Glossary of musical terms

  Glossary of musical terms




a                      By, in the style of

aber                But [G]

a cappella       Unaccompanied [choral music]

accelerando   Getting faster

adagietto       Rather slow

adagio            Slow

à deux             For two. Direction that two players or singers are needed for a part [F]

ad libitum      At choice, such as indicating whether an instrument is used

a due              For two

affettuoso      Tender

affrettando    Hurrying

agitato            Agitated

à la pointe      Direction to a string player to use the point of the bow.

alla                  In the style of

alla breve       With a minim beat, suggesting a faster tempo than the time signature otherwise suggests.

alla marcia     In the style of a march

alla misura     In strict time

allargando      Broadening, ie getting slower and perhaps a little louder

allegretto       Fairly quick

allegro            Quick, literally cheerful

als                   Than [G]

al talonne       Direction that a string player should use the heel of the bow.

amabile          Amiable, pleasant

am Frosch       Direction that a string player should use the heel of the bow [G].

amoroso         Lovingly

andante          At walking pace

andantino      Either slightly faster or slightly slower than andante

an der Spitze  Direction to a string player to use the point of the bow [G]

animando       Becoming more lively

animato          Animated, lively

animé             Animated, lively [F]

a piacere        At pleasure, indicating that the performer may depart from the states rhythm

appassionato With passion

a punto d’arco
Direction to a string player to use the point of the bow

arco                Direction to a string player to use the bow after pizzicato

assai                Very

assez               Enough [F]

a tempo          In time, after a passage in a different tempo

attacca           Attack, indicating an immediate start to the music

Ausdruck        With expression [G]

au talon          Direction to a string player to use the heel of the bow [F]

avec                With [F]


ben marcato  Well marked, with emphasis on each note

bestimmt        With decision, definite [G]

bewegt           With movement, agitated [G]

bis                   To be played twice

breit                Broad, expansive [G]

brillante         Brilliant

burlando        Comical


calando          Getting softer, dying away

calmato          Calm, tranquil

cantabile        In a singing style

capriccioso     Whimsical

cédez              Yielding, relaxing the speed

colla voce       With the voice, instruction for a player to follow a singer

col legno        Instruction to a string player to use the wooden back of the bow

coll’ ottava     With the octave, direction to a player to add notes one octave higher or lower

come               Similar to

come prima    As before

come sopra    As above

comodo          At a comfortable speed

con                  With

con alcuna licenza
With some licence, indicating a small measure of freedom in tempo and rhythm

con amore      With love, affectionate

con anima      With spirit

con audace    With audacity

con bravura   In a brilliant style

con brio          With vigour, animation

con espressione
With expression

con fretta       With haste

con fuoco       With fire

con moto       With movement

con slancio     With enthusiasm

con sordini     With mutes

crescendo       Gradually getting louder


da                    From

D C                  From the beginning (abbreviation of da capo)

deciso             Decisive, with determination

decrescendo  Gradually getting quieter

deliberato      Deliberate

delicato          Delicate

detaché          Detached, particularly in referring to style of playing strings [F]

di nuovo         Again

divisi               Divide, such as when a voice group goes from unison to singing in two parts

doch               However [G]  ***

dolce               Sweet, soft

dolente           Sad, mournful [F]

doloroso         Sad

doppio movimento
Twice as fast

douce             Soft, sweet [F]

D S                  From the sign (dal segno), that is from the place in the music marked by the symbol  $

D S al Coda     Go back to the music marked by the symbol $ and continue until you come to the place marked by the coda sign Ø when you jump to the coda (musical “tail”) marked with the same coda sign.


einfach           Simple [G]

With feeling [G]

emporté         Fiery, furious [F]

en animant    Becoming more lively [F]


estinto            As quiet as possible, lifeless

etwas              Somewhat [G]


f                       Loud (forte)

facile               Easy

felice               Happy [F]

feroce             Fierce

feuring            Fiery [G]

ff                     Very loud (fortissimo)

fff                    Extremely loud

fine                 End. Indication of where music finishes, if it is not at the end of the score

flautando       Flute-like

flessibile         Flexible, not in strict tempo

flessend          Flowing

flottant           Floating

fp                    Loud then suddently soft

forzando         With force

frei                  Freely [G]

frisch               Vigorous [G]

fröhlich           Cheerful, joyful [G]

funebre          Funereal

furioso            Furious


gehend           At a steady speed [G]

gesangvoll      In a singing style [G]

geschwind      Quick [G]

giocoso           Playful, joyful

giusto             In strict measured time

G P                  General pause. All performers are silent [English]

gracieux          Gracious [F]

grandioso       Grand

grave              Slow, solemn

grazioso          Graceful


impetuoso      Impetuous

in alt               Indication that notes should be sung one octave higher than written.

