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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 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


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


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 


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 


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


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


genre - a literary or creative effort of some type 

glee - a lot of enjoyment/merriment

grave - in a dignified and solemn style or demeanor


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


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


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


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


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 


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


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


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


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


quadruple - containing four components or parts 

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


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 


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


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


ukulele - a four-stringed miniature guitar

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


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


whistle - a sound produced by something moving quickly


xylophone - a mallet-played percussion instrument with wooden bars


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


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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Playlists This Song Was Featured In

Contemporary Christian Music (33K Followers)

Louvores - Gospel (62K Followers)

Playlists This Song Was Featured In

Clean Rap & RNB (25K Followers)

Top Hits From New Artists (20K Followers)

Chill Music (38K Followers)

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Today's Pop Hits (38K Followers)

Gaming Playlist & Workout Radio (23K Followers)

Playlists This Song Was Featured In

Forest Gump Soundtrack (50K Followers)

Stagecoach (15K Followers)

Best of Country Hits (2K Followers)

Playlists This Song Was Featured In

Acoustics For Relaxing (48K Followers)

Chill Music (9K Followers)

Playlists This Song Was Featured In

Hard Rock Workout (70K Followers)

Rock Hits (5K Followers)

Playlists This Song Was Featured In

Funky Songs Playlist (190K Followers)

Clean Rap & RNB (10K Followers)

[EDM/Future Bass] Melvin - Luv Again

Playlists This Song Was Featured In

Top Hits From New Artists (20K Followers)

Electro-mania (6K Followers)

Best Workout Playlist (14K Followers)




[Hip Hop] K-Rich - We Workin  


[Hip Hop] Surve - Found My Way  

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