A list of technