GLOSSARY for Music Appreciation

by Judy Cervetto Hedberg



Absolute Music:  music that has no story.

A Cappella:  without accompaniment, voices along.

Accompagnato:  accompanied, a recitative that is accompanied by strings and harpsichord.

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 associated with drugs, heavy amplification, improvisation, new sound technologies, and light shows.

Adagio:  slow.

Additive Meter:  patterns of beats that subdivide into smaller, irregular groups, for example, 2+3+2+3=10.

Aerophone:  instrument that produces sound by using air, flute, whistle or horn.

Agnus Dei:  a section of the Mass, the final movement of the Ordinary.

Alba:  a troubadour morning or dawn song, describing the longing of lovers who have to part.

Alberti bass:  a broken triad figuration, created by playing the notes in this order:  lowest, highest, middle, highest. 

Aleatory:  chance music.

Allegro:  fast.

Allemande:  German dance in moderate duple time, popular during the Renaissance and Baroque era.

Alto:  low female voice, sometimes called contralto.

Andante:  walking.

Antiphonal:  performance style which features ensembles divided into two or more groups performing in alternation and then together like stereo.

Antique Cymbals:  small disks of brass, held by the player one in each hand, that are struck together gently and allowed to vibrate.

Aria:  a lyric song for solo voice with accompaniment expressive emotion.

Arioso:  (Especially in opera and oratorio) vocal music that is more melodic than recitative but less formal than an aria. 

Arpeggiate:  play (a chord) as a series of ascending or descending notes.

Arpeggios:  broken chord.

Ars Nova:  14th century French polyphonic musical style.

Art Rock:  genre of rock that uses larger forms and more complex harmonies, sometimes a quote from classical music.

Atonal:  music with no tonal center.


Bagpipe:  wind instrument popular in Eastern and Western Europe that features a sustained drone and melody notes.

Ballade:  a one movement piano piece.

Ballate:  plural of Ballata:  a 14th-century Italian verse form composed of stanzas beginning and ending with a refrain, often set to music and accompanied by dancing. 

Ballet:  a dance form featuring a staged presentation with music, costumes, and scenery.

Band:  name given to a variety of ensembles that feature woodwinds and percussion instruments.

Baritone:  similar to the second soprano for male voices in that this voice is in between the tenor and bass voice.

Baroque:  the era from 1600-1750.

Baryton:  a large string instrument similar to the bass viola da gamba but equipped with two sets of strings.   

Bass:  low male voice.

Basso Continuo:  Italian word meaning "continuous bass" used in Baroque musical scores indicating the bass line to be played by a cello and a harpsichord.

Bebop:  complex jazz style developed in the 1940s.

Bell Tree:  long stick with bells suspended from it, adopted from Janissary music.

Bent Pitch:  a slight drop of pitch on the 3rd, 5th, or 7th degree of the scale.

Bell Canto:  "Beautiful singing" in Italian, vocal style popular during the Romantic era.

Binary Form:  two part musical form: A B.

Blues:  African-American form of popular folk music based on a simple repetitive poetic musical structure consisting of the first two lines exactly the same and the final line different.

Bodhran:  hand held frame drum with a single oatskin head, used in Irish music.

Bongo:  a pair of small drums of differing pitches, held between the legs and struck with both hands.

Bossa Nova:  Brazilian dance related to the samba, popular in 50s and 60s.

Bourrée:   a traditional French dance in fast duple time, resembling a gavotte. 

Break:  jazz term for a short improvised solo without accompaniment that breaks an ensemble passage or introduces an extended solo.

Branle:  fast French dance of the Renaissance.

Brass:  trumpet, French horn, trombone, tuba.

Bridge:  a transitional passage connecting two sections of a composition.

Burgundian Chanson:  15th century French composition, for 3 voices, sometimes uses instruments along with the voice parts.


Cacce:  plural of Caccia:  a 14th-century Italian vocal form for two voices in canon plus an independent tenor, with a text describing the hunt or the cries and noises of village life.

Cadence:  resting place.

Cadenza:  solo passage in the manner of an improvisation, performed near the end of an aria or a concerto.

Cakewalk:  syncopated, strutting dance of 19th 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.

