Musical Terms

A cappella – Italian for “In the manner of the church or chapel” meaning that vocalists sing without the help of instrumental accompaniment

Accelerando – a tempo indication suggesting to gradually quicken or accelerate the beats (Abbreviation: Accel.)

Accessible – music that is easy to listen to and understand

Adagio – Italian for “at ease”. A slow and stately tempo usually performed between 66 and 76 bpm (beats per minute)

Agitato – Italian for “agitated” with implied quickness

Allargando – Italian for “widening”. A tempo indicator meaning to grow broader, decreasing the tempo, usually near the end of the piece

Allegro – Italian for “cheerful”. A lively, fast and bright tempo indication usually performed between 120 and 168 bpm (beats per minute)

Alto – the lower voice in choral music, not used for soloists, where mezzo-soprano is preferred

Andante – Italian for “at a walking pace” meaning 76 to 108 bpm (beats per minute)

Andante moderato – Italian for “a bit slower than Andante

Andantino – slightly faster than andante although sometimes people take it to mean slightly slower than andante

Animato – Italian for “animated” or “lively”

Appassionato – Italian meaning “to play passionately”

Atonal – Music that is written and performed without regard to any specific key

Attack – in singing, the attack is the way you start the note. There are three main types of attack: the glottal attack, the aspirated attack and the light attack

  • Glottal or hard attack starts from the bottom and is used when the first word of a phrase starts with a vowel
  • Aspirated or soft attack starts with an “h” and is used when the word starts with an “h”
  • Light attack or coordinated attack is produced when the breath and chords come together simultaneously. A light attack is most favoured by classical singers, although all are necessary.
  • Contemporary attacks – contemporary music has other attacks that are not named: I call them 1) a fried attack when they start with “vocal fry” common to many pop singers, including Christina Aguilera, 2) the Achy-breaky-heart attack, or the whiny attack, when it above and slides quickly toward the note, as found in country music and some pop music, and 3) the growled attack when the note starts with a rumble in the throat. It’s fun to play with these elements to add style.

Bari-tenor – a newer term originating in Broadway signifying a lower male voice but not as low as a baritone, often a tenor at the end of his career. Has a comfortable low D. Think Phantom in Phantom of the Opera.

Baritone – a lower male voice with a low B and a darker, richer tone quality. Many tenors think they are baritones before they learn to open the upper register; if they develop their lower register rather than the upper register, they risk never finding their true voice. There are several types of baritones including light, lyric, heavy, dramatic and coloratura.

Baroque – time in music history ranging from the middle of the 16th to the middle of the 17th centuries, characterized by emotional, flowery music; written in strict form

Bass – a low male voice, able to go below a low B and has a dark, rich tone quality; the lowest part in choral music

Basso-profundo – Italian for “profound bass” the lowest male voice, think Sam Elliot, James Earl Jones or Thurl Ravenscroft

Beat – the unit of musical rhythm

Bewegt – German for “animated” or “with motion”

Bravura – Italian for “broadly”

Cadence – a sequence of chords that brings an end to a phrase, either in the middle or the end of a composition

Cadenza – initially an improvised cadence by a soloist; later becoming an elaborate and written out passage in an aria or concerto, featuring the skills of an instrumentalist or vocalist

Canon – a musical form where the melody or tune is imitated by individual parts at regular intervals. The individual parts may enter at different measures and pitches. The tune may also be played at different speeds, backwards, or inverted.

Cantabile – Italian for “in a singing style” meaning lyrical and flowing

Cantata – music written for chorus and orchestra, most often religious in nature

Capriccio – Italian for “a quick, improvisational, spirited piece of music”

Carol – a song or hymn celebrating Christmas

Castrato – male singers who were castrated with the intention of helping to preserve their alto or soprano vocal range, sadly, it didn’t always work

Cavatina – a short and simple melody performed by a soloist that is part of a larger piece

Chamber music – written for 2 to 10 solo parts featuring one instrument to each part, each bearing the same importance

Chant – singing in unison in a free rhythm, similar to the rhythm of speech as in Gregorian Chant

Choir – a group of singers forming a chorus

Chorale – a hymn sung by the choir and congregation often in unison

Chord – 3 or 4 notes played simultaneously in harmony

Chord progression – a string of chords played in succession

Chorus – a group singing in unison

Chromatic scale – a scale including all twelve notes of the octave

Classical – the period of music history which dates from the mid 1700’s to mid 1800’s. The music was spare and emotionally reserved, especially when compared to Romantic and Baroque music.

