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absolute music Music that has no literary, dramatic, or pictorial program. Also pure music.
a cappella Choral music performed without instrumental accompaniment.

Getting faster.

This example remains steady in pulse, then slowly speeds up toward the end.

Example: Delibes, Sylvia Suite, "Pizzicato"


The emphasis on a beat resulting in that beat's being louder or longer than another in a measure.

In this example, the accented beat occurs at regular intervals, on every third pulse (1 - 2 - 3 - 1 - 2 - 3).

Example: Haydn, Symphony No. 94 (Surprise), third movement

accompagnato Accompanied; also a recitative that is accompanied by orchestra.
accordion A musical instrument with a small keyboard and free-vibrating metal reeds that sound when air is generated by pleated bellows.
acid rock Genre of American rock that emerged in the late 1960s, often associated with psychedelic drugs. Its style featured heavy amplification, instrumental improvisation, new sound technologies, and light shows.

Quite slow.

The melody is spun out at a regular but slow pace.

Example: Grieg, Peer Gynt Suite, "Ase's Death"

additive meter

Groupings of irregular numbers of beats that add up to a larger, overall pattern (2 + 3 + 2 + 3 = 10).

ad libitum Indication that gives the performer the liberty to omit a section or to improvise.
aerophone World music classification for instruments that produce sound by using air as the primary vibrating means, such as flute, trumpet, or whistle. The most common Western instruments of this category belong to the woodwind and brass families. Bagpipes are aerophones frequently used in some traditional musics.
agitato Agitated or restless.
Agnus Dei A section of the Mass; the last musical movement of the Ordinary.
aleatory Indeterminate music in which certain elements of performance (such as pitch, rhythm, or form) are left to choice or chance.
alla breve See cut time.

Fast, cheerful.

This march moves along at a regular, fast pace.

Example: J. F. Wagner, Under the Double Eagle

allemande German dance in moderate duple time, popular during the Renaissance and Baroque periods; often the first movement of a Baroque suite.

Lowest of the female voices. Also contralto.

This vocal example features the low female voice of an alto (short for "contralto").

Example: Handel, Messiah, "O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion"


Moderately slow or walking pace.

This example proceeds at a slow walking pace.

Example: Mozart, Piano Concerto in C major, K. 467, second movement

answer Second entry of the subject in a fugue, usually pitched a fourth below or a fifth above the subject.
anthem A religious choral composition in English; performed liturgically, the Protestant equivalent of the motet.
antiphonal Performance style in which an ensemble is divided into two or more groups, performing in alternation and then together.
antique cymbals Small disks of brass, held by the player one in each hand, that are struck together gently and allowed to vibrate.
arabesque Decorative musical material or a composition based on florid embellishment.
aria Lyric song for solo voice with orchestral accompaniment, generally expressing intense emotion; found in opera, cantata, and oratorio.
arioso Short, aria-like passage.

Broken chord in which the individual tones are sounded one after another instead of simultaneously.

The harp frequently plays arpeggios, as in this example.

Example: Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker, "Waltz of the Flowers"

Ars Antiqua French sacred polyphonic musical style from the period c. 1160–1320.
Ars Nova Fourteenth-century French polyphonic musical style whose themes moved increasingly from religious to secular.
art rock Genre of rock that uses larger forms and more complex harmonies than other popular styles; occasionally quotes examples from classical music. Also progressive rock.
a tempo Return to the previous tempo.
atonality Total abandonment of tonality (centering in a key). Atonal music moves from one level of dissonance to another, without areas of relaxation.
attaca "Attack," proceed without a pause between movements.
augmentation Statement of a melody in longer note values, often twice as slow as the original.
aulos Double-reed pipe; played for public and religious functions in ancient Greece.

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bagpipe Wind instrument popular in Eastern and Western Europe that has several tubes, one of which plays the melody while the others sound the drones, or sustained notes; a windbag is filled by either a mouth pipe or a set of bellows (uilleann pipes).
balalaika Guitar-like instrument of Russia with a triangular body, fretted neck, and three strings; often used in traditional music and dance.
ballade French poetic form and chanson type of the Middle Ages and Renaissance with courtly love texts. Also a Romantic genre, especially a lyric piano piece.
ballad opera English comic opera, usually featuring spoken dialogue alternating with songs set to popular tunes; also called dialogue opera.
ballet A dance form featuring a staged presentation of group or solo dancing with music, costumes, and scenery.
banjo Plucked-string instrument with round body in the form of a single-headed drum and a long, fretted neck; brought to the Americas from Africa by early slaves.
baritone Male voice of moderately low range.
baritone horn

See euphonium.

The rich mid-range voice of a baritone soloist balances well with the trombone in this excerpt.

Example: Mozart, Requiem, "Tuba mirum"

bas Medieval category of soft instruments, used principally for indoor occasions, as distinct from haut, or loud, instruments.
bass Male voice of low range.
bass clarinet Woodwind instrument of the clarinet family with the lowest range.
bass drum

The bass drum is a large membranophone of indefinite pitch that is played with a soft-headed stick; it produces a low, heavy sound that is heard prominently in this march.

Example: F.J. Wagner, Under the Double Eagle

basse danse Graceful court dance of the early Renaissance; an older version of the pavane.
basso continuo Italian for "continuous bass." See figured bass. Also refers to performance group with a bass, chordal instrument (harpsichord, organ), and one bass melody instrument (cello, bassoon).

The bassoon is a double-reed instrument made of wood. Its relative, the contrabassoon, heard here, is the lowest pitched and weightiest sounding woodwind instrument.

Example: Mahler, Symphony No. 1, third movement

bass viol See double bass.

Regular pulsation; a basic unit of length in musical time.

In this dance movement, the beats are regular, with a strong, or accented, beat followed by two weaker pulses (1 - 2 - 3 - 1 - 2 - 3).

Example: Haydn, Symphony No. 94 (Surprise), third movement

bebop Complex jazz style developed in the 1940s. Also bop.
bel canto "Beautiful singing"; elegant Italian vocal style characterized by florid melodic lines delivered by voices of great agility, smoothness, and purity of tone.
bell tree Long stick with bells suspended from it, adopted from Janissary music.
bellows An apparatus for producing air currents in certain wind instruments (accordion, bagpipe).
bent pitch See blue note.
big band Large jazz ensemble popular in 1930s and 1940s, featuring sections of trumpets, trombones, saxophones (and other woodwinds), and rhythm instruments (piano, double bass, drums, and guitar).
binary form

Two-part (A-B) form is based on statement and departure. Also two-part form.

In this quick dance, the first idea is stated twice, followed by a contrasting idea, which is also repeated; the binary form here is outlined A-A-B-B.

Example: Corelli, Suite for Strings, "Badinerie"

biwa A Japanese lute, similar to the Chinese pipa.
blue note A slight drop of pitch on the third, fifth, or seventh tone of the scale, common in blues and jazz. Also bent pitch.
blues African-American form of secular folk music, related to jazz, that is based on a simple, repetitive poetic-musical structure.
bodhran Hand-held frame drum with a single goatskin head; used in Irish traditional music.
bongo A pair of small drums of differing pitches; held between the legs and struck with both hands; of Afro-Cuban origin.
bop See bebop.
bossa nova Brazilian dance related to the samba, popular in the 1950s and 1960s.
bourrée Lively French Baroque dance type in duple meter.
branle Quick French group dance of the Renaissance, related to the ronde.
brass family

The principal orchestral instruments of the brass family, from highest to lowest, are: trumpet, French horn, trombone, and tuba. Other brass instruments commonly used in concert and marching bands include cornet, and euphonium. These instruments all have cup-shaped mouthpieces attached to a length of metal tubing that flares into a bell at the end. A column of air is set vibrating by the tightly stretched lips of the player.

This majestic theme is sounded by the full forces of the brass family.

Example: Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition, "Great Gate of Kiev"

break Jazz term for a short improvised solo without accompaniment that "breaks" an ensemble passage or introduces an extended solo.
bridge Transitional passage connecting two sections of a composition; also transition. Also the part of a string instrument that holds the strings in place.
bugle Brass instrument that evolved from the earlier military, or field, trumpet.
Burgundian chanson Fifteenth-century French composition, usually for three voices, some or all of which may be played by instruments. Also chanson.

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cadence Resting place in a musical phrase; music punctuation.

This melody features four phrases, each of which ends in a cadence. The resting places, or cadences, after the first and third phrases are inconclusive (like a comma in a sentence); those after the second and fourth phrases sound final (like a period closing a sentence).

Example: Beethoven, Symphony No. 9, fourth movement, "Ode to Joy"

cadenza Virtuosic solo passage in the manner of an improvisation, performed near the end of an aria or a movement of a concerto.
cakewalk Syncopated, strutting dance of nineteenth century origin; developed among Southern slaves in a parody of white plantation owners.
call and response Performance style with a singing leader who is imitated by a chorus of followers. Also responsorial singing.

Type of polyphonic composition in which one musical line strictly imitates another at a fixed distance throughout.

In this instrumental canon, the double bass presents a melody that is imitated exactly by the bassoon at a fixed distance in time.

