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Classical musical terms



d the key of d
  d numbers are used instead of opus numbers to catalogue works by Schubert
da by, from, for, through
da capo from the top
da capo al coda go back to the beginning and play until the coda sign. When you reach the coda sign, skip to the coda
da capo al fine repeat from the beginning to the end-fine
dal from the, by the
dal segno from the sign
dal sengo al fine repeat from the sign
damper a device that stops (damps) the vibration of a string
damper pedal pedal of a piano that gets the dampers away from the string, producing sustained sound
dance a way of expressing emotions by movement. there are a wide variety of styles, forms, and techniques. All dance is accompanied by some form of music
dance band a band that plays music for the purpose of social dancing, popular between 1920 and 1950. famous bandleaders include Benny Goodman. Instruments played usually include bass and drums, saxophones, trumpets, and trombones
danza dance
danzon  Cuban dance in 2/4, classically in rondo form
dead interval interval between the ending note of one phrase and the first note of the next
debut a performer's first public recital
deceptive cadence where the dominant tonality resolves to any chord other than the tonic, most especially when it goes instead to the sixth
deceptive cadence interrupted cadence
dechors emphasized
decibel the standard unit of measurement for the intensity of sound. Often abbreviated to db
deciso determined
declamando an instruction to a player, or singer, meaning 'in a declamatory manner'
decrescendo soften, decrease gradually in intensity
decuplet group of ten notes played in the time of eight
degree the space between two notes
del, della of the
deliberamente deliberately
delicatamente delicately
delicatezza delicateness
delicatissimo very delicate
delicato an instruction to a player meaning that the music should be played or sung with a light, delicate touch
delie an instruction to a player meaning that the notes should be played separately from each other, or in a free way
delirante instruction to a player to play in a mad, frenzied way
delizioso an instruction to player to play in a sweet and sensuous way. it is most commonly used in musical passages that are played by the string section of the orchestra
demi half
demisemiquaver a time value, denoting an eighth of a crotchet. a bar of common time (four crotchets) contains thirty-two demisemiquavers. it is also called the thirty-second note
demi-tone means a very soft tone, produced by playing with restraint, or underplaying
demi-voix to be sung very softly
deploration composition written upon the death of a musician, usually by a student
derb robust
descant soprano or tenor voice
  the melodic line or counterpoint accompanying an existing melody
  the upper part of a polyphonic composition
descriptive music program music
detache detached bowing, staccato
detonieren to wobble or sing not true to pitch
deutlich clear
development the elaboration of melodic, thematic, or harmonic progressions in a piece
dezime the interval of the tenth
di of, from, to, by
di molto very
diabolus in musica the devil in music. a name for the tritone
diacisma a micro tonic interval
dialogue vocal composition in the form of questions and answers
diapason the octave and everything in between. the principal stop on an organ
diatesseron the interval of the fourth
diatonic pertaining to a scale, it means a standard major or minor key without chromatics
diction enunciation, whether clear or not, in singing or speaking
didgeridoo Australian aboriginal wind instrument, made out of a tree trunk that is up to six feet long
dies irae "day of wrath". the sequence for the requiem mass
diese sharp sign
diesis diatonic semitone of the Pythagorean scale
differential tone when two loud notes are played together a third sound may be heard. the difference in vibration between the two original notes is the differential tone
digitone a system of music notation wherein the 12 tones of the octave are indicated by numbers
diluendo growing softer, diluted
dim abbreviation of diminuendo. It means diminishing
diminish to lessen certain intervals, which are then known as diminished, or to subject a melody to diminution
diminished chords chords having as their highest and lowest notes a diminished interval
diminished fifth one semitone lower than a perfect fifth. In other words, an interval where the secondary note is the fifth tone above the first note in any given scale. The perfect fifth of c in the scale of c major, for example, is c to g. the diminished fifth is g flat.
diminished seventh chord a chord which contains a root, a minor third, a diminished fifth, and a diminished seventh
diminuendo growing gradually softer
diminuition the shortening of note values used in a theme to alter the melody without changing the pitches
direct a directional indicator at the end of a staff to show the position of the first note of the succeeding staff
dirge composition for performance at funerals or memorials for the dead
dirigent conductor, to conduct
discord a combination of notes that sounds incomplete and strikes unpleasantly on the ear
disinvolto easy
disjunct motion progression via skips
disposition the arrangement of control devices on an organ console
dissonance notes that conflict, or sound outside of a chord in which they occur. Such notes usually fall outside of the overtones which are being generated by the note or chord that is sounding
dissonance when two or more notes are sounded together to produce a discord
dital a key on a guitar or lute, that, when pressed, raises the pitch a semitone
dital harp a guitar shaped lute of 12 to 18 strings, each equipped with a dital
dithyramb song in honor of Dionysus
ditonus major third
diva a term of adulation for a leading female opera singer, usually a soprano. Famous divas include Maria Callas and Jessye Norman
divertimento short entertaining composition
divertimento an entertaining instrumental piece made up of several short movements
divertissement  an entertaining ballet included in an opera or play for comic relief or variation
divisi divided. used to show that two or more different parts are to be played at the same time on a piece of music
do the key note of a scale in movable do system
doctor of music the highest musical degree
dodecaphonic pertaining to twelve tones
dodecaphony a harmonic system employing the twelve-tone principle of composition, developed by composer Arnold Schoenberg in 1923. This system gives equal status to all twelve tones chromatically available in the octave. In traditional harmony, the third and fifth are the most important.
