Page name: Musical Definitions A - G [Logged in view] [RSS]
2006-06-15 07:44:10
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Musical Definitions A - G


Are you wondering about some musical terms? Here you will find definitions of terms used in music, and links to where you can go to find more information.

Musical Definitions

Musical Definitions A - G | Musical Definitions H - N | Musical Definitions O - U | Musical Definitions V - Z |


Musical Definitions A - G#A
Musical Definitions A - G#B
Musical Definitions A - G#C
Musical Definitions A - G#D
Musical Definitions A - G#E
Musical Definitions A - G#F
Musical Definitions A - G#G



A capella: Sung music without instrumental accompaniment.

Accelerando: Gradually increasing tempo.

Adagietto: Slow tempo, slightly faster than Adagio.

Adagio: Slow tempo, slower than andante but faster than

A deux cordes: (Fr.), a due corde (It.) - On two strings.

Ad Libitum: ”At one’s pleasure”. Tempo set by performer.

Aleatoric: "Pertaining to luck".
Term deviced by the French composer Pierre Boulez. Music using the element of randomness. Most famous is probably John Cage, with his piece 4’33’’, from 1952. Important composers: Karlheinz Stockhausen, Henry Brant and Lucas Foss.

Air: – A simple solo tune, for voice or instrument.

Alla breve: - (It. alla, according to the + breve, breve.) In cut time, half note is the main unit, not quarter note.

Allargando: Gradual broadening and slowing of tempo.

Allegretto: Moderately quick tempo. Slower than allergro but faster than andante.

Allegro: (it. lively) Quick and lively tempo, slower than presto.

Ana Crusis: Or anacrusis. An Upbeat or a pickup note(s). Unstressed notes at the beginning of a phrase of music.

Andante: (it. to walk) Moderately slow tempo.

Andantino: Can indicate both a slightly faster or slower tempo than andante.

Animato: Tempo indication, meaning animated or lively. Usually modifies an earlier tempo. "Più animato" means more lively. 

Antiphona: Alternating performances between singers and/or instruments.

Appassionata: Impassioned.

Appoggiatura: Embellishing note, one step above or below the one it precedes.

Arabesque: A short composition, often for piano, with decorative qualities.

Arie: A melodic section of a large vocal piece (opera, cantata, oratorio), sung by a solo voice with instrumental or orchestral accompaniment.

Arpeggio: The notes of a chord played in successsion to one another, rather than simultainously. A broken chord.

Arrangement: Re-write of an existing piece of music.

A tempo: Return to earlier tempo.

Atonal: Music not using the traditional hierarchy of tonal centres. An important school in atonal music was the Second Viennese School. Other important composers include Belà Bartòk and Aron Copland.

Augmentation: The doubling of note time values.


Bagatelle: Short and light piano piece.

Ballad: Traditional song telling a story.

Barcarolle: A piece in 6/8 or 12/8 time.

Berceuse: Instrumental lullaby, often in 6/8 time.

Bitonality: The use of two keys simultaneously.

Broken chord: A chord where the notes are sounded one after the other.

Broken octaves: Alternate notes played an octave apart. Much used in piano music.


Cadens: Progression of chords moving to a harmonic close.

Cadenza: Solo passage near the end of a movement, just before the final cadence. In the classical and romantic era it was expected of the performer to improvise, but some composers, such as Mozart, began writing cadenzas for their concerts.

Calando: Gradually decreasing tempo and volume.

Canon: The strictest form of contrapuntal work, in which the melody of one instrument is taken up by other instruments and played note for note, or with minimal changes.

Cantabile: In a singing style.

Chamber music: Music written for a small instrumental ensemble, usually a trio or quartet, and intended to be played for a small audience.

Chorale: A traditional Protestant hymn.

Chord: A combination of three or more pitches sounded simultaneously. See also F-Giss.

Chromatic: Using notes not part of the diatonic scale, or a cohesive movement of half steps.

Cluster: Adjacent notes played simultaneously.

Coda: The last section of a musical piece.

Coll'arco: Indicates the resumption of use of the bow after pizzicato.

Compound time: Time with beat units divisible into three (6/8, 9/8).

Concerto: Work in three movements with an orchestra and a solo instrument.

Conduct: The direction of a performance.

Con forza: Vigorously.

Con sordino: Play with a mute.

Counterpoint: Two or more independent melodic lines combined to form an harmonic whole, while retaining the individuality.

Crescendo: Gradually increasing volume.

Cyclic form: Technique which uses a theme or thematic material as a unifying device to connect different movements.


Da capo: Repeat from beginning.

Decrescendo: Gradual decreasing of volume. The opposite of a crescendo.

Degree: A note on the diatonic scale. E.g: The first degree (tone) of the C major scale is C. The fifth degree is G.

Diatonic: Unaltered standard scale consisting of 5 tones and 2 semitones. Minor and major scales are diatonic. Diatonic harmonies, which is the basis of our tonal system, consists of chords containing solely the tones in the diatonic scale.

Diminished triad: Triad in which the perfect fifth is reduced by a semitone.

Diminuendo: Gradual lowering of volume. Synonymous with decrescendo.

Discord / Dissonance: Combination of tones which give the impression of instability and tension. What is considered a dissonance is very much culturally dependant, and may also change greatly in time. Intervals which in the Middle Ages were considered to be dissonant, were in the renascence consonant.

Dodecaphonic music: Twelve-tone music. A system developed by Arnold Schoenberg, where all twelve tones of the chromatic scale are used following a strict set of rules.

Dolce: Sweet.

Dominant: The fift degree (tone) of a diatonic scale, or a triad built on it.

Dominant seventh: A chord. A dominant triad with the seventh degree added. Written G7, C#7, etc.

Doppio movimento: Double tempo.

Double flat: Prefix indicating the note is to be lowered by two semitones. (Generally agreed on Musmakers to be a completely pointless prefix. See Enhamonic.)

Double sharp: See Double flat. Tone to be raised by two semitones.

Due corde: Two strings. Indicates the release of the soft pedal on a piano.

Duet: Composition for two performers, sometimes with accompaniment

Double time: Time devisable by two (2/4, 4/4, 4/8, etc).

Duplets: An irrational rhythm. Two notes occupying the time usually taken by three.

Dynamic: The degree of volume in the music, indicated on the score.


Elegy: Composition for the dead.

Embellishment: See Appoggiatura, or Ornament.

Encore: Again. Short extra performance after the program.

Enharmonic: Identical tones written differently. E.g B sharp and C, F double sharp and G.

Ensemble: Group performing



G-Fiss: It's often mentioned here.


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2006-06-15 [kittykittykitty]: Added a definition :)

2006-06-15 [Hedda]: The other pages need more filling...

2006-06-15 [kittykittykitty]: Yup! I could have a go at filling some more tomorrow or something... I guess it's easier to do a lot at once, then fill in gaps later :)

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