Multilingual Music Glossary

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

A

  • a cappella [Italian] Choral or vocal music performed without instrumental accompaniment.
  • à deux [French] See a due.
  • a due [Italian] For two voices or instruments; a duet. Also used to indicate that two instruments playing from the same part or score are to play in unison, after divisi or a solo passage for one of the instruments.
  • à la [French] In the manner of.
  • a piacere [Italian] See ad libitum.
  • a poco a poco [Italian] See poco a poco.
  • a tempo [Italian] A directive to return to the original tempo after a deliberate deviation.
  • A440 The standard tuning of the A above middle C at 440 Hz.
  • ääni [Finnish] See voice.
  • ääniala [Finnish] See ambitus.
  • abbellimento [Italian] See ornament.
  • Abendmusik [German] Evening music, usually religious in nature, originating in the 17th century.
  • absolute music Music that is not explicitly “about” anything. In contrast with program music, absolute music has no words and no references to stories or images or any other kind of extra-musical idea.
  • absolute pitch See perfect pitch.
  • abstract music See absolute music.
  • accablé [French] Overwhelmed.
  • accablement [French] Despondency, oppression.
  • accel. [Italian] See accelerando.
  • accelerando [Italian] Gradually accelerating or getting faster.
  • accélérez [French] See accelerando.
  • accent The stress of one tone over others.
  • acciaccatura [Italian] A short grace note, typically notated with a slash through the stem or flag, that quickly resolves to the main note.
  • accolade [French] See brace.
  • accollatura [Italian] See system.
  • accompagnato [Italian] Accompanied.
  • accompaniment Additional but subordinate music used to support a melodic line. Also, the art of playing along with a soloist or ensemble in a supporting manner.
  • accord [French] See chord.
  • accord brisé [French] See arpeggio.
  • accordo [Italian] See chord.
  • Achtel [German] See eight note.
  • Achtelnote [German] See eight note.
  • achtste noot [Dutch] See eight note.
  • ackord [Swedish] See chord.
  • acorde [Spanish] See chord.
  • acoustical instrument Any musical instrument not relying on external power for operation.
  • acoustics The science that deals with the study of sound. Also, the art of optimizing sound in a room or other enclosed space, considering reverberation and other acoustical qualities.
  • acute See springer.
  • ad lib. [Latin] See ad libitum.
  • ad libitum [Latin] Literally, “at will”. At the discretion of the performer. At pleasure, changing the tempo of a particular passage. Sometimes, a part that may be omitted if desired.
  • adagietto [Italian] A slow tempo marking, slightly faster than adagio.
  • adagio [Italian] A slow tempo marking, usually around 66–76 BPM.
  • adagissimo [Italian] An extremely slow tempo marking, slower than adagio.
  • additive meter A pattern of beats that subdivide into smaller, irregular groups. It is common in Eastern European musics, and contemporary compositions attempting to emulate such a sound. For example, a time signature like 9/8, which is normally subdivided as 3+3+3, may be subdivided by the composer as 2+3+2+2 for musical effect.
  • adorno [Spanish] See ornament.
  • aeolian A mode used in Gregorian chant based upon the sixth tone of the major scale. In the key of C, the aeolian mode would be based on A, and would include A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A.
  • affabilità [Italian] Literally, “affability”. A directive to perform with ease and elegance, in a pleasing and agreeable manner.
  • affabilmente [Italian] Easily, gently and agreeably.
  • affannoso [Italian] With anxious expression.
  • affettuoso [Italian] Tender, loving, affectionate.
  • affrettando [Italian] See accelerando.
  • agilità [Italian] A directive to perform with lightness or agility.
  • agitato [Italian] Agitated, excited, restless.
  • agrément [French] See ornament.
  • air A short song, melody or tune, for voice or instrument.
  • akkoord [Dutch] See chord.
  • Akkord [German] See chord.
  • Akkordbrechungen [German] See arpeggio.
  • akkordbrydning [Danish] See arpeggio.
  • al fine [Italian] An indication to repeat a composition either from the beginning (da capo), or from the dal segno symbol, to the place marked fine (Italian for “end”).
  • al niente [Italian] Literally, “to nothing”. Fade to silence.
  • al segno [Italian] A directive to return to the sign.
  • alborada [Spanish] Literally, “dawn”. Lively instrumental composition to be played at daybreak, usually in 6/8 time.
  • alennusmerkki [Finnish] See flat.
  • all'ottava [Italian] Literally, “at the octave”. Directive to perform an indicated passage of a composition one octave higher than notated. Typically, this is indicated by an “8va” or “8” over the passage followed by a dotted line over the top of all the notes to be transposed.
  • alla [Italian] See à la.
  • alla breve [Italian] A time marking indicating a quick duple meter, with the half note rather than the quarter note getting the beat (2/2 rather than 4/4).
  • allant [French] Going on, lively.
  • allarg. [Italian] See allargando.
  • allargando [Italian] Growing broader, slowing down.
  • allegramente [Italian] Cheerfully.
  • allegretto [Italian] A rather fast tempo marking between allegro and moderato, usually around 100–120 BPM.