dodecuple scale the chromatic scale as used in the twelve tone system
dodecuplet a group of 12 notes performed in the time of 8
doigte fingering
dolce softly, sweetly, delicately
dolcemente sweetly
dolcian an early bassoon
dolcissimo very sweet
dolendo sorrowful
dolente instruction to a musician or singer to perform a passage in a sad, sorrowful manner
dolore grief
doloroso with grief
dominant the fifth note of the diatonic scale. this applies to major and minor keys. The dominant note in the key of c is g, for example
dominant chord the triad of the dominant
dominant seventh chord the dominant triad plus a minor seventh. the dominant seventh resolves very satisfyingly to the tonic
domra a Russian and central Asian plucked instrument, rather like a lute or mandolin. The domra has a convex back and there are usually three strings. it is played in folk music
donnermachine a thunder simulator
dopo after, or afterward
doppel double
doppio double, in duplicate
doppo after
dorian the second mode, the scale having half steps between degrees 2 & 3, and 6 & 7
dorian mode a medieval mode whose scale pattern is that of playing d to d on the white keys of a piano.
dot following a note, indicates the note is half again as long. above or below a note, indicates staccato
dots dots are dots: a dotted minim, for example, is a dotted half note
double to add another octave
double appogiatura two grace notes before the melody note
double bar a pair of vertical lines at the end of a bar indicates a section of music has ended. if it is preceded by repeat marks-two dots in the middle of the stave-the music is to be played again
double bar-line it marks the end of a piece of music
double bass this is the largest stringed instrument of the orchestra, with the lowest range. It has four or five strings and is played with a bow. There are generally eight in a symphony orchestra. The double bass is also used, generally plucked in, in jazz and dance music to provide or stress the rhythm
double bassoon plays an octave lower than the bassoon
double chorus the use of two separate choruses
double concerto a concerto for two solo instruments, and orchestra
double corde double stop
double counterpoint a passage in which the lines cross
double croche sixteenth note
double dot a single dot adds half the original value; a double dot halves it again and adds that
double flat an accidental that lowers the note it precedes by one whole step
double fugue a fugue with two themes that occur at the same time
double note breve
double octave the interval of two octaves
double quartet a composition for eight
double reed two pieces of cane that vibrate against each other instead of the instrument
double sharp raises the pitch one whole step
double stem seen when two voices written together in one staff come into unison
double stop the holding down of two strings on a stringed instrument at the same time, so that they are played simultaneously
double theme fugue theme that goes on past the entrance of the answer, including also the counterpoint to the answer
double tonguing a tongue fluttering technique used often by flautists to articulate fast passages
doubly augmented sixth chord an augmented sixth chord, which contains a sharp second from the tonic
douce instruction to play or sing sweetly
doucement instruction to play or sing sweetly
douloureux sorrowful
doux instruction to play or sing sweetly. also doucement and douce (both French, meaning 'gently' or 'soft').
down bow when bow is pulled down from the frog
downbeat the downward motion of the conductor's baton or hand, which marks the stressed beats in a bar. in 4/4 time, for example, these are the first and third beats of the bar; the upbeats are the unstressed second and fourth beats in the bar
downbow the downward bow stroke in violin playing
dragma  notation consisting of double-stemmed semi-breves
dramatic soprano a female singer with a slightly lower range than a lyric soprano
dramatic tenor a male singer with a slightly lower range than a lyric tenor
drame lyrique opera
drame lyrique an alternative term for an opera
dramma per musica another term for opera, popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. It can also refer to the libretto alone
drangend pushing forward
dreifach triple
dreiklang triad
dreitaktig in groups or phrases of three bars
droit right (opposite of left)
drone a string or pipe that sounds a single pitch
drone-bass a bass on the tonic, or tonic and dominant, throughout a movement or a piece, as in a musette
drum percussion instrument with a skin or other membrane, called a drum head, stretched over a hollow space. it is struck with a stick or the hands
drum kit drum set
drum machine an electronic instrument that is preprogrammed with rhythmic patterns and corresponding synthesized percussion sounds
drum pad a block of material on which a drummer practices the use of sticks away from the drums
drum roll a quick, continuous succession of strokes on the drum
drum set drum kit, sometimes drum set
duda a primitive form of bagpipe found in Poland in the 16th-century
dudelsack bagpipe
duet a duet is a piece of music written for two performers. On the piano such a piece would involve two players on one instrument
dulciana organ stop
dulcimer an instrument that originated in Persia. strings, which are stretched over a soundboard, are hit by hammers. The type popular in the U.S. is the Appalachian dulcimer and is plucked, not hammered
dulcitone tuning fork celeste
dumka Polish, sad ballad
duo two musicians who play duets together. Duo's often play sonata duets for violin and piano, two pianos (or one piano with four hands), or violin and cello.
duolo grief
duple two beats per measure
duplet group of two notes played in the same time as normally would take for three
duplex instruments instruments that are a combination of two instruments
duplum in the organa and clausulae the part above the tenor
dur major
duramente roughly
durchbrochene arbeit technique in which melody fragments alternate between different instruments
durchfuhrung  in sonata form, the development, in the fugue, the exposition
durchgangsnote passing note
durchkomponiert  through-composed
durezza hard, harsh
dux, comes in fugue, canon, the statement and answer of the theme
dynamics the varying gradations of loudness and softness in music


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