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Classical musical terms




t abbr. for tasto, tempo, tenor, toe, trill, tonic, and tutti
t.s. abbr. for tasto solo
ta'amim ecphonetic notation
tabla a pair of drums from northern India, which are played with the hands
tablature systems of notation whereby specific strings and frets are indicated
tabor a small side drum, which was traditionally used in folk dancing. tabors usually have a snare made from gut stretched across the side that is beaten
tacet be silent
tactus a fixed "beat" approximately one second
tafelmusik indicates music used to accompany banquets. Telemann provides a well known example in three sets of musique de table, more commonly seen now under the German title, tafelmusik.
tagliato obsolete term for the alla breve sign
taille middle voice, usually the tenor
takt beat or measure
talon nut, frog (of violin bow)
tambora double-headed drum with goatskin heads
tamborito Panamanian dance of decidedly African influences, where a female vocalist sings accompanied by percussion
tambour the term is normally used nowadays to describe a kind of tambourine without jingles.
tambourin two headed medieval drum
tambourine a small single-headed hand-drum with jingles in its wooden frame. it is an instrument of some antiquity, but first found an occasional place in the symphony orchestra only in the 19th century, when it came to be used for exotic effects, as in the capriccio Espanola and Sheherazade of Rimsky-Korsakov, where it gives a touch of the Spanish and the Middle Eastern respectively.
tambur Afghanistan lute with long neck and round body
tambura drone lute of India
tamburin tambourine
tamburo drum or timpani
tampon two-headed drumstick used to make a bass drum-roll
tamtam a gong, an instrument of Chinese origin in its western orchestral form. It is first found in this context towards the end of the 18th century, when it is used for dramatic effect. Gustav Holst makes use of the tam-tam in mars, from the planets, and sets of gongs of a more obviously oriental kind are used by Puccini in his operas Madam Butterfly and Turandot
tanbur lute of Balkan and Middle Eastern countries, similar to tambur
tangent brass blade that hits the strings of the clavichord
tango an erotic Argentinean dance, which became popular in Europe in the period just before WW I
tanto is occasionally found in tempo indications, as in allegro ma non tanto, similar in meaning, if slightly weaker than allegro ma non troppo, allegro but not too much
tanz dance
tarantella a lively dance named after Taranto in southern Italy. Two legends connect the dance with the tarantula spider, which also derives its name from the town. the first is that the spider's bite causes a madness that induces wild dancing; the second is that the sweat produced acts as an antidote to the spider's poison.
tardamente slowly
tardando slowing down
tardo slow
tarogato originally, a Hungarian wooden natural horn. now a wooden saxophone
taschengeige kit
taste key of keyboard
tastiera keyboard
tasto key (of keyboard)
tasto solo bass only
tattoo military signal to call soldiers to their barracks
te deum is a canticle sung in thanksgiving and forming a part of the divine office, where it appears after matins on Sundays and major feast days. It later formed part of the church of England morning service. well known examples are found in two settings by Handel, the Utrecht te Deum and the Dettingen te Deum, with more elaborate settings in the 19th century from Berlioz and Bruckner.
technic skill in playing or singing
telyn Welsh harp
tema theme
temperament system of tuning in which the intervals deviate from the pure Pythagorean intervals to deal with chromatics
temperaments are the various alterations of strict tuning necessary for practical purposes. Equal temperament, now in general use, involves the division of the octave into twelve equal semitones, a procedure that necessitates some modification of intervals from their true form, according to the ratios of physics. Equal temperament, exemplified in Johann Sebastian Bach's 48 preludes and fugues for the well-tempered clavier, won gradual acceptance in the 18th century, replacing earlier systems of tuning. It has been plausibly suggested that the system of equal temperament was borrowed from China, where its mathematical basis was published towards the end of the 16th century.
tempestoso as a storm.
tempo giusto in exact tempo
tempo i resume opening tempo
tempo indications descriptive words or numbers to instruct a performer as to the tempo of a piece of music
tempo primo resume opening tempo
tempo rubato in tempo ad libitum
tempo means the speed at which a piece of music is played. sometimes the exact tempo is given at the beginning of a piece of music with the number of beats to a minute, as measured by a metronome. More often tempo indications give the performer more latitude, although the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok, for example, gives exact timings, often of each section of a work. in much earlier music the tempo is implicit in the notation or in the type of music.
