or string instrument
  • downtempo: a slow, moody, or decreased tempo or played or done in such a tempo. It also refers to a genre of electronic music based on this (downtempo).
  • drammatico: dramatically
  • D.S. al fine or dal segno al fine: from the sign to the end; i.e., return to a place in the music designated by the sign and continue to the end of the piece
  • drop: jazz term referring to a note that slides to an indefinite pitch chromatically downwards.
  • duolo: (Ital) grief
  • dynamics: the relative volume in the execution of a piece of music
  • D.S.: Dal Segno, from the sign ()
  • da capo: from the head; i.e., from the beginning (see capo in this list)
  • deciso: decisively
  • decrescendo or decresc.: same as diminuendo or dim. (see below)
  • delicatamente or delicato: delicately
  • detaché: act of playing notes separately
  • devoto: religiously
  • diminuendo, dim.: dwindling; i.e., with gradually decreasing volume (same as decrescendo)
  • disjunct: an adjective applied to a melodic line which moves by leap (intervals of more than a 2nd) as opposed to conjunct motion (by step)
  • D.S.S. al fine or dal segno al fine: from the double sign to the end; i.e., return to place in the music designated by the double sign (see D.S. al coda) and continue to the end of the piece
  • dissonante: dissonant
  • doit: jazz term referring to a note that slides to an indefinite pitch chromatically upwards.
  • Dur (Ger): major; used in key signatures as, for example, A-Dur (A major), B-Dur (B♭ major), or H-Dur (B major). (See also Moll (minor) in this list.)
  • D.S.S. al coda or dal segno al coda: same as D.S. al coda, but with a double segno
  • dynamics: refers to the relative volumes in the execution of a piece of music
  • Decibel (or "dB"): The unit of measurement of audio level used in recording studios and by live sound engineers. Some cities and performance venues have decibel limits for live performances.
  • DI (or "DI Box"): an electronic device which alters the impedance of electric instrument signals (e.g., electric guitar, electric bass) so that they can be plugged into a mixing board or PA system. The DI box converts a high-impedance, unbalanced signal from an electric guitar into a low-impedance, balanced signal. Many DI boxes have a ground lift switch to remove AC hum from the electrical system.
  • dry: a signal that has no reverb effect, or more generally, a signal that has not been processed with any effects unit. Vocals are almost always recorded "dry", and then the reverb or other effects are added in post-production. Electric guitars and electric keyboards are often, but not always recorded with their effects (distortion, chorus, etc.) already added.
  • dolcissimo: very sweetly
  • Digital Signal Processing (or "DSP"): the use of digital effects to alter the tone, sound, pitch, or other parameters of a signal. Many 2000s-era mixers, guitar amplifiers, and electronic keyboards have on-board DSP effects.
  • dolce: sweetly
  • DSP: See "Digital Signal Processing".
  • dolente: sorrowfully, plaintively
  • dolore: pain, distress, sorow, grief

E


F


  • facile: easily, without fuss
  • fader: on a mixing board or DJ mixer, an audio level control that slides up and down in a track. (see also crossfader).
  • fall: jazz term describing a note of definite pitch sliding downwards to another note of definite pitch.
  • fall: jazz term describing a note of definite pitch sliding downwards to another note of definite pitch.
  • falsetto: vocal register above the normal voice
  • falsetto: male voice above usual bass or tenor range (see article)
  • feedback: the resonance loop created when a microphone or guitar pickup is placed close to a highly amplified speaker, often creating a howling or screeching sound. In most cases, musicians and sound engineers seek to avoid feedback with microphones and acoustic instruments; with electric guitar, especially in heavy metal and shred guitar playing it may be done on purpose.
  • fermata: finished, closed; i.e., a rest or note is to be held for a duration that is at the discretion of the performer or conductor (sometimes called bird's eye); a fermata at the end of a first or intermediate movement or section is usually moderately prolonged, but the final fermata of a symphony may be prolonged for twice its printed length or more for dramatic effect.
  • feroce: ferociously
  • festivamente: cheerfully, celebratory
  • feurig (Ger): fiery
  • fiddle: a slang term for a violin in bluegrass, country music, and folk music.
  • fieramente: proudly
  • fill (English): a jazz or rock term which instructs performers to improvise a scalar passage or riff to "fill in" the brief time between lyrical phrases, the lines of melody, or between two sections
  • fill (English): a jazz or rock term which instructs performers to improvise a scalar passage or riff to "fill in" the brief time between lyrical phrases, the lines of melody, or between two sections
  • fine: the end, often in phrases like al fine (to the end)
  • Front of House (or "FOH"): refers to the speaker system which faces the audience (and the sound engineers who control it)
  • FX: synonym for "effects" (e.g., a "multiFX" pedal" is a "multieffects pedal")
  • flat: a symbol (♭) that lowers the pitch of a note by a semitone. The term may also be used to describe a situation where a singer or musician is performing a note in which the intonation is an eighth or a quarter of a semitone too low.
  • flat: a symbol (♭) that lowers the pitch of a note by a semitone. The term may also be used as an adjective to describe a situation where a singer or musician is performing a note in which the intonation is an eighth or a quarter of a semitone too low.
  • flebile: mournfully
  • focoso or fuocoso: fiery; i.e., passionately
  • foldback: in Britain, this is the term for an onstage monitor speaker that helps performers to hear their singing and playing.
  • forte or f (usually): strong; i.e., to be played or sung loudly
  • forte or f (usually): strong; i.e., to be played or sung loudly
  • fortepiano or fp (usually): strong-gentle; i.e., 1. loud, then immediately soft (see dynamics), or 2. an early pianoforte
  • fortepiano or fp (usually): strong-gentle; i.e., 1. loud, then immediately soft (see dynamics), or 2. an early pianoforte
  • fortissimo or ff: very loud (see note at pianissimo, in this list)
  • fortissimo or ff: very loud (see note at pianissimo in this list)
  • fortississimo or fff: as loud as possible
  • fortississimo or fff: as loud as possible
  • forza : musical force
  • forzando or fz: see sforzando in this list
  • freddo: cold(ly); hence depressive, unemotional
  • fresco: freshly
  • fröhlich: lively, joyfully
  • fugue (Fr), fuga (Latin and Italian): literally "flight"; hence a complex and highly regimented contrapuntal form in music. A short theme (the subject) is introduced in one voice (or part) alone, then in others, with imitation and characteristic development as the piece progresses.
  • funebre: funeral; often seen as marcia funebre (funeral march), indicating a stately and plodding tempo.
  • fuoco: fire; con fuoco means with fire
  • furia: fury
  • furioso: furiously