Classicism – the period of music history which dates from the mid 1800’s and lasted about sixty years. There was a strong regard for order and balance.

Clavier – the keyboard of a stringed instrument

Clef –in sheet music, a symbol at the beginning of the staff defining the pitch of the notes found in that particular staff. These symbols include treble clef, bass clef, tenor clef and alto clef.

Coda – a closing section of a movement

Coloratura – elaborate ornamentation of a vocal melody, especially in operatic singing but other art forms as well

Con bavura – Italian for “with skill” meaning “boldly, brilliantly” in music and dance

Con brio – Italian for “with vigour and spirit” meaning to play in a vigorous or brisk manner

Con fuoco – Italian for “with fire” meaning to play fierily and/or impetuously

Con moto – Italian for “with motion” and in andante con moto is played at 74 bpm (beats per minute) or similar to Adagio

Concert Master – the first violin in an orchestra who’s second in command, next to the conductor

Concerto – a composition written for a solo instrument: the soloist plays the melody while the orchestra plays the accompaniment

Conductor – the one who directs a group of performers indicating the tempo, phrasing, dynamics, and style by gestures and facial expressions

Consonance – a groups of tones that are harmonious when sounded together as in a chord. It also refers to letters that are not vowels.

Contralto – the lowest female singing voice, often a mezzo-soprano at the end of her career

Counterpoint – two or three melodic lines played at the same time

Crooner – a smooth quality notably found in singers of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s such as Al Bowlly, Gene Austin, Art Gillham, Rudy Vallée, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Perry Como and Tony Bennett. Crooners coincided with the advent of radio broadcasting where microphones allowed for a more intimate style. This style declined in the mid-50’s with the advent of Rock ‘n Roll.

Da Capo – in sheet music, it’s an instruction to repeat the beginning of the piece before stopping on the final chord

Deceptive cadence – a chord progression that seems to lead to resolving itself on the final chord, but does not

Development – where the musical themes and melodies are developed, written in sonata form

Dissonance – harsh, discordant, and lack of harmony. Also a chord that sounds incomplete until it resolves itself on a harmonious chord.

Dolce – Italian for “sweetly” is an indication to play in a tender, adoring manner; to play sweetly with a light touch

Drone – dull, monotonous tone such as a humming or buzzing sound. In music, it’s also a bass note held under a melody

Duet – a piece of music written for two vocalists or instrumentalists

Dynamics – pertaining to the loudness or softness of a musical composition. It also refers to the symbols in sheet music indicating volume

Elegy – an instrumental lament with praise for the dead

Encore – a piece of music played at the end of a recital or performance responding to the audience’s enthusiastic reaction to the performance, shown by continuous applause

Energico – a symbol in sheet music a direction to play energetically

Enharmonic Interval – two notes that differ in name only, the notes occupy the same position, for example, C♯ and D is the same black note between C and D.

Ensemble – the performance of either all instruments of an orchestra or voices in a chorus

Espressivo – Italian for “expressively” meaning to play with emotion

Etude – a musical composition written solely to improve technique, often performed for artistic interest

Exposition – the first section of a movement written in sonata form, introducing the melodies and themes

Expressionism – atonal and violent style used as a means of evoking heightened emotions and states of mind

Ex temporea – the art of playing without premeditation, the conception of the music and its rendering being simultaneous, often in the bass line

Falsetto – Italian for “little false voice” refers to the highest range in a male voice often characterized by breathy, flutey and hollow sounds; a style of male singing whereby, partial use of the vocal chords, the voice is able to reach the pitch of a female. This register is available to most, if not all, men but the tone quality can vary from person to person.