incalzando      Getting quicker

innig               Heartfelt, sincere [G]

inquieto         Restless

in relievo        Direction to make a melody stand out


joyeux             Joyful [F]


kräftig             Strong [G]


lacrimoso       Sad, tearful

lamentoso      Lamenting

langsam          Slow (equal to adagio) [G]

largamente    Broad

larghetto        Rather slow

largo               Very slow and stately

lebhaft            Lively (equal to vivace) [G]

legato             Smooth, sustained

légèrement    Light, nimble [F]

leggiero          Light, nimble

leise                Soft, gentle

lento               Slow

liberamente   Freely

lieblich            Lovely [G]

loco                 At normal pitch, a direction that cancels out the instruction ottava

lontano          Distant

lusingando     Coaxing, persuasive, caressing

lustig               Cheerful


ma                   But

maestoso        Majestic

main droite    Left hand [F]

main gauche  Right hand [F]

mancando      Fading away

mano destra  Right hand

ma non troppo
But not too much

mano sinistra Left hand

marcato          Marked

martellato      Hammered, indication of a strong beat

marziale          In a military style

mässig             At a moderato speed [G]

meno              Less

meno mosso  Less movement

mesto             Sad

mezza voce     In a vocal undertone

mezzo             Half

mf                   Half loud (mezzo forte)

misterioso      Mysterious

MM                 Metronome mark. This indicates the speed as so many beats per minute

moderato       At a moderate tempo

morendo        Dying away

mosso             With motion, animated

mp                  Half quiet (mezzo piano)

munter           Lively

muta               Direction for a player to change the tuning of their instrument


nobilmente    Nobly


obbligato       Indication that an instrument or part has a particularly important role

ohne               Without [G]

ossia                Or. The word is used to indicate a simplified version of a difficult section of music

ostinato          With a repeated and persistent rhythmic beat

ottava             Direction to add notes one octave higher (or in the bass part, one octave lower)

ottava alta     Direction to add notes one octave higher

ottava bassa  Direction to add notes one octave lower


p                      Quiet [abbreviation of piano]

parlando        Speaking, direction to sing in a conversational style

patetico          With deep feeling

pedale            Direction to use a pedal

perdendosi     Dying away

pesante          Heavy

peu à peu       Little by little, gradually

piacevole        Pleasant

piangevole     Plaintive

pietoso           Tenderly (literally pitifully)

più                  More

più mosso       With more movement

pizzicato         Direction to string players to pluck the strings and not use a bow

placido            Calm, placid

pochettino     Rather little

poco                Little

poco a poco   Little by little, gradually

poi                   Then

ponderoso      Ponderous

portamento   Sliding from one note to the next

pp                   Very quiet [pianissimo]

ppp                 Extremely quiet

prestissimo     Very fast

presto             Fast

presto possibile
As fast as possible

prima volta    First time


quasi               Resembling, in the style of


rallentando    Slowing down

rasch               Quick [G]

religioso         Religious

retenu            Held back [F]

rigoroso          Strict

rinforzando    Reinforced

risoluto           Bold, strong

ritmico            Rhythmic

rubato            With freedom of tempo and rhythm


saltando         Sprightly

sans                 Without [F]

scherzando     Jokingly

schleppen       Dragging [G]

schnell            Fast [G]

schwach         Weak [G]

secco               Dry, crisp. A direction that a note should be played so as not to reverberate

seconda volta            Second time

segue              Go straight on to next piece of music

sehr                 Very [G]

semplice         Simple, plain

sempre           Always, throughout

senza               Without

senza misura  In free time

senza sordini  Without mutes

serrez              Hurried [F]

sforzando       Forced, heavily accented

simile              Continue in the same manner. This avoids the need to repeat musical directions

sino                 Until

slargando       Getting slower

slentando       Getting slower

smorzando     Dying away in tone and tempo

soave              Gentle, smooth

solenne           Solemn, grave

sonoro            Resonant, with a rich tone

sospirando     Sighing

sostenuto       Sustained

sotto voce      Direction to sing in an undertone, literally “below the voice”

sous                Under [F]

spiccato          Detached bowing technique for string players

spiritoso         Spirited

staccato          Direction to sing or play notes in a detached manner

stark               Strong [G]

strepitoso       Noisy, boisterous

stretto            Quickening the speed

stringendo     Gradually getting faster

subito             Suddenly

sul                   On the, eg sul G is a direction for a string player to use only the string tuned to G

süss                 Sweet [G]


tacet               Silent. Direction that a part should stay silent [Latin]

tanto              So much

tasto solo       Direction to a continuo player not to add anything above the given bass notes

teneramente  Tenderly

tenuto            Held

tosto               Swift, rapid

tranquillo       Tranquil, calm

trauring          Sad [G]

tre                   Direction to a pianist to release the soft pedal. The term is an abbreviation for tre corde which means “three strings”. On a grand piano, the soft pedal shifts the keyboard so the hammers hit only one string.

trionfale         Triumphant

tristamente    Sad

triste               Sad

troppo            Too much

tutti                Direction that all are to play or sing


una corde       Direction to a pianist to use the soft pedal

und                 And [G]

unis                 Direction that all should sing or play in unison


veloce             Swift

vibrato           Vibrating

viel                  Much [G]

vif                    Lively [F]

vigoroso         Vigorous, strong

vite                 Quick [F]

vivace             Lively, quick

vivo                 Lively, quick

volante           Flying, fast

voll                  Full [G]

volta subito   Turn the page quickly

vorgetragen   Brought out, prominent

V S                  Turn the page quickly. Abbreviation of volta subito


wenig              Little [G]

wider              Again [G]


zart                 Tender, delicate [G]

zeloso             With zeal

ziemlich          Moderately [G]

zu                    To [G]