Glossary of Terms

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 Welcome to the Glossary!
By Lane, Joanne and Marlo



A Capella-                 Singing that is done without accompaniment
Airs and dances -  
Alto-                            A low female vocal part
Anthem -                    composition to an English sacred text
Antiphonal -              one of the present liturgical books intended for use in a choir
Appoggiatura -         An unprepared accented dissonance which resolves by set either up or down. There are several different kinds.
                                     1. Accented passing tone
                                     2. Accented neighboring tones
                                     3. Suspensions in which the duration of the preparation is shorter then the suspension note
                                     4. Basic Appoggiatura is
                                                 a. Approached by a leap
                                                 b. Resolved by step
                                                 c. Always in an accented position
                                Image:Apoggiatura notaton.png
Arias -                        was originally any expressive melody, usually, but not always, performed by a singer. The term is now used almost exclusively to describe a self-contained
                                   piece for one voice usually with orchestral accompaniment.
Arpeggio -                an arpeggio is a broken chord where the notes are played or sung in succession rather than simultaneously
                                                                  An arpeggio as seen on a staff
Authentic Cadence- A Cadence that uses the Tonic and Dominant


Ballad -                     A ballad is a narrative poem, usually set to music; it often is a story told in a song
Baroque -                 The period of arts (here: music) from the early to mid 1600's to the mid 1700's
Bass-                       A low male vocal part.  There is also a string instrument by this name.
Basso continuo -    Basso continuo parts, used almost exclusively in the Baroque era (1600-1750), were, as the name implies, played continuously throughout a piece, providing
                                   the harmonic structure of the music.
Basso ostinado -   A ground bass (also basso ostinato: obstinate bass) is a bass part or bassline that sometimes repeats continually, while the melody and possibly harmony over it always repeat.


Cadence-                   A set of notes at the end of a phrase, motif, theme, or piece that brings closure or resolution.  (See Authentic Cadence, Half Cadence, Plagal Cadence)
Cantata -                     A cantata (Italian: sung) is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment and generally containing more than one movement.
Cantor -                       A Cantor (Latin: singer) is the chief singer (and oft times instructor) with the responsibilities for the rest of the choir.
Chamber music -     Chamber music is a form of classical music, written for a small group of instruments. Most broadly, it includes any "art music" that is
                                     performed by a small number of performers with one performer to a part.
Chorale -                      (also choir or chorus) is a musical ensemble of singers
Chorale -                    was originally a hymn of the Lutheran church sung by the entire congregation. In casual modern usage, the term also includes
                                     classical settings of such hymns and works of a similar character.
Chromaticism -         is a compositional technique interspersing the primary diatonic pitches and chords with other pitches of the chromatic scale.
Concerto, concerti - usually refers to a musical work in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an orchestra.
Concerto grosso -    is a form of baroque music in which the musical material is passed between a small group of soloists and full orchestra
Condensed Score- Usually used by a conducter, this is a score that has all parts condensed onto one grand staff
consonance -            (opposite of dissonance) is a harmony, chord, or interval considered stable. There is no real definition of consonance, but you can say that consonance is those sounds which are pleasant.
Continuo -                  Basso continuo  is the practice of creating an accompaniment from a composed bass part by playing the bass notes and improvising harmony above them. Composers often wrote numbers ("figures," hence "figured bass") on the bass part to indicate the harmony, but the rules of continuo realization are firm enough that skilled players can play from an unfigured bass part.
Contrapuntal -           Adjective form of counterpoint.
Counterpoint -           the relationship between two or more voices that are independent in contour and rhythm, and interdependent in harmony. It has most commonly been
                                     identified in western music, developing strongly in the Renaissance, and also dominant in much of the common practice period, especially during Baroque
Court -                      
Etude-                       A work written to help musicians practice


Dissonance -          (opposite of consonance) there is no real definition of dissonance, but you can say dissonance are those sounds which are unpleasant and work against
                                   each other
Dominant-               The 5th note in a key.  In the key of C Major, G would be the Dominant note
Dynamics-              The volume that music is played at.  Marked in music using Italian abbreviations (pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff)


Figured bass -       (also thoroughbass) is a kind of integer musical notation used to indicate intervals, chords, and nonchords notes, in relation to a bass note. Figured bass is   
                                  closely associated with basso continuo, an accompaniment used in almost all genres of music in the Baroque period, though rarely in modern music.
Fugue -                    a type of contrapuntal composition or technique of composition for a fixed number of parts, normally referred to as "voices", irrespective of whether the work is
                                  vocal or instrumental


Grand concerto -Sacred work for one, two, or three solo voices with organ continuo
Grand Staff-        2 staves that are used by one instrument and are linked together with a bracket.  They are used by instruments whose ranges are too large to fit on one staff,                                                 such as the harp and the piano
Ground bass -   A ground bass is a bass part or bassline that sometimes repeats continually (ostinato), while the melody and possibly harmony over it always repeat.