Fermata – to hold a tone or rest held beyond the written value at the discretion of the performer

Fifth – the interval between two notes being three whole tones and one semitone making up the distance; in a major scale, its the tonic and the 5th note of the scale

Finale – Italian for “end”, a movement or passage that concludes the musical composition

Flat – a symbol indicating that the note is to be diminished or lowered by one semitone

Form – the structure of a piece of music

Forte – Italian for “loud”, an instruction in sheet music to play loudly, abbreviated by an “f”

Fortissimo – Italian for “very loud”, an instruction in sheet music to play very loudly, abbreviated by an “ff”m sometimes called double forte

Fortississimo – Italian meaning “very, very loud”, an instruction in sheet music to play very, very loudly, abbreviated by an “fff”, sometimes called triple forte

Fourth – the interval between two notes being two whole tones and one semitone making up the distance; in a major scale, its the tonice and the 4th note of the scale

Fugue – a composition written for three to six voices, beginning with the exposition, each voice enters at different times, creating counterpoint with one another

Galliard – music written for a lively French dance for two performers written in triple time

Gavotte – a 17th century dance written in quadruple time, always beginning on the third beat of the measure

Giocoso – Italian for “merrily” or “funny”; the definition of giocoso is a fun and joyful piece of music often referring to childrens’ songs

Gioioso – Italian for “joyfully” meaning to play in a blithe, gay, or joyful manner

Glee – vocal composition written for three or more solo parts, usually without instrumental accompaniment

Glissando – Italian for a deliberate “slide between two notes”

Grandioso – Italian for “magnificently” or “grandly” meaning to play in a broad and noble style

Grave – Italian for “serious” suggesting to play the piece slowly and seriously

Grazioso – Italian for “gracefully” meaning to play in an agreeable, graceful or dainty manner

Gregorian Chant – men singing or chanting in unison without strict rhythm, the first type of harmony featured in church music

Harmony – pleasing combination of two or three tones played together in the background while a melody is being played. Harmony also refers to the study of chord progressions.

Heldontenor – a powerful tenor voice suitable for heroic roles in opera, that has the quality of a baritone but the range of a tenor

Homophony – music written to be sung or played in unison

Hymn – a song of praise and glorification, most often to honour God

Impromptu – a short piano piece, often improvisational and intimate in character

Instrumentation – an arrangement of music for a combined number of instruments

Interlude – a free-form musical composition with the character of an ex temporea; a piece of instrumental music played between scenes in a play or opera

Intermezzo – Italian for “interlude” in music and theatre, an entertainment performed between the acts of a play, or a short movement connecting the main parts of a composition

Interpretation – the expression the performer brings when playing his instrument or singing

Interval – the distance in pitch between two notes

Intonation – the manner in which tones are produced with regard to pitch

Introduction – the opening section of a piece of music or movement

Key – a system of notes or tones based on and named after the key note or tonic

Key signature – the flats and sharps at the beginning of each staff line indicating the key of music the piece is to be played

Lacrimoso – Italian for “tearfully” or “sad”; to play marked by a plaintive style

Lamentoso – Italian for “lamenting” or “mournfully” to play plaintively and/or sadly

Langsam – German for “slowly” meaning to play with a broad tempo, or fairly slow

Largetto – Italian for “rather broadly” meaning to play the piece between 60 and 66 bpm.

Largo – Italian for “wide” meaning to perform the piece broadly, often between 40 and 60 bpm.

Leading note – the seventh note of the scale where there’s a strong desire to resolve up to the tonic

Lebhaft – German for for “lively” indication the mood in which to sing or play

Legato – Italian for “bound” understood to mean “smooth”. A suggestion to perform the movement, or entire composition, smoothly. A quality highly developed in classical music and the jazz crooners.

Leggero – Italian meaning “to play lightly” or “with a light touch”

Leitmotif – a musical theme given to a particular idea or main character of an opera

Lent – French for “slowly” meaning slow or broad, and is used to designate a tempo range from largo to lento or a metronome marking from around 40 to 60 beats per minute.

