A. (1) The first letter of the musical alphabet. (2) The note from which the orchestra is tuned.
Ab (G). Off. Used in organ music.
Abandon (F). Freely, without restraint.
A battuta (I). With the beat, in strict time
Abellimenti (I). Embellishments, ornaments.
Abbreviations. Shortened forms of writing music. The chief ones are: (a) slash through the stem of a note means play an equal duration of eighth notes, (b) two slashes indicate sixteenths, three indicate thirty seconds, etc. (c) slashes through an octave chord indicate to alternate the notes of the octave. (d) one or more large percent signs following a series of notes means to repeat the same thing (e) the word "segue" written above or below a chord means to play it broken.
Abendmusik (G). Evening music.
Abnehmend (G). Diminishing.
Abschnitt (G). Section.
Absolute music. Music free from extra-musical implications; opposite of program music.
Absolute Pitch. See Perfect Pitch.
Abstract music. same as Absolute music.
Abstrich (G). Downbow.
Abzug (G). Scordatura.
Acalanto (P). Brazilian cradle song.
A capélla (I). With no accompaniment.
A capriccio (I). In a fanciful or capricious style.
Accelerando (I). Getting faster.
Accent. Emphasis on a particular musical beat or sub-beat.
Acciccatura (I). A very short grace note played simultaneously on the beat with the main note and released quickly.
Accidentals. Sharps, flats, and naturals other than those in the key signature which are written in the body of the music.
Accompaniment. A part or parts written, not to stand alone, but to embellish and assist the principal part.
Accopiato (I). Tied.
Accordatura (I). The set of pitches that one uses in tuning a stringed instrument.
Accordion. An instrument made of two endpieces connected by bellows. The end pieces contain reeds which produce the sound. Usually the right endpiece is configured as a piano keyboard and the left endpiece is configured with buttons that produce bass notes and chords. See also: Concertina, Bosca Ceoil.
Accordo (I). Chord.
Accusé (F). with emphasis.
Achromatic. Not chromatic, e.g. diatonic.
Achtel (G). Eighth note or quaver.
Acoustics. (1) The physics of sound. (2) The physical characteristics of a chamber which affect the perception of the sound produced therein.
Action. (1) Mechanical device for transferring the forces produced elsewhere (on an instrument) to the parts that produce the sound. (2) The mechanism on a harp which articulates with the foot pedals and shortens the effective vibrating length of the strings.
Adagietto (I). A bit faster than Adagio.
Adagio (I). Slow and expressive.
Adagíssimo (I). Extremely Slow.
Adaptation. Arrangement made to take advantage of the characteristics of a different instrument from that for which the piece was originally written.
Added sixth. The addition of a sixth to a triad, heard often in contemporary and popular music.
Ad libitum (L). At the discretion of the performer , improvised.
A due (I). Direction that two instruments notated on one staff should unison. However, the term is also used to mean divisi.
Aeolian (Gr). A scale where the half tones occur between 2 and 3, and 5 and 6.
Aeolian harp. An stringed instrument activated by a current of air.
Aequalstimmen (G). The eight-foot pipes of an organ.
Aerophones. Wind instruments.
Aerophor. Device invented to provide additional air for wind instruments when the breath would not suffice.
Affibile (I). Gentle.
Affannato (I). Sad, in distress
Affannoso (I). Anxious.
Affettuoso (I). Tender, passionate.
Afflito (I). Afflicted, sad.
Affrettando (I). making haste.
Agevole (I). Smooth.
Agiatamente (I). Relaxed, easily.
Agitato (I). Agitated.
Agogic accent. A stress which is perceived solely because of prolongation of duration, not due to increased volume or pitch variation.
Agréments (F). embellishments, ornamentation.
Air. Tune. See Aria.
Akathistos (Gr). Famous Byzantine hymn to the virgin.
Akoluthia (Gr). Order of service of the Byzantine church.
Akzent (G). Accent.
Al, a la. at the, to the.
Alberti Bass. A bass line in broken or arpeggiated chords.
Albumblatt (G). A short and simple piece.
Al fine (I). To the end.
Alla all' (I). After the manner of.
Alla breve (I). A duple tempo in which the half note gets the beat.
Allargando (I). Getting slower and broadening.
Allegretto (I). Light and breezy tempo, not as fast as Allegro.
Allegro (I). Quick, lively tempo.
Allemande (F). A German dance in 2/4, 3/4, or slow 4.
Allentando (I). Getting slower.
