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

S

  • sacred music Religious or spiritual music, for church or devotional use.
  • salsa [Spanish] A contemporary Latin American dance music principally of Afro-Cuban tradition.
  • saltando [Italian] Proceeding in leaps or skips.
  • samba [Portuguese] Afro-Brazilian dance, characterized by duple meter, responsorial singing and polyrhythmic accompaniments.
  • samklang [Danish] See harmony.
  • sanft [German] Soft, mild, smooth.
  • sanoitus [Finnish] See lyrics.
  • sans [French] “Without”.
  • sarabanda [Italian] See sarabande.
  • sarabande [French] Stately Spanish baroque dance type in triple meter, a standard movement of the Baroque suite.
  • SATB An abbreviation used to denote the number of voice parts in a vocal composition. It implies that the composition has one soprano part, one alto part, one tenor part, and one bass part. Common variants of this are: SSATTB (Soprano in two-parts, Alto, Tenor in two-parts , and Bass), SSATB, SSA, TTBB, etc.
  • sats [Swedish] See movement.
  • Satz [German] See movement.
  • savart [French] A unit of measurement for musical intervals, corresponding to about 3.986 cents.
  • sävelaihe [Finnish] See motive.
  • sävelasteikko [Finnish] See scale.
  • sävelkorkeus [Finnish] See pitch.
  • sävellajiosoitus [Finnish] See key signature.
  • scala [Italian] See scale.
  • scale A series of notes in ascending or descending order that presents the pitches of a key or mode, beginning and ending on the tonic of that key or mode.
  • scat singing A vocal jazz style that consists of improvised nonsense syllables sung to an an improvised melody, usually over an instrumental accompaniment.
  • scena [Italian] A term used to describe the stage, scene or act of an opera. Also, a term for a set of vocal movements in a theatrical production, usually including a recitative, arioso, and aria.
  • scherzando [Italian] Literally, “joking”. A directive to perform in a lively, playful, animated manner.
  • scherzo [Italian] Literally, “jest“. A composition in ABA form, usually in triple meter. Originally, in the early 17th century, the scherzo was a piece of lively, playful character, with animated rhythm.
  • Schleppend [German] Dragging.
  • Schluss [German] See cadence.
  • Schlüssel [German] See clef.
  • Schnabelflöte [German] See recorder.
  • schnell [German] Fast.
  • schneller [German] Faster.
  • schneller werden [German] See accelerando.
  • Schottische [German] A German round dance in duple time.
  • schrittweise [German] See conjunct.
  • Schwebung [German] See beat.
  • schwungvoll [German] Rousing, spirited, energetic.
  • sciolto [Italian] A directive to perform at ease, in a light, free manner.
  • score The complete musical notation of a composition, especially for an ensemble, where the individual parts are lined up vertically.
  • scoring See orchestration.
  • Scotch snap See Lombard rhythm.
  • secco [Italian] See recitativo secco.
  • secco [Italian] Literally, “dry”. A directive to perform in an unornamented, cold manner. It usually implies that the notes should be of short duration.
  • Sechzehntel [German] See sixteenth note.
  • Sechzehntelnote [German] See sixteenth note.
  • second The interval between two neighbouring tones of a scale. Since a diatonic scale consists of alternating semitones and whole tones, the size of a second depends on the scale degrees in question.
  • seconda volta [Italian] “Second time”; may refer to the second ending of a repetition.
  • section A group of identical or similar instruments in an ensemble.
  • secular Nonreligious.
  • sedicesimo [Italian] See sixteenth note.
  • segno [Italian] A sign in a composition that indicates where a repetition starts.
  • segonda [Spanish] See second.
  • sehr [German] “Very”, “much”.
  • sehr schnell [German] See presto.
  • seisillo [Spanish] See sextuplet.
  • sekstendedelsnode [Danish] See sixteenth note.
  • Sekund [German] See second.
  • semibiscroma [Italian] See sixty-fourth note.
  • semibreve [Italian] See whole note.
  • semicorchea [Spanish] See sixteenth note.
  • semicroma [Italian] See sixteenth note.
  • semifusa [Spanish] See sixty-fourth note.
  • semihemidemisemiquaver See one hundred and twenty-eighth note.
  • semiminima [Italian] See quarter note.
  • semiquaver See sixteenth note.
  • semitone A minor second; the smallest interval in the system of Western music.
  • semitone The interval of a minor second.
  • semitono [Italian] See semitone.
  • sempre [Italian] Always.
  • sensibile [Italian] See leading note.
  • sensible [French] See leading note.
  • sentence Term applied to a complete, independent musical idea, usually consisting of two or four phrases, ending with a cadence.