  • allegrissimo [Italian] A fast tempo marking, faster than allegro.
  • allegro [Italian] Literally, “cheerful”. A quick tempo marking, usually around 120–168 BPM.
  • allentando [Italian] See rallentando.
  • allmählich [German] Used in conjunction with a tempo directive to indicate that the directive should be performed gradually, little by little.
  • alt [German] Term used to indicate the tones of the first octave above the treble staff (G5 to F6), which are said to be “in alt”.
  • Alte musik [German] See early music.
  • alternatief [Dutch] See ossia.
  • altezza [Italian] See pitch.
  • altflöjt [Swedish] See alto flute.
  • Altflöte [German] See alto flute.
  • altfløjte [Danish] See alto flute.
  • altfløyte [Norwegian] See alto flute.
  • altissimo [German] Term used to indicate the tones of the second octave above the treble staff (G6 to F7), which are said to be “in altissimo”.
  • alto flute A flute pitched in the key of G, sounding a 4th lower than the concert flute.
  • altura [Spanish] See pitch.
  • alusta [Finnish] See da capo.
  • amabile [Italian] Lovable, charming, amiable.
  • amatura di chiave [Italian] See key signature.
  • ambit See ambitus.
  • ámbito [Spanish] See ambitus.
  • ambitus [Latin] A range of pitches for a given voice in a part of music. It may also denote the pitch range that a musical instrument is capable of playing.
  • amorevole [Italian] Loving, affectionate.
  • amoroso [Italian] See amorevole.
  • anacrouse [French] See anacrusis.
  • anacrusis One or more unstressed notes preceding the first downbeat in a bar.
  • ancora [Italian] “Again”.
  • ancora [Italian] “Still”, as in “still more slowly”.
  • andante [Italian] Literally, “going”. A moderate tempo marking, usually around 76–108 BPM.
  • andantino [Italian] A moderate tempo marking, which can be faster or slower than andante.
  • andningstecken [Swedish] See breath mark.
  • animato [Italian] Animated or spirited.
  • animé [French] See animato.
  • Anlaufen [German] To open, to increase in volume.
  • anonymous A person whose name is unknown.
  • answer Second entry of the subject in a fugue, usually pitched a fourth below or a fifth above the original subject. If the theme is altered slightly in the answer, then it is said to be a tonal answer, if it is entirely unaltered, it is said to be a real answer.
  • anthem A choral setting of an English religious text similar to a motet, usually used in church with or without organ accompaniment.
  • apoyatura [Spanish] See appoggiatura.
  • appassionato [Italian] Passionate, with intense emotion or feeling.
  • appoggiatura [Italian] Ornamental note, usually taking half of the duration of the main note it precedes.
  • appoggiature [French] See appoggiatura.
  • apuviiva [Finnish] See ledger line.
  • arabesque [French] An ornament or an embellished work. The term is taken from the Arabic art and architecture which is very ornate.
  • aria [Italian] Lyric song for solo voice with orchestral accompaniment, generally expressing intense emotion; found in opera, cantata, and oratorio.
  • arioso [Italian] A short, melodious composition in the style of an aria.
  • armadura [Spanish] See key signature.
  • armature [French] See key signature.
  • armonia [Italian] See harmony.
  • armure [French] See key signature.
  • arpège [French] See arpeggio.
  • arpeggio [Italian] Broken chord in which the individual tones are sounded one after another instead of simultaneously.
  • arpegio [Spanish] See arpeggio.
  • arrangement A rewriting of a piece of existing music with additional new material, or a fleshing-out of a compositional sketch. If a musical adaptation does not include new material, it is more accurately termed a transcription or orchestration.
  • arsis See upbeat.
  • art music Music implying advanced structural and theoretical considerations and a written musical tradition. It is frequently used as a contrasting term to popular music and folk music.
  • art song A vocal music composition, usually written for one singer with piano or orchestral accompaniment.
  • articulation The manner in which adjacent notes of a melody are connected or separated. Woodwind and brass instruments generally articulate by tonguing, the use of the tongue to break the airflow into the instrument.
  • assai [Italian] Much, very much.
  • asteikko [Finnish] See scale.
  • Atemzeichen [German] See breath mark.
  • återställningstecken [Swedish] See natural.
  • attacca [Italian] A musical directive for the performer to begin the next section of a composition immediately and without pause.
  • attack The method of beginning a phrase.
  • åttondelsnot [Swedish] See eight note.
  • au mouvement [French] See a tempo.
  • aubade [French] A song or instrumental composition concerning, accompanying, or evoking daybreak.
  • audition The term used for the try-outs that a musician must go through before his or her acceptance into an ensemble.
  • Auflösungszeichen [German] See natural.
  • Auftakt [German] See upbeat.
  • augmentation Statement of a melody in longer note values, often twice as slow as the original.
  • Ausdrucksvoll [German] Expressive.
  • autografo [Italian] See autograph.
  • autograph A manuscript in the composer's own hand.
  • autographe [French] See autograph.
  • avain [Finnish] See clef.
  • avec [French] “With”.
  • ayre See air.