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Classical musical terms


b a note in the musical scale
baby grand a piano that has a horizontal frame and is strung horizontally. It is smaller than a concert grand
bacchanal a scene in opera of intoxication or debauchery
badinage a term used to describe a piece of music with a playful mood
badinerie a piece of music of light-hearted character. the best known badinerie is the lively last movement of Bach's suite in b minor for flute, strings and continuo
bagatelle a short light or whimsical piece, usually written for piano
bagpipe one of the oldest musical instruments. its distinctive penetrating tone comes from a reed pipe, operated by finger stops, that is sounded by air forced out of the bag through the pipe by the player's arm. the reservoir of air in the bag permits notes to be played continuously. some characteristics, for instance the source of wind supply, may vary in bagpipes
baguala Argentine folk music
baguette a drumstick, or a conductor's baton
bailecito small dance
baisser to flatten a string
balalaika triangular instrument, popular in Russia, having three strings tuned in fourths. Is played, either solo or with other instruments for folk music.
balg organ bellows
ballabile in dance style
ballad opera an opera consisting of spoken dialogue and popular songs-the song's lyrics are changed to fit the plot of the opera
ballad a simple song
  a narrative set to song, usually folk-styled verses with or without a refrain
ballade 19th 20th century instrumental piece of romantic character
ballet a form of dance, of Italian origin, with orchestral accompaniment. it was established at the French court in the 16-century and from there developed into a recognized art form
ballo dance
band a group of instrumental players, particularly when made up mainly of wind instruments and percussion, as in brass band, military band and dance band
bandola Colombian guitarra with 15 strings
bandora seven pairs of metal strings
bandurria a Spanish stringed instrument, usually with six pairs of strings
banjo a fretted instrument which usually has five strings and is plucked with the fingers or a plectrum. used in country music and early jazz
bar a small section of written music, marked off by a vertical line across the stave. "bar" refers either to the section, or to the vertical line marking it off.
bar line it divides the music staff into measures
barber shop a type of close-harmony singing that began in the U.S. in the late 19th-century. Barber shop was originally performed by an all-male quartet but today may be performed by larger groups, with or without female singers
barcarolle a barcarolle is a boating-song, generally used to describe the boating-songs of gondoliers in Venice, imitated by composers in songs and instrumental pieces in the 19th century. Chopin wrote one such barcarolle for piano, and Mendelssohn provided four shorter piano pieces of this kind. at the end of the century and in the early 20th century the French composer Gabriel Faure wrote thirteen barcarolles. There is a particularly well known barcarolle in Offenbach's opera the tales of Hoffmann (les Contes d'Hoffmann).
bard minstrel or poet of medieval times
bariolage violin technique of quickly shifting between two or more strings.
baritone male voice between bass and tenor
  wind instrument in the baritone range
baroque a term borrowed from architecture to describe a particular music style, similarly elaborate and heavily ornamented in style
baroque music music composed between 1600-1750
baroque period the musical era from roughly 1600 to 1750 ad., characterized by the establishment of major and minor tonality, rather than modes, and the introduction of opera
barre lute/guitar technique wherein the forefinger is flattened over all strings, sharpen the entire instrument
barrel organ a mechanical organ wherein the sound is produced within a cylindrical chamber
baryton a type of bass viol popular in the 18th-century. Haydn wrote extensively for it because his patron, prince Esterhazy, played it
bass the lowest of the male voice types
  the lowest of any family of instruments
bass bar a bar glued on the inside under the g string to aid in supporting the bridge, and to equalize vibrations
bass clef the f clef indicating the fourth line of the staff. used in combination with the treble clef to make the grand staff
bass viol a bowed string instrument like the cello. it was the principal member of the viol family
bassa play an octave lower than written
bass-baritone a bass-baritone is a male singer with a range that includes both bass and baritone registers, described by Wagner, who wrote for this kind of voice, as a high bass
basset horn tenor clarinet
basso continuo figured bass commonly used in music of the baroque period. it was the normal practice to make use of a bass instrument of some kind, for example a cello or bass viola da gamba and a chordal instrument, a keyboard instrument or plucked string instrument, the part of the latter indicated by numbers added to the music for the bass instrument, showing the chords as a basis for improvised accompaniment or 'filling in' and embellishing of harmonies
bassoon the bassoon is a double-reed wind instrument. It is the bass of the woodwind section in the modern orchestra, which can be augmented by the use of a double bassoon of lower range
baton a slender rod that the conductor uses to instruct the orchestra. The French refer to it as a baguette
battaglia a composition that imitates the sounds and feel of battle, and martial music
battement any ornament of two adjacent notes
batterie percussion family. drum roll. playing the guitar by striking the strings
battuta beat. in strict time. downbeat
baudurria instrument of the guitar family
be the flat sign
beat the beat or pulse in a piece of music is the regular rhythmic pattern of the music. each bar should start with a strong beat and each bar should end with a weak beat. these may be known as the down-beat (strong, at the beginning of a bar) and the up-beat (weak, at the end of a bar). up and down describe the gestures of a conductor, whose preparatory up-beat is of even greater importance to players than his down-beat
bebop refers to the style of jazz pioneered by alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Thelonius Monk and others during the early 1940's. The word bebop is an onomatopoeia which describes quick staccato rhythms that often appeared in its melodies. "bebop" is sometimes called "bop" for short
bec mouthpiece of recorder or clarinet
becarre the natural sign
bedachtig deliberate
begleitung accompaniment
behaglich with ease, grace
behende quickly and gracefully