temps beat
ten abbr. for tenuto, tenor
teneramente tenderly
tenor the highest non-falsetto or castrato adult male voice. instruments of similar pitch, such as the recorder, trombone, tuba and saxophone, are also referred to as tenor
tenor c the space "c" of the bass clef
tenor clef the "c" clef on the fourth line of the staff
tenor drum similar to the snare drum, but larger, much deeper, and usually without snares
tenorlied a German song, in which the tenor vocal line predominates, or has the melody
tenorschlussel tenor clef
tenth an octave plus a third
tenuta see tenuto
tenute see tenuto
tenuto a line placed above or below the note meaning to sustain for full value
teponaztli pre-Columbian barrel-shaped drum with head perforation in the shape of the letter "h," creating two facing tongues, used in central America
terce the fourth of the canonical hours
ternary form is a tripartite musical structure, three-part song-form, in which the third part is an exact or modified repetition of the first. Standard examples of ternary form can be heard in the minuet and trio movements of Haydn and Mozart
ternery form a b a form
tertian harmony harmony based on thirds
terz third
terzett(o) vocal trio
terzina triplet
tessitura the range in which a voice part spends most of the time. this has a dramatic effect on sing ability, far more than an isolated low or high, due to the fact that the vocal muscles tire if they are forced to hold the same position for too long
testo witness, narrator
testudo lyra, frequently made of tortoise shell
tetrachord part of the descending scale of ancient Greek music going through the fourth. any four scale notes contained in the perfect fourth
text words, lyrics set to music
texture the character of a composition as determined by the relationship of its melodies, countermelodies, and/or chords
the forty-eight the well-tempered clavier
the tonic principal and lowest note of the scale in which a piece of music is set
the well-tempered clavier the forty-eight
theme a theme is a complete tune or melody which is of fundamental importance in a piece of music. Thematic metamorphosis or thematic transformation describes a process used by Liszt and others in which a theme may undergo transformation to provide material to sustain other movements or sections of a work, where new and apparently unrelated themes might otherwise have been used.
themenaufstellung exposition
theory the study of the system of music, including rhythms, notation, form, scales, harmony, etc.
theremin an electronic instrument invented by Leon Theremin, a scientist of French origin who lived and worked in Russia, has the original feature of being played without the performer touching it. Frequencies and dynamics are controlled by the movement of the player's hands in the air, with pitch varying according to the distance of the right hand from an antenna and dynamics varying by the similar use of the left hand.
thesis downbeat, usually used in chant
third the interval of three diatonic degrees
thirty-second note one eighth of a quarter note. usually written with three flags
thorough bass bass with written roots and numbers rather than fully notated harmony
through-composed applied to songs in which new music is composed for each repeating stanza
thunder machine a percussion instrument that simulates the sound of thunder
tie a curved line connecting two notes of the same pitch, indicating that the second is not to be re-attacked, but merely sustained as an extension of the first
tierce third. An organ stop that sounds the third of a harmonic of the key played
tierce de picardie picardy third
timbale kettledrum
timbre the spectral pattern defining the tone quality
timbrel tambourine
time tempo, meter, or the length of notes
time signature consists of two numbers at the beginning of a piece of music but can change throughout the piece. The top number tells you the number of counts in each measure; the bottom number tells you the type of note that receives one count.
timing the length of a performance, needed for recording and broadcasting
timoroso timidly, hesitantly
timpan psaltery or dulcimer type instrument, either plucked or struck
timpani the only tune able drum. A membrane stretched over the top of a hollow metal shell is tightened or slacked for tuning by screws on the rim or by a pedal.
tin whistle a wind instrument with six holes. Originally made from tin, and now mostly from steel
tintinnalulum bell
tiple soprano; a small guitar
tirade, tirata  baroque ornament consisting of a long scale passage
tirana Andalusia dance song
tirare to draw
tirasse pedals of organ which were coupled to regular pipes
tirer, tirez down bow
toccata  is an instrumental piece, often designed to display the technical proficiency of a performer and found particularly in keyboard music from the 15th century onwards. There are notable examples in the organ music of Bach
toccatina short toccata
todeslied dirge
tokkate toccatta
tombeau is a title used by French composers in tributes offered to predecessors or contemporaries. ravel had recourse to this baroque title in his 1914 tombeau de couperin.