Example: Mahler, Symphony No. 1 (Titan), third movement

cantabile Songful, in a singing style.
cantata Vocal genre for solo singers, chorus, and instrumentalists based on a lyric or dramatic poetic narrative. It generally consists of several movements including recitatives, arias, and ensemble numbers.
cantor Solo singer or singing leader in Jewish and Christian liturgical music.
cantus firmus "Fixed melody," usually of very long notes, often based on a fragment of Gregorian chant that served as the structural basis for a polyphonic composition, particularly in the Renaissance.
capriccio Short lyric piece of a free nature, often for piano.
carol English medieval strophic song with a refrain repeated after each stanza; now associated with Christmas.
cassation Classical instrumental genre related to the serenade or divertimento and often performed outdoors.
castanets Percussion instruments consisting of small wooden clappers that are struck together. They are widely used to accompany Spanish dancing.
castrato Male singer who was castrated during boyhood to preserve the soprano or alto vocal register, prominent in seventeenth-and early eighteenth-century opera.
celesta Percussion instrument resembling a miniature upright piano, with tuned metal plates struck by hammers that are operated by a keyboard.

See violoncello.

The cello is noted for its dark resonance and singing quality.

celtic harp See Irish harp.
chaconne Baroque from similar to the passacaglia, in which the variations are based on a repeated chord progression.
chamber choir Small group of up to about twenty-four singers, who usually perform a cappella or with piano accompaniment.
chamber music Ensemble music for up to about ten players, with one player to a part.
chamber sonata See sonata da camera.
chanson French polyphonic song, especially of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, set to either courtly or popular poetry. See also Burgundian chanson.
chart Colloquial or jazz term for a score or arrangement.
chimes Percussion instrument of definite pitch that consists of a set of tuned metal tubes of various lengths suspended from a frame and struck with a hammer. Also tubular bells.
Chinese block Percussion instrument made from a hollowed rectangular block of wood that is struck with a beater.

A group of singers who perform together, usually in parts, with several on each part; often associated with a church.

This example features an unaccompanied (a cappella) chorus singing Latin-texted church music.

Example: Josquin, Tu solus qui facis

choral Baroque congregational hymn of the German Lutheran church.
chorale prelude Short Baroque organ piece in which a traditional chorale melody is embellished.
chorale variations Baroque organ piece in which a chorale is the basis for a set of variations.

Simultaneous combination of three or more tones that constitute a single block of harmony.

In this example, the melody is accompanied by repeated chords, or blocks of harmony (each made up of three tones).

Example: Chopin, Prelude in E minor, Op. 28, No. 4

chordal Texture comprised of chords in which the pitches sound simultaneously; also homorhythmic.
chordophone World music classification for instruments that produce sound from a vibrating string stretched between two points, which is bowed, struck, or plucked. The most common Western instruments of this category belong to the string family (violin, harp). The koto (Japan), erhu (China), and the sitar (India) are examples of non-Western chordophones.

Fairly large group of singers who perform together, usually with several on each part. Also a choral movement of a large-scale work. In jazz, a single statement of the melodic-harmonic pattern.

In this example, the four-part chorus (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) is heard with orchestra.

Example: Beethoven, Symphony No. 9, fourth movement, "Ode to Joy"

chorus (men's)

Choruses can be restricted to either men's or women's voices. In early times, church music, including Gregorian chant, was traditionally sung by a men's chorus, as heard here.

Example: Gregorian chant, "Kyrie eleison"


Melody or harmony built from many if not all twelve semitones of the octave. A chromatic scale consists of an ascending or descending sequence of semitones.

This winding melody makes use of many half steps from the chromatic scale.

Example: Bach, Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor, Fugue theme

church sonata See sonata da chiesa.

The wooden clarinet produces sound via a single reed, a small, thin piece of cane attached to its mouthpiece.

This example demonstrates its smooth, liquid sound.

Example: Ravel, Boléro

clavecin French word for "harpsichord." See harpsichord.
claves A Cuban clapper consisting of two solid hardwood sticks; widely used in Latin-American music.
clavichord stringed keyboard instrument popular in the Renaissance and Baroque that is capable of unique expressive devices not possible on the harpsichord.
clavier Generic word for keyboard instruments, including harpsichord, clavichord, piano, and organ.
closed ending Second of two endings in a secular medieval work, usually cadencing on the final.
coda The last part of a piece, usually added to a standard form to bring it to a close.
codetta In sonata form, the concluding section of the exposition. Also a brief coda concluding an inner section of a work.
collage A technique drawn from the visual arts whereby musical fragments from other compositions are juxtaposed or overlapped within a new work.
collegium musicum An association of amateur musicians, popular in the Baroque era. Also a modern university ensemble dedicated to the performance of early music.
comic opera See opéra comique.
commedia dell'arte Type of improvised drama popular in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italy; makes use of stereotyped characters.
common time See quadruple meter.
compound meter Meter in which each beat is subdivided into three rather than two.
computer music A type of electro-acoustic music in which computers assist in creating works through sound synthesis and manipulation.
con amore with love, tenderly.
concertante Style based on the principle of opposition between two dissimilar masses of sound; concerto-like.
concert band Instrumental ensemble ranging from forty to eighty members or more, consisting of wind and percussion instruments. Also wind ensemble.
concertina Small, free-reed, bellows-operated instrument similar to an accordion; hexagonal in shape, with button keys.
concerto Instrumental genre in several movements for solo instrument (or instrumental group) and orchestra.
concerto form Structure commonly used in first movements of concertos that combines elements of Baroque ritornello procedure with sonata-allegro form. Also first-movement concerto form.
concerto grosso Baroque concerto type based on the opposition between a small group of solo instruments (the concertino) and orchestra (the ripieno).
concert overture Single-movement concert piece for orchestra, typically from the Romantic period and often based on a literary program.
conductor Person who, by means of gestures, leads performances of musical ensembles, especially orchestra, bands, or choruses.
con fuoco With fire.
conga Afro-Cuban dance performed at Latin-American Carnival celebrations. Also a single-headed drum of Afro-Cuban origin, played with bare hands.

Smooth, connected melody that moves principally by small intervals.

This joyful tune moves in small, connected intervals (mostly seconds), making it conjunct.

Example: Beethoven, Symphony No. 9, fourth movement, "Ode to Joy"

con passione With passion.

Concordant or harmonious combination of tones that provides a sense of relaxation and stability in music.

This majestic passage is harmonious, or consonant, providing a sense of stability in the music.

Example: Brahms, Symphony No. 1, fourth movement

continuous bass See basso continuo.
continuous imitation Renaissance polyphonic style in which the motives move from line to line within the texture, often overlapping one another.
contrabass See double bass.
contrabassoon Double-reed woodwind instrument with the lowest range in the woodwind family. Also double bassoon.
contralto See alto.
contrapuntal Texture employing counterpoint, or two or more melodic lines.

Contrast of musical materials sustains our interest and feeds our love of change; it provides variety to a form.

In this example, the first musical idea (heard twice at a fast tempo) is balanced by a contrasting idea, which is also repeated.

Example: Corelli, Suite for Strings, "Badinerie"

cool jazz A substyle of bebop, characterized by a restrained, unemotional performance with lush harmonies, moderate volume levels and tempos, and a new lyricism; often associated with Miles Davis.
cornet Valved brass instrument similar to the trumpet but more mellow in sound.
cornetto Early instrument of the brass family with woodwind-like finger holes. It developed from the cow horn, but was made of wood.
Council of Trent A council of the Roman Catholic Church that convened in Trent, Italy, from 1543 to 1565 and dealt with Counter-Reformation issues, including the reform of liturgical music.
counterpoint The compositional art of combining two or more simultaneous melodic lines (polyphonic texture); term means "point against point" or "note against note."

An accompanying melody sounded against the principal melody.

In this famous march, we hear the high piccolos playing a countermelody against the main melody.

Example: Sousa, The Stars and Stripes Forever, Trio

countersubject In a figure, a secondary theme heard against the subject; a countertheme.
country-western Genre of American popular music derived from traditional music of the rural South, usually vocal with an accompaniment of banjos, fiddles, and guitar.
courante French Baroque dance, a standard movement of the suite, in triple meter at a moderate tempo.
cover Recording that remakes an earlier, often successful, recording with a goal of reaching a wider audience.
cowbell Rectangular metal bell that is struck with a drumstick; used widely in Latin-American music.
Credo A section of the Mass; the third musical movement of the Ordinary.

The dynamic effect of gradually growing louder, indicated in the musical score by the marking "<."

This energetic theme is repeated in various combinations of instruments as the dynamic level gradually grows from p (piano, or soft) to ff (fortissimo, or very loud).

Example: Mendelssohn, Symphony No. 4 (Italian), fourth movement

crossover Recording or artist that appeals primarily to one audience but becomes popular with another as well (e.g., a rock performer who makes jazz recordings).
crotales A pair of small pitched cymbals mounted on a frame; also made in chromatic sets.
crumhorn Early woodwind instrument, whose sound is produced by blowing into a capped double reed and whose lower body is curved.
cut time A type of duple meter interpreted as 2/2 and indicated as ¢; also called alla breve.
cyclical form Structure in which musical material, such as a theme, presented in one movement returns in a later movement.

Cymbals are two circular brass plates of equal size, which when struck together produce a shattering sound, as heard in this example.

Example: F.J. Wagner, Under the Double Eagle

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da capo An indication to return to the beginning of a piece.
da capo aria Lyric song in ternary, or A-B-A, form, commonly found in operas, cantatas, and oratorios.

The dynamic effect of gradually growing softer, indicated in the musical score by the marking ">." Also referred to as diminuendo.

The dynamic level decreases very gradually in the closing section of this work (except for the last two loud chords).

Example: Smetana, The Moldau

development Structural reshaping of thematic material. Second section of sonata-allegro form; it moves through a series of foreign keys while themes from the exposition are manipulated.
dialogue opera See ballad opera.

Melody or harmony built from the seven tones of a major or minor scale. A diatonic scale encompasses patterns of seven whole tones and semitones.

This trumpet melody is built exclusively from the seven pitches of a major scale, making it diatonic.