G


  • gaudioso: with joy
  • gemendo: groaningly
  • gentile: gently
  • geschwind (Ger): quickly
  • geteilt (Ger): See divisi
  • getragen (Ger): sustained
  • gig: a slang term which refers to a paying musical engagement at a venue, usually of a single night's duration
  • giocoso or gioioso: gaily
  • giusto: strictly, exactly, e.g. tempo giusto in strict time
  • gliss: a continuous sliding from one pitch to another (a true glissando), or an incidental scale executed while moving from one melodic note to another (an effective glissando). See glissando for further information; and compare portamento in this list.
  • glissando (simulated Italian): a continuous sliding from one pitch to another (a true glissando), or an incidental scale executed while moving from one melodic note to another (an effective glissando). See glissando for further information; and compare portamento in this list.
  • grandioso: grandly
  • G.P.: Grand Pause, General Pause; indicates to the performers that the entire ensemble has a rest of indeterminate length, often as a dramatic effect during a loud section
  • grave: slowly and seriously
  • grazioso: gracefully
  • groupie: a somewhat pejorative term used to refer to fans of a rock group (typically refers to female fans).
  • gustoso: with happy emphasis and forcefulness

H


  • Hauptstimme (Ger): main voice, chief part; i.e., the contrapuntal line of primary importance, in opposition to Nebenstimme
  • Homophony: A musical texture with one voice (or melody line) accompanied by chords; also used as an adjective (homophonic). Compare with polyphony, in which several voices or melody lines are performed at the same time.
  • harmony vocals (or "harmony parts"): backup singing which supports the main melody; the supporting parts are usually chord tones that form intervals of a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, or octave away from the main melody note.
  • harp: from blues harp, which in blues and related genres is a slang term for the harmonica.
  • head: The first (and last) chorus of a tune, in which the song or melody is stated without improvisation or with minimal improvisation.
  • hemiola (English, from Greek): the imposition of a pattern of rhythm or articulation other than that implied by the time signature; specifically, in triple time (for example in 3/4) the imposition of a duple pattern (as if the time signature were, for example, 2/4). See Syncopation.
  • H: German for B natural; B in German means B flat
  • hervortretend (Ger): prominent, pronounced
  • homophony: A musical texture with one voice (or melody line) accompanied by chords; also used as an adjective (homophonic). Compare with polyphony, in which several voices or melody lines are performed at the same time.
  • horn: in a jazz, blues, or R&B context, the term "horn" refers generically to any brass instrument (e.g., saxophone, trumpet, etc.). In a sound engineering context, "horn" refers to a flare-shaped housing into which a tweeter or loudspeaker is mounted as part of a speaker cabinet.
  • horn section: in a jazz, blues, or R&B context, this refers to a small group of brass players who accompany an ensemble by playing soft "pads" and punctuating the melodic line with "punches" (sudden interjections).

I


J


K


  • keyboard amp: a combination amplifier designed for keyboard players that contains a two, three, or four-channel mixer, a pre-amplifier for each channel, equalization controls, a power amplifier, a speaker, and a horn, all in a single cabinet. Small keyboard amplifiers designed for small band rehearsals have 50 to 75 watts, a 12 inch speaker, and a horn. Large keyboard amplifiers designed for large clubs or halls have 200 to 300 watts of power, a 15 inch speaker, and a horn.
  • keyboardist (Eng) : a musician who plays any instrument with a keyboard. In Classical music, this may refer to instruments such as the piano, pipe organ, harpsichord, and so on. In a jazz or popular music context, this may refer to instruments such as the piano, electric piano, synthesizer, Hammond organ, and so on.
  • kräftig (Ger): strongly
  • Klangfarbenmelodie (Ger): "tone-color-melody", distribution of pitch or melody among instruments, varying timbre
  • keyboardist : a musician who plays any instrument with a keyboard. In a jazz or popular music context, this may refer to instruments such as the piano, electric piano, synthesizer, Hammond organ, and so on.

L


  • Leslie: a brand name for a rotating speaker cabinet designed for use with the Hammond organ, but also used by some electric guitar players. The rotating horn and rotating baffle around the low-range speaker create an undulating effect.
  • l'istesso: see lo stesso, below
  • lacrimoso: tearfully; i.e., sadly
  • laissez vibrer, l.v. (Fr): allow the sound to continue, do not damp; used frequently in harp music, occasionally in piano or percussion. For percussion & electric guitar, "let ring" is more common.[1]
  • lamentando: lamenting, mournfully
  • lamentoso: lamenting, mournfully
  • langsam (Ger): slowly
  • largamente: broadly; i.e., slowly (same as largo)
  • larghetto: somewhat slowly; not as slow as largo
  • larghissimo: very slowly; slower than largo
  • largo: broadly; i.e., slowly
  • lay out: a jazz term which is the equivalent of the classical term tacet; it instructs the player to cease playing for a section or tune.
  • lead (pronounced "leed"): in guitar playing, a single-note melody or solo line. In Britain, the term also refers to a patch cable which is used to connect an electric guitar to an amp.
  • lead bass: a style of playing electric bass in which the player adopts a soloistic or melodic "voice", rather than, or in addition to playing the accompaniment role which is normally associated with the bass (e.g., Steve Harris of Iron Maiden).
  • leading note: the seventh note of a scale, which has a powerful "gravitational pull" towards the eighth note of the scale, which is the "home note" of the key. Because the seventh note of the scale has such a strong pull towards the eighth note, it is deemed to need to "resolve" to the eighth note.
  • leap (skip): a melodic interval greater than a major 2nd, as opposed to a step. Melodies which move by a leap are called "disjunct". Octave leaps are not uncommon in florid vocal music.
  • lebhaft (Ger): briskly, lively
  • legato: joined; i.e., smoothly, in a connected manner (see also articulation)
  • leggierissimo: very lightly and delicately
  • leggiero, or leggiermente: lightly, delicately (The different forms of this word, including leggierezza, "lightness", are properly spelled in Italian as legger- without the i.)
  • lent (Fr): slowly
  • lentissimo: very slowly
  • lento: slowly
  • liberamente: freely
  • libero: free, freely
  • lilt: a jaunty rhythm
  • line: a synonym for "melody" (as in the terms "melodic line"). (See also bassline).
  • line in: In an audio context, a "line in" is a jack found on mixers, guitar amplifiers, and recording devices. The "line in" jack allows a performer to add an input into a mixer, amplifier, or recording device.
  • line out: A "line out" jack provides an output signal from an amplifier or other device, which can then be patched into a mixing board, effect unit, PA system, etc.
  • lo stesso (or commonly, but ungrammatically, l'istesso): the same; applied to the manner of articulation, tempo, etc.
  • lo stesso tempo (or l'istesso tempo): the same tempo, despite changes of time signature
  • loco: [in] place; i.e., perform the notes at the pitch written, generally used to cancel an 8va or 8vb direction. In string music, also used to indicate return to normal playing position (see Playing the violin).[1]
  • long accent: Hit hard and keep full value of note (>)
  • lontano: from a distance; distantly
  • lugubre: lugubrious, mournful
  • luminoso: luminously
  • lunga: long (often applied to a fermata)
  • lusingando: coaxingly