Canon:  type of polyphonic composition in which one musical part imitates another at a fixed interval.

Canso:  the most common troubadour song style, consisting of three parts.

Cantabile:  songful.

Cantata:  a vocal form of the Baroque that was originally meant for the Lutheran service.

Cantus Firmus:  fixed voice.

Castrato:  castrated male singer during the 17th and 18th century.

Cassation:  classical instrumental genre often performed outdoors.

Celesta:  percussion instrument resembling a small upright piano, with tuned metal plates truck by hammers operated by a keyboard.

Cello:  a bowed stringed instrument of the violin family.  Range:: more than four octaves upwards from C below the bass staff.   It has four strings, is held between the knees, and has an extendible metal spike at the lower end, which acts as a support.

Cembalo:  Italian word for keyboard.

Chaconne:  a Baroque form similar to the passacaglia (variations are based on a short repeated bass line), in which the variations are based on a repeated chord progression.

Chamber music:  consists of a small group of up to about ten players, with one player to a part as opposed to symphony with several instruments to a part.

Chanson:  lyric-driven French song, usually polyphonic and secular.

Chant:  sacred vocal music in a monophonic texture.

Character piece:  a short, simple piece, usually for piano, of a type developed chiefly during the 19th century, often of a descriptive or seemingly improvisatory character. 

Chitarrone:  a large lute with a double neck in common use during the baroque period, especially in Italy.

Choir:  traditionally a smaller group of singers, often connected with a church.

Chorale:  a slow, stately hymn tune, especially of the Lutheran Church.   

Chord:  three or more tones sounding at the same time.

Chordophones:  musical instruments that produce sound by a vibrating string or strings.

Chorus:  a fairly large body of singers who perform together usually in several parts.

Chromatic:  use of half steps.

Cimbalom:  a musical instrument of the Hungarian Gypsies, dating back to the Orient and the Middle East.

Clausula:  an ornamented cadence esp. in early Renaissance music.

Clavecin:  the French word for keyboard.

Clavichord:  a keyboard instrument consisting of a number of thin wire strings struck from below by brass tangents. The instrument is noted for its delicate tones, since the tangents do not rebound from the string until the key is released. 

Clavier, Klavier:  the German word for keyboard.

Claves:  a Cuban clapper consisting of two solid hardwood sticks, used in Latin American music.

Clef Sign:  a symbol that denotes pitch.

Coloratura Soprano:  the soprano with the greatest agility, she can sing the most difficult melodies.

Coda:  ending.

Computer Music:  a type of electro-acoustic music in which computers assist in creating works through sound synthesis and manipulation.

Concert Band:  sometimes called a wind ensemble, features winds, brass and percussion instruments (no strings). 

Concertina:  small free reed bellows operated instrument similar to an accordion with button keys.

Concertino:  the small group of soloists in a concerto grosso. 

Concerto:  instrumental genre in several movements for solo instrument with orchestral accompaniment.

Concerto Grosso:  a Baroque instrumental composition that features a small group (concertino) with a large group (tutti).

Conjunct motion:  progressing melodically by intervals of a second. 

Consonance:  pleasing sounds.

Consort:  a small group of musicians performing together, typically playing instrumental music of the Renaissance period.

Continuo:  the bass lines of a Baroque composition played by a cello and a harpsichord.

Continuous Imitation:  voices imitating one another.

Contralto (alto):  lowest female voice type; lowest pitched female voice with a range of g to e’’.

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.

Cornetto:  a woodwind instrument of the 16th and 17th centuries, typically curved with finger holes and a cup-shaped mouthpiece.

Counterpoint:  two or more melodies at the same time.

Countertenor:  male voice with alto pitch.

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:  an old, lively French dance with running steps, or the music for this.

Crumhorn:  a Renaissance woodwind with a double reed and a curving tube (crooked horn).

Cubism:  the Paris based style of painting used in the work of Picasso, which encouraged the painter to construct a visual world in terms of geometric patterns.


Da Capo:  return to the beginning.

Da Capo Aria:  lyric song in ternary (A B A) form usually found in operas, cantatas, or oratorios.

