COMMON CLASSICAL MUSIC TERMS

a Capella

no instruments; just voices

tempo

speed of a musical section; adagio means slow; allegro mean fast; several others

aria

a solo singer with accompanying instruments; typically in an opera

brass

instruments such as trumpet and trombone; horns made of brass

canon

a composition in which the melody line is exactly imitated by overlapping lines

cantata

an un-staged musical composition for voices and instruments, with arias, duets, choruses, etc

chamber music

music for performance in a space smaller than an auditorium, such as at a home

chord

three or more notes played together in a harmonic manor

concerto

a multi-movement piece for a solo instrument and orchestra

crescendo

a portion of music with rising volume

dissonance

chords with an inharmonic, "wrong" sound

harmony

chords with complementary tones; may be major or minor key

fugue

a baroque musical form in which a stated musical theme is followed by various imitations of it

full step

a span of two of the twelve equal-interval notes in an octave; frequency change of about 12.5%

half step

a span of just one of the twelve equal-interval notes in an octave; frequency change of about 6%

key

defined set of 7 notes, within every octave, starting at a specific note and using defined intervals

key: major

a set of notes beginning with any of the twelve tones, proceeding with full, full, half, full, full, full steps

key: minor

a set of notes like a major key but the third note is dropped a half step; less 'happy' feel

libretto

the printed text of the words in an opera or other voice performance

Mass

main type of worship service in the Roman Catholic Church, with at least the following musical sections:

Kyrie: Asking for Godís mercy

Gloria: Praising God

Credo: Musical setting of beliefs, or creed

Sanctus: Holy, Holy

Agnus Dei: Lamb of God

octave

a doubling of frequency, such as from middle C to the C which is eight white keys later.

opera

musical form based on historical, mythological, or contemporary char's, with singers, costumes & orch.

plainchant

monophonic worship music of the early Catholic church; eg Gregorian chant

polyphony

combination of two or more simultaneous melodies

program music

any music correlated to or conveying a storyline; opposite of pure or absolute music

rhapsody

a one-movement episodic piece with a range of highly contrasted moods, colour and tonality

requiem

a funeral mass

(*Exposition/Development/Recapitulation)

sonata

a multi-movement* arrangement used in the classical period for various solo instruments and orchestra

symphony

a multi-movement arrangement used in the classical period for orchestral compositions

theme and variations

a composition with an initially stated theme, followed by variations of that theme

toccata

a keyboard musical form with virtuosic segments meant to show the performer's skill

twelve-tone music

 compositions which purposely avoid the usual major and minor key conventions

voice parts

soprano (higher womenís), alto (lower womenís), tenor (upper menís), and bass (lower menís) ranges

woodwinds

instruments originally - and maybe still - made of wood; such as clarinet and saxophone

 

 

Ron Jones, Albuquerque NM, January 2014