M


  • ma: but
  • ma non troppo: but not too much
  • maestoso: majestically, in a stately fashion
  • maggiore: the major key
  • MD: see mano destra and main droite
  • MG: see main gauche
  • magico: magically
  • magnifico: magnificent
  • main droite (French): [played with the] right hand (abbreviation: MD or m.d.)
  • Moll (German): minor; used in key signatures as, for example, a-Moll (A minor), b-Moll (B♭ minor), or h-Moll (B minor) (see also Dur (major) in this list)
  • main gauche (French): [played with the] left hand (abbreviation: MG or m.g.)
  • MS: see mano sinistra
  • malinconico: melancholic
  • mancando: dying away
  • mano destra: [played with the] right hand (abbreviation: MD or m.d.)
  • mano sinistra: [played with the] left hand (abbreviation: MS or m.s.)
  • marcatissimo: with much accentuation
  • marcato, marc.: marked; i.e., with accentuation, execute every note as if it were to be accented
  • marcato, marc.: marked; i.e., with accentuation, execute every note as if it were to be accented
  • marcia: a march; alla marcia means in the manner of a march
  • martellato: hammered out
  • marziale: martial, solemn and fierce
  • measure: the period of a musical piece that encompasses a complete cycle of the time signature, e.g., in 4/4 time, a measure has four quarter-note beats
  • measure (US): also "bar," the period of a musical piece that encompasses a complete cycle of the time signature, e.g., in 4/4 time, a measure has four quarter-note beats
  • medesimo tempo: same tempo, despite changes of time signature
  • medley: piece composed from parts of existing pieces, usually three, played one after another, sometimes overlapping.
  • melancolico: melancholic
  • melisma: the technique of changing the note (pitch) of a syllable of text while it is being sung
  • meno: less; see meno mosso, for example, less mosso
  • messa di voce: in singing, a controlled swell, i.e. crescendo then diminuendo, on a long held note, especially in Baroque music and in the bel canto period[1]
  • mesto: mournful, sad
  • meter (or metre): the pattern of a music piece's rhythm of strong and weak beats
  • mezzo: half; used in combinations like mezzo forte (mf), meaning moderately loud
  • mezzo forte: half loudly; i.e., moderately loudly. See dynamics.
  • mezzo forte: half loudly; i.e., moderately loudly. See dynamics.
  • mezzo piano: half softly; i.e., moderately softly. See dynamics.
  • mezzo piano: half softly; i.e., moderately softly. See dynamics.
  • mezzo-soprano: a female singer with a range usually extending from the A below middle C to the F an eleventh above middle C. Mezzo-sopranos generally have a darker vocal tone than sopranos, and their vocal range is between that of a soprano and that of an contralto.
  • misterioso: mysteriously
  • mixdown: the process near the end of the recording process in which all of the tracks of recorded music (e.g., 12, 24, or even 48 tracks of recorded vocals, guitars, keyboards, etc.) are blended and placed onto the Left and Right channels of a standard stereo recording. A "remix" occurs when the same initial tracks are given a new "mixdown", thus blending the tracks in a different way, adding different effects, etc.
  • mobile: flexible, changeable
  • moderato: moderate; often combined with other terms, usually relating to tempo; for example, allegro moderato
  • modesto: modest
  • modulation: most commonly the act or process of changing from one key (tonic, or tonal center) to another. This may or may not be accompanied by a change in key signature.
  • molto: very
  • monitor: in a live music context, refers to speaker cabinets which are used to amplify the singing and playing of onstage performers so that the performers can hear themselves' in a recording context, refers to studio reference monitors, which are heavy-duty, low-coloration speakers designed for playing back mixes.
  • monitor mix: in live audio, the monitor mix is the blend of vocal and instrumental channels which is amplified and sent through onstage speakers which are directed towards the performers. The "monitor mix" often differs a great deal from the "Front of House" mix. In a typical bar band, the "monitor mix" will consist mainly of vocals, with the possible addition of other instruments that need additional onstage monitoring volume (e.g., harmonica, saxophone, synth).
  • morendo: dying; i.e., dying away in dynamics, and perhaps also in tempo
  • mosso: moved, moving; used with a preceding più or meno (see in this list), for faster or slower respectively
  • moto: motion; usually seen as con moto, meaning with motion or quickly
  • munter (German): lively
  • muta [in...]: Change: either a change of instrument, e.g. flute to piccolo, horn in F to horn in Bb; or a change of tuning, e.g. guitar muta 6 in D. Note: does not mean "mute", for which con sordina or con sordino is used.[1] Muta comes from the Italian verb mutare (to change into something).
  • mässig (German): moderately (also: mäßig)
  • MIDI: an acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, an industry-standard way for electronic devices to communicate information. MIDI connections can be used to connect synthesizers, electronic drum machines, sequencers, and so on.
  • Moog synthesizer: an early brand of analog synthesizer which was introduced in the late 1960s; newly-released Moog synthesizers are still produced in the 2000s.

N


  • narrante: narratingly
  • N.C.: no chord, written in the chord row of music notation to show there is no chord being played, and no implied harmony
  • Nebenstimme (Ger): secondary part; i.e., a secondary contrapuntal part, always occurring simultaneously with, and subsidiary to, the Hauptstimme
  • natural: a symbol (♮) that cancels the effect of a sharp or a flat (see in this list)
  • natural: a symbol (♮) that cancels the effect of a sharp or a flat (see in this list)
  • naturale or nat.: natural; i.e., discontinue a special effect, such as col legno, sul tasto, sul ponticello, or playing in harmonics
  • neck: on a guitar (e.g., acoustic guitar, electric guitar, electric bass), violin-family instrument (e.g., violin, upright bass) or other stringed instrument, the neck is the long, thin piece of wood which extends from the soundbox or body of the instrument and upon which the strings are put under tension between the bridge (on a guitar family instrument) or the tailpiece (on a violin-family instrument) and the headstock (for guitars) or the tuning pegs (violin) or machine heads (upright bass). The neck on acoustic and electric guitars and most electric basses has metal frets which divide the neck into semitones. Violin family instruments and fretless electric basses do not have frets.
  • nicht (Ger): not
  • niente: "nothing", barely audible, dying away
  • nobile or nobilmente: in a noble fashion
  • nocturne (Fr): a piece written for the night
  • notch filter: a very precise type of equalizer (e.g., a parametric equalizer) which can be used to boost or cut very narrow frequency ranges. Notch filters are used to lessen feedback with microphones or lesson overly resonant notes on acoustic guitars.
  • note-for-note solo: a live or recorded performance by an instrumentalist which reproduces a previously recorded improvised solo. In some cases, the recreation of the previously-recorded solo may be faithful down to the smallest nuances, such as the use of "whammy bar" embellishments and "ghost notes".
  • notes inégales (Fr): unequal notes; a principally Baroque performance practice of applying long-short rhythms to pairs of notes written as equal; see also swung note
  • notturno: same as nocturne (see above)
  • number opera: an opera consisting of "numbers," e.g. arias, intermixed with recitative