Example: Mouret, Rondeau

Dies irae Chant from the Requiem Mass whose text concerns Judgment Day.
diminuendo Growing softer.
diminution Statement of a melody in shorter note values, often twice as fast as the original.
disco Commercial dance music popular in the 1970s, characterized by strong percussion in a quadruple meter.

Disjointed or disconnected melody with many leaps.

This dance-like tune moves with disjointed leaps, making it disjunct.

Example: Haydn, Symphony No. 94 (Surprise), third movement


Combination of tones that sounds discordant and unstable, in need of resolution.

divertimento Classical instrumental genre for chamber ensemble or soloist, often performed as light entertainment. Related to serenade and cassation.
Divine Offices Cycle of daily services of the Roman Catholic Church, distinct from the Mass.
doctrine of the affections Baroque doctrine of the union of text and music.
dodecaphonic Greek for "twelve-tone"; see twelve-tone music.
dolce Sweetly.
dolente Sad, weeping.
dominant The fifth scale step, sol.
dominant chord Chord built on the fifth scale step, the V chord.
double bass

Largest and lowest-pitched member of the bowed string family. Also called contrabass or bass viol.

The double bass, the lowest member of the bowed string family, has a thick, weighty tone.

Example: Mahler, Symphony No. 1, third movement

double bassoon See contrabassoon.
double exposition In the concerto, twofold statement of the themes, once by the orchestra and once by the soloist.
double-stop Playing two notes simultaneously on a string instrument.
doubles Variations of a dance in a French keyboard suite.
down beat

First beat of the measure, the strongest in any meter.

This triple-meter dance begins on an accented beat, the first beat, or downbeat, in the measure (1 - 2 - 3 | 1 - 2 - 3).

Example: Bach, Minuet in G


Sustained sounding of one or several tones for harmonic support, a common feature of some folk musics.

A low-pitched, two-note drone is heard at the beginning of this example, as the disjunct melodic idea is passed from one instrument to another.

Example: Beethoven, Symphony No. 9 in D minor, first movement

dulcimer Early folk instrument that resembles the psaltery; its strings are struck with hammers instead of being plucked.
duple meter

Basic metrical pattern of two beats to a measure.

Most marches are in duple meter, with two beats per measure (alternating a strong beat with a weak beat (1 - 2 | 1- 2 ).

Example: F.J. Wagner, Under the Double Eagle

duplum Second voice of a polyphonic work, especially the medieval motet.
duration Length of time something lasts; e.g., the vibration of a musical sound.
dynamics Element of musical expression relating to the degree of loudness or softness, or volume, of a sound.

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embellishment Melodic decoration, either improvised or indicated through ornamentation signs in the music.
embouchure The placement of the lips, lower facial muscles, and jaws in playing a wind instrument.
Empfindsamkeit German "sensitive" style of the mid-eighteenth century, characterized by melodic directness and homophonic texture.
encore "again"; an audience request that the performer(s) repeat a piece or perform another.
English horn Double-reed woodwind instrument, larger and lower in range than the oboe.
ensembles Musical performing groups; common Western ensembles include chorus, choir, men's chorus (and women's chorus), orchestra, chamber group (such as string quartet), and band (concert, marching, jazz).
entenga Tuned drum from Uganda; the royal drum ensemble of the former ruler of Buganda.
episode Interlude or intermediate section in the Baroque fugue, which serves as an area of relaxation between statements of the subject.
equal temperament Tuning system based on the division of the octave into twelve equal half steps; the normal system used today.
erhu Bowed, two-string fiddle from China, with its bow hairs fixed between the strings; rests on the leg while playing.
espressivo Expressively.
ethnomusicology Comparative study of musics of the world, with a focus on the cultural context of music.
ethno-pop See world beat.
étude Study piece that focuses on a particular technical problem.
euphonium Tenor-range brass instrument resembling the tuba. Also baritone horn.
exoticism Musical style in which rhythms, melodies, or instruments evoke the color and atmosphere of far-off lands.
exposition Opening section. In the fugue, the first section in which the voices enter in turn with the subject. In sonata-allegro form, the first section in which the major thematic material is stated. Also statement.

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falsetto Vocal technique whereby men can sing above their normal range, producing a lighter sound.
fantasia Free instrumental piece of fairly large dimensions, in an improvisational style; in the Baroque, it often served as an introductory piece to a fugue.
fiddle Colloquial term for violin; often used in traditional music.
figured bass Baroque practice consisting of an independent bass line that often includes numerals indicating the harmony to be supplied by the performer. Also thorough-bass.
film music Music that serves either as background or foreground for a film.
first-movement concerto form See concerto form.
first-movement form See sonata-allegro form.
fixed forms Group of forms, especially in medieval France, in which the poetic structure determines musical repetitions. See also ballade, rondeau, virelai.
flat sign Musical symbol (b) that indicates lowering a pitch by a semitone.
fluegelhorn Valved brass instrument resembling a bugle with a wide bell, used in jazz and commercial music.

The flute is a cylindrical metal tube closed at one end that is held horizontally and blown across the mouth hole.

In this example, its timbre is cool and velvety in the low range.

Example: Ravel, Boléro

flutter tonguing Wind instrument technique in which the tongue is fluttered or trilled against the roof of the mouth.
folk music See traditional music.
folk rock Popular music style that combines folk music with amplified instruments of rock.
form The structure or shape of a musical work, based on repetition, contrast, and variation; the organizing principle in music. Binary and ternary are basic forms, while more complex forms include sonata-allegro, rondo, minuet and trio, theme and variations, ritornello, and fugue.
formalism Tendency to elevate formal above expressive value in music, as in Neoclassical music.

The Italian term for "loud," indicated in the musical score by the marking "f."

In this example, the woodwind section plays the melody loudly (marked "forte")

Example: Ravel, Boléro

fortissimo (ff)

The Italian term for "very loud," indicated in the musical score by the marking "ff."

At the close of this work, the dynamic level is very loud (fortissimo) in the full orchestra.

Example: Ravel, Boléro

four-hand piano music Chamber music genre for two performers playing at one or occasionally two pianos, allowing home or salon performances of orchestral arrangements.
free-verse rhythm A free-flowing, nonmetric line in which movement is linked to the text inflections, as in Gregorian chant.
French horn

The solo instrument featured here is the French horn, a mellow brass instrument that descended from the ancient hunting horn. Also horn.

Example: Mozart, Horn Concerto K. 447, third movement

French overture Baroque instrumental introduction to an opera, ballet, or suite, in two sections: a slow opening followed by an Allegro, often with a brief return to the opening.
frequency Rate of vibration of a string or column of air, which determines pitch.
fugato A fugal passage in a nonfugal piece, such as in the development section of a sonata-allegro form.
fuging tune Polyphonic, imitative setting of a hymn or psalm, popular in Great Britain and the United States from the eighteenth century.

Polyphonic form popular in the Baroque era in which one or more themes are developed by imitative counterpoint.

A fugue is a complex composition in which the theme (called the subject) is developed by imitative counterpoint. In this example, the first imitation of the subject is heard overlapping the initial idea.

Example: Bach, Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor, Fugue

fusion Style that combines jazz improvisation with amplified instruments of rock.

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gagaku Traditional court music of Japan.
galliard Lively, triple-meter French court dance.
gamelan Musical ensemble of Java or Bali, made up of gongs, chimes, metallophones, and drums, among other instruments.
gavotte Duple-meter Baroque dance type of a pastoral character.
genre General term describing the standard category and overall character of a work.
Gesamtkunstwerk German for "total artwork"; a term coined by Richard Wagner to describe the synthesis of all the arts (music, poetry, drama, visual spectacle) in his late operas.
gigue Popular English Baroque dance type, a standard movement of the Baroque suite, in a lively compound meter.
gioioso Joyous.
glee club Specialized vocal ensemble that performs popular music, college songs, and more serious works.
glissando Rapid slide through pitches of a scale.
glitter rock Theatrical, flamboyant rock style popular in the 1970s.
glockenspiel Percussion instrument with horizontal, tuned steel bars of various sizes that are struck with mallets and produce a bright metallic sound.
Gloria A section of the Mass; the second musical movement of the Ordinary.
Goliard song Medieval Latin-texted secular song, often with corrupt or lewd lyrics; associated with wandering scholars.
gong Percussion instrument consisting of a broad circular disk of metal, suspended in a frame and struck with a heavy drumstick. Also tam-tam.
gospel music Twentieth-century sacred music style associated with Protestant African Americans.
grace note Ornamental note, often printed in small type and not performed rhythmically.
Gradual Fourth item of the Proper of the Mass, sung in a melismatic style, and performed in a responsorial manner in which soloists alternate with a choir.
grand opera Style of Romantic opera developed in Paris, focusing on serious, historical plots with huge choruses, crowd scenes, elaborate dance episodes, ornate costumes, and spectacular scenery.

Solemn; very, very slow.

The pace of this piano work is very, very slow and the mood is solemn.

Example: Beethoven, Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 13, (Pathétique), first movement

Gregorian chant Monophonic melody with a freely flowing, unmeasured vocal line; liturgical chant of the Roman Catholic Church. Also plainchant or plainsong.
ground bass A repeating melody, usually in the bass, throughout a vocal or instrumental composition.
grunge rock Contemporary Seattle-based rock style characterized by harsh guitar chords; hybrid of punk rock and heavy metal.
guitar Plucked-string instrument originally made of wood with a hollow resonating body and a fretted fingerboard; types include acoustic and electric.