  • sentimento [Italian] Feeling, emotion.
  • senza [Italian] “Without”.
  • septet A piece for seven singers or instrumentalists. Also, a group of such musicians.
  • septième [French] See seventh.
  • séptima [Spanish] See seventh.
  • Septime [German] See seventh.
  • sequence Restatement of an idea or motive at a different pitch level.
  • serein [French] Serene, calm.
  • serenade [French] Night music; a classical instrumental genre that combines elements of chamber music and symphonic music.
  • serenata [Italian] See serenade.
  • sereno [Italian] Serene, calm.
  • serialism A method of composition in which various musical elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and tone color may be put in order according to a fixed series.
  • serio [Italian] See serioso.
  • serioso [Italian] Serious, grave.
  • sesta [Italian] See sixth.
  • sestina [Italian] See sextuplet.
  • settima [Italian] See seventh.
  • seventh An interval of seven diatonic degrees, counting the first and last degree.
  • severità [Italian] Strictness, severity.
  • sexta [Spanish] See sixth.
  • Sexte [German] See sixth.
  • sextet A piece for six singers or instrumentalists. Also, a group of such musicians.
  • sextiofjärdedelsnot [Swedish] See sixty-fourth note.
  • sextolet [French] See sextuplet.
  • sextondelsnot [Swedish] See sixteenth note.
  • sextuple meter Compound metrical pattern that consists of six beats to every measure.
  • sextuplet A group of six notes played in the time usually taken to play four.
  • sf [Italian] See sforzando.
  • sforzando [Italian] Literally, “forcing”. Dynamic marking indicating a strong, sudden accent.
  • sforzato [Italian] See sforzando.
  • sfz [Italian] See sforzando.
  • sgarbato [Italian] Rude, unkind, impolite.
  • shanty A song sung by sailors while working on a ship. A shanty has a chorus, which is sung by all, and verses that are usually sung by one voice.
  • 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 An accidental symbol that raises the pitch of a note by a semitone.
  • sheet music A generic term to mean any piece of paper with the notation of a composition printed on on it.
  • short appoggiatura See acciaccatura.
  • siciliana [Italian] A type of aria or instrumental movement in the late 17th and 18th centuries, normally written as a dance in a slow 6/8 or 12/8 time with short phrases.
  • siciliano [Italian] See siciliana.
  • sicilienne [French] See siciliana.
  • sideman A slang term for a musician in an ensemble who is not the leader of the ensemble.
  • sigh See springer.
  • sight-reading The practice of playing or singing a composition at sight, without previous preparation.
  • sight-singing The practice of singing a composition at sight, without previous preparation.
  • signature Key signature or time signature.
  • silence [French] See rest.
  • silencio [Spanish] See rest.
  • sim. [Italian] See simile.
  • similar motion In part-writing, similar motion is the situation in which two voices of the composition move in the same direction, either ascending or descending, but they do not necessarily cover the same interval.
  • simile [Italian] “Similar”. Often used to designate the continuation of the use of an articulation without repeating the articulation symbol.
  • simple interval An interval covering a single octave or less.
  • simple meter A meter in which the main beats are subdivided into twos, such as 2/4 or 3/4.
  • simple time See simple meter.
  • sin' al fine [Italian] Literally, “to the end”. Usually attached to another directive, implying that whatever the other directive stated should be carried out to the end of the composition.
  • sincope [Italian] See syncopation.
  • sinfonia [Italian] A term brought into use in the late Renaissance with a variety of specific meanings, generally implying a composition similar to a canzona or a prelude. By the 18th century the term had a similar implication as the term sonata. During the 18th century it came to be used for a three movement composition, until it gradually took on the meaning of our modern term symphony.
  • sinfonia concertante [Italian] See symphonie concertante.
  • sinfonie [French] See symphony.
  • sinfonietta [Italian] An orchestral work of smaller proportions than a full symphony.
  • Sinfonische Dichtung [German] See symphonic poem.
  • singhiozzando [Italian] Sobbing. May suggest the use of a strong portamento.
  • singspiel [German] See comic opera.
  • Sirkelpust [Norwegian] See circular breathing.
  • sistema [Spanish] See system.
  • sitominen [Finnish] See tie.
  • sixte [French] See sixth.
  • sixteenth note A note having the time duration of one sixteenth of a whole note.
  • sixth An interval of six diatonic degrees, counting the first and last degree.
  • sixty-fourth note A note having the time duration of one sixty-fourth of a whole note.
  • ska A music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s, combining elements of Caribbean music with American jazz and rhythm and blues. It is characterized by a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the offbeat.
  • skala [Swedish] See scale.
  • skip See leap.
  • slancio [Italian] See con slancio.