O


  • obbligato: required, indispensable
  • octave: interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. 12 semitones equals an octave, so does the first and eighth (hence "oct"ave) note in a major or minor scale.
  • octave: interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. Octaves can be played one note after the other (e.g., a low C and then a high C), or they can be played together at the same time on instruments such as the guitar, piano, organ, etc.
  • octave pedal: an effects unit which electronically adds a note an octave (or two octaves) below or, less commonly, an octave above the note being played by the performer.
  • ohm: a unit of electrical impedance; speakers, microphones, headphones, and other gear is rated with its nominal impedance. (See also "Z", the abbreviation sometimes used for "impedance").
  • omaggio: homage, celebration
  • one-voice-per-part, or OVPP: the practice of using solo voices on each musical line or part in choral music.
  • organ trio: in jazz or rock, a group of three musicians which includes a Hammond organ player and two other instruments, often a drummer and either an electric guitar player or a saxophone player.
  • organ trio: in jazz or rock, a group of three musicians which includes a Hammond organ player and two other instruments, often an electric guitar player and a drummer.
  • ossia or oppure: or instead; i.e., according to some specified alternative way of performing a passage, which is marked with a footnote, additional small notes, or an additional staff
  • ostinato: obstinate, persistent; i.e., a short musical pattern that is repeated throughout an entire composition or portion of a composition
  • ostinato: obstinate, persistent; i.e., a short musical pattern that is repeated throughout an entire composition or portion of a composition
  • ottava: octave; e.g. ottava bassa: an octave lower

P


  • P-bass: an abbreviation for the Fender Precision bass, a widely-used brand of electric bass
  • pad: in reference to the music played by a keyboardist, this refers to a "sythesizer pad", which is a sustained background synthesizer sound used to accompany a band or singer; in reference to sound engineering, this refers to an attenuation circuit which reduces the gain of an excessively "hot" signal, typically by 20 dB.
  • parlando or parlante: like speech, enunciated
  • passionato: passionately
  • pastorale: in a pastoral style, peaceful and simple
  • pausa: rest
  • pedal: refers to a stompbox effect unit, a volume pedal, or a similar device.
  • pedal point: a sustained or repeated note in a song or tune, often in the bass register. The term is a reference to the bass pedal keyboards that are used to sustain a pedal point in organ music.
  • pedale or ped: In piano scores, this instructs the player to use press damper pedal to sustain the note or chord being played. The player may be instructed to release the pedal with an asterisk marking (*). In organ scores, it tells a Hammond organist that a section is to be performed on the bass pedalboard with the feet.
  • pedale or ped: In piano scores, this instructs the player to press the damper pedal to sustain the note or chord being played. The player may be instructed to release the pedal with an asterisk marking (*). In organ scores, it tells the organist that a section is to be performed on the bass pedalboard with the feet.
  • penseroso: thoughtfully, meditatively
  • perdendosi: dying away; decrease in dynamics, perhaps also in tempo
  • performance art: an experimental show which combines music, dance, visual effects, and drama (e.g., Laurie Anderson). Associated with some types of art rock and experimental rock.
  • pesante: heavy, ponderous
  • peu à peu (Fr): little by little
  • pezzo: a composition
  • piacevole: pleasant, agreeable
  • piangevole: plaintive
  • pianissimo or pp : very gently; i.e., perform very softly, even softer than piano. This convention can be extended; the more ps that are written, the softer the composer wants the musician to play or sing, thus ppp (pianississimo) would be softer than pp. Dynamics in a piece should be interpreted relative to the other dynamics in the same piece. For example, pp should be executed as softly as possible, but if ppp is found later in the piece, pp should be markedly louder than ppp. More than three ps (ppp) or three fs (fff) are uncommon.
  • pianissimo or pp (usually): very gently; i.e., perform very softly
  • piano or p (usually): gently; i.e., played or sung softly (see dynamics)
  • piano or p (usually): gently; i.e., played or sung softly (see dynamics)
  • piano-vocal score: the same as a vocal score, a piano arrangement along with the vocal parts of an opera, cantata, or similar
  • piano-vocal score: the same as a vocal score, a piano arrangement along with the vocal parts of an opera, cantata, or similar
  • pickup (or "pick-up"): in reference to an electric guitar or bass, this refers to the magnetic or piezoelectric device which transmits the vibrations of the string or the guitar body to an amplifier; in reference to a song or tune, a "pickup" or the "pickup notes" refers to one or several melodic notes which lead into a subsequent section (e.g., a band leader will tell the band to "start from the pickup into the bridge").
  • pickup group (or pickup band): a musical ensemble brought together for a single performance or a few performances.
  • pietoso: pitiful, piteous
  • piuttosto: rather, somewhat; e.g. allegro piuttosto presto
  • pizzicato: pinched, plucked; i.e., in music for bowed strings, plucked with the fingers as opposed to played with the bow; compare arco (in this list), which is inserted to cancel a pizzicato instruction
  • pizzicato (or "pizz"): pinched, plucked; i.e., in music for bowed strings, plucked with the fingers as opposed to played with the bow
  • più: more; see mosso for an example
  • pochettino or poch.: very little
  • poco: a little, as in poco più allegro (a little faster)
  • poco a poco: little by little
  • poetico: poetic discourse
  • poi: then, indicating a subsequent instruction in a sequence; diminuendo poi subito fortissimo, for example: getting softer then suddenly very loud
  • pomposo: pompous, ceremonious
  • portamento: carrying; i.e., 1. generally, sliding in pitch from one note to another, usually pausing just above or below the final pitch, then sliding quickly to that pitch. If no pause is executed, then it is a basic glissando; or 2. in piano music, an articulation between legato and staccato, like portato, in this list
  • portamento: sliding in pitch from one note to another.
  • portato or loure: carried; i.e., non-legato, but not as detached as staccato (same as portamento [2], in this list)
  • posato: settled
  • potpourri or pot-pourri (Fr): potpourri (as used in other senses in English); i.e., a kind of musical form structured as ABCDEF... etc.; the same as medley or, sometimes, fantasia
  • power chord: a chord consisting of a note, a fifth above, and the octave. It is widely used in rock, metal, hardcore punk, and other genres, usually with overdrive or distortion.
  • precipitato: precipitately
  • prelude or prélude (Fr): a musical introduction to subsequent movements during the Baroque era (1600's/17th century). It can also be a movement in its own right, which was more common in the Romantic era (mid 1700's/18th century)
  • prestissimo: extremely quickly, as fast as possible
  • presto: very quickly
  • prima volta: the first time; for example prima volta senza accompagnamento (the first time without accompaniment)
  • Partitur (Ger): full orchestral score
  • primo or prima (the feminine form): first