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habanera Moderate duple-meter dance of Cuban origin, popular in the nineteenth century; based on characteristic rhythmic figure.
half step Smallest interval used in the Western system; octave divides into twelve such intervals; on the piano, the distance between any two adjacent keys, whether black or white. Also semitone.
harmonica Mouth organ; a small metal box on which free reeds are mounted, played by moving back and forth across the mouth while breathing into it.
harmonics Individual pure sounds that are part of any musical tone; in string instruments, crystalline tones in the very high register, produced by lightly touching a vibrating string at a certain point.
harmonium Organ-like instrument with free metal reeds set in vibration by a bellows; popular in late-nineteenth-century America.

The simultaneous combination of notes and the ensuing relationships of intervals and chords. Not all musics of the world rely on harmony for interest, but it is central to most Western music.


The harp's strings are plucked, and its pitches are changed by means of pedals. Its ethereal tone is easily recognizable. The harp frequently plays broken chords called arpeggios.

Example: Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker, "Waltz of the Flowers"


Early Baroque keyboard instrument in which the strings are plucked by quills instead of being struck with hammers like the piano. Also clavecin.

Example: Bach, Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor, Fugue

haut Medieval category of loud instruments, used mainly for outdoor occasions, as distinct from bas, or soft, instruments.
heavy metal Rock style that gained popularity in the 1970s, characterized by simple, repetitive ideas and loud, distorted instrumental solos
heptatonic scale Seven-note scale; in non-Western musics, often fashioned from a different combination of intervals than major and minor scales.
heterophonic Texture in which two or more voices (or parts) elaborate the same melody simultaneously, often the result of improvisation.

Texture with principal melody and accompanying harmony, as distinct from polyphony.

horn See French horn.
hornpipe Country dance of British Isles, often in a lively triple meter; optional dance movement of solo and orchestral Baroque suite; a type of duple-meter hornpipe remains popular in Irish traditional dance music.
hymn Song in praise of God; often involves congregational participation.

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idée fixe "Fixed idea"; term coined by Berlioz for a recurring musical idea that links different movements of a work.
idiophone World music classification for instruments that produce sound from the substance of the instrument itself by being struck, blown, shaken, scraped, or rubbed. The most common Western instruments in this category belong to the percussion family. Examples include cymbals, triangle, gong, and maracas.

Compositional technique in which a melodic idea is presented in one voice (or part), then restated in another while the first voice continues with new material.

In this example, the voice parts build from lowest to highest (basses, tenors, altos, sopranos), each imitating the first melodic statement.

Example: Handel, Messiah, "Hallelujah" Chorus

improvisation Creation of a musical composition while it is being performed, seen in Baroque ornamentation, cadenzas of concertos, jazz, and some non-Western musics. See also embellishment.
incidental music Music written to accompany dramatic works.
inflection Small alteration of the pitch by a microtonal interval. See also blue note.
instrument Mechanism that generates musical vibrations and transmits them into the air.
interlude Music played between sections of a musical or dramatic work.
intermezzo Short, lyric piece or movement, often for piano. Also a comic interlude performed between acts of an eighteenth-century opera seria.

Distance and relationship between two pitches.

The opening interval in this work is an octave (8 tones apart), followed by small intervals (of a semitone or half step).

Example: Chopin, Prelude in E minor, Op. 28, No. 4

inversion Mirror or upside-down image of a melody or pattern, found in fugues and twelve-tone compositions.
Irish harp Plucked-string instrument with about thirty strings; used to accompany Irish songs and dance music (also celtic harp).
isorhythmic motet Medieval and early Renaissance motet based on a repeating rhythmic pattern throughout one or more voices.
Italian overture Baroque overture consisting of three sections: fast-slow-fast.

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Janissary music Music of the military corps of the Turkish sultan, characterized by percussion instruments such as triangle, cymbals, bell tree, and bass drum as well as trumpets and double-reed instruments.
jarabe Traditional Mexican dance form with multiple sections in contrasting meters and tempos, often performed by mariachi ensembles.
jazz A musical style created mainly by African Americans in the early twentieth century that blended elements drawn from African musics with the popular and art traditions of the West.
jazz band Instrumental ensemble made up of reed (saxophones and clarinets), brass (trumpets and trombones), and rhythm sections (percussion, piano, double bass, and sometimes guitar).
jia hua Literally, "adding flowers"; an embellishment style in Chinese music using various ornamental figures.
jig A vigorous dance developed in the British Isles, usually in compound meter; became fashionable on the Continent as the gigue; still popular as an Irish traditional dance genre.
jongleurs Medieval wandering entertainers who played instruments, sang and danced, juggled, and performed plays.
jongleuresses Female jongleurs, or wandering entertainer/minstrels.
jota A type of Spanish dance song characterized by a quick triple meter and guitar and castanet accompaniment.

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karaoke "Empty orchestra"; popular nightclub style from Japan where customers sing the melody to accompanying prerecorded tracks.
kettledrums See timpani.
key Defines the relationship of tones with a common center or tonic. Also a lever on a keyboard or woodwind instrument.
keyboard instrument Instrument sounded by means of a keyboard (a series of keys played with the fingers). The most commonly recognized keyboard instruments are the piano, organ, harpsichord, and synthesizer, a recent invention.
keynote See tonic.
key signature Sharps or flats placed at the beginning of a piece to show the key of a work.
Klangfarbenmelodie Twentieth-century technique in which the notes of a melody are distributed among different instruments, giving a pointillistic texture.
koto Japanese plucked-string instrument with a long rectangular body, thirteen strings, and movable bridges or frets.

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lamellophone Plucked idiophone with thin metal strips; common throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
lamentoso Like a lament.

Broad; very slow.

The pace of this mournful piano work is very slow.

Example: Chopin, Prelude in E minor, Op. 28, No. 4

Latin rock Subgenre of rock featuring Latin and African percussion instruments (maracas, conga drums, timbales).
legato Smooth and connected; opposite of staccato.
Leitmotif "Leading motive," or basic recurring theme, representing a person, object, or idea, commonly used in Wagner's operas. libretto Text, or script, of an opera, prepared by a librettist.
Lied German for "song"; most commonly associated with the solo art song of the nineteenth century, usually accompanied by piano.
Lieder Plural of Lied.
lining out A call-and-response singing practice prevalent in early America and England; characterized by the alternation between a singer leader and a chorus singing heterophonically.
lute Plucked-string instrument of Middle Eastern origin, popular in western Europe from the late Middle Ages to the eighteenth century.
lyre Ancient plucked-string instrument of the harp family, used to accompany singing and poetry.
lyric opera Hybrid form combining elements of grand opera and opéra comique and featuring appealing melodies and romantic drama.

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madrigal Renaissance secular work originating in Italy for voices, with or without instruments, set to a short, lyric love poem; also popular in England.
madrigal choir Small vocal ensemble that specializes in a cappella secular works.
maestoso Majestic.
Magnificat Biblical text on the words of the Virgin Mary, sung polyphonically in church from the Renaissance on.
major scale

A collection of seven different pitches ordered in a specific pattern of whole and half steps, as shown below:

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 Whole Whole Half Whole Whole Whole Half

The melody in this example is chosen from the pitches of a major scale built on the pitch G.

Example: Bach, Minuet in G

mambo Dance of Afro-Cuban origin with a characteristic quadruple-meter rhythmic pattern.
mandolin Plucked-string instrument with a rounded body and fingerboard; used in some folk musics and in country-western music.
maracas Latin-American rattles (idiophones) made from gourds or other materials.
march A style incorporating characteristics of military music, including strongly accented duple meter in simple, repetitive rhythmic patterns.
marching band Instrumental ensemble for entertainment at sports events and parades, consisting of wind and percussion instruments, drum majors/majorettes, and baton twirlers.
mariachi Traditional Mexican ensemble popular throughout the country, consisting of trumpets, violins, guitar, and bass guitar.
marimba Percussion instrument that is a mellower version of the xylophone; of African origin.
masque English genre of aristocratic entertainment that combined vocal and instrumental music with poetry and dance, developed during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Mass Central service of the Roman Catholic Church.
mazurka Type of Polish folk dance in triple meter.
mbube "Lion"; a cappella choral singing style of South African Zulus, featuring call-and-response patterns, close-knit harmonies, and syncopation.

A rhythmic grouping or metrical unit that contains a fixed number of beats; in notated music, it appears as a vertical line through the staff.

In this example, the pattern of accents falls in threes; thus the beats are grouped into measures of three beats each (1 - 2 - 3 | 1 - 2 - 3 | 1 - 2 - 3 ).

Example: Haydn, Symphony No. 94 (Surprise), third movement

medium Performing forces employed in a certain musical work.
melismatic Melodic style characterized by many notes sung to a single text syllable.

Succession of single tones or pitches perceived by the mind as a unity.

We perceive the pitches of this broad, singing melody in relation to one another, in the same way we hear the words in a sentence as an entire thought.

Example: Brahms, Symphony No. 1, fourth movement

membranophone World music classification for instruments that produce sound from a tightly stretched membrane that can be struck, plucked, rubbed, or sung into (setting the "skin" in vibration). The most common Western instruments of this category belong to the percussion family (timpani, bass drum). The conga drum is a membranophone often used in popular music.
meno Less.
mesto Sad.
metallophone Percussion instrument consisting of tuned metal bars, usually struck with a mallet.
meter Organization of rhythm in time; the grouping of beats into larger, regular patterns, notated as measures. In simple meters, such as duple, triple, and quadruple, each beat subdivides into two; in compound meters, such as sextuple, each beat divides into three.
metronome Device used to indicate the tempo by sounding regular beats at adjustable speeds.
mezzo forte The Italian term for "moderately loud," indicated in the musical score by the marking "mf."
mezzo piano

The Italian term for "moderately soft," indicated in the musical score by the marking "mp."