Lento – Italian for “slowly”, meaning to perform the piece slowly often meaning between 40 and 60 bpm.

Libretto – Italian for a “book of text” containing the words of an opera

Ligature – a curved line connecting notes on the page to be sung or played as a phrase

Lo stesso tempo – Italian for “at the same speed” meaning to play in the same tempo as before

Madrigal – a contrapuntal song written for at least three voices, usually without accompaniment

Maestoso – Italian for “majestic” or “stately” often used for a solemn, slow march-like movement

Maestro – Italian for “master” referring to any great composer, conductor, or teacher of music

Major – one of the two modes of the tonal system (the other being minor). Music written in major keys have a positive affirming character

Marcato – Italian for “marked” or “sharp”. Often used for a marching tempo, marked with emphasis

March – a form of music written for marching in two-step time, originally the march was used for military processions

Mäßig – German for “moderately” indicates that a section or piece is to be played at a moderate tempo

Measure – the unit of measure where the beats on the lines of the staff are divided up into two, three, four beats to a bar or measure

Medley – a composition that uses passages from other movements of the composition in its entirety, often used in overtures to signal or foreshadow certain themes

Meno – Italian for “less” as in meno mosso (see below)

Meno mosso – Italian for “less motion” or “less quickly”

Mezzo – Italian for “half” indicating the voice between soprano and alto. In sheet music, its also a direction for the tempo to be played at medium speed.

Mezzo-forte – Italian for “medium loud” abbreviated by “mf”

Mezzo-piano – Italian for “medium soft” abbreviated by “mp”

Mezzo-soprano – Italian for “half-soprano” meaning a lower female voice. There are several types of mezzo-sopranos including light, lyric, heavy, dramatic and coloratura.

Minor – one of the two modes of the tonal system (along with major); the minor mode can be identified by the dark, melancholic mood

Minuet – slow and stately dance music written in triple time

Misterioso – Italian for “mysterious”

Moderato – an Italian tempo marking indicating to perform the piece “moderately” usually between 108 and 120 bpm

Modéré– French for “at a moderate tempo” or speed

Modes – either of the two octave arrangements in modern music, being either major or minor. There used to be many other modes, some of which have been preservered in eastern music

Modulation – to shift to another key

Moins – French for “less” as in Moins Vite (less fast)

Molto – Italian for “much’ or “very” as in molto allegro “very quick” or molto adagio “very slow”

Monotone – repetition of a single tone. It also refers to speech patterns where the voice does little modulation up or down, staying mostly flat

Morendo – Italian for “dying away” meaning with a gradual softening of tone and slowing of movement

Mosso– Italian for “movement”, a more lively or quicker tempo, much like più mosso but not as extreme

Motif – the primary musical theme or subject, that is developed

Movement – a separate section of a larger composition

Musette – a Baroque dance with a drone-bass

Musicology – the study of musical forms, history, science, and methods

Neoclassical – a movement in music where the characteristics are crisp and direct

Natural – a symbol ♮ in sheet music that returns a note to its original pitch after it has been augmented (raised) or diminished (lowered)

Nobilmente – Italian for “nobly” meaning to perform the piece in a noble way

Nocturne – a musical composition that has a romantic or dreamy character with nocturnal associations

Nonet – a composition written for nine instruments

Notation – first developed in the 8th century, methods of writing music

Obbligato – Italian for “obligatory”, an extended solo, often accompanying the vocal part of an aria

Octave – eight full tones above the key note where the scale begins and ends

Octet – a composition written for eight instruments

Opera – a drama where the words are sung instead of spoken

Operetta – a short light musical drama

Opus – a convenient method of numbering a composer’s works where a number follows the word “opus” for example, Opus 28, No. 4.

Oratorio – an extended cantata on a sacred subject such as the Messiah or St. Matthew Passion

Orchestra – a large group of instrumentalists playing together

Orchestration – arranging a piece of music for an orchestra. It also, refers to the study of music.