Alphorn. Primitive horn used in the alps.
Alt (I). Pitches appearing above the lines of the treble staff.
Altered Chord. See Harmonic Analysis.
Alto (I). (1) Lower range of the female voice. (2) The second part from the top.
Alto Clef. A clef where C is the third line on the staff. See viola clef.
Ambitus (L). The range of melodies of Gregorian chant.
Am Frosch (G). Bow near the nut or frog.
Am Griffbrett (G). Bow nearer to the fingerboard.
Am Steg (G). Bow nearer to the bridge.
Anacrusis (Gr). Upbeat.
Ancia (I). Reed.
Anche (F). Reed organ stop.
Ancora (I). Encore, again.
Andacht (G). Devotion.
Andante (I). Moderate walking tempo.
Andantino (I). (1) Andante tempo except just a bit slower. (2) A short piece in andante tempo.
Anfang (G). To the top; see da Capo.
Anglaise (F). English country dance.
Angoscioso (I). Sorrowful, agrieved.
Anhemitonic. Whole-tone scale.
Anima (I). Spirit or life.
Animato (I). Animated.
Anlaufen (G). To get louder.
Anmutig (G). Graceful.
Anonymous (L). Of unknown authorship.
Anreissen (G). A forceful attack on the strings (of violin or other stringed instrument).
Ansatz. (G) Embrouchure or position of vocal mechanism.
Anschlag. (G) Touch (in piano).
Anschwellend. (G) Crescendo, swelling.
Answer. In a fugue, the second statement of the theme; otherwise a part that resolves a theme.
Antara. Quechua name for the panpipe. Also known as zampoña, rondador, capador.
Antecedent. The theme of a fugue or canon; the first part of a musical cycle.
Anthem. A choral composition with a religious text.
Anticipation. Moving some parts toward musical resolution before others.
Antico (L). Antique, old.
Antienne (F). Antiphon.
Antiphon(e) (Gr). Responsive singing or chanting.
Antwort (G). Answer.
Anvil. Instrument comprised of steel bars, played by striking with a wooden or metal beater.
Anwachsend (G). Crescendo.
Aperto (I). Open.
A piacere (I). At pleasure.
A poco (I). Bit by bit, gradually.
Appassionato (I). Passionately.
Appenato (I). Suffering, pained or greived.
Appoggiando (I). Supporting, very legato.
Appoggiatura (I). An ornemental note leading to the primary note that follows it. A discordant note used where one would expect a harmonious one.
Arabesque (F). A casual piece.
Arcato (I). Bowed.
Archet, archetto, arco. Bow.
Archlute. A lute with two separate pegboxes, one for the fingered strings and one for the basses or drones.
Arcicembalo, arciorgano. Microtonic instrument of the 16th century having multiple manuals and at least 18 keys per octave.
Ardente (I). Ardent, fiery.
Ardito (I). Bold.
Ardore (I). with ardor.
Aria (I). Air. Elaborate composition for one or two solo voices, and accompaniment.
Aria buffa (I). A comic aria.
Arietta (I). A smaller aria, usually of AB form.
Arioso (I). Lyric Recitatif.
Armure (F). Key Signature.
Arpa (I). Harp.
Arpeggiando, arpeggiato (I). Harp-like; arpeggio.
Arpeggio (I). Chord wherein the tones are struck in sequence, rather than together, and usually sustained.
Articulation. Enunciation clarity and phrasing in a vocal/instrumental performance.
Art song. A song of serious artistic intent, as distinct from a folk song.
Assai (I). Very.
Assez (F). Enough.
Atem (G). Breath.
Atempause (G). Very short rest, used for articulation and phrasing. Sometimes expressed by an apostrophe.
A tempo (I). Return to the preceding tempo.
Atonal. Used to describe a composition without a tonal center.
Attacca (I). Continue without pausing between segments.
Attack. The style of starting phrases.
Aubade (F). Morning music.
Aufgeregt (G). Excited.
Aufsatz (G). Tube of an organ pipe.
Aufschnitt (G). Mouth of an organ pipe.
Aufstrich (G). Upbow.
Auftakt (G). Upbeat.
Augmentation. Making the notes longer.
Augmented intervals. Intervals which are one semitone larger than major or perfect.
Ausdruck (G). Expression.
Aushalten (G). Sustain.
Auslosung (G). on a piano, the escapement.
Ausweichung (G). Modulation.
Autoharp (G). Instrument of the zither family.