This example, featuring tenor saxophone playing the melody is marked "mezzo piano," or moderately soft.

Example: Ravel, Boléro

mezzo-soprano Female voice of middle range.
micropolyphony Twentieth-century technique encompassing the complex interweaving of all musical elements.
microtone Musical interval smaller than a semitone, prevalent in some non-Western musics and in some twentieth-century art music.
MIDI Acronym for musical instrument digital interface; technology standard that allows networking of computers with electronic musical instruments.
minimalist music Contemporary musical style featuring the repetition of short melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic patterns with little variation. See also spiritual minimalism.
Minnesingers Late medieval German poet-musicians.
minor scale

A collection of seven different pitches ordered in a specific pattern of whole and half steps, as shown below:

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 Whole Half Whole Whole Whole Half Whole

This mournful melody is built from the pitches of a minor scale.

Example: Grieg, Peer Gynt Suite, "Ase's Death"

minuet and trio

A moderate triple-meter dance form with two main sections (minuet = A, trio = B) that often occurs as the third movement of a symphony.

This example presents the minuet theme only from a minuet and trio.

Example: Haydn, Symphony No. 94 (Surprise), third movement

misterioso Mysteriously.
modal Characterizes music that is based on modes other than major and minor, especially the early church modes.
mode Scale or sequence of notes used as the basis for a composition; major and minor are modes.


This cheery dance moves along at a moderate tempo.

Example: Bach, Minuet in G

modified strophic form Song structure that combines elements of strophic and through-composed forms; a variation of strophic form in which a section might have a new key, rhythm, or varied melodic pattern.
modulation The process of changing from one key to another.
molto Very.
monody Vocal style established in the Baroque, with a solo singer and instrumental accompaniment.

Single-line texture, or melody without accompaniment.

In this chant, only one melody is heard (whether sung by a soloist or by the group) with no accompaniment.

Example: Gregorian chant, "Kyrie eleison"

monothematic Work or movement based on a single theme.
morality play Medieval drama, often with music, intended to teach proper values.
motet Polyphonic vocal genre, secular in the Middle Ages but sacred or devotional thereafter.

Short melodic or rhythmic idea; the smallest fragment of a theme that forms a melodic-harmonic-rhythmic unit.

In this excerpt, a familiar four-note idea, or motive, is sounded twice before it is subjected to further development.

Example: Beethoven, Symphony No. 5 in C minor, first movement

movement Complete, self-contained part within a larger musical work.
MTV Acronym for music television, a cable channel that presents non-stop music videos.
muses Nine daughters of Zeus in ancient mythology; each presided over one of the arts.
musical Genre of twentieth-century musical theater, especially popular in the United States and Great Britain; characterized by spoken dialogue, dramatic plot interspersed with songs, ensemble numbers, and dancing.
musical saw A handsaw that is bowed on its smooth edge; pitch is varied by bending the saw.
music drama Wagner's term for his operas.
music video Video tape or film that accompanies a recording, usually of a popular or rock song.
musique concrète Music made up of natural sounds and sound effects that are recorded and then manipulated electronically.
mute Mechanical device used to muffle the sound of an instrument.

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nakers Medieval percussion instruments resembling small kettledrums, played in pairs; of Middle Eastern origin.
neumatic Melodic style with two to four notes set to each syllable.
new age Style of popular music of the 1980s and 1990s, characterized by soothing timbres and repetitive forms that are subjected to shifting variation techniques.
New Orleans jazz Early jazz style characterized by multiple improvisations in an ensemble of cornet (or trumpet), clarinet (or saxophone), trombone, piano, string bass (or tuba), banjo (or guitar), and drums; repertory included blues, ragtime, and popular songs.
new wave Subgenre of rock popular since the late 1970s, highly influenced by simple 1950s-style rock and roll; developed as a rejection of the complexities of art rock and heavy metal.
ninth chord Five-tone chord spanning a ninth between its lowest and highest tones.
nocturne "Night piece"; common in the nineteenth century, often for piano.
Noh drama A major form of Japanese theater since the late fourteenth century; based on philosophical concepts from Zen Buddhism.

Music lacking a strong sense of beat or meter, common in certain non-Western cultures.

This chant has a free rhythm with no recurring metrical accents.

Example: Gregorian chant, "Kyrie eleison"

non troppo Not too much.

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A double-reed instrument made of wood with a nasal, "reedy" timbre. The player blows directly into a double reed (two thin strips of cane bound together), setting them in vibration.

Example: Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker, "Waltz of the Flowers"

octave Interval between two tones seven diatonic pitches apart; the lower note vibrates half as fast as the upper and sounds an octave lower.
ode Secular composition written for a royal occasion, especially popular in England.
offbeat A weak beat or any pulse between the beats in a measured rhythmic pattern.
ondes Martenot Electronic instrument that produces sounds by means of an oscillator.
open ending The first ending in a medieval secular piece, usually cadencing on a pitch other than the final.
open form Indeterminate contemporary music in which some details of a composition are clearly indicated, but the overall structure is left to choice or chance.
opera Music drama that is generally sung throughout, combining the resources of vocal and instrumental music with poetry and drama, acting and pantomime, scenery and costumes.
opera buffa Italian comic opera, sung throughout.
opéra comique French comic opera, with some spoken dialogue.
opera seria Tragic Italian opera.
oral tradition Music that is transmitted by example or imitation and performed from memory.
oral transmission Preservation of music without the aid of written notation.
oratorio Large-scale dramatic genre originating in the Baroque, based on a text of religious or serious character, performed by solo voices, chorus, and orchestra; similar to opera but without scenery, costumes, or action.

A performing group of diverse instruments; in Western art music, an ensemble of multiple string parts with various woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments. The full forces of the nineteenth-century orchestra are heard in this example.

Example: Grieg, Homage March

orchestral bells See chimes.
Ordinary Sections of the Roman Catholic Mass that remain the same from day to day throughout the church year, as distinct from the Proper, which changes daily according to the liturgical occasion.
ordre See suite.

Wind instrument in which air is fed to the pipes by mechanical means; the pipes are controlled by two or more keyboards and a set of pedals. This familiar theme features the pipe organ's keyboards (usually two or more) and pedals (for low pitches, played with the feet).

Example: Bach, Toccata in D minor

organal style Organum in which the Tenor sings the melody (original chant) in very long notes while the upper voices move freely and rapidly above it.
organum Earliest kind of polyphonic music, which developed from the custom of adding voices above a plainchant; they first ran parallel to it at the interval of a fifth or fourth and later moved more freely.
ornamentation See embellishment.

A short melodic, rhythmic, or harmonic pattern that is repeated throughout a work or a section of one.

In this example, a short (four-note) descending pattern in the bass is heard throughout under the voices.

Example: Monteverdi: Lament of the Nymphs

overture An introductory movement, as in an opera or oratorio, often presenting melodies from arias to come. Also an orchestral work for concert performance.

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panpipe Wind instrument consisting of a series of small vertical tubes or pipes of differing length; sound is produced by blowing across the top.
pantomime Theatrical genre in which an actor silently plays all the parts in a show while accompanied by singing; originated in ancient Rome.
part song Secular vocal composition, unaccompanied, in three, four, or more parts.
partita See suite.
pas de deux A dance for two that is an established feature of classical ballet.
passacaglia Baroque form (similar to the chaconne) in moderately slow triple meter, based on a short, repeated base-line melody that serves as the basis for continuous variation in the other voices.
passepied French Baroque court dance type; a faster version of the minuet.
passion Musical setting of the Crucifixion story as told by one of the four Evangelists in the Gospels.
pastorale Pastoral, country-like.
pavane Stately Renaissance court dance in duple meter.
pedal point Sustained tone over which the harmonies change.
penny whistle See tin whistle.
pentatonic scale Five-note pattern used in some African, Far Eastern, and Native American musics; can also be found in Western music as an example of exoticism.
percussion instrument Instrument made of metal, wood, stretched skin, or other material that is made to sound by striking, shaking, scraping, or plucking. The many, varied percussion instruments fall into two basic categories: pitched (such as timpani and xylophone) and unpitched (snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, tambourine).
performance art Multimedia art form involving visual as well as dramatic and musical elements.
perpetuum mobile Type of piece characterized by continuous repetitions of a rhythmic pattern at a quick tempo; perpetual motion.
phasing A technique in which a musical pattern is repeated and manipulated so that it separates and overlaps itself, and then rejoins the original pattern; getting "out of phase" and back "in sync."

Musical unit; often a component of a melody.

This melody divides into four distinct phrases; the first two are similar, the third is contrasting, and the last returns to the opening idea. The melody's four phrases make up a complete musical thought.

Example: Beethoven, Symphony No. 9, fourth movement, "Ode to Joy"


The Italian term for "very soft," indicated in the musical score by the marking "pp."

This work begins very softly (pianissimo) with a flute melody played against a rhythmic accompaniment.

Example: Ravel, Boléro (Opening)


The Italian term for "soft," indicated in the musical score by the marking "p."

This example, featuring clarinet playing the melody, is soft (piano).

Example: Ravel, Boléro


Keyboard instrument whose strings are struck with hammers controlled by a keyboard mechanism; pedals control dampers in the strings that stop the sound when the finger releases the key.

This example features the wide dynamic range and delicate nuances of the piano.

Example: Beethoven, Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 13, (Pathétique), first movement

pianoforte Original name for the piano.
piano quartet Standard chamber ensemble of piano with violin, viola, and cello.
piano quintet Standard chamber ensemble of piano with two violins, viola, and cello.
piano trio Standard chamber ensemble of piano with violin and cello.