beisser mordent
bel canto used to describe any fine voice. It was used in the 18th and early 19th-century to describe the singing popular in Italian operas
bel logarithmic unit for measuring intensity of sound
belebend brisk, animated
bell shaped opening of wind instrument. percussion instrument sounded by moving a clapper inside or by being struck on the outside
bell-lyra glockenspiel
bells glockenspiel or chimes in the orchestra
belly the top of the sound box of violins, lutes, etc
bemol the flat sign
ben marcato well-marked
ben, bene well
bequadro a natural sign
berceuse a cradle-song or lullaby, in lilting triple or compound time. the most famous example of the use of this title is by Chopin, who wrote one berceuse, followed by Liszt
bergamasca rustic dance
bergamesque lively 16th and 17th-century peasant dance from Bergamo, Italy
bergerette rustic or pastoral song
beruhigt calm
beschleunigt accelerando
bestimmt with decision
betont stressed
bewegt is used as a tempo indication meaning something the same as the Italian 'agitato', although massig bewegt is used as the equivalent of allegro moderato
binary form a two-part song form consisting of an initial section, which is then followed by a contrasting section. (ab), see song forms
binary in two sections. music in a binary form was popular in dances of the baroque period
bind tie
bis twice, repeated. encore request
bisbigliando harp technique wherein a tremolo effect is produced by quick repeated finger action
biscroma 32nd note
bisdiapason interval of two octaves
bitonal the use of two different keys, or tonic centers at the same time
bitonality using two keys simultaneously. Bitonality originated from the use of modes rather than normal scales. Common in pre-baroque, folk-derived, and more modern music
block harmony series of similar chords
blockflote recorder
blues a type of slow, melancholy, rhythmic song, which originated in black folk music. Classical composers such as Ravel and Gershwin were influenced by blues, which is still popular today
bluette spark
bocca mouthpiece of brass instrument
bocca chiusa indicates a wordless humming, with the mouth closed and teeth slightly parted; used especially in modern choral music
body resonating box of stringed instrument. the major tube of a wind instrument
bogen bow, slur, or tie
bois woodwinds
boit a musique music box
bolero a Spanish dance that is usually performed by pairs of dancers who accompany themselves with castanets and voices. Ravel's orchestral Bolero is for ballet, not for dancing a real bolero
bombarda bass range oboe. organ stop
bongo a small drum struck with the fingers, used particularly in latin-american dance bands
boobam modern percussion instrument made of bamboo
boogie woogie specific type of blues, usually upbeat and realized on piano
bop jazz with solo improvisations, see also bebop
bordun see bourdon
borrowed chord use of a chord in a key in which it is not diatonic, or the substitution of a chord from a different key into a work
bouche mouth
bouche fermee with closed mouth
bouffe used in opera Bouffe, meaning comic opera
bourdon large organ pipes. lowest drone on hurdy-gurdy
bouree a duple-rhythm French dance sometimes found in the baroque dance suite, where it was later placed after the sarabande, with other lighter additional dances
boutade capricious dance or instrumental piece in similar style
bouts in the violin and guitar families, the curves in the sides of the instrument, especially the c-shaped inward curves that form the waist
bow a stick with horsehair stretched across it, used to play the strings of the violin and other string instruments. "to bow" means to play with the bow
bowed harp harps from northern Europe
bowing the use of a bow
brace curly bracket connecting two or more staves
braille music notation a system of indicating music with raised dots, such that it might be read by the blind.
brass the brass section of the orchestra includes metal instruments where the sound is produced by forcing air through a cup-shaped or conical mouthpiece. the brass section usually consists of trumpets, trombones and tuba and French horns
bratsche viola
brautlied wedding song
bravo excellent
bravura describes a musical performance that displays a bold and an extraordinary display of technique. it was commonly used in the 18th-century to describe the aria di bravura, which required a great degree of technical skill from the singer
breath mark it looks like a comma at the top of the staff. it means, take a breath
breit largo
breve originally the standard musical note, but has come to be the longest. this is because longer notes have fallen out of use and shorter ones have been introduced. the time value of the breve is equivalent to two semibreves
bridge the piece of wood on a string instrument, such as the violin or guitar, which both supports the strings and transmits their vibrations to the body of the instrument. it also refers to a short section that links together two important sections of a large-scale symphony, or similar work
bridge passage a secondary passage using to connect two themes. modulation is common in bridge passages
brillante brilliant, showy
brilliant instruction to a player to play with great verve and vivacity.
brindisi drinking song
brio vigor, life, spirit
brioso with vigor
brise turn. In violin, detached bowing
broderie coloratura
broken chord a chord in which notes are played one after the other, rather than at the same time
broken octaves octaves in which the components are sounded in succession
brumeux misty
brummeisen Jew's harp
brummstimmen with closed mouth
brunette French popular song
bruscamente roughly, brusquely
bruststimme chest voice
buccina roman brass instrument
buchstabenschrift letter notation
buffa used in opera to describe comic parts. also used in opera Buffa, meaning 'comic opera'
buffet organ case
buffo used in opera to describe comic parts. also used in opera Buffa, meaning 'comic opera'
bugle brass instrument used by armies to signal military movements. perhaps originally a hunting horn. alto and brass versions of the ophicleide are known as 'keyed bugles'
burden refrain. drone of bagpipe
burla jest, in jest
burlesque a humorous, playful form of entertainment, usually involving exaggeration or a parody
burletta an old-fashioned term for a light operatic comedy, or musical farce. it was popular in the late 18th and early 19th-centuries
burrasca composition depicting a storm
buysine, buzine medieval trumpet
buhne stage
byzantine music liturgal chant music of the eastern orthodox church. it is named after the ancient city of Byzantium, which is now Istanbul



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