Q


  • quarter tone: Half of a semitone; a pitch division not used in most Western music notation, except in some contemporary art music or experimental music. Quarter tones are used in Western popular music forms such as jazz and blues and in a variety of non-Western musical cultures.
  • quarter tone: Half of a semitone; a pitch division not used in most Western music notation, except in some contemporary art music or experimental music. Quarter tones are used in Western popular music forms such as jazz and blues and in a variety of non-Western musical cultures.
  • quasi (Latin and Italian): as if, almost, e.g. quasi recitativo like a recitative in an opera, or quasi una fantasia like a fantasia

R


  • rallentando or rall.: progressively slower.
  • rallentando or rall.: Broadening of the tempo (often not discernible from ritardando); progressively slower
  • rapido: fast
  • rasch (Ger): fast
  • ravvivando: quicken pace
  • recitativo: recitatively; one voice without accompaniment
  • register: part of the range of an instrument or voice. ("The lower register of the singer's voice was rich and dark").
  • registration: a setting or combination of stops or voices on an electromechanical organ (e.g., Hammond organ) or an electronic or "combo organ".
  • religioso: religiously
  • remix: a second or subsequent "mixdown" of a set of recorded tracks. (see "mixdown").
  • repente: suddenly
  • restez (Fr): stay; i.e., remain on a note or string
  • retenu (Fr): hold back; same as the Italian ritenuto (see below)
  • reverb: refers to the echoing sound that occurs naturally to a voice or instrument in hall or room with reflective walls and, by extension, to analog or digital effect units which recreate this effect (reverb units).
  • ridicolosamente: humorously, inaccurate, and loosely
  • rig: in a live music context, this is a slang term used by musicians to refer to the audio processing and amplification gear used by a keyboardist, bassist, or electric guitarist. An electric bassist, for example, may refer to her speaker cabinet, bass amplifier "head" and rack-mounted effects units collectively as her "rig" (or "bass rig").
  • rinforzando (rf, or rinf.): reinforced; i.e., emphasized; sometimes like a sudden crescendo, but often applied to a single note
  • risoluto: resolutely
  • rit.: an abbreviation for ritardando;[3] also an abbreviation for ritenuto[4]
  • rit.: an abbreviation for ritardando;[1] also an abbreviation for ritenuto[2]
  • ritardando, ritard., rit.: slowing down; decelerating; opposite of accelerando
  • ritardando, ritard., rit.: slowing down; decelerating; opposite of accelerando
  • ritenuto, riten., rit.: suddenly slower, held back (usually more so but more temporarily than a ritardando, and it may, unlike ritardando, apply to a single note)
  • ritmico: rhythmical
  • ritmo: rhythm, e.g. ritmo di # battute meaning a rhythm of # measures
  • Reggae: a Jamaican style of popular music that features a strong, syncopated bassline, accompaniment with an undistorted electric guitar or Fender Rhodes on the offbeats, and chanted vocals.
  • roadie: a slang term which refers to the employees of a musical group's touring road crew who load and unload musical equipment.
  • ritornello : a recurring passage for orchestra in the first or final movement of a solo concerto or aria (also in works for chorus).
  • Rhodes: refers to the Fender Rhodes brand of electric piano, and, by extension, to similar instruments produced by other manufacturers.
  • rolled chord: a chord in which the notes of the chord are played one after the other, which each note being sustained.
  • rolled chord: see arpeggiato in this list
  • rondo: a musical form in which a certain section returns repeatedly , interspersed with other sections: ABACA is a typical structure or ABACABA
  • roulade (Fr): a rolling; i.e., a florid vocal phrase
  • rubato: robbed; i.e., flexible in tempo, applied to notes within a musical phrase for expressive effect
  • RMS: an acronym for "Root Means Square", a way of measuring the power-handling capacity of a loudspeaker or tweeter in watts. The RMS rating printed on the back of a speaker indicates the average power that the speaker can handle.
  • ruhig (Ger): peaceful
  • run: a rapid series of ascending or descending musical notes which are closely spaced in pitch forming a scale
  • ruvido: roughly
  • Roland: a Japanese musical instrument and audio equipment company that produces electronic keyboards, guitar amplifiers, effects units and other equipment.