The highest member of the orchestra, the piccolo is a little flute whose shrill timbre stands out against the full ensemble.

Example: Sousa, The Stars and Stripes Forever, Trio

pipa A Chinese lute with four silk strings; played as solo and ensemble instrument.

Highness or lowness of a tone, depending on the frequency (rate of vibration).

In this famous example, we hear three repeated pitches or tones, then a leap to a lower pitch, followed by the same sequence starting on another, lower tone.

Example: Beethoven, Symphony No. 5 in C minor, first movement


Performance direction to pluck a string of a bowed instrument with the finger.

In this example, both the melody line and the accompaniment are played pizzicato.

Example: Delibes, Sylvia Suite, "Pizzicato"

plainchant See Gregorian chant.
plainsong See Gregorian chant.
poco A little.
polka Lively Bohemian dance; also a short, lyric piano piece.
polonaise Stately Polish processional dance in triple meter.
polychoral Performance style developed in the late sixteenth century involving the use of two or more choirs that alternate with each other or sing together.
polyharmony Two or more streams of harmony played against each other, common in twentieth-century music.

Two or more melodic lines combined into a multivoiced texture, as distinct from monophonic.

This example features numerous lines combined into a complex musical fabric in which melodic interest is distributed among all the parts.

Example: Mozart, Requiem, "Kyrie eleison"


The simultaneous use of several rhythmic patterns or meters, common in twentieth-century music and in certain African musics.

polytextual Two or more texts set simultaneously in a composition.
polytonality The simultaneous use of two or more keys, common in twentieth-century music.
portative organ Medieval organ small enough to be carried or set on a table, usually with only one set of pipes.
positive organ Small single-manual organ, popular in the Renaissance and Baroque eras.
prelude Instrumental work intended to precede a larger work.
prepared piano Piano whose sound is altered by the insertion of various materials (metal, rubber, leather, and paper) between the strings; invented by John Cage.

Very fast.

This piano work moves at a very fast, almost frenetic, pace.

Example: Chopin, Prelude in B-flat minor, Op. 28, No. 16

program music Instrumental music endowed with literary or pictorial associations, especially popular in the nineteenth century.
program symphony Multimovement programmatic orchestral work, typically from the nineteenth century.
progressive rock See art rock.
Proper Sections of the Roman Catholic Mass that vary from day to day throughout the church year according to the particular liturgical occasion, as distinct from the Ordinary, in which they remain the same.
Psalms Book from the Old Testament of the Bible the 150 psalm texts, used in Jewish and Christian worship, are often set to music.
psaltery Medieval plucked-string instrument similar to the modern zither, consisting of a sound box over which strings were stretched.
punk rock Subgenre of rock popular since the mid-1970s, characterized by loud volume levels, driving rhythms, and simple forms typical of earlier rock and roll; often contains shocking lyrics and offensive behavior.
pure music See absolute music.

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quadrivium Subdivision of the seven liberal arts; includes the mathematical subjects of music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy.
quadruple meter

Basic metrical pattern of four beats to a measure. Also common time.

Quadruple meter gives this famous melody a broad feeling; it has four beats to the measure (with the primary accent on the first beat, and a secondary accent on the third beat).

Example: Beethoven, Symphony No. 9, fourth movement, "Ode to Joy"

quadruple stop Playing four notes simultaneously on a string instrument.
quadruplum Fourth voice of a polyphonic work.
quartal harmony Harmony based on the interval of the fourth as opposed to a third; used in twentieth-century music.
quotation music Music that parodies another work or works, presenting them in a new style or guise.

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reraga Melodic pattern used in music of India; prescribes pitches, patterns, ornamentation, and extramusical associations such as time of performance and emotional character.
ragtime Late-nineteenth-century piano style created by African Americans, characterized by highly syncopated melodies; also played in ensemble arrangements. Contributed to early jazz styles.
range Distance between the lowest and highest tones of a melody, an instrument, or a voice. This span can be generally described as narrow, medium, or wide in range.
rap Subgenre of rock in which rhymed lyrics are spoken over rhythm tracks; developed by African Americans in the 1970s and widely disseminated in the 1980s and 1990s.
rebec Medieval bowed-string instrument, often with a pear-shaped body.
recapitulation Third section of sonata-allegro form, in which the thematic material of the exposition is restated, generally in the tonic. Also restatement.
recitative Solo vocal declamation that follows the inflections of the text, often resulting in a disjunct vocal style; found in opera, cantata, and oratorio.
recorder End-blown woodwind instrument with a whistle mouthpiece, generally associated with early music.
reed Flexible strip of cane or metal set into a mouthpiece or the body of an instrument; set in vibration by a stream of air.
reel Moderately quick dance in duple meter danced throughout the British Isles; the most popular Irish traditional dance type.
refrain Text or music that is repeated within a larger form.
regal Small medieval reed organ.
reggae Jamaican popular music style characterized by offbeat rhythms and chanted vocals over a strong bass part; often associated with the Christian religious movement Rastafarianism.
register Specific area in the range of an instrument or voice.
registration Selection or combination of stops in a work for organ or harpsichord.
relative key The major and minor key that share the same key signature; for example, D minor is the relative minor of F major, both having one flat.
repeat sign Repeat Symbol Musical symbol that indicates repetition of a passage in a composition.

Within a form, repetition fixes the musical material in our mind and satisfies our need for the familiar; it provides unity to a form.

Requiem Mass Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead.
resolution Conclusion of a musical idea, as in the progression from an active chord to a rest chord.
response Short choral answer to a solo verse; an element of liturgical dialogue.
responsorial singing

Singing, especially in Gregorian chant, in which a soloist or a group of soloists alternates with the choir. See also call and response.

In this example of Gregorian chant, a soloist alternates with a choir, who responds by imitating what was just sung.

Example: Gregorian chant, "Kyrie eleison"

restatement See recapitulation.
retrograde Backward statement of melody.
retrograde inversion Mirror image and backward statement of a melody.

The controlled movement of music in time.

In this example, the insistent rhythm drives the music forward and organizes it in time.

Example: Ravel, Boléro

rhythm and blues Popular African-American music style of the 1940s through 1960s featuring a solo singer accompanied by a small instrumental ensemble (piano, guitar, acoustic bass, drums, tenor saxophone), driving rhythms, and blues and pop song forms.
ring shout Religious dance performed by African-American slaves, performed with hand clapping and a shuffle step to spirituals.
ripieno The larger of the two ensembles in the Baroque concerto grosso. Also tutti.

Holding back, getting slower.

This work closes with a stretched-out and gradual slowing of the pace.

Example: Smetana, The Moldau


A short recurring passage that unifies an instrumental or vocal work.

In this example, the opening passage (the ritornello) is followed by a solo section (with harpsichord), after which the ritornello recurs.

Example: Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, first movement

rock and roll American popular music style first heard in the 1950s; derived from the union of African-American rhythm and blues, country-western, and pop music.
rock band Popular music ensemble that depends on amplified strings, percussion, and electronically generated sounds.
romance Originally a ballad; in the Romantic era, a lyric instrumental work.
ronde Lively Renaissance "round dance," associated with the outdoors, in which the participants danced in a circle or a line.
rondeau Medieval and Renaissance fixed poetic form and chanson type with courtly love texts.

Musical form in which the first section recurs, usually in the tonic. In the Classical sonata cycle, it appears as the last movement in various forms, including A-B-A-B-A, A-B-A-C-A, and A-B-A-C-A-B-A.

A sectional form in which the opening section recurs several times to unify the contrasting sections (e.g., A-B-A-C-A). In this excerpt, the opening A section is heard, through its closing cadence.

Example: Mozart; Horn Concerto, K. 447, third movement

roneat-ek Cambodian xylophone with 21 tuned wooden keys.
rosin Substance made from hardened tree sap, rubbed on the hair of a bow to help it grip the strings.
round Perpetual canon at the unison in which each voice enters in succession with the same melody (for example, Row, Row, Row Your Boat).
rounded binary Compositional form with two sections, in which the second ends with a return to material from the first; each section is usually repeated.
rubato "Borrowed time," common in Romantic music, in which the performer hesitates here or hurries forward there, imparting flexibility to the written note values. Also tempo rubato.
rumba Latin-American dance of Afro-Cuban origin, in duple meter with syncopated rhythms.
rural blues American popular singing style with raspy-voiced male singer accompanied by acoustic steel-string guitar; features melodic blue notes over repeated bass patterns.

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sackbut Early brass instrument, ancestor of the trombone.
sacred music Religious or spiritual music, for church or devotional use.
salsa "Spicy"; collective term for Latin-American dance music, especially forms of Afro-Cuban origin.
saltarello Italian "jumping dance," often characterized by triplets in a rapid 4/4 time.
samba Afro-Brazilian dance, characterized by duple meter, responsorial singing, and polyrhythmic accompaniments.
sampler Electronic device that digitizes, stores, and plays back sounds.
Sanctus A section of the Mass; the fourth musical movement of the Ordinary.
sarabande Stately Spanish Baroque dance type in triple meter, a standard movement of the Baroque suite.
sarangi Bowed chordophone from north India with three main strings and a large number of metal strings that vibrate sympathetically.

A woodwind instrument made of metal and sounded with a single reed, the saxophone is a more recent instrument addition to the orchestra.

This example features the tenor saxophone, whose timbre is cool and mellow.

