Music Vocab Words all Musicians Should Know (A-Z)

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Written by Ramsey Brown.

Expanding your vocabulary is very beneficial for anyone to do. Especially if you are a musician, lyricist, or anyone wanting to know more about the music industry. The vocabulary of music has a long and rich history; in this article, we will discuss hundreds of key terms and definitions of music theory, instruments, business terms, and other basic music vocabulary for beginners and experts as well.

A)

a capella - musical performance by singer/singing group without an instrumental accompaniment

accelerando - (of direction) increasing speed

accent - a diacritical mark used to emphasize a word or give it a unique pronunciation 

accidental - the musical note that indicates whether a note is flat, sharp, or natural

accompaniment - a musical part that serves as a foundation for other musical parts

agadio -  another word for slowly

amplify - to increase the volume of something

analog - having a proportional output to one's input

andante - in a more slow tempo

annotation - the process of adding notes

articulation - the manner in which things are related and come together

atonal - distinguished by the avoidance of traditional diatonic scales

attack - a decisive way of starting a musical phrase or tone

audition - a performance that's meant to give a person a role (theatre play, television show, film, etc).

augmented - added to or increased in quantity or strength

B) 

ballad - popularly penned narrative poem

ballet -  a story told by experienced dancers in a theatrical performance

baritone - second lowest-pitched instrument in its family

baroque - ornamented style of art and music that prevailed from the 1600s to the 1750s

bass - the lowest octave of a musical scale

bass clarinet - large clarinet that has an octave range below the B-flat clarinet

bass clef - the musical symbol that places the F below middle C on the fourth line 

bass drum - often called kick drum, it's a large two-headed drum instrument that has a low booming sound

basset horn - a musical instrument that's part of the clarinet family / also known as alto clarinet in F

bass guitar - plucked string instrument that was invented in the 1930s and is part of the guitar family

basso - vocal part or bass voice

bassoon - a bass instrument with a double reed (part of the oboe family) 

beat - basic rhythmic unit or main accent in music and poetry

bebop - modern jazz music that originates around 1940

binary - composed of, related to, or involving two as its base

bluegrass - country music influenced by blues and jazz / it is characterized by high-pitched vocals and the virtuosic playing of guitars and banjos

blues - feelings of depression, sadness, or melancholy

C)

cadence - the end of a musical segment 

calando - slowly lowering the pace and volume 

canon - a piece of music in which different sections of the melody are reproduced

cantabile - flowing and smooth 

carol - a happy tune 

chime - a percussion instrument made up of a series of tuned bells that are pounded with a hammer; used in orchestras 

chord - a set of three or more notes that work well together

chromatic - based on a semitone scale with 12 semitones

copyright - exclusive selling rights to a work 

crescendo - a rise in volume over time 

D)

dance - a series of rhythmical moves performed in synchronization with music

decrescendo - a progressive reduction in volume

development - a portion of a composition in which the main themes are developed 

diction - the technique of articulating words such that they can be understood by others 

digital - using or resembling electronic technologies 

diminished - every perfect or minor interval is reduced by a semitone 

duet - two singers or artists that perform together 

E)

embellish - make something more attractive/beautiful

embouchure - a hole in a wind instrument that the player blows straight into 

encore - an additional show due to popular demand 

episode - a little segment of a work that is part of a larger series 

exposition - a portion of a movement in which major musical motifs appear for the first time

F) 

falsetto - unnaturally high tones in a male singing voice 

finale - a musical composition's final movement 

folk - the traditional and generally anonymous music that is a representation of a community's life

forte - to be played at a reasonable volume

fugue - a musical style in which a topic is repeated

G)

genre - a literary or creative effort of some type 

glee - a lot of enjoyment/merriment

grave - in a dignified and solemn style or demeanor

H)

half note - a half-note is a musical note with a time value of half a whole note

harmonica - a tiny rectangular device for blowing air into

harmonious - the presence of equivalence or connection between elements 

hymn - a praise song, particularly a religious song

I)

impromptu - with little or no plan or preparation

improvise - without any prior preparation 

impressionistic - pertaining to or relying on a gut feeling rather than evidence or logic

indie - not associated with a big record label/company

interlude - a period or episode in between 

intermission - a period of time during which an activity or event is put on hold 

interpretation - in an artistic performance, the act of conveying something 

interval - the disparity between two notes in pitch 

intonation - the practice of singing in a monotone voice

J)