S


  • saltando: bouncing the bow as in a staccato arpeggio, literally means "jumping"
  • sample (or "sampling"): to record a short portion from a live performance or from a recording of an instrument or group, so that this short "snippet" can be re-played or re-used in another performance or recording. In the 2000s, sampling is usually done by making a digital recording of the desired sample. Sampling is widely used in 2000s-era pop, hip-hop, and electronica.
  • sanft (Ger): gently
  • scatenato: unchained, wildly[5]
  • scherzando, scherzoso: playfully
  • scherzo: a light, "joking" or playful musical form, originally and usually in fast triple metre, often replacing the minuet in the later Classical period and the Romantic period, in symphonies, sonatas, string quartets and the like; in the 19th century some scherzi were independent movements for piano, etc.
  • schleppen (Ger): to drag; usually nicht schleppen ("don't drag"), paired with nicht eilen ("don't hurry") in Gustav Mahler's scores
  • schnell (Ger): fast
  • schneller (Ger): faster
  • schwungvoll (Ger): lively, swinging, bold, spirited
  • scordatura: out of tune; i.e., an alternative tuning used for the strings of a string instrument
  • scratch: in a recording context, this refers to a rough "scratch track", which is the recording of a rhythm section part or vocals which is done to provide a temporary reference point for the performers who will be recording their parts (the "scratch track" is erased later on; in the context of hip-hop music and turntablism, "scratching" refers to the manipulation of a vinyl record on a turntable with the hands and a DJ mixer to create rhythmic sounds.
  • secco, or sec (Fr): dry
  • segno: sign, usually Dal Segno (see above) "from the sign", indicating a return to the point marked by
  • segue: carry on to the next section of music without a pause
  • segue: carry on to the next section without a pause
  • sehr (Ger): very
  • semitone: the smallest pitch difference between notes (in most Western music) (e.g., F–F#)
  • semitone: the smallest pitch difference between notes (in most Western music) (e.g., F–F#)
  • semplice: simply
  • sempre: always
  • senza: without
  • senza misura: without measure
  • senza sordina, or senza sordine (plural): without the mute; compare con sordina in this list; see also Sordino. Note: sordina, with plural sordine, is strictly correct Italian, but the forms con sordino and con sordini are much more commonly used as terms in music. In piano music (notably in Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata), senza sordini or senza sordina (or some variant) is sometimes used to mean keep the sustain pedal depressed, since the sustain pedal lifts the dampers off the strings, with the effect that all notes are sustained indefinitely.
  • Stratocaster (or "Strat"): an electric guitar manufactured by Fender, which is widely used in rock and other popular music.
  • serioso: seriously
  • session musician (or "session player" or "session man"): in jazz and popular music, this refers to a highly skilled, experienced musician who can be hired for recording sessions.
  • sforzando or sfz: made loud; i.e., a sudden strong accent
  • shake: a jazz term describing a trill between one note and its minor third; or, with brass instruments, between a note and its next overblown harmonic.
  • shake: a jazz term describing a trill between one note and its minor third; or, with brass instruments, between a note and its next overblown harmonic.
  • sharp: a symbol (♯) that raises the pitch of the note by a semitone. The term may also be used as an adjective to describe a situation where a singer or musician is performing a note in which the intonation is an eighth or a quarter of a semitone too high in pitch.
  • sharp: a symbol (♯) that raises the pitch of the note by a semitone. The term may also be used as an adjective to describe a situation where a singer or musician is performing a note in which the intonation is an eighth or a quarter of a semitone too high in pitch.
  • short accent: Hit the note hard and short . (^)
  • shred: an adjective that is mainly used in connection to the electric guitar (or less commonly, to other stringed instruments such as banjo or electric bass); it describes intense, virtuostic, rapid playing of the instrument (e.g., "shred guitar). It can also be used as a verb (e.g., "to shred").
  • si (Fr): seventh note of the series ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si, in fixed-doh solmization.
  • sibilance: the "hissing" sounds that occur when words with the letter "s" are sung; when vocals are sung into a microphone, the "s" sounds can be picked up excessively by the mic. Excessive silibance is prevented by using a pop screen or a compressor-triggered equalizer.
  • siciliana: a Sicilian dance in 12/8 or 6/8 meter[6]
  • sidefills: a slang term for onstage monitor speakers that are placed on the sides of the stage, to help performers to hear themselves.
  • sideman (or "sidemen"): refers to musicians in a band who accompany a lead singer, bandleader, or lead instrumentalist.
  • sign: see segno
  • sign: another name for a symbol (called "segno" in Classical parlance) in written music scores. The score may instruct the band to jump from one section back to the part of the music marked with the sign.
  • silenzio: silence; i.e., without reverberations
  • simile: similarly; i.e., continue applying the preceding directive, whatever it was, to the following passage
  • sipario: curtain (stage)
  • sit in: in jazz and blues, to "sit in" is to be invited to perform onstage along with another group for one or several songs, often to perform improvised solos.
  • slargando or slentando: becoming broader or slower (that is, becoming more largo or more lento)
  • smorzando or smorz.: extinguishing or dampening; usually interpreted as a drop in dynamics, and very often in tempo as well
  • snake: a slang term which refers to an audio multicore cable that terminates in a patchbay; it is used to route the signals of all of the onstage microphones and instrument amplifiers to the mixing board at the back of the performance venue.
  • soave: smoothly, gently
  • sognando: dreamily
  • solenne: solemn
  • soli: plural for solo; requires more than one player or singer; in a jazz big band this refers to an entire section playing in harmony.
  • solo: alone; i.e., executed by a single instrument or voice.
  • solo break: a jazz term that instructs a lead player or rhythm section member to play an improvised solo cadenza for one or two measures (sometimes abbreviated as "break"), without any accompaniment. The solo part is often played in a rhythmically free manner, until the player performs a pickup or lead-in line, at which time the band recommences playing in the original tempo.
  • solo break: a jazz term that instructs a lead player or rhythm section member to play an improvised solo cadenza for one or two measures (sometimes abbreviated as "break"), without any accompaniment. The solo part is often played in a rhythmically free manner, until the player performs a pickup or lead-in line, at which time the band recommences playing in the original tempo.
  • solo, plural soli: alone; i.e., executed by a single instrument or voice. The instruction soli requires more than one player or singer; in a jazz big band this refers to an entire section playing in harmony.
  • sonata: a piece played as opposed to sung.
  • sonatina: a little sonata
  • sonatine: a little sonata, used in some countries instead of sonatina
  • sonore: sonorous
  • sopra: above
  • soprano: the highest of the standard four voice ranges (bass, tenor, alto, soprano)
  • soprano: the highest of the standard four voice ranges (bass, tenor, alto, soprano)
  • sordina, sordine (plural): a mute, or a damper in the case of the piano. Note: sordina, with plural sordine, is strictly correct Italian, but the forms sordino and sordini are much more commonly used as terms in music. See also con sordina, senza sordina, in this list.
  • sordino: see sordina, above
  • sortita: a principal singer's first entrance in an opera
  • sospirando: sighing
  • sostenuto: sustained, lengthened
  • sotto voce: in an undertone i.e. quietly
  • spianato: smooth, even
  • spiccato: distinct, separated; i.e., a way of playing the violin and other bowed instruments by bouncing the bow on the string, giving a characteristic staccato effect
  • spinto: literally "pushed"
  • spiritoso: spiritedly
  • staccato: making each note brief and detached; the opposite of legato. In musical notation, a small dot under or over the head of the note indicates that it is to be articulated as staccato.
  • stage piano: a high-quality, heavy-duty electric piano or digital piano designed for touring or installation in a commercial performance venue (e.g., a piano bar). Unlike synthesizer-style keyboards, a stage piano typically has weighted or semi-weighted keys, which give more of the feel of an acoustic piano. Some 2000s-era stage pianos include Hammond organ and clavichord voices, in addition to piano and electric piano sounds.
  • standard tuning: for acoustic and electric guitar, the standard tuning is "E,A,D,G,B,E" (from lowest string to highest). For the electric bass, the standard tuning is "E,A,D,G". Altered tunings are used to obtain lower notes (e.g., drop D tuning, in which the low E string is lowered to a D), facilitate the playing of slide guitar, or to allow the playing of "open" chords that are not possible in standard tuning.
  • stanza: a verse of a song
  • stompbox: a slang term which refers to a small, portable effect unit that has an integrated on-off footswitch (e.g., a distortion pedal).
  • stornello: originally truly 'improvised' now taken as 'appearing to be improvised,' an Italian 'folk' song, the style of which used for example by Puccini in certain of his operas.
  • strascinando or strascicante: indicating a passage should be played in a heavily slurred manner
  • strepitoso: noisy, forceful
  • stretto: tight, narrow; i.e., faster or hastening ahead; also, a passage in a fugue in which the contrapuntal texture is denser, with close overlapping entries of the subject in different voices; by extension, similar closely imitative passages in other compositions
  • stringendo: tightening, narrowing; i.e., with a pressing forward or acceleration of the tempo (that is, becoming stretto, see preceding entry)
  • subito: suddenly (e.g., subito pp, which instructs the player to suddenly drop to pianissimo as an effect)
  • subwoofer (or "sub"): a speaker cabinet with a woofer that is designed for the reproduction of low-frequency sounds from about 20 Hz-200 Hz. Subs are used in PA systems and studio monitor systems. Subwoofers used for PA systems typically use large diameter woofers (18" or 21") mounted in large wooden cabinets. Studio monitor subs tend to use smaller cabinets and smaller-diameter woofers (10", 12", or 15"), because the goal with studio monitors is high fidelity, not massive sound pressure output.
  • sul E: "on E", indicating a passage is to be played on the E string of a violin. Also seen: sul A, sul D, sul G, sul C, indicating a passage to be played on one of the other strings of a string instrument.
  • sul ponticello: on the bridge; i.e., in string playing, an indication to bow (or sometimes to pluck) very near to the bridge, producing a characteristic glassy sound, which emphasizes the higher harmonics at the expense of the fundamental; the opposite of sul tasto
  • sul tasto: on the fingerboard; i.e., in string playing, an indication to bow (or sometimes to pluck) over the fingerboard; the opposite of sul ponticello. Playing over the fingerboard produces a warmer, gentler tone.
  • sur la touche (Fr): sul tasto
  • sweet spot: in live sound or recordings in which a mic is placed in front of an instrument or a guitar amplifier, the "sweet spot" is a placement or position of a microphone which yields the most pleasing sound; in the context of listening to a mix in a studio through monitor speakers, the "sweet spot" is a distance away from the speakers that the engineer believes to produce the most natural sound.
  • sweetening: a recording production term that refers to the addition of additional instruments or voices—orchestral strings, vocal harmonies from a group of professional backup singers, Latin percussionists, etc.--- to a basic "bed track" or "basic track" of bass, drums, and rhythm guitar or piano. Widely used in the 1970s in soft rock and disco.
  • syncopation: a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm often consisting of playing off of the main beat. i.e., playing on the "and" of every beat in a measure instead of on the beat.
  • syncopation: a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of downbeat rhythm with emphasis on the sub-division or up-beat, e.g. in Ragtime music.