Dadaism:  Dadaism was founded in Switzerland and after 1918 spread to other major art centers. The Dadaists reached to the horrors of the bloodbath that had engulfed Europe, rejected the concept of Art with a capital A (something to be put on a pedestal and admired). They produced works of absolute absurdity.

Descort:  a troubadour song of disagreement, emphasized by unusual metric structures and irregular rhymes.

Development:  second section of sonata form that moves through several keys.

Dholak:  north Indian hand drum.

Disco:  commercial dance music popular in the 1970s, characterized by strong percussion usually in 4/4 meter.

Disjunct motion:  progressing melodically by intervals larger than a major second.

Dissonance:  displeasing sounds.

Divertimenti (Divertimento): a light and entertaining composition, typically one in the form of a suite for chamber orchestra. 

Dodecaphonic:  Greek for 12 tone.

Dominant:  the 5th scale step.

Double Exposition:  in a concerto, the themes stated by the orchestra followed by the solo instrument.

Double Stops:  to play (two notes or parts) simultaneously on a violin or related instrument by drawing the bow over two strings.

Dulcimer:  a musical instrument with a sounding board or box, typically trapezoidal in shape, over which strings of graduated length are stretched, played by being struck with handheld hammers.  

Duration:  how long a tone sounds.

Dynamics:  degrees of loudness and softness.


Écossaise:   a country dance in duple time. 

Electrophones:  musical instruments that produce sound by electrical means.

Empfindsamkeit:  German word for "sensitive" style of the rococo.

Ensemble (musical):  a small group of musicians playing or singing together. 

Entega:  tuned drum from Uganda.

Erhu:  bowed, two string fiddle from China.

Estampida:  medieval dance song that takes vigor in singing.

Estampie:  troubadour dance song.

Ethnomusicology:  comparative study of musics of the world, with a focus on the cultural context of music.

Étude:  a study piece that usually focuses on a particular technical problem.

Exposition:  the opening section of a sonata form where the themes are stated.

Expressionism:  the German answer to French Impressionism. The composer must dig down to the depths of his or her soul.


Falsetto:  a form of vocal production used by male singers to extend their range upwards beyond its natural compass by limiting the vibration of the vocal cords.

Fanfare:  A short, lively, loud, militaristic composition usually composed for brass instruments and timpani.

Fantasia:  any musical composition of a free or improvisatory nature. 

Film Music:  music that serves either as background or foreground for a film.

Flauto Piccolo:  Italian, little flute, an octave flute.

Flutter Tonguing:  wind instrument technique in which the tongue is fluttered or trilled against the roof of the mouth.

Forte:  loud.

Fret:  a small bar of metal across the fingerboard of a musical instrument; when the string is stopped by a finger at the metal bar it will produce a note of the desired pitch.

Frottole:  Italian popular secular song.

Fugue:  the highest form of counterpoint.

Fusion:  style that combines jazz improvisation with amplified instruments of rock.

Futurism:  an Italian movement that attracted musicians who aspired to an "art of noise" that foreshadowed the music of Edgard Varèse and the electronic music in the 1950s.


Gagaku:  traditional court music of Japan.

Gamelan:  musical ensemble of Java or Bali, made up of gongs, chimes, metallophones, and drums.

Gavotte:  a medium-paced French dance, popular in the 18th century. 

Gesamtkunstwerk:  German for "total artwork" a term used by Richard Wagner to describe the synthesis of all the arts (music, poetry, drama, visual spectacle) in his late operas.

Gigue:  a lively piece of music in the style of a dance, typically of the Renaissance or baroque period, and usually in compound time.

Glissandos:  a rapid series of ascending or descending notes on the musical scale.

Glitter Rock:  theatrical flamboyant rock style popular in the 1970s.

Glockenspiel:  a percussion instrument consisting of a set of tuned metal plates played with a pair of small hammers. 

Gospel Music:  20th century sacred music style associated with Protestant African Americans.

Grave:  very slow.

Grunge Rock:  contemporary Seattle based rock style characterized by harsh guitar chords, hybrid of punk rock and heavy metal.

Guitarron:  a small-scaled acoustic bass guitar.


Habanera:  moderate duple meter dance of Cuban origin with a characteristic rhythmic figure.

Harmonics:  lightly touching string to produce overtones of a note.