  • slargando [Italian] See allargando.
  • slentando [Italian] See rallentando.
  • sleutel [Dutch] See clef.
  • slur A curved line drawn over or under a series of notes, indicating that those notes should be played legato.
  • smaniato [Italian] Furious, vehement.
  • smear A slang term for a glissando performed on a trombone.
  • smorzando [Italian] See diminuendo.
  • soave [Italian] Soft, sweet, gentle.
  • soggetto [Italian] See subject.
  • sointu [Finnish] See chord.
  • soitinala [Finnish] See ambitus.
  • soli [Italian] “Alone” (plural form). A directive to perform with an entire section of an ensemble.
  • solo [Italian] A passage that is to be performed by a single performer.
  • solokonsert [Norwegian] See concerto.
  • Solokonzert [German] See concerto.
  • son [French] Sound.
  • sonata [Italian] An instrumental genre in several movements for a soloist or an ensemble. The original usage for the term "sonata" implied a composition that was to be played rather than sung. Later, the term "sonata" came to be understood as a four movement piece: slow, fast, slow, fast, as was used in the church sonata (sonata da chiesa), or allemande, courante, sarabande, and gigue, as was used in the chamber sonata (sonata da camera). As the sonata developed, it became longer and adopted the sonata-allegro form for the first movement, which was generally fast. The following movement was generally somewhat slower, and the number of movements varied, but was generally about three.
  • sonata da camera [Italian] A baroque style of sonata, consisting in a suite of stylized dances, performed either by a small ensemble or by a soloist.
  • sonata da chiesa [Italian] A baroque instrumental work intended for performance in a church, generally in four movements, arranged slow, fast, slow, fast.
  • sonata form See sonata-allegro form.
  • 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).
  • sonata-rondò [Italian] A form of a composition that displays characteristics of both the rondò and the sonata forms.
  • sonate [French] See sonata.
  • Sonatenform [German] See sonata form.
  • sonatina [Italian] A form popular in the late classical era that consisted of a short or “light” sonata; often the sonatina contained an exposition and recapitulation without the development section. The form has been revived in the 20th century by various composers.
  • sonatine [French] See sonatina.
  • sono [Italian] Sound.
  • sopra [Italian] “Above”.
  • soprano [Italian] The highest female voice.
  • sordamente [Italian] Softly, gently, or in a muffled or damped style.
  • sormitus [Finnish] See fingering.
  • sospirando [Italian] Sighing.
  • sostenido [Spanish] See sharp.
  • sostenuto [Italian] Sustained.
  • sottovoce [Italian] Almost whispering.
  • soul A style of composition developed in America in the 1960s conveying strong emotion. This style of music is characterized by dramatic delivery of the vocal line, commonly including wails, sighs, cries, falsetto, whispers, etc.
  • spagnoletta [Italian] An Italian dance of the late 16th century.
  • species counterpoint A technique of strict counterpoint involving the addition of voices to a melody advancing from simple to more complex harmonies.
  • spianato [Italian] leveled, even, smooth.
  • spiccato [Italian] Very separated, detached.
  • spigliato [Italian] Self-confident, bold, smooth.
  • spinto [Italian] A term describing a lyric voice, usually that of a soprano or tenor, that can also achieve powerful, dramatic effects. Also, a part written for a voice of such character.
  • spiritoso [Italian] Spirited, lively.
  • spiritual A style of music invented by Afro-American slaves. Spirituals are generally religious songs with elements of African rhythms, Biblical texts, and American accents. Usually the text is concerned with earthly tribulations and heavenly justice and reward.
  • split E mechanism On a flute, a system whereby the second G key (positioned below the G♯ key) is closed when the right middle-finger key is depressed, enabling a clearer third octave E; standard on most flutes, but omitted from many intermediate- and professional-grade flutes, as it can reduce the tonal quality of 3rd octave F♯.
  • sprezzatura [Italian] A term used in 17th century Italy describing a free style of performing compositions that ignored strict tempo and rhythm, embracing freedom of tempo and expressiveness.
  • springende [Danish] See disjunct.
  • springer An ornament consisting of the main tone followed by the tone above it followed by the tone above that, then returning to the original main tone.
  • sprongsgewijze [Dutch] See disjunct.
  • sprunghafte [German] See disjunct.
  • squillante [Italian] Ringing.
  • stabile [Italian] Firm.
  • staccatissimo [Italian] A style of playing notes in a detached, separated, distinct manner that shortens the notated duration of the note in a more exaggerated way than normal staccato.
  • staccato [Italian] A style of playing notes in a detached, separated, distinct manner, as opposed to legato.