Ornaments – tones used to embellish the principal melodic tone used extensively in the Baroque period

Ostinato – Italian meaning “obstinate” or “persistent”, used for a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, frequently at the same pitch 

Overture – an introduction to an opera or other large musical work

Parody – a composition based on a previous, often well-known, work. A common technique used in Medieval and Renaissance music.

Part – a line in a contrapuntal work performed by an individual voice or instrument

Partial – a harmonic given off by a note when it is played

Partita – a suite of Baroque dances

Pastoral – a composition whose style is simple and idyllic, suggestive of rural scenes

Patetico – Italian for “with great emotion” meaning moving, touching and poignant

Pentatonic scale – a musical scale having five notes. For example: the five black keys of a keyboard make up a pentatonic scale

Pesante – Italian for “heavily” meaning to perform the indicated passage of a composition in a heavy, ponderous fashion, with importance and weight

Phrase – a single line of music played or sung making up a musical sentence

Piacere – Italian for “at pleasure” meaning the performer can use their own discretion regarding tempo and rhythm

Piano – Italian for “softly”, an instruction in sheet music to play softly, abbreviated by a “p”

Pianissimo – Italian for “very softly”, the diminutive of piano, abbreviated by “pp”

Pianississimo – Italian for “very, very softly”, the diminutive of pianissimo, abbreviated by “ppp” sometimes called triple piano

Pitch – the frequency of a note determining how high or low it sounds

Pizzicato – string instruments that are picked instead of bowed

Poco – Italian for “slightly” or “little” as in Poco adagio “a little slow”

Polyphony – combining a number of individual but harmonizing melodies. Also known as counterpoint.

Polytonality – combination of two or more keys being played at the same time

Portamento – a mild glissando between two notes for an expressive effect, often with vibrato

Prelude – a short piece originally preceded by a more substantial work, also an orchestral introduction to opera, however not lengthy enough to be considered an overture

Prestissimo – Italian for “very quickly” or “extremely fast”. A tempo marking meaning to play the piece extremely fast, usually at 200 bpm or more.

Presto – Italian for “quickly” meaning “very fast”. A tempo marking meaning to play the piece very fast, or between 168 and 200 bpm.

Primo – Italian for “principal” or “early” as in tempo primo, or the same tempo “speed” as the beginning

Progression – the movement of chords in succession

Quartet – a set of four musicians who perform a composition written for four parts

Quintet – a set of five musicians who perform a composition written for five parts

Rallentando – Italian for “slowing” meaning to gradually slow down the tempo (Abbreviation: rall.)

Rasch – German for “quickly” meaning to perform a certain passage of a composition in a spirited, swift style

Recapitulation – a reprise or to play it again

Recital – a solo concert with or without accompaniment

Recitative – a form of writing for singers that is close to the manner of speech, so rhythmically free

Reed – the piece of cane in wind instruments; the players cause vibrations by blowing through it in order to produce sound

Refrain – a repeating phrase that is played at the end of each verse in the song

Register – a portion of the range of the instrument or voice. Women count three registers (chest, middle and head) and sometimes four if they have a whistle register. Men count three registers also (chest, middle and upper register) but since the lower two are unified, they feel little transition between these two. In their upper register, they also have falsetto as a fourth register. Men don’t really refer to their upper register as head voice as it is quite throaty and full bodied in quality. Women can sing quietly in their head register, whereas men cannot or they will flip into falsetto.

Relative Major and Minor – the Major and Minor keys that share the same notes in that key, for example, A-Minor shares the same note as C-Major

Relative pitch – the ability to determine the pitch of a note as it relates to the notes that precede and follow it, or for singers, how the note feels when they produce it, allowing them to reproduce it without prompting

Renaissance – a period in history dating from the 14th to 16th centuries, signifying the rebirth of music, art, and literature

Reprise – to repeat a previous part of a composition generally after other music has been played

Requiem – a dirge, hymn, or musical service for the dead

Resonance – when several strings are tuned to harmonically related pitches, all strings vibrate, when only one of the strings is struck. Also a term used in singing to indicate how the voice is amplified, including it’s tone quality

Rhythm – the element of music pertaining to time, played as a grouping of notes into accented and unaccented beats

Ricercar – Italian meaning “to seek out”, an elaborate polyphonic composition of the Baroque and Renaissance periods, from the 16th to 18th centuries

Ritardando – Italian for “delaying” meaning a more sudden decrease in tempo as compared to Rallentando. (Abbreviation: rit. or ritard.)

