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Dictionary of Musical terms to help with piano lessons

A B C D E F G H I J L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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A At, to, by
A Cappella (lit. in the church style.) Unaccompanied vocal music
accelerando, accel Gradually getting faster
Ad libitum At pleasure. The speed and manner of performance are left to the performer
Adagio . Slow
Adagietto Rather slow
Adagissimo Very slow
Affrettando Hurrying, pressing onwards
Agitato . Agitated
Alla Breve Formerly stood for four minims in a bar, now more often indicates two minim beats
Allargando Getting slower or broader, with an implication also of generally bigger tone
Allegro Lively, fast
Allegretto Rather lively (but less so than Allegro)
Andante (lit. walking). At a moderate pace
Andantino Alternatively faster or slower than Andante
Anima Soul.
Con anima, with deep feeling
Animato Animated
A piacere At pleasure
Appassionato Passionately
Appoggiatura. A grace-note
Arco A direction to string players to resume the use of the bow after a passage of pizzicato
Assai Very
A tempo In time, i.e. resuming normal speed after a deviation
Attacca. Go on at once
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Ben, Bene, Well
Bewegt, (Ger.) With movement
Bis, (Lat.) Twice
Breit, (Ger.) Broad
Bravura, (con.) (With) boldness and spirit
Breve, (lit. short). Originally a note of relatively short duration, but
now the longest note, equal to four minims
Brillante, Brilliant
Brio,
Vigour

Calando Decreasing both tone and speed
Cantabile In a singing style
Cantando
Cantilena Short, song-like piece
Capo (lit. head). The beginning (da capo-from the beginning)
Capriccio A caprice (a piece in free-light-hearted style)
Coda (lit. a tail.) A passage added at the end of a movement to make a satisfactory finish
Col coll, With the..
(colla, collo)
Col legno A direction to string players to use the wood of the bow
Colla parte (lit. with the solo part.) A direction to the accompanist
Colla voce (lit. with the voice.) To follow the solo instrument or voice
Come As
Come prima As at first
Come sopra As above
Comodo Convenient (usually linked with tempo-at a convenient pace)
Con With
Con sordino, With the mute, with the mutes
con sordini
Corda A string. See una corda, tre corde
Crescendo Becoming gradually louder
Cresc.

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Da From
Da capo From the beginning
D.C.
Dal segno From the sign
D.S.
Deciso Decisively, firmly
Decrescendo (decresc) Becoming gradually softer
Delicato Delicate
Diminuendo (dim) Becoming gradually softer
Divisi A direction to orchestral players
Div. (usually strings) to divide into two or more groups
Dolce Tenderly, sweetly
Dolcissimo Very gently, very sweetly
Dolciss.
Dolente Sadly
Dolore Grief, sorrow
Doppio Double
Doppio movimento Twice as fast
Duo A duet
Dur (Ger.) Major (G dur: G major)

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E, Ed. And
Ein wenig (Ger.) A little
En dehors (Fr.) Prominently, i.e. emphasised
En pressant (Fr.) Hurrying
En retenant (Fr.) Gradually slower
Energico With energy
Espressione Expression
Espressivo
Espr. With expression
Espress.
Etwas (Ger.) Somewhat

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Fadle Easy
Feurig (Ger.) Fiery
Finale The last movement of such a work as a Sonata
Fine The end
Forte Loud
Forte piano (fp) Loud, then soft
Fortissimo (ff or fff) Very loud
Forza Force
Forzando (fz) Forcing, a sudden accent
Fuga A fugue
Fuoco Fire
Furioso Furiously

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Gauche (Fr.) Left
Giocoso Gay, merry
Giusto . Strict, exact
(Tempo giusto In strict time)
Glissando The rapid playing of a scale passage by drawing thumb or finger across the keys. A similar effect is possible across the strings of a harp, or by a porta-mento effect on a string of a violin or similar instrument ; or by manipulating the slide of a trombone
G.P. Indicates to an orchestral player General Pause - that he is to remain silent and Grand Pause that all the other players are silent as well.
Grandioso Grandly, in the grand manner
Grave Very slow, solemn
Grazia Grace
Grazioso Gracefully

