a tempo - in time; to return to the previous tempo, generally implies a return to most recent rate of speed

a2 - to stop playing divided parts; no longer divisi

accelerando (accel.) - gradually increase speed

accent (>, ^) - emphasis placed on the beginning of a note

accidental - a symbol (b, #, n) used to alter a note chromatically from the given key signature

acoustic - of, relating to, or being an instrument that does not feature electronically modified sound

ad libitum (ad lib) - to make up or create on the spot; freely without restraint by time

Adagietto - slow, but not as slow as Adagio

Adagio - slowly, leisurely

affrettando (affret.) - quickening; hurrying

agitato - agitated; restless

air - a melody or tune

al Fine - to the end/finish

alla - in the style of

alla breve - meter half note getting the beat (i.e.: cut time)

allargando (allarg.) - gradually slower and broadening style

Allegretto - light and moderately quick; cheerful; faster than Moderato but not as fast as Allegro

Allegro - lively; fast; brisk; rapid

Andante - moderately slow; a natural walking tempo

Andantino - a little faster than Andante

animato - spirited; animated

appassionato - intensely; passionately; with deep feeling

aria - a solo vocal passage; an air or melody

arioso - in vocal style (same as cantabile)

arpeggio - playing as a broken chord; usually first, third, fifth and eighth degrees of a scale

articulation - the manner in which a note is begun; using, or lack of using in the case of a slur, the tongue

assai - very

bar - a measure

barline - a vertical line dividing the staff into equal measures; measure bar

bass clef - a symbol indicating that the fourth line of a staff represents the pitch of F below middle C; F clef

beat - a reoccurring pulse; the regular, rhythmical unit of time

ben - well (such as ben marcato = well marked)

bravura - brilliant technique or style in performance

brilliante - brilliantly

Cadenza - an elaborate solo passage, frequently unaccompanied

caesura (") - a pause or break

calando - gradually slower and softer

cantabile - in a singing style

chord - a combination of three or more usually concordant tones sounded simultaneous