T


  • tabulature (or "tab"): for guitar, bass guitar, and other fretted stringed instruments, tab is a type of sheet music notation in which the strings of the instrument are depicted on paper using staff paper-like lines, and then the pitches to be played are indicated using a fret number on the appropriate string line.
  • tacet: silent; do not play
  • tacet: silent; do not play.
  • take: in a recording session, a period of playing or singing which is recorded is called a "take".
  • tasto solo: 'single key'; used on a continuo part to indicate that the notes should be played without harmony
  • tech: a technician or repairperson who tours with a band or group, and whose duties include setting up, maintaining, and repairing musical instruments and related accessories; different types include a "drum tech"; "bass tech", and a "guitar tech".
  • tempo: time; i.e., the overall speed of a piece of music
  • tempo: time; i.e., the overall speed of a piece of music
  • tempo di marcia: march tempo
  • tempo di valse: waltz tempo
  • tempo giusto: in strict time
  • tempo primo, tempo uno, or tempo I (sometimes also written as tempo I° or tempo 1ero): resume the original speed
  • tempo rubato: means "robbed time"; an expressive way of performing a rhythm; see rubato
  • Tierce de Picardie: see Picardy third
  • teneramente: tenderly
  • tenerezza: tenderness
  • tenor: the second lowest of the standard four voice ranges (bass, tenor, alto, soprano)
  • tenor: the second lowest of the standard four voice ranges (bass, tenor, alto, soprano)
  • tenuto: held; i.e., touch on a note slightly longer than usual, but without generally altering the note's value
  • ternary: having three parts. In particular, referring to a three-part musical form with the parts represented by letters: ABA
  • tessitura: the 'best' or most comfortable pitch range, generally used to identify the most prominent / common vocal range within a piece of music
  • tight sound: a recording of an instrument (e.g., drums) which uses very close miking done in a soundproof recording room to eliminate "bleeding" from other instruments or ambient background noise.
  • timbre: the quality of a musical tone that distinguishes different voices, instruments, amplifiers, and effects
  • timbre: the quality of a musical tone that distinguishes voices and instruments
  • time: in a jazz or rock score, after a rubato or rallentendo section, the term "time" indicates that performers should return to tempo (this is equivalent to the term "a tempo")
  • time: in a jazz or rock score, after a rubato or rallentendo section, the term "time" indicates that performers should return to tempo (this is equivalent to the term "a tempo")
  • tosto: rapidly
  • trainwreck (or "train wreck"): a slang term which refers to a major error that occurs during a performance, either due to an incorrect entrance by one or more performers, or due to the performers getting out of time or off pitch with each other ("At the end of the song, the band got lost and the backup singers began the "outro" lines a bar before the lead singer, which led to a confused "train wreck" of an ending").
  • tranquillo: calmly, peacefully
  • transcription (or "note-for-note solo"): when a performer copies every note of a previously-recorded solo, this is called a "transcription" or a "note-for-note solo".
  • tre corde or tc (or sometimes inaccurately tre corda): three strings; i.e., release the soft pedal of the piano (see una corda)
  • tremolo: shaking; i.e., a rapid repetition of the same note, or an alternation between two or more notes (often an octave on the piano). It can also be intended (inaccurately) to refer to vibrato, which is a slight undulation in pitch. It is notated by a strong diagonal bar across the note stem, or a detached bar for a set of notes (or stemless notes).
  • tremolo: shaking; i.e., a rapid repetition of the same note, or an alternation between two or more notes (often an octave on the piano). String players perform tremolo with the bow by rapidly moving the bow while the arm is tense. It can also be intended (inaccurately) to refer to vibrato, which is a slight undulation in pitch. It is notated by a strong diagonal bar across the note stem, or a detached bar for a set of notes (or stemless notes).
  • triplet (shown with a horizontal bracket and a '3'): Three notes in the place of two, used to subdivide a beat.
  • tronco, tronca: broken off, truncated
  • troppo: too much; usually seen as non troppo, meaning moderately or, when combined with other terms, not too much, such as allegro [ma] non troppo (fast but not too fast)
  • tube amplifier (or "valve amplifier"): a power amplifier which is based on vacuum tubes. Tube amps produce soft clipping with a natural compression, and they are widely used in electric guitar and electric bass amps, and in Leslie-type amplifiers that are used to amplify Hammond organs.
  • tuner: may refer to an electronic tuner, which is a digital or analog device which assists musicians to tune their instruments; or it may refer to a piano technician who tunes pianos or other keyboard instruments.
  • tutti: all; all together, usually used in an orchestral or choral score when the orchestra or all of the voices come in at the same time, also seen in Baroque-era music where two instruments share the same copy of music, after one instrument has broken off to play a more advanced form: they both play together again at the point marked tutti. See also: ripieno.