Harmonium:  a musical instrument similar to an organ in which the sound is made by pumping air with your hands or feet.

Harmony:  simultaneous sounding tones.

Harpsichord:  keyboard instrument where the strings are plucked.

Heavy Metal:  rock style that gained popularity in the 1970s, characterized by simple, receptive ideas and loud, distorted instrumental solos.

Heterophonic:  two or more people elaborating the same melody at the same time.

Homophonic:  melody and harmony.

Homorhythmic Texture:  in which all voices move together in the same rhythm, as in a hymn.

Hyperinstruments:  a term coined by its inventor Tod Machover to describe a technology that uses smart computers to augment music playing virtuosity.


Idée Fixe:  "Fixed Idea" recurring musical idea that links different movements of a work.

Idiophones:  musical instruments that produce sound by the instrument as a whole vibrating.

Imitation:  a texture in which a melodic idea is presented in one voice and then restated in another voice.

Impromptu:  a piece without prior organization, more like: an improvisation. 

Improvisation:  creates a new melodic idea every time as opposed to an idea being precomposed and written down.

Incidental Music:  music written to accompany dramatic works, for example, plays.

Intermezzo:  a piece that originally was inserted between another work.

Interval:  the distance from one note to another note.

Irish Harp:  plucked string instrument with about 30 strings.


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.

Jazz:  a musical style created mainly by African Americans in the early 20th century that blended elements drawn from African music with the popular and art traditions of the West.

Jia Hua:  literally "adding flowers" an embellishment style in Chinese music using various ornamental figures.

Jig (Gigue):  any of several lively springy dances in triple rhythm. 

Jongleurs:  traveling musicians during the medieval era.

Jota:  a type of Spanish dance song characterized by a quick triple meter and guitar and castanets accompaniment.


Karaoke:  "empty orchestra" popular nightclub style from Japan where customers sing the melody to accompanying prerecorded tracks.

Klangfarbenmelodie:  20th century technique in which the notes of a melody are distributed among different instruments, giving a pointilistic texture.


Latin Rock:  sub-genre of rock featuring Latin and African percussion instruments.

Legato:  in a smooth, flowing manner, without breaks between notes.

Leitmotif:  a tune that is repeated several times in a piece of music and represents a particular character or situation.

Libretto:  text of an opera.

Lied:  German for song, a solo song accompanied by piano.

Lute:  a plucked string instrument of Middle Eastern origin with a more rounded back than a guitar. 

Lyric Soprano:  this soprano sings the most melodic melodies.


Madrigal:  secular vocal form in the "mother tongue" or language of the people.

Magnificat:  a Baroque vocal form in praise of the Virgin Mary.

Mambo:  dance of Afro-Cuban origin with a characteristic 4/4 meter rhythmic pattern.

March:  a selection in quadruple or duple time. 

Mariachi:  traditional Mexican ensemble popular throughout the country, consisting of trumpets, violins, guitar, and bass guitar.

Masque:  a type of play that was performed in the 16th and 17th centuries by actors wearing masks.

Mass:  rite of the Catholic Church.

Mazurka:  a Polish dance in triple meter. 

Mbube:  "lion" a cappella choral singing style of South African Zulusk featuring call and response patterns, close knit harmonies and syncopation.

Melisma:  a group of notes sung to one syllable of text.

Melody:  an organized succession of tones.

Membranophones:  musical instruments that produce sound by a vibrating stretched membrane.

Meter:  the rhythmic structure of the music:  the patterns of accents heard in regularly recurring measures of stressed and unstressed beats at the frequency of the music's pulse

Mezzo-soprano:  not the high vocal range of the soprano; a female voice normally with a range of a to f#’’.

Micropolyphonic:  20th century technique encompassing the complex interweaving of all musical elements.

Microtone:  musical interval smaller than a half step.

MIDI:  Musical Instrument Digital Interface, technology standard that allows networking of computers with electronic musical instrumental.

Minimalist Music:  contemporary musical style featuring the repetition of short melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic patterns with little variation.

Minnesingers:  traveling musicians during the medieval era.

Minuet:  a stately court dance of the 17th and 18th centuries in triple time. 

Modal:  characterizes music that is based on modes other than Major and minor, e.g., Medieval and Renaissance church modes.

