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Musical Terms and Glossary

Musical Notes

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There are probably thousands of different terms and words used in music throughout the world. Various composers and music writers may use these terms in different ways. We've tried to take the most used terms and give some basic definitions here. Many of the music terms listed below come from the Italian language. That is because Italy was where many of these terms were first introduced.

List of Musical Terms:

A cappella - singing without any instruments

Adagio - slow

Allegro - to play music brisk and happily, sometimes fast

Alto - high pitched, an alto voice is lower than a soprano, but higher than a tenor

Andante - moderate tempo or pace of music

Arpeggio - notes of a one chord are played quickly, one after the other.

Bass - low, the lowest of the voices and the lowest part of the harmony

Bravura - to play music boldly

Bridge - the part of a song that transitions between two main parts

Capo - the beginning

Chord - when three or more notes are played at the same time. There are many different types of chords or combinations of notes that can be played in music.

Coda - the end, tail, or closing section of a song

Common time - this is a typical beat of 4 beats per measure. Many songs have this timing and it is indicated by a "C" or haft circle.

Crescendo - growing steadily louder

Dissonance - a combination or quality of sounds that sound unstable

Dolce - to play a piece of music sweetly

Forte - to play music loudly or strongly

Harmony - when several notes or chords come together to create a certain sound.

Improvisation - making up the song or melody as you play

Key - a musical key is when the notes of a song are centered around a certain note or class of notes that sound "right" when played.

Legato - to play music smoothly, to blend notes together

Lento - slowly

Measure - the period or time frame of song that has the entire timing. The measure is then repeated over and over during the song.

Meter - a pattern of strong and soft beats throughout the music

Octave - In music, an octave has all notes (A,B,C,D,E,F,G) as well as their sharps and flats included. This octave is repeated in both higher and lower pitches. So the next higher A note, after the note you are playing, is considered one octave higher.

Pizzicato - when you pluck the strings on a stringed instrument, rather than playing them with a bow

Score - this is the written down version of music. Generally for a complex piece that shows the music for a number of musical instruments.

Solo - played by a single musical instrument or voice

Sonata - a song written for one or more instruments playing solo

Soprano - the highest of the singing voices

Sotto voce - quietly

Staccato - when each music note is played sharply and by itself.

Stanza - the verse of a song

Tempo - timing or speed of the music

Tenor - a range of voice that is between the bass and the alto.

Vibrato - the repeating changing of the pitch of a note

Music Notes

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