Ritenuto – Italian for “slightly slower” a temporary holding back of the tempo indicating more of a character change, than a tempo change

Rococo – an 18th century musical style marked by light gay ornamentation and departure from thorough-bass and polyphony

Romantic – a period in history during the 18th and early 19th centuries where the focus shifted from the neoclassical style to an emotional, expressive, and imaginative style

Rondo – the English word rondo comes from the Italian form of the French rondeau, which means “a little round”, a musical form introduced in the Classical period where the principal theme is repeated several times, often used for the final movements of classical sonatas

Rondò – the most fashionable showpiece aria-type in Italian opera during the last three decades of the 18th century. Although Mozart was far from being the first composer to use the rondò, he was certainly the most important. He refined and deepened the form, particularly by creating smoother transitions between the slow and fast sections. 

Root – the principal note of a triad (three notes played together)

Round – a canon where the melody is sung in two or more voices; after the first voice begins, the next voice starts singing after a couple of measures of the preceding voice, all parts repeat continuously

Rubato – Italian for “bent” or “stolen”, it indicates that the artist can apply free adjustment of the tempo for expressive purposes

Scale – successive notes of a key or mode either ascending or descending

Scherzando – Italian for “playfully”, meaning to play in a sportive manner or playfully

Scherzo – Italian for “joke, trick, prank, jest” or “game” pertaining to the sonata form, its a fast movement in triple time

Schnell – German for “fast”, meaning to play in a rapid manner or quickly

Scordatura – Italian for “detuning” often referring to the retuning of a stringed instrument in order to play notes below the ordinary range of the instrument or to produce an usual tone colour.

Senza – Italian for “without”, as in senza tempo or senza misura “without strict measure”

Septet – a set of seven musicians who perform a composition written for seven parts

Sequence – a successive transposition and repetition of a phrase at different pitches

Serenade – a lighthearted piece, written in several movements, usually as background music for a social function

Sextet – a set of six musicians who perform a composition written for six parts

Sharp – a symbol ♯ similar to today’s hashtag # indicating the note is to be raised by one semitone

Slide – a glissando or portamento. The term also refers to the moving part of a trombone.

Slur – a curve over notes to indicate that a phrase is to be played legato or smoothly

Sonata – music of a particular form consisting of four movements; each of the movements differ in tempo, rhythm, and melody; but are held together by subject and style

Sonata form – a complex piece of music, with the first movement of the piece serving as the exposition, the second a development, and third a recapitulation of previous themes

Sonatina – a short or brief sonata

Song cycle – a sequence of songs, perhaps on a single theme, or with texts by one poet, or having continuous narrative

Soprano – the highest female voice, comprising of many distinctive types (light lyric, lyric, heavy lyric, spinto, dramatic, coloratura, etc.)

Sostenuto – Italian for “supported” oftening meaning to perform in a sustained manner, sometimes with a slackening of the tempo

Staccato – short detached notes, indicated by a dot above or below the note, played sharply. The opposite of legato.

Staff – made up of five horizontal parallel lines and the spaces between them on which musical notation is written. The notes of the staff are determined by the four clefs: treble, bass, tenor and alto

Stretto – Italian for “in faster tempo”, often near the conclusion of a section, alternately, it can pertain to a fugue, in which the theme or motif overlaps by two or more voices a few beats apart

String Quartet – a group of four instruments, usually cpmprising two violins, a viola, and cello

Stringendo – Italian for “tightening”, a tempo indication meaning “to press on faster”

Subito – Italian for “suddenly” used in context with other terms such as subito fortissimo “suddenly very loud” and abreviated “sff”

Suite – a loose collection of instrumental compositions

Symphony – three to four movement orchestral piece, generally in sonata form

System – a combination of two or more staves on which all the notes are vertically aligned and performed simultaneously in differing registers and instruments

Tablature – a system of notation for stringed instruments in which the notes are indicated by the finger positions, commonly seen as notation for guitar chords or ukulele chords in charts or in music

Temperament – refers to the tuning of an instrument, there is equal temperament like the tuning of a piano and unequal temperament as applies to singing and string instruments. In unequal temperament, the thirds and fifths must be given more attention, the third being high and the fifth being low to achieve perfect tuning.