Example: Ravel, Boléro

scale A series of tones or pitches in ascending or descending order. Scale tones are often assigned numbers (1–8) or syllables (do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do).
scat singing A jazz style that sets syllables without meaning (vocables) to an improvised vocal line.
scherzo Composition in A-B-A form, usually in triple meter; replaced the minuet and trio in the nineteenth century.
secco Operatic recitative that features a sparse accompaniment and moves with great freedom.
Second Viennese School Name given to composer Arnold Schoenberg and his pupils Alban Berg and Anton Webern; represents the first efforts in twelve-tone composition.
secular music Nonreligious music; when texted, usually in the vernacular.
semitone Also known as a half step, the smallest interval commonly used in the Western musical system.

Restatement of an idea or motive at a different pitch level.

Here, the familiar motive is restated a number of times beginning on different pitches; thus, it is treated in sequence.

Example: Beethoven, Symphony No. 5 in C minor, first movement

serenade Classical instrumental genre that combines elements of chamber music and symphony, often performed in the evening or at social functions. Related to divertimento and cassation.
serialism Method of composition in which various musical elements (pitch, rhythm, dynamics, tone color) may be ordered in a fixed series. See also total serialism.
seventh chord Four-note combination consisting of a triad with another third added on top; spans a seventh between its lowest and highest tones.
sextuple meter

Compound metrical pattern of six beats to a measure.

Sextuple meter gives this flowing melody a lilting feeling; it has six beats to the measure with accents on the first and fourth beats (1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6). Notice that each beat subdivides into three rather than two.

Example: Handel, Messiah, "O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion"


A sudden stress or accent on a single note or chord, indicated in the musical score by the marking "sf" or "sfz."

This Russian dance features sudden loud accents on certain notes, notated as "sf" or "sforzando."

Example: Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker, "Trepak"

shakuhachi A Japanese end-blown flute.
shamisen Long-necked Japanese chordophone with three strings.
shape note Music notation system originating in nineteenth-century American church music in which the shape of the note heads determines the pitch; created to aid music reading.
sharp sign Musical symbol (#) that indicates raising a pitch by a semitone.
shawm Medieval wind instrument, the ancestor of the oboe.
sheng A reed mouth organ from China.
side drum See snare drum.
simple meter Grouping of rhythms in which the beat is subdivided into two, as in duple, triple, and quadruple .
sinfonia Short instrumental work, found in Baroque opera, to better facilitate scene changes.
Singspiel Comic German drama with spoken dialogue; the immediate predecessor of Romantic German opera.
sitar Long-necked plucked chordophone of northern India, with movable frets and a rounded gourd body; used as solo instrument and with tabla.
ska Jamaican urban dance form popular in the 1960s, influential in reggae.
slide trumpet Medieval brass instrument of the trumpet family.
snare drum

Small cylindrical drum with two heads stretched over a metal shell, the lower head having strings across it; played with two drumsticks. Also side drum.

In this example, the snare drum plays an insistent dance rhythm against the smooth melody.

Example: Ravel, Boléro

soft rock Lyrical, gentle rock style that evolved around 1960 in response to hard-driving rock and roll.
sonata Instrumental genre in several movements for soloist or small ensemble.
sonata-allegro form

The opening movement of the sonata cycle, consisting of themes that are stated in the first section (exposition), developed in the second section (development), and restated in the third section (recapitulation). Also sonata form or first-movement form.

In this example, the first theme (of two principal themes), an exuberant dance tune in D minor, is stated in the exposition, after which the music makes a transition to a new key (F major, in preparation for the second theme).

Example: Haydn, String Quartet, Op. 76, No. 2, fourth movement

sonata cycle General term describing the multimovement structure found in sonatas, string quartets, symphonies, concertos, and large-scale works of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
sonata da camera Baroque chamber sonata, usually a suite of stylized dances. Also chamber sonata.
sonata da chiesa Baroque instrumental work intended for performance in church; in four movements, frequently arranged slow-fast-slow-fast. Also church sonata.
sonata form See sonata-allegro form.
song cycle Group of songs, usually Lieder, that are unified musically or through their texts.
soprano Highest-ranged voice, normally possessed by women or boys.
sousaphone Brass instrument adapted from the tuba with a forward bell that is coiled to rest over the player's shoulder for ease of carrying while marching.
spiritual Folklike devotional genre of the United States, sung by African Americans and whites.
spiritual minimalism Contemporary musical style related to minimalism, characterized by a weak pulse and long chains of lush progressions—either tonal or modal.
Sprechstimme A vocal style in which the melody is spoken at approximate pitches rather than sung on exact pitches; developed by Arnold Schoenberg.
staccato Short, detached notes, marked with a dot above them.
statement See exposition.
stile concitato Baroque style developed by Monteverdi, which introduced novel effects such as rapid repeated notes as symbols of passion.
stile rappresentativo A dramatic recitative style of the Baroque period in which melodies moved freely over a foundation of simple chords.
stopping On a string instrument, altering the string length by pressing it on the fingerboard. On a horn, playing with the bell closed by the hand or a mute.
strain A series of contrasting sections found in rags and marches; in duple meter with sixteen-measure themes or sections.
string family

The members of the string family include two types of instruments: bowed and plucked. The standard bowed string instruments, from highest to lowest, are: violin, viola, cello, and double bass. The harp and guitar are common plucked string instruments. String instruments often play special effects, including: trill, pizzicato, harmonic, and arpeggio. Also chordophone.

The bowed strings (violin, viola, cello, double bass) form the core of the orchestra; they are featured as a group in this excerpt.

Example: Grieg, Peer Gynt Suite, "Ase's Death"

string quartet

The string quartet was one of the most common chamber ensembles. Its makeup is two violins, viola, and cello. Here, the first violin has the melody and the other three instruments provide accompaniment.

Example: Haydn, String Quartet, Op. 76, No. 2, fourth movement

string quintet Standard chamber ensemble made up of either two violins, two violas, and cello or two violins, viola, and two cellos.
string trio Standard chamber ensemble of two violins and cello or violin, viola, and cello.
strophic form Song structure in which the same music is repeated with every stanza (strophe) of the poem.
Sturm und Drang "Storm and stress"; late-eighteenth-century movement in Germany toward more emotional expression in the arts.
style Characteristic manner of presentation of musical elements (melody, rhythm, harmony, dynamics, form, etc.).
subdominant Fourth scale step, fa.
subdominant chord Chord built on the fourth scale step, the IV chord.
subject Main idea or theme of a work, as in a fugue.
suite Multimovement work made up of a series of contrasting dance movements, generally all in the same key. Also partita and ordre.
swing Jazz term coined to described Louis Armstrong's style; more commonly refers to big-band jazz.
syllabic Melodic style with one note to each syllable of text.
symphonic poem One-movement orchestral form that develops a poetic idea, suggests a scene, or creates a mood, generally associated with the Romantic era. Also tone poem.
symphony Large work for orchestra, generally in three or four movements.

Deliberate upsetting of the meter or pulse through a temporary shifting of the accent to a weak beat or an offbeat.

This example features a syncopated rhythm in the melody, with a steady pulse in the accompaniment.

Example: Joplin, The Entertainer

synthesizer Electronic instrument that produces a wide variety of sounds by combining sound generators and sound modifiers in one package with a unified control system.

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tabla Pair of single-headed, tuned drums used in north Indian classical music.
tabor Cylindrical medieval drum.
tag Jazz term for a coda, or a short concluding section.
tala Fixed time cycle or meter in Indian music, built from uneven groupings of beats.

Percussion instrument consisting of a small round drum with metal plates inserted in its rim; played by striking or shaking. In this example it is heard prominently at the repeat of the main melody.

Example: Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker, "Trepak"

tam-tam See gong.
Te Deum Song of praise to God; a text from the Roman Catholic rite, often set polyphonically.
tempo Rate of speed or pace of music. Tempo markings are traditionally given in Italian; common markings include: grave (solemn; very, very slow); largo (broad; very slow); adagio (quite slow); andante (a walking pace); moderato (moderate); allegro (fast; cheerful); vivace (lively); presto (very fast); accelerando (getting faster); ritardando (getting slower); and a tempo (in time; returning to the original pace).
tempo rubato See gong.
tenor Male voice of high range. Also a part, often structural, in polyphony.
tenor drum Percussion instrument, larger than the snare drum, with a wooden shell.
ternary form

Three-part (A-B-A) form based on a statement (A), contrast or departure (B), and repetition (A), Also three-part form.

The structure of this dance is ternary (A-B-A), with an opening melodic idea (played by trumpet), a contrasting idea (heard in the strings and woodwinds), followed by a return of the first idea. The form thus has a logical symmetry and balance.

Example: Mouret, Rondeau

terraced dynamics Expressive style typical of Baroque music in which volume levels shift based on the playing forces used.
tertian harmony Harmony based on the interval of the third, particularly predominant from the Baroque through the nineteenth century.
texture The interweaving of melodic (horizontal) and harmonic (vertical) elements in the musical fabric. Texture is generally described as monophonic (single line), heterophonic (elaboration on a single line), homophonic (single line with accompaniment), or polyphonic (many voiced).
thematic development

Musical expansion of a theme by varying its melodic outline, harmony, or rhythm. Also thematic transformation.

The composer elaborates and varies the opening idea in this example, thus revealing the theme's capacity for growth.

Example: Beethoven, Symphony No. 5 in C minor, first movement

thematic transformation See thematic development.

Melodic idea used as a basic building block in the construction of a composition. Also subject.

This melody, or theme, is one in a series of musical events in this work. The theme is a basic idea out of which subsequent musical events grow.

Example: Brahms, Symphony No. 1, fourth movement

theme and variations

Compositional procedure in which a theme is stated and then altered in successive statements; occurs as an independent piece or as a movement of a sonata cycle.