chromatic - by semi-tones

clef - a symbol indicating the pitches on the staff

coda - the final added measures of a musical composition; tail

col - with; to play the same as another part

common time c - another way of writing 4/4 time

con amore - with tenderness

con anima - with animation; quicker

con brio - with gusto

con fuoco - with energy; with fire

con grazia - with grace

con sordino - with mute

con spirito - with spirit

crescendo - gradually increase volume

cut time C - meter where the half note gets the beat

Da Capo (D.C.) - to the beginning

Da Segno (D.S.) - to the sign

diminuendo (dim.) - to diminish the volume; gradually grow softer

divisi (div.) - divided; play in divided parts

dolce - sweetly

double bar - a pair of vertical lines denoting the end of a song or section

downbeat - the initial pulse of the beat

duet - a group of two performers; two distinct parts; duo

duple - consisting of two or multiple of two beats to the measure

energico - energetically

enharmonic - tones that are identical in pitch but are written differently

ensemble - group; manner in which a group plays together

espressivo - with expression

etude - a musical study

fermata (U)- a hold or pause

fine - end; finish

flat - a symbol lowering a pitch by one half step

form - the manner in which a composition is constructed

forte (f)- loudly

forte-piano (fp) - in a loud, then suddenly soft, manner

fortissimo (ff)- very loudly

forza - force

forzando (Z)- forcefully accented

furioso - in a tempestuous and vigorous manner

giocoso - joyfully

glissando - a rapid slide through a series of consecutive tones

grandioso - grand or noble style

Grave - very slow and solemn

Grazioso - gracefully

jubiloso - exulting; jubilant

Larghetto - slow, but not as slow as Largo

Larghissimo - very slow; slower than Largo

Largo - very slow

legato - smooth and connected

leggiero - lightly

Lento - very slow

l'istesso - the same

loco - at the written pitch

l.v. - let vibrate; do not dampen

lyrics - words to a song

Maestoso - majestically

marcato - marked; with emphasis; accented

marcia - march style

marziale - martial; militarily

meno - less

mezzo - medium

Moderato - Moderately

molto - much; very

morendo - dying away

mosso - motion; movement

moto - motion; movement

non troppo - not too much

off beats - the second half of a normal beat of time; upbeat

opus - a musical work or composition

ossia - or else; an optional passage, measure or section

ottava (8va) - an octave above

paso doble - a lively spanish dance

pesante - heavily; with emphasis

pianissimo (pp) - very softly

piano (p) - softly

Pianoforte (pf) - the original name of the instrument most commonly known as the Piano

piu - more

poco - little (as in poco a poco = little by little)

Prestissimo - very fast; faster than Presto

Presto - very fast

Primo - first; prime; original

quartet - group of four performers; four distinct parts

quintet - group of five performers; five distinct parts

Quasi - like; in the style of

rallentando (rall.) - gradually slower

religioso - in a solemn or pious style

repeat - to play or sing a particular section again

riff - a short repeated rhythmic phrase

rinforzando - with a sudden increase of emphasis

ritardando (rit.) - gradually slower

ritenuto - gradually slower; like meno mosso

rubato - rhythmic flexibility

Scherzando - in light, playful style

Scherzo - playfully

secondo - second part

sempre - always; continually

senza - without

sforzando (sfz) - forced; with strong emphasis

simile (sim.) - continue in the same manner

slur - curved line connecting two or more notes indicating a lack of tonguing

smorzando - dying away

soli - a group of solo performers

solo - a composition or passage for or featuring one performer

sordino - mute

sostenuto - sustained

sotto voce - in very soft tones

staccato - separated; detached

staff - the five parallel lines on which notes are written

strain - the first and second melodic section of a traditional march

stringendo - gradually faster

subito - suddenly

syncopation - to abnormally emphasize weak or off (up) beats

tacet - silent

tempo - speed

Tempo di Valse - waltz time

Tempo I - original speed of composition

tenuto (ten.) - sustain full value

tie - a curved line connecting two notes of the same pitch thereby connecting their rhythmic values as well

timbre - tone color; the manner in which one instrument sounds different from another

time signature - a set of numbers describing meter

Treble clef - a symbol indicating that the second line of a staff represents the pitch of G above middle C; G clef

Trio - Third melodic section of a traditional march, usually one flat is added to key signature

trio - group of three performers; three distinct parts

tutti - all together; usually following a "solo" or "divisi" section

un poco - gradually

upbeat - half way between metrical pulses; second half of the given beat

veloce - increased speed; like piu mosso

Vivace - vivacious; lively

Vivo - lively; brisk

V.S. - vacant space; given to unused staves, usually found on handwritten manuscript



Generally Very Slow to Slow           Generally Medium to Moderate       Generally Fast to Very Fast

Larghissimo                                            Maestoso                                             Allegretto

Largo                                                       Andantino                                             Allegramente

Largamente                                             Andante                                               Allegro

Larghetto                                                  Moderato                                             Vivace

Grave                                                                                                                      Presto

Lento                                                                                                                      Prestissimo







                C Instruments - actual pitch

                   example  Concert Bb remains Bb

                   Flute, Oboe


          Bb Instruments - move concert pitch up 1 step

                   example      Concert Bb moves to C

                   Clarinet, Trumpet/Cornet, Tenor Sax, Bass Clarinet


          Eb Instruments - move concert pitch down 1 1/2 steps

                   example      Concert Bb moves to G

                   Alto Sax, Eb Clarinet, Alto Clarinet, Baritone Sax, Eb Horn


          F Instruments - move concert pitch down 2 1/2 steps

                   example      Concert Bb moves to F

                   F Horn


          Bass Clef Instruments - actual pitch

                   example      Concert Bb remains Bb

                   Trombone, Baritone BC, Bassoon, Tuba

Subpages (1): Composition Forms