Tempo – an Italian term indicating the speed of a piece, plural is tempi. There are fast tempi and slow tempi, english is tempos.

Tempo giusto – Italian for “just” or “the right speed” referring to a consistent speed or strict tempo

Tempo semplice – Italian for “simple” or “straight forward” meaning to be played at a regular speed or plainly

Tenor – a singing voice between baritone and alto or countertenor; the highest of the ordinary adult male range

Tessitura – Italian for “texture” meaning the comfortable range of an instrumental or a vocal part. Distinct from the high and low notes, tessitura is the most often repeated note around which the line sits. Tessitura is very important for singers, as singing too high when its not comfortable, can by tiring

Theme – a melodic or, sometimes a harmonic idea presented in a musical form

Timbre – tone colour or quality of sound that distinguishes one verse or instrument to another. It’s determined by the harmonies of sound.

Time Signature – a numeric symbol in sheet music determining the number of beats to a measure

Tonal – pertaining to tone or tones; tonal is pleasing, as opposed to atonal, which is displeasing

Tonality – the tonal characteristics determined by the relationship of the notes to the tone

Tone – the intonation, pitch, and modulation of a composition expressing the meaning, feeling, or attitude of the music

Tonic – the first tone of a scale also known as a keynote

Treble – the playing or singing in the upper half of the vocal range. Also the highest voice in choral singing.

Tremolo – quick repetition of the same note or the rapid alternation between two notes often referring to a vibrato, or wave in the voice which is too fast

Très – French for “very” as in Très Vif or “very lively”

Triad – three note chords consisting of a root, third, and fifth

Trill – a type of ornament in classical music featuring a rapid alternation between notes that are a half tone or a whole tone apart

Trio – a composition written for three voices and/or instruments, performed by three persons

Triple time – time signature with three beats to the measure

Triplet – three notes played in the same amount of time as one or two beats

Tritone – a chord comprised of three whole tones resulting in an augmented fourth or diminished fifth

Tune – a rhythmic succession of musical tones, a melody for instruments and voices

Tuning – the raising and lowering a pitch of an instrument to produce the correct tone of a note

Tutti – Italian for “all”, a passage for the entire ensemble or orchestra to play all together

Twelve-tone music – music composed such that each note is used the same number of times

Unison – two or more voices or instruments playing the same notes simultaneously, on the same line

Verismo – a form of Italian opera beginning at the end of the 19th century, the setting is contemporary to the composer’s own time, and the characters are modelled on every day life

Vibrato – creating variation pitch within a note, heard as a wave, 7 to 9 cycles per second is considered ideal while too fast is considered a tremelo and too slow is considered a “wobble”

Virtuoso – a person with notable technical skill in the performance of music

Vif – French for “lively” or “bright”

Vite – French for “quickly” or “fast”

Vivace – Italian for “lively” or “fast”, a tempo indication suggesting to perform the piece in a brisk, lively and spirited manner often at 140 bpm or faster. Vivace is a quicker tempo than Allegro.

Voice – one of two or more parts in polyphonic music; voice refers to instrumental parts as well as the singing voice

Waltz – a dance written in triple time, where the accent falls on the first beat of each measure

Whistle voice – the highest register in females, whistle is produced by engaging part of the vocal folds, meaning they do not vibrate across their whole length. Not all women have this ability, in fact its quite rare. The tone quality does not vary much from person to person, and despite being high, is fairly easily produced by those who have it.

Whole note – a whole note is equal to 4 beats: 2 half notes, 4 quarter notes or 8 eighth notes, etc.

Whole-tone scale – a scale consisting of only whole-tone notes; such a scale consists of only 6 notes