These excerpts demonstrate the opening theme and a later variation based on a change to the minor mode.

Example: Haydn, Symphony No. 94 (Surprise), third movement, opening theme

Example: Haydn, Symphony No. 94 (Surprise), second movement, second variation

theme group Several themes in the same key that function as a unit within a section of a form, particularly in sonata-allegro form.
third Interval between two notes that are two diatonic scale steps apart.
third stream Jazz style that synthesizes characteristics and techniques of classical music and jazz; term coined by Gunther Schuller.
thorough-bass See figured bass.
three-part form See ternary form.
through-composed Song structure that is composed from beginning to end, without repetitions of large sections.
timbales Shallow, single-headed drums of Cuban origin, played in pairs; used in much Latin-American popular music.
timbre The quality of a sound that distinguishes one voice or instrument from another. Also tone color.
timbrel Ancient percussion instrument related to the tambourine.

Percussion instrument consisting of a hemispheric copper shell with a head of plastic or calfskin, held in place by a metal ring and played with soft or hard padded sticks. A pedal mechanism changes the tension of the head, and with it the pitch. Also kettle-drums.

In this example, the timpani (played in pairs) keeps a strong beat.

Example: Mouret, Rondeau

tin whistle Small metal end-blown flute commonly used in Irish traditional music.
toccata Virtuoso composition, generally for organ or harpsichord, in a free and rhapsodic style; in the Baroque, it often served as the introduction to a fugue.
tom-tom Cylindrical drum without snares.
tone A sound of definite pitch.
tonal Based on principles of major-minor tonality, as distinct from modal.

Principle of organization around a tonic, or home, pitch, based on a major or minor scale.

Tonality is perceived here as a strong pull to the tonic (G); when the melody finally reaches a cadence on this pitch (at the end of this excerpt), there is a sense of finality.

Example: Bach, Minuet in G

tone cluster Highly dissonant combination of pitches sounded simultaneously.
tone color See timbre.
tone poem See symphonic poem.
tone row An arrangement of the twelve chromatic tones that serves as the basis of a twelve-tone composition.

The first note of a scale (the tonic or keynote "do"), which serves as the home base around which the other pitches revolve and to which they ultimately gravitate.

This melody begins and ends on the first note of the scale, the tonic, and revolves around this pitch, providing a strong sense of a home base (tonality).

Example: Beethoven, Symphony No. 9, fourth movement, "Ode to Joy"

tonic chord Triad built on the first scale tone, the I chord.
total serialism Extremely complex, totally controlled music in which the twelve-tone principle is extended to elements of music other than pitch.
traditional music Music that is learned by oral transmission and is easily sung or played by most people; may exist in variant forms. Also folk music.
tragédie lyrique French serious opera of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with spectacular dance scenes and brilliant choruses on tales of courtly love or heroic adventures; associated with J.-B. Lully.
transition See bridge.
transposition Shifting a piece of music to a different pitch level.
tremolo Rapid repetition of a tone; can be achieved instrumentally or vocally.

A common chord type consisting of three pitches built on alternate scale tones of a major or minor scale (e.g., 1 - 3 - 5 or 2 - 4 - 6).

In this example, the opening melody outlines the notes of a major triad (1 - 3 - 5), sounding them one after another rather than simultaneously.

Example: Haydn, Symphony No. 94 (Surprise), second movement


The triangle is a slender rod of steel bent into a three-cornered shape and struck with a steel beater; its sound is bright and tinkling in this march.

Example: Beethoven, Symphony No. 9, "Turkish March"


Ornament consisting of the rapid alternation between one tone and the next above it.

The trumpet plays several trills in this example, generally near the end of phrases.

Example: Mouret, Rondeau

trio sonata Baroque chamber sonata type written in three parts: two melody lines and the basso continuo; requires a total of four players to perform.
triple meter

Basic metrical pattern of three beats to a measure.

This dance movement is set in triple meter, with three beats per measure (alternating one strong and two weak beats (1 - 2 - 3 | 1 - 2 - 3)).

Example: Haydn, Symphony No. 94 (Surprise), third movement

triple-stop Playing three notes simultaneously on a string instrument.
triplet Group of three equal-valued notes played in the time of two; indicated by a bracket and the number 3.
triplum Third voice in early polyphony.
tritonic Three-note scale pattern, used in the music of some sub-Saharan African cultures.
trobairitz Female troubadours, composer-poets of southern France.

The trombone (the Italian word for "large trumpet") features a moveable U-shaped slide that alters the length of the vibrating tube. Its timbre, illustrated here, is rich and full.

Example: Mozart, Requiem, "Tuba mirum"

troubadours Medieval poet-musicians in northern France.

The trumpet is the highest pitched member of the brass family; this example illustrates its clear and brilliant sound.

Example: Mouret, Rondeau

tuba Bass-range brass instrument that changes pitch by means of valves.
tubular bells See chimes.
tutti "All"; the opposite of solo. See also ripieno.
twelve-bar blues Musical structure based on a repeated harmonic-rhythmic pattern that is twelve measures in length (I-I-I-I-IV-IV-I-I-V-V-I-I).
twelve-tone music Compositional procedure of the twentieth century based on the use of all twelve chromatic tones (in a tone row) without a central tone, or tonic, according to prescribed rules.
two-part form See binary form.

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uilleann pipes

Type of bellows-blown bagpipe used in Irish traditional music; bellows are elbow-manipulated.

union pipes See uilleann pipes.
unison Interval between two notes of the same pitch; the simultaneous playing of the same note.

Last beat of a measure, a weak beat, which anticipates the downbeat (the first beat of the next measure).

This expansive melody in quadruple meter begins on the last beat (4) of the measure, anticipating the strong downbeat ( 4 | 1 - 2 - 3 - 4).

Example: Brahms, Symphony No. 1, fourth movement

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Short passage with simple rhythm and harmony that introduces a soloist in a jazz performance.


A formal principle in which some aspects of the music are altered but the original is still recognizable; it falls between repetition and contrast.

Here, a familiar melody is varied by a change of harmony (from major to minor) and by altering the rhythm, yet it is still recognizable.

Example: Haydn, Symphony No. 94 (Surprise), second movement

verismo Operatic "realism," a style popular in Italy in the 1890s, which tried to bring naturalism into the lyric theater.
verse In poetry, a group of lines constituting a unit. In liturgical music for the Catholic Church, a phrase from the Scriptures that alternates with the response.
Vespers One of the Divine Offices of the Roman Catholic Church, held at twilight.
vibraphone A percussion instrument with metal bars and electrically driven rotating propellers under each bar that produces a vibrato sound, much used in jazz.
vibrato Small fluctuation of pitch used as an expressive device to intensify a sound.
vielle Medieval bowed-string instrument; the ancestor of the violin.
Viennese School Title given to the three prominent composers of the classical era: Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.
viola Bowed-string instrument of middle range; the second-highest member of the violin family.
viola da gamba Family of Renaissance bowed-string instruments that had six or more strings, was fretted like a guitar, and was held between the legs like a modern cello.

The violin's four strings are set in vibration (usually one at a time) by drawing a bow across them with the right hand while the fingers of the left hand stop the strings, changing its vibrate length and thus the pitch .

This example illustrates the brilliance and agility of the violin.

Example: Haydn, String Quartet, Op. 76, No. 2, fourth movement


Bowed-string instrument with a middle-to-low range and dark, rich sonority; lower than a viola. Also cello.

virelai Medieval and Renaissance fixed poetic form and chanson type with French courtly texts.
virtuoso Performer of extraordinary technical ability.


The pace of this Russian dance is very lively.

Example: Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker, "Trepak"

vocable Nonlexical syllables, lacking literal meaning.
vocalise A textless vocal melody, as in an exercise or concert piece.

The standard voice types, from highest to lowest, are: (female) soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto; (male) tenor, baritone, and bass.

In this excerpt, the standard choral voice parts enter from lowest to highest (basses, tenors, altos, sopranos).

Example: Handel, Messiah, "Hallelujah" Chorus

volume Degree of loudness or softness of a sound. See also dynamics.

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Ballroom dance type in triple meter; in the Romantic era, a short, stylized piano piece.

West Coast jazz Jazz style developed in the 1950s, featuring small groups of mixed timbres playing contrapuntal improvisations; similar to cool jazz.
whole step Interval consisting of two half steps, or semitones.
whole-tone scale Scale pattern built entirely of whole-step intervals, common in the music of the French Impressionists.
wind ensemble See concert band.

The woodwind family is less homogeneous in construction and sound production than the strings; it includes the piccolo, flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, and bassoon. The saxophone is a more recent woodwind instrument that is frequently heard in jazz.

The woodwind family, including flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and contrabassoon, are featured in this march (along with percussion and with French horns, which blend well with woodwinds).

Example: Beethoven, Symphony No. 9, fourth movement, "Turkish March"

woodwind quintet Standard chamber ensemble consisting of one each of the following: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and French horn (not a woodwind instrument).
word painting Musical pictorialization of words from the text as an expressive device; a prominent feature of the Renaissance madrigal.
work song Communal song that synchronized group tasks.
world beat Collective term for popular third-world musics, ethnic and traditional musics, and eclectic combinations of Western and non-Western musics. Also ethno-pop.

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The xylophone, a pitched percussion instrument of African origin, consists of tuned blocks of wood laid out in the shape of a keyboard.

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yangqin A Chinese hammered dulcimer with a trapezoidal sound box and metal strings that are struck with bamboo sticks.

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zither Family of string instruments with sound box over which strings are stretched; they may be plucked or bowed. Zithers appear in many shapes and are common in traditional music throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa.

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