 Half Cadence- Any Cadence other than an authentic cadence or a plagal cadence
Harpsichord -      the principal stringed keyboard instrument from the 16th to the 18th centuries and the chief instrument of the basso continuo; small harpsichords were called virginals or spinets. The harpsichord resembles a piano, but its sound is based on quills that pluck the strings rather than hammers. Because of this, the harpsichord cannot play at different dynamic levels.  It was superceded by the piano in the 19th century. To many, the sound of a harpsichord is almost metallic.
Harmony -  The simultaneous occurrence of musical tones, as opposed to melody
Homophonic -  A musical technique that displays a vast separation amongst the melody line and the accompaniment. This homophonic style eventually became dominant in                                    instrumental forms of music as well.
Hymn -


Intonation - Degree of adherence to correct pitch. Good intonation implies close approximation of the pitch; poor intonation implies deviation from pitch


Madrigal - A name of uncertain derivation for two types of early vocal music, one of the 14th, the other of the 16th century, both of Italian origin. The 14th century madrigal is in a fixed form, consisting of two or three short stanzas with identical music an a final one with different music. Usually the term refers to the 16th century type, which is based on love lyrics having no set form and is composed in four or, more often, five voices in an imitative style but often interspersed with homophonic passages
Magnificat -
Melisma - The technique of changing the note (pitch) of a single syllable of text while it is being sung. Music sung in this style is referred to as melismatic, as opposed to syllabic,                     where each syllable of text is matched to a single note.
Meter -
Mezzo-soprano- A female vocal part that falls between alto and soprano.  Slang: Mezzo
Monophony - Music consisting of a single melodic line without additional parts or chordal accompaniment; it is the oldest type of music
Motet -  The most important form of early polyphonic music


Non-terraced Dynamics- Dynamics that change gradually



Opera -
Oratorio - A musical setting, for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra, of an extended story, of a religious or contemplative nature, performed in a concert hall or church, without                                 scenery, costumes, or physical action
Orchestral -
Ornamentation -
Ostinato Line- A line that repeats a measure or two multiple times
Overture -


Patronage -
Plagal Cadence- A cadence that uses the Tonic and Sub-Dominant.  It is used extensively in sacred hymms
Polyphony -  Music consisting of several (two or more) melodic lines, each having individual significance and independence
Prelude - A piece of music designed to be played as an introduction; also used for operatic overtures
Programmatic - A piece written with a story in mind. Many composers choose to use mythology-such as in Scheherezade by Rimsky-Korsakovand Oedipus Rex by Stravinsky- and Shakespeare is quite popular too (note the many versions of Romeo and Juliet)
Psalm -


Quartets - A composition that is written for four instruments or voices; also the four performers assembled to play or sing such compositions; most important type is the string                             quartet, which typically includes 2 violins, 1 viola, and 1 cello


Quintets - A composition that is written for five instruments or voices



Range- The notes that an instrument is capable of hitting
Recitative - A vocal style designed for the speechlike declamation of narrative episodes in operas, oratorios or cantatas
Ritornello -


Sacred - Music that was specifically written for use in church services
Secular - Music that has no relation to the church
Sequence -
Sinfonia -
Sonata -  The sonata was a multi-movement work that was composed for various solo instruments and for small chamber groups during the Baroque era. The term sonata appeared in the early 1500s in Italy. There were three types of sonatas: an unaccompanied solo sonata that was written for the violoin or cello; an accompanied solo sonata that was written for different instruments with basso continuo; and a trio sonata that was written for two solo instruments and basso continuo played by a keyboard instrument or cello.
Soprano- High female vocal part
Staves- Plural of staff
Strophic Song- A song that follows the pattern verse, chorus, verse, chorus.  The notes in each verse remain the same, even though the words may change.
Subdominant - The 4th note in a key.  In the key of C major, the sub-dominant note would be F
Suite -
Syncopation - a shifting of the normal accent, usually by stressing the normally unaccented beats.


Tempo -  The speed at which music is played, measured in beats per minute (BPM). Changing the tempo changes only the speed, and does not affect the pitch of the sound.
Tenor- A high male vocal part
Ternary - ABA Form
Terraced Dynamics- Dynamics that change suddenly
Thematic variation -
Toccata - An important type of early keyboard music, originating in the sixteenth century but cultivated mainly in the Baroque period
Tonic- The first note in a key.  In the key of C major, the Tonic note would be C
Trill - A type of ornamentation, the rapid alteration between a note and the note above it
Trio-  A composition written for three instruments or voices


Variations- An important musical form, the principal of which is to present a given melody, called the theme, in a number of modifications, each of which is a variation

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