jingle - a brief, snappy, and frequently humorous stanza or song

K)

key - a musical piece's tonal structure which is provided by the diatonic scale

keyboard - a collection of levers that can be pressed on a piano or a computer

L)

largo - gradually and broadly 

leading tone - the diatonic scale's seventh note 

leitmotif - a musical phrase that goes with a person or a circumstance 

libretto - the words of a musical performance or opera 

ligature - a set of notes that's connected by a slur

lyric - having or related to musical drama 

lyrical - appropriate for or implying singing 

M)

madrigal - a solo part song for a group of voices 

maestro - a supremely talented artist 

major - a mode or a scale

masterpiece - a creative artist's or craftsman's most spectacular work 

medley - a musical composition that's made up of a number of songs

melodic - characterized by or containing a nice song or sound 

melody -  a series of sounds that produce a distinct pattern

meter - rhythm as determined by the dividing of time into equal portions

MIDI - a common protocol enabling electronic musical instruments and computers to communicate

minor - a mode or a scale

modern -  a feature of contemporary art, music, and literature 

modulation - a musical passage that switches from one key to the next

monotone - a constant intonation 

motif - a musical topic that is repeated or developed throughout the work

N)

natural - a notation that makes a previous sharp or flat disappear 

notation - a set of symbols used to represent specific things in a technical system

O)

octave - an eight-tone musical interval 

opus - a piece of music that has been composed 

oratorio - a piece of music for voices and orchestra 

orchestra - a musical ensemble made up of instrumentalists

ornament - anything that is utilized to make something more beautiful 

overture - orchestral music that is played at the beginning of a musical or opera

P)

pan - make a broad movement 

pastiche - a musical composition that includes series of songs

phrase - a brief musical interlude 

pitch - a sound's high or poor quality 

playback - the act of recreating a sound that has been recorded

pop - innovative and appealing to a broad audience

posture - the way the body and its limbs are arranged 

prelude - music that comes before a fugue or opens an opera act 

program - an announcement of what will happen during a public event

progression - a forward movement 

pulse - rhythmically expand and contract

Q)

quadruple - containing four components or parts 

quarter note - a quarter note is a musical note with the time value of a full note

R)

range - the range of possibilities for something's effectiveness 

recital - music or dance performance, especially by soloists 

recorder - recording studio equipment

refrain - a section of a song or lyric that repeats itself on a regular basis 

resolution - a consonant chord is played after a discordant chord in music

resonance - the quality of having a deep, booming sound 

resonate - make a clear, deep sound 

rhythm - period of time in which a recurrent sequence occurs

romantic - expressing or enthralling affection 

S)

score - a musical composition in textual form

sequence - a musical motif repeated numerous times in different keys

sing - make tones using your voice 

slur - play legato or smoothly 

solo - a piece of music for one voice or instrument 

song - a brief musical piece that includes words

suite - a musical piece made up of multiple unrelated movements

symphony - a sonata for orchestra that is long and difficult

T)

tempo - the rate at which a composition should be performed

texture - the musical pattern generated when components are played in unison

theme - a musical composition's melodic subject

trio - a group of three comparable items regarded as a single entity

U)

ukulele - a four-stringed miniature guitar

unison - two or more sounds/tones in octaves/at the same pitch

V)

variation - a modified version of a musical theme that is repeated

vibration - the act of quickly shifting back and forth

vibrato - a pulsing effect in an instrumental/vocal tone caused by small, rapid pitch changes

virtuoso - a musician who is a true master of their own craft

vocal - music for one or more vocalists, frequently accompanied by musical accompaniment

voice - the sound produced by the vocal folds vibrating

volume - the size of a sound wave in a specific direction

W)

whistle - a sound produced by something moving quickly

X)

xylophone - a mallet-played percussion instrument with wooden bars

Y)

y-cord - a cable with three connectors so that one output may be sent to two inputs

Z)

zero ring - a thin "donut" shaped ring made out of plastic. They are placed around the perimeter of the drums to control overtones or unwanted resonance. Also called 'O-ring'. 


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*Note: Previous campaigns are not a guarantee for results in future campaigns. However, we do our best to ensure each client gets the best results possible.  

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