Modernisme:  the Catalan equivalent to Symbolism and Art Nouveau from about 1888 to 1911.

Modulation:  change of key.

Minuet and Trio:  an A B A form in 3/4 times, often the third movement of the classic symphony.

Monodic:  having a single vocal part.

Monophonic:  melody alone.

Motet:  sacred vocal form.

Motive:  short melodic or rhythmic idea.

Movement:  complete, self-contained part within a larger musical work.

MTV:  acronym for Music Television, a cable channel that presents nonstop music videos.

Music Drama:  Wagner's term for his operas.

Musique Contrète:  music made up of natural sounds and sound effects that are recorded and then manipulated electronically.

Mute:  to make the sound of a musical instrument softer and less loud, especially by using a mute.


Naker:  a small drum, of Arabic origin, and the forebear of the European kettledrum.

New Age:  style of popular music of the 1980s-1990s characterized by soothing timbres and receptive forms that are subjected to shifting variation technique.

New Orleans Jazz:  early jazz style characterized by multiple improvisations in an ensemble of cornet, clarinet, trombone, piano, string bass, banjo, and drums with a repertory that included blues, ragtime, and popular songs.

New Wave:  sub-genre 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.

Nocturne:  "night piece" one movement character piece usually for piano.


Octave:  eight.

Ondes Martenot:  an electronic keyboard instrument in which the frequency of an oscillator is varied to produce separate musical notes.

Opera:  music drama.

Oratorio:  a Baroque vocal form that resembles an opera in length, but has no staging, scenery, or costumes.

Orchestra:  performing group usually consisting of strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussion; sometimes performing groups use orchestra in their name, e.g., New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra.

Organum:  sacred vocal music, the first type of polyphonic music.

Ostinato:   (Italian for obstinate) is a short musical pattern that is repeated continually throughout a composition or a section of a composition.

Overture:  an instrumental number which usually comes before the singing and sets the mood of the opera.


Passacaglia:  an instrumental musical composition consisting of variations usually on a ground bass in moderately slow triple time. 

Passepied:  a spirited dance in triple meter, popular in France and England in the 1600s and 1700s, resembling a minuet but faster.

Passion:  a Baroque vocal form that present the story of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Percussion:  those instruments that are struck and fall into two groups: definite pitch, and indefinite pitch.

Part Song:  secular vocal composition, unaccompanied, in three, four, or more parts.

Pentatonic Scale:  five note pattern used in some African, Far Eastern, and Native American music.

Pianissimo:  music (to be performed) very quietly.

Piano:  keyboard instrument perfected in c. 1820.

Piano Roll:  a roll of perforated paper that controls the movement of the keys in a player piano or similar instrument, so producing a particular melody.

Pianoforte:  original name for the piano.

Pitch:  highness or lowness of a tone.

Pipa:  a Chinese lute with 4 silk strings played as solo and ensemble instrument.

Pizzicato:  plucking the strings with a finger.

Pointillism:  a style of art in which paintings are created using very small spots of pure colors  that blend in the viewer's eye; developed by Georges Seurat and his followers late in 19th century France. 

Polka:  a dance in quadruple time. 

Polonaise:  stately Polish dance in triple meter.

Polyphonic:  two or more melodies at the same time.

Polyrhythm:  two or more rhythms at the same time.

Prelude:  one movement character piece usually for piano intended to precede a larger work, e.g., Bach, Prelude and Fugue.

Prepared Piano:  piano whose sound is altered by the insertion of various materials between the strings, invented by John Cage.

Primary Triads:  the I or tonic, IV or subdominant, and V or dominant triads in a Major or minor key.

Program Music:  music that tells a story.

Psaltery:  an ancient and medieval musical instrument like a dulcimer but played by plucking the strings with the fingers or a plectrum.

Pulse:  beat.

Punk Rock:  sub genre of rock popular since the mid 1970s characterized by loud volume levels, driving rhythms, and simple forms typical or earlier rock and roll, often contains shocking lyrics and offensive behavior.


Quartal Harmony:  harmony based on the interval of the 4th as opposed to a 3rd.

Quotation Music:  Music that parodies another work or works, presenting them in a new style or guise.