tom-tom a family of African drums of various sizes and pitches, with a fairly pure tone
ton tone, sound, pitch, key, mode
tonabstand interval
tonada lyrical folksong in quatrains with refrain
tonadilla short comic opera
tonal music with a center, or tonic, which employs tones which relate to that tonic in a predictable and measurable manner
tonal of, or pertaining to tone or tonality
tonality the system on which tonal compositions are based; use of a scale and or a series of harmonies to cause in the listener a perceived tonal center
tonart key, mode, or scale
tonary thematic catalog of chants
tondichtung tone poem
tone a sound of definite pitch. also used to describe an interval of two semitones (whole tone) or the characteristics of a sound
tone cluster vaguely specified group of notes that are close together on the keyboard, and are played with some part of the body other than the fingers or a foreign object
tone color tone quality, timbre
tone poem is a symphonic poem, an orchestral composition that seeks to express extra-musical ideas in music. The term tondichtung was preferred by Richard Strauss, a master of the form.
tone row see twelve-tone
tonette an instrument in the ocarina family
tonguing articulation of notes with the tongue in wind instruments
tonhohe pitch
tonic the first note of a scale; a chord built on the first note of a scale
tonic minor parallel minor (but relative minor = relative minor)
tonika tonic
tonkunst music
tonkunstler composer
tonleiter scale
tonmalerei music which describes
tono tone, key
tono llanero folksong of Venezuelan and Colombian plains that has no trace of African origins
tonsatz composition
tonschrift tone writing, notation
tonus whole tone
torbellino Colombian dance in 3/4 with fermatas and vocal ornamentations on the upbeats
tosto quickly
touch the manner in which a keyboard key is sounded
touche keyboard, fingerboard
toye short piece for the virginal
tpt abbr. trumpet
tr abbr. for trill, trombone, treble, transpose
tracker action mechanical key action in pipe organ
tract item used in place of alleluia
traktur tracker action
tranquillamente tranquilly
tranquillo tranquil
transcribe to rearrange music for instruments other than the ones for which it was originally written
transcription music may be transcribed or arranged for instruments other than those for which it was originally designed. well known transcriptions are found among the short pieces arranged for violin and piano by the famous violinist Fritz Kreisler
transient passing
transition a transient modulation; a passage leading from one motif to the next
transpose to play music in a key or octave other than the one in which it was written, to suit a particular performer or instrument
transposing instruments instruments whose music is written in a key other than that in which they actually sound. e.g. A standard trumpet is in b-flat, but music that sounds in b-flat appears in the key of c
transposition music may be transposed when the original key is changed, a process all too necessary in accompanying singers and for whom a transposition of the music down a tone or two may be necessary. Some instruments are known as transposing instruments because the written notes for them sound higher or lower than the apparent written pitch, when they are played
transverse flute the modern flute (held perpendicular to the body), as differentiated from the recorder
transverse flute the orchestral flute is transverse, held horizontally, as opposed to the recorder, which is held vertically
traps special sound effect devices. in jazz, the sound effect producers plus normal drums
trascinando dragging
trattenuto delayed
trauermusik music for funerals
traumerisch dreamy
tre three
tre corda three strings. Means to release the soft pedal
tre corde literally, three strings. It is an indication in piano music to release the soft-pedal
treble the treble voice is a voice in the higher register. The word is generally used for the unbroken voice of boys, although the register may be similar to that of the female soprano. Treble instruments are instruments of higher register and the g clef in use for this register is commonly known as the treble clef. Originally the treble or triplum was the third part added above a duplum or second additional part, lying above the lowest part, the tenor of the medieval motet.
treble clef also called the "g clef"; read by saxophone, flute, oboe, clarinets, trumpet, French horn & mallet percussion
tredezime thirteenth (compound sixth)
treibend hurrying
tremando trembling effect
tremelo quivering, fluttering. produced as follows. strings. rapid alternation of bow strokes. voice. improper air flow caused by nerves or poor technique, piano. rapid alternation between two notes of an octave. organ. use of a vibrato or tremulant stop
tremulant organ stop used to produce tremolo
trepak Cossack dance in 2
tres very
triad any chord composed of a root, third and fifth
triangle the triangle is now part of the orchestral percussion section. It is an instrument of indefinite pitch made from a steel bar bent into the shape of an equilateral triangle and is played by being struck with a steel beater or, for softer effects, a wooden stick. It was used occasionally in opera in the earlier 18th century, but came into its own with the Turkish music of, for example, Mozart's opera the abduction from the Seraglio (die entfuhrung aus dem serail). its appearance in Liszt's e flat piano concerto in 1853 caused some amusement among hostile critics. Tremolo effects are occasionally demanded
tricesimoprimal temperament division of the octave into 31 microtones
tricinium vocal composition in three parts
trill an ornament consisting of a rapid alternation between two pitches, the main pitch, and the pitch a whole or half step above it
triller trill
trinklied drinking song
trio composition for three parts, or the ensemble itself; contrasting section in certain forms such as rags, marches, minuets
trio sonata the most popular of middle and late baroque instrumental forms, is a sonata for two melody instruments and basso continuo, usually a bass instrument and a chordal instrument, and consequently usually calls for four players. Trio sonatas are found at their best in the work of Corelli at the end of the 17th century. these consist of two sets of a dozen church sonatas (sonate da chiesa) and two sets of a dozen chamber sonatas (sonate da camera). There are distinguished later examples by Telemann, Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach, although the six organ trio sonatas by Bach interweave three strands of melody, one for each hand and one for the feet, and are, of course, for one player.