  • staff Series of five horizontal lines upon and between which the musical notes are written, thus indicating, in connection with a clef, their pitch.
  • staggered breathing A technique used in musical ensembles by wind instruments to create the effect of a continuous sound with no breaks for performers to breathe. The effect is created by making sure that in each section no performer is breathing at the same time, so that it seems like no one is breathing at all.
  • stämma [Swedish] See part.
  • stämma [Swedish] See voice.
  • stanchezza [Italian] Weariness.
  • Ständchen [German] See serenade.
  • stanza [Italian] The division of a poem that consists of a series of lines arranged together. This is usually in the form of a recurring pattern of meter and rhyme.
  • stapsgewijze [Dutch] See conjunct.
  • statement See exposition.
  • stave See staff.
  • stegvis [Swedish] See conjunct.
  • stem [Dutch] See voice.
  • stemma [Finnish] See part.
  • stemme [Danish] See voice.
  • stent. [Italian] See stentando.
  • stentando [Italian] Literally, “having difficulty”. A directive to perform in an ungraceful, heavy manner, holding back each note.
  • stentato [Italian] Labored, heavy, in a dragging manner, sluggish. Alternatively, strong and forced.
  • step See second.
  • Stichnoten [German] See cue-notes.
  • stiknoder [Danish] See cue-notes.
  • Stimme [German] See part.
  • Stimme [German] See voice.
  • Stimmung [German] Mood. Also, tuning.
  • Stimmung [German] See temperament.
  • stinger A chord at the end of a march that is used to punctuate the ending of the composition. The stinger is typically played by the entire ensemble on the last beat of the last measure of the composition and contains an accent.
  • strain A division of a composition between two double bars. It can also be referred to as a section. A strain will typically contain a primary or secondary melody of the larger composition that is often repeated.
  • strascinando [Italian] Dragging.
  • strathspey A lively Scottish dance in 4/4 time related to the reel. A characteristic of this dance is the peculiar rhythmic pattern of a dotted eighth note followed by a sixteenth, known as the Scotch snap.
  • strepitoso [Italian] Boisterous, noisy.
  • stretto [Italian] In a fugue, that situation in which the subject and answer overlap one another, or when two subjects enter in close succession.
  • stretto [Italian] A directive to quicken the tempo.
  • strict counterpoint The strict application of the rules of part writing.
  • string quartet An ensemble consisting of two violins, viola, and cello, or a work composed for such an ensemble.
  • string quintet Standard chamber ensemble made up of either two violins, two violas and cello, or two violins, viola and two cellos.
  • stringendo [Italian] See accelerando.
  • strisciando [Italian] A directive to perform with a slur, a smooth slide, or a glide from one note to another.
  • stromentato [Italian] Accompanied.
  • strophic form Song structure in which every stanza of the text is sung to the same musical tune.
  • Stück [German] A piece of music.
  • Studien [German] See étude.
  • study See étude.
  • stufenweise [German] See conjunct.
  • style Characteristic manner of presentation of musical elements: melody, rhythm, harmony, dynamics, form, etc.
  • style galant [French] See gallant style.
  • subito [Italian] At once, immediately.
  • subject The melody upon which a fugue is based; a melody, motive, or theme. The theme or melody upon which any composition is based.
  • suite [French] A work made up of a series of contrasting dance movements, generally all in the same key.
  • suite de danses [French] See suite.
  • suives [French] Literally, “follow”. A directive to an accompanist to follow the musical interpretation of the soloist.
  • sum tone See difference tone.
  • suono [Italian] Sound.
  • suono [Italian] See tone.
  • svävning [Swedish] See beat.
  • swing A style of jazz playing whose flexible, improvised rhythms resist notation.
  • syllabic The style of chant which sets one note to each syllable of text.
  • symphonic poem A piece of orchestral music in one principal self-contained section called a “movement” in which a program from a poem, a story or novel, a painting, or another source is illustrated or evoked.
  • symphonie [German] See symphony.
  • symphonie concertante [French] A musical genre of the late 18th and early 19th centuries that resembles a concerto for two to four solo instruments. It is a composition in two or three movements of a lighthearted character, usually in a major key. The genre features a few solo instruments and orchestra.
  • symphony In the early 18th century, any instrumental prelude, interlude, or postlude. In modern usage, the term is applied to a large composition for orchestra, generally in three or four movements. The symphony may also be defined as a sonata for orchestra.
  • syncopation Deliberate upsetting of the meter or pulse of a composition by means of a temporary shifting of the accent to a weak beat.
  • syncope [French] See syncopation.
  • Synkope [German] See syncopation.
  • system The collection of staves, two or more, as used for writing down of keyboard, chamber, choral, or orchestral music.
  • système [French] See system.