Ragtime:  late 19th century piano style created by African Americans characterized by highly syncopated melodies.

Rap:  sub-genre of rock in which rhymed lyrics are spoken over rhythm tracks, developed by African Americans in the 1970s and widely used in the 80s and 90s.

Rebec:  an instrument formerly used which somewhat resembled the violin, having three strings, and being played with a bow.

Recapitulation:  third section of sonata form, in which the thematic material of the exposition is restated, generally in the tonic or first degree of the scale.

Recitative:  solo vocal declamation that furthers the story in opera, cantata, and oratorio.

Recorder:  an end-blown flute with a breathy tone.

Reggae:  Jamaican popular music style characterized by offbeat rhythm and changed vocals over a strong bass part.

Rhapsody:  a selection divided into several sections and usually longer than the others.

Ring Shout:  religious dance performed by African American slaves, performed with hand clapping and a shuttle step to spirituals.

Ritornello:  a short instrumental refrain or interlude in a vocal work. 

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.

Requiem Mass:  mass for someone who has died.

Rhythm:  beat or pulse.

Ripieno:  in baroque concertos and concerti grossi, the full orchestra, as opposed to the instrumental soloists.  Also called: concerto.

Rococo:  an 18th-century style of music characterized by petite prettiness, a decline in the use of counterpoint and extreme use of ornamentation. 

Rondo:  recurring theme: A B A B A; A B A C A; A B A C A B A.

Rubato:  "stolen time" in which the performer hesitates here or speeds up there.


Sackbut:  a medieval and Renaissance trombone. 

Salsa:  "spicy" collective term for Latin American dance music, especially forms of Afro-Cuban origin.

Saltarello:  a lively, Italian, "jumping" dance.

Samba:  Afro Brazilian dance.

Sarabande:  a stately court dance of the 17th and 18th centuries resembling the minuet. 

Scat Singing:  a jazz style that sets syllables without meaning to an improvised vocal line.

Scale:  a series of tones in a definite order.

Scherzo:  Italian for "joke" an A B A form used by Beethoven to replace the minuet.

Secco recitative:  features harpsichord and cello accompaniment moving with great freedom furthering the story.

Sequence:  the restatement of a melodic idea higher or lower in pitch.

Serialism:  method of composition in which various musical elements may be ordered in a fixed series, also 12 tone.

Sesquialtera:  relating to or denoting a ratio of 3:2, as in an interval of a fifth.

Shakuhachi:  a Japanese flute which is tuned to a pentatonic scale is end-blown like a recorder instead of being held transversely like the Western transverse flute, originally used by Zen Buddhist Monks.

Shamisen:  a Japanese plucked stringed instrument with a long neck, an unfretted fingerboard, and a rectangular soundbox.

Shawm:  an ancestor of the oboe with a loud, nasal tone.

Ska:  musical form that appeared in Jamaica as early as the late 1950s; a blend of native Caribbean sounds with the horns and rhythms of New Orleans jazz.

Soft Rock:  lyrical, gentle rock style that evolved around 1960 in response to hard driving rock and roll.

Solo Sonata:  a Baroque instrumental form that features a solo instrument with continuo accompaniment.

Sonata:  an instrumental form in several movements for soloist or small ensemble.

Sonata Cycle:  describing the multi movement structure found in sonatas, string quartet, symphonies, concertos, and large scale works of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Soprano:  the highest adult female voice, having a range approximately from middle C to the A a thirteenth above it.

Staccato:  staccato notes are played or sung so that each note is clearly separate.

Staff:  five lines and four spaces.

Stile antico:  "old style" - imitating Palestrina and the style of Church music.

Stile concitato:  "agitated style" - repeated notes, string tremolos and pizzicato.

Stile rappresentativo:  "representational style" solo vocal style with dramatic pieces set completely to music.

Stil galant (or galanter stil):   a clear, elegant, uncomplicated style that arose in contrast to the more complex style of Baroque counterpoint.

String Quartet:  consists of: Violin I, Violin II, Viola, and Cello.

Strophic Form:  song structure in which the same music is repeated with every verse.

Subdominant:  the IV or 4th degree of the scale.

Suite:  a Baroque instrumental form that consists of dance movements in binary form all in the same key.