triole riplet
triple time a time signature, in which the primary division is into three beats per bar, such as 3/4 or 3/2
triplet group of three notes played or sung in the time normally taken by two notes
triste lovelorn song , in a Spanish Indian patois, mostly pentatonic, from Peru and northern Argentina
tritone the diminished fifth or augmented fourth, exactly three whole steps, and divides the octave right down the middle
tromba trumpet or bugle
trombone made it's first appearance in the middle of the 15th century. It is a brass instrument with a cup-shaped mouthpiece and a slide that enables the player to shorten or lengthen the tube and hence the notes of a particular harmonic series. The early trombone was known in English as a sackbut. The instrument had ceremonial associations and in the later 18th century was only occasionally used in the orchestra, notably by Mozart in his Masonic opera die Zauberflote and in his requiem mass. with Beethoven the trombone became an accepted if not indispensable part of the orchestra
trommel  drum
trommelbass stereotyped bass figures
trope a type of plainchant used between 10th and 12th centuries
troper a book of tropes
troppo too much, overdone
troubadour were the court poets and composers of southern France in the 12th and 13th centuries. The trouveres flourished particularly in the 13th century to the north of the country. Their surviving music forms an important body of secular song from this period
troubadours musicians of 12th century France
trouvere lyric poets or poet-musicians of northern France, writing in French (langue d'oil), in the 12th and 13th centuries
trumpet a brass instrument with three valves, which change the length of the tube to alter its pitch
trutruka long wooden trumpet-like instrument, used by Araucan Indians of southern South America
tuba a term applied to a variety of large, deep-toned brass instruments with valves. these include the euphonium, flugelhorn, helicon, saxhorn, and sousaphone
tubaphone percussion instrument similar to the glockenspiel, tubular bells
tubular bells are tuned metal tubes suspended from a vertical frame, are used in the percussion section of the modern orchestra for special effects, making their earlier appearance primarily in opera
tune melody; also a verb meaning to align the pitches of an instrument with the other pitches of the same instrument, or with other instruments
tuning the process of aligning the pitches of instruments, of getting them in tune
tuning fork a u-shaped steel rod with a handle at the base whose prongs produce a pure note of definite pitch. it is usually tuned to c or a but can be any note. It is also used by choirs to indicate pitch
tuning slide movable clip for tuning an organ pipe. the sliding part of a brass instrument that adjusts the tuning
tupan Balkan drum
turca. alla turca is found in descriptive titles of music towards the end of the 18th century and thereafter, as in Mozart's well known rondo alla turca, rondo in the Turkish style. Turkish music, at that period, was superficially imitated, principally by the use of triangle, cymbals and bass drum, added to a supposedly typical melody of martial character, derived remotely from the janissary band
Turkish crescent percussion instrument consisting of a stick mounted on crescent shaped crossbars, each hung with bells
turn an embellishment consisting of four notes (usually) a principal note played twice with its higher and lower auxiliary
turn over turn pages, turn the page
turn pages turn over
tusch brass fanfare
tutti an instruction in a musical score for all the performers to join in, typically after a solo section. also used in the phrase a tutti, meaning 'with full force'
tvisogur two part folk singing that resembles organum at the fifth
twelfth octave plus a fifth
twelve-note composition composition by the use of the twelve semitones of the octave in a predetermined order or series, which may be inverted, written in retrograde form or in retrograde inversion, and transposed. The system of composition, developed by Arnold Schoenberg in the early 20th century, has had a strong influence over the course of music of the 20th century (see serialism)
twelve-tone music music in which no pitch class (or note) is repeated until all other chromatic pitches have been used. any group of twelve pitches arranged this way is called a row
twelve-tone technique series of the twelve half-steps of the octave with each given equal importance. All twelve must be used before the series can begin again. This gives the music the effect of no tonal center
tympani timpani, kettledrum
tyrolienne yodeling song in the form of a landler

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