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Habenera A slow Spanish/Cuban dance in 2/4 time with the first quaver of the bar dotted
heiter (Ger) Cheerful, Serene

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Immer (Ger.) Always, constantly
Impetuoso Impetuously
Incalzando Increasing speed, with often an implication of increasing tone

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Jete. In String playing, a bowstroke in which the bow is dropped onto the string so as to bounce several times

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Key Signature. Group of sharps or flats placed at the start of a composition (or during) to indicate the key of the music

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Lacrimoso (lit. tearfully.) Sadly
Lamentoso Mournfully
Langsam (Ger.) Slow
Largamente Broadly
Larghetto Less slow than largo
Largo Slow and stately
Lebhaft (Ger.). Lively
Legato Smooth
Legatissimo As smoothly as possible
Legerement Lightly / Delicately
Leggiero Light, delicate
Legno See col legno
Lent (Fr.) Slow
Lento Slow
L.H. (Eng.) Left hand
Lied (Ger.) Song
Lieder ohne Worte Songs without words
L'istesso tempo (lit. the same speed.) The speed of the beat remains the same although the notation changes
Loco (lit. place.) Notes are to be played at their normal pitch(after an indication to play them an octave higher or lower)
Lontano As from a distance
Lunga pausa A long pause
Lusingando In a coaxing style
Lyrical With rubato played with a certain amount of freedom

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Ma But Ma non troppo But not too much Maestoso Majestically Mancando Waning, dying away Main droite (Fr.) Mano destra The right hand M.D. Main gauche (Fr.) Mano sinistra The left hand M.G. or M.S. Marcato Marked, accented Marc. Marcia . A march Martellato Hammered out Marziale Martial Massig (Ger.) Moderate Meno . Less Meno mosso Less movement, slower at once Mesto Sadly Mezza voce (lit. half voice.) In an undertone Mezzo forte (mf) Moderately loud Mezzo piano (mp) Moderately soft Misterioso Mysterious Misura (lit. measure.) Senza misura-in free time Ifit (Ger.) With Moderato Moderate time Moll (Ger.) Minor Molto . Much. Di molto, very much Morendo Dying away Mosso Moved, movement Moto Movement. MS. (Eng Manuscript Muta Change, e.g. Muta D in C is a direction to the Timpani player in the orchestra to tune the drum previously in D, to C

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Nicht (Ger.) Not
Nobilmente Nobly
Non Not
Non tanto Not so much
Non troppo Not too much

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Obbligato Indispensable, cannot be omitted
Opus (Lat.) A work. A published composition, e.g. Symphony NO. 4 in E minor, Op. 98. Brahms
Ossia Or. The word indicates an alternative version of a passage
Ostinato (lit. obstinate.) Frequently re-peated : e.g. Basso ostinato: a composition in which a bass tune (usually Of 4 or 8 bars) is repeated with varied treatment at each repetition
Ottava Octave
Ottava bassa An octave lower

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Parlando (lit. speaking.) To be sung in Parlante declamatory fashion with particular care for the enunciation of the words
Partitur (Ger.) A full orchestral score
Passionato Passionately
Pastorale In a pastoral style
Patetico . With feeling, with pathos
Pausa A rest (see G.P.)
Ped. Depress the right (sustaining) pedal of the piano. The sign means that the pedal should be released
Perdendosi Dying away
Pesante . Heavy, ponderous
Piacevole Pleasing, agreeable
Piangevole Plaintively
Piano (p) Softly
Pianissimo (pp or ppp) Very softly
Pui More
Pui allegro Quicker, more lively
Pui lento More slowly
Pui mosso More movement, quicker.
Pizzicato (pizz) Plucked (in string music)
Plus (Fr.) More
Pochettino A very little
Pochissimo As small as possible
Poco A little
Poco a poco Little by little
Poi Then
Ponticello The bridge of a violin or similar instrument.
Sul ponticello is a direction to string players to play near the bridge
Portamento A term to express the effect produced on a stringed instrument or by the human voice in gliding with extreme smoothness from note to note
Precipito Precipitately, impetuously
Prestissimo As fast as possible
Presto . Very quick
Prima volta First time (,-a volta)
Primo First