Surrealism:  artistic school exploited the word of dreams.

Swing:  jazz term coined to describe Louis Armstrong's style, more commonly refers to big-band jazz.

Symbolism:  an artistic and poetic movement or style using symbolic images and indirect suggestion to express mystical ideas, emotions, and states of mind.  It originated in late 19th century France and Belgium. 

Symphony:  large work for orchestra in 3 to 5 movements.

Symphonic Poem:  a one movement work that tells a story.

Symphony:  large work for orchestra in 3 to 5 movements.

Syncopation:  a type of rhythm that deliberately upsets the normal pattern of accents.

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.


Tabor:  a cylindrical drum use in the Middle Ages.

 Tambourine:  a percussion instrument consisting of a single drumhead of skin stretched over a circular wooden frame hung with pairs of metal discs that jingle when it is struck or shaken.

Tape Music:  type of electronic music in which sounds are recorded on tape and then manipulated and mixed in various ways.

Te Deum:  an early Christian hymn of praise. 

Temperament:  a compromise system of tuning which varies from mean and just intonation.

Tempo:  the speed of a particular piece of music. 

Tenor:  high male voice.

Tenso:  a song style favored by the troubadours that takes the form of a debate in which each voice defends a position on a topic relating to love or ethics.

Ternary Form:  three part form: A B A.

Terpsichorean:  of or relating to dancing or the art of dancing.

Theme:  basically the same as melody, organized succession of tones.

Theremin:  an electronic musical instrument in which the tone is generated by two high-frequency oscillators and the pitch controlled by the movement of the performer's hand toward and away from the circuit.

Timbre or Tone Color:  the quality of sound that a particular voice or musical instrument has.

Toccata:  a rapid keyboard composition for organ, harpsichord, etc., dating from the baroque period, usually in a rhythmically free style.   

Tonality:  music that contains a tonal center.

Through Composed:  song form that is composed from beginning to end with repetition.

Tonic:  first degree of the scale.

Tremolo:  a tremulous effect produced by rapid repetition of a single tone or rapid alternation of two tones.

Triad:  a chord consisting of intervals of a third.

Trill:  the rapid alternation of two tones either a whole or a half tone apart.

Trio Sonata:  a Baroque instrumental composition that originally was written on 3 lines of music, but performed by 4 persons: violin, violin, and continuo which consists of a cello and harpsichord.

Troubadours:  traveling poet-musicians during the medieval era.

Troubairitz:  female counterpart of troubadour/trouvères.

Trouvères:  traveling poet-musicians during the medieval era.

Tutti:  a passage to be performed with all voices or instruments together. 


Uilleann Pipes:  type of bellows blown bagpipe used in Irish traditional music.


Variation:  taking a melodic idea and restating the idea differently.

Verismo:  "realism" a style popular in Italian opera which tried to bring naturalism into the lyric theater, dealing with the unpleasant realities of life, e.g., poverty, passion, social status, etc.

Vibrato:  a tremulous or pulsating effect produced in an instrumental or vocal tone by minute and rapid variations in pitch.

Vielle:  a bowed, string instrument of the Middle Ages.

Vihuela:  a guitarlike instrument of the Spanish Renaissance having ten to twelve strings, tuned like a lute.

Viola da gamba:  A viol, specifically a bass viol (corresponding to the modern cello).

Virtuoso:  performer of extraordinary technical skill.

Vocalise:  a text less vocal melody as in an exercise or concert piece.


Waltz:  one movement character piece for piano in the 19th century in 3/4 meter.

West Coast Jazz:  jazz style developed in the 1950s featuring small groups of mixed timbres playing contrapuntal improvisations similar to cool jazz.

Whole-Tone Scale:  scale pattern built entirely of whole step intervals.

World Beat:  collective term for popular third world musics, ethnic and traditional musics, and eclectic combinations of Western and non Western music.

Woodwinds:  flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon.

Word Painting:  pictorial musical settings for certain words, e.g., ski (high notes, death (dissonant notes).


Xylophone:  a percussion instrument consisting of a set of wooden bars of graduated length. It is played with hard-headed hammers.


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


Terms and definitions in this Glossary for Music Appreciation are collated from the dictionaries available at One Look Dictionary Search.  (