U


  • un poco: a little
  • un, uno, or una: one, as for example in the following entries
  • una corda: one string; i.e., in piano music, depress the soft pedal, altering, and reducing the volume of, the sound. In some pianos, this literally results in the hammer striking one string rather than two or three. (For most notes on modern instruments, in fact it results in striking two rather than three strings.) Its counterpart, tre corde (three strings; see in this list), is the opposite: the soft pedal is to be released.
  • unison: several players in a group are to play exactly the same notes within their written part, as opposed to splitting simultaneous notes among themselves.
  • unisono or unis (Fr): in unison; i.e., several players in a group are to play exactly the same notes within their written part, as opposed to splitting simultaneous notes among themselves. Often used to mark the return from divisi (see in this list).
  • uptempo: a fast, lively, or increased tempo or played or done in such a tempo.[8] It is also used as an umbrella term for a quick-paced electronic music style.
  • ut (Fr): first note of the series ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si, in fixed-doh solmization.

V


  • vamp till cue: a jazz, fusion, and musical theatre term which instructs rhythm section members to repeat and vary a short ostinato passage, riff, or "groove" until the band leader or conductor instructs them to move onto the next section
  • vamp till cue: a jazz, fusion, and musical theater term which instructs rhythm section members to repeat and vary a short ostinato passage, riff, or "groove" until the band leader or conductor instructs them to move onto the next section
  • veloce: with velocity
  • velocissimo: as quickly as possible; usually applied to a cadenza-like passage or run
  • verb : an abbreviation for "reverb" which typically refers to the electronic reverb effect.
  • via: away, out, off; as in via sordina or sordina via: 'mute off'
  • vibrato: vibrating; i.e., a more or less rapidly repeated slight alteration in the pitch of a note, used to give a richer sound and as a means of expression. Often confused with tremolo, which refers either to a similar variation in the volume of a note, or to rapid repetition of a single note.
  • vif (Fr): Quickly, lively
  • virtuoso: (noun or adjective) performing with exceptional ability, technique, or artistry
  • virtuoso: (noun or adjective) performing with exceptional ability, technique, or artistry
  • vittorioso: victoriously
  • vivace: very lively, up-tempo
  • vivacissimo: very lively
  • vivamente: quickly and lively
  • vivo: lively
  • V.S. (volti subito): turn suddenly; i.e., turn the page quickly. While this indication is sometimes added by printers, it is more commonly indicated by orchestral members in pencil as a reminder to quickly turn to the next page.
  • VU meter: an abbreviation for "Volume Unit" meter; a sound level metering approach which measures the average sound levels. Commonly used in LED and needle indicators on mixing boards, sound processors, and other electronic gear.
  • vocal score or piano-vocal score: a music score of a musical theater show or a vocal or choral composition where the vocal parts are written out in full but the accompaniment is reduced to two staves and adapted for playing on piano
  • vocal score or piano-vocal score: a music score of an opera, or a vocal or choral composition with orchestra (like oratorio or cantata) where the vocal parts are written out in full but the accompaniment is reduced to two staves and adapted for playing on piano
  • voce: voice
  • voicing: the choice of, and order of notes in the playing of a chord, which creates a different sound. For example, a C Maj 7 chord played with the voicing "C, E, G, B" (letter names refer to individual pitches that make up the chord) is often considered to sound more "open" than a voicing where the chord is inverted so that some of the chord tones are very close in pitch (e.g., B, C, E, G). Another way that players may "voice" the same type of chord differently is by adding tones. For example, if a lead sheet shows the chord C Maj 7, some guitarists might play "E,A,D", a voicing which is "open" (insofar as it consists of large intervals) and which contains two "colour" tones, namely the sixth ("A") and the ninth ("D") of the chord.
  • volante: flying

W


  • wall of sound: in a recording context, refers to a production technique which creates a fuller, richer sound by having each part played by a number of instruments and routing the sound through an echo chamber; in a live concert context, refers to the massive volume created by huge stacks of powerful, distorted guitar amplifiers at a heavy metal concert (e.g., Motörhead)
  • wenig (Ger): a little, not much
  • whammy bar: an accessory on an electric guitar which can be used to bend down the pitch of an individual note or a chord (also referred to as a "tremolo bar")
  • wolno (Polish): loose, slowly; found as a directive in The Elephant from The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns
  • woodshed: a slang term which refers to an intense period of practice and self-development that a musician has (or is believed to have) undergone. If a musician has dramatically improved his or her technique in a short period, a critic may state that the performer has "woodshedded" on technique.

X


  • XLR: a type of professional audio cable used to send balanced signals. Microphone cables have three pins in the connector. More rarely, five-pin XLR cables are used (e.g., for DMX). XLR cables are sometimes called "Cannon connectors", a reference to the first manufacturer of these cables.

Y


  • Y-cable (or "Y-cord"): a cable with three ends, whereby one plug is joined to two plugs. This allows a single signal output to be plugged into two devices. For example, an electric guitarist could plug a single guitar into two guitar amps to create an unusual tone colour. Y-cables are also used to plug inserts into mixing boards (e.g., a compressor or reverb unit).

Z