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Quasi As if, almost
Quasi recitative Like a recitative
Quasi una fantasia As if it were a fantasia, in the style of a fantasia

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Rallentando (rall.) Becoming gradually slower
Repetizone Repetition
Replica
R.H. (Eng.) Right hand
Rigoroso Strictly
Rinforzando Reinforcing, i.e. increased tone or rf. a single note
or a small group of notes not strictly a sudden accent
Risoluto Resolute, bold
Risvegliato With increased animation
Ritardando Gradually slower
Ritard
Ritenuto (rit or riten.) Held back
Ritmico. Rhythmically
Rubato Robbed, stolen, taking a portion
Tempo rubato of the duration from one note or group of notes
and adding it to another so that although the detail varies the
length of the phrase is normal
Ruhig (Ger.) Calm

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Scherzando Playful
Scherzo A joke
Scherzoso Playfully
Schnell (Ger.) Quick
Schneller (Ger.) Quicker
Sec (lit. dry.) Detached
Segno A sign See Dal segno
Segue Go on with what follows
Sehr (Ger.) Very
Semplice Simple
Sempre Always
Senza Without
Senza sordini Without mutes (for string and brass players). See also Sordini
Sforzando
Sforzato (sf or sfz)Forcing, accented
Simile In a like manner
Sin, Sino Until
Slargando Gradually slower
Slentando
Smorzando Dying away
Soave Gentle, smooth
Solenne Solemn
Sonore Sonorous, full-toned
Sopra Above
Sordini Mutes. Con sordini : With mutes. A direction for string or brass players.
Senza Sordini Without mutes (string and brass players). For pianists, depress the sustaining pedal (thereby raising the dampers from the strings and permitting the strings to vibrate freely).
Sospirando Sighing
Sostenuto Sustained
Sotto Below
Sotto voce In an undertone
Spiccato Detached, with springing bow.(A direction for string players.)
Spiritoso Spirited
Staccato Detached
Staccatissimo Very detached
Strepitoso Noisy, boisterous
Stringendo Gradually faster
Suave Gentle, smooth
Subito Suddenly
Sul On
Sul G On the G string (violin)
Siiss (Ger.) Sweet
Sul ponticello . Near the bridge (a direction to string players)

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Tacet (Lat.) It is silent
Tanto So much
Tasto Solo A term used in connection with figured bass to indicate that the bass part is to be played alone without harmony
Tempo The speed
Tempo comodo At a convenient speed
Tempo giusto In strict time
Tempo primo Resume the original speed
Tempo rubato See Rubato
Tenerezza Tenderness
Teneramente Tenderly
Tenuto (ten.) Held
Tosto Swift, rapid
Tranquillo Calm, tranquil
Traurig (Ger.) . Sadly
Tre Three
Tre corde (lit. three strings.) Release the left (soft) pedal of the
piano
Tremolando The rapid repetition of a note
Tremolo or rapid alternation of two notes
Trionfale Triumphant
Trionfantel
Troppo . . Too much
Tutta forza The whole power, as loud as possible
Tutti All

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Un, una, uno One
Un peu (Fr.) A little un poco
Una corda (lit. one string.) In pianoforte music it indicates that the left (soft) pedal should be used
Unis. Used in orchestral music, to show that the strings play in unison again after having been divided (divisi)

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Veloce Swift, quick
Vibrato Vibrating
Vif (Fr.) Lively, quick
Vigoroso Boldly, vigorously
Vite (Fr.)
Vivace Quick, lively
also Vivement (Fr.) Vivo
Vivacissimo Very lively, with extreme vivacity
Voce Voice
Volante Flying
Voll (Ger.) Full
Volti subito (v.s.) Turn the page quickly
Wenig (Ger.) Little

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Walking Bass  A type of bass line found in Baroque music (classical music) which moves with a purposeful regularity, setting the background forthe more melodic notes above it.  A similar effect is found in many different patterns in Jazz and Blues.

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Xylophone  A musical instrument.  (more about this instrument later)

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Yodel   A form of singing.  Associated mainly in the Swiss and Austrian Alpine areas

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Zart (Ger.) Delicate
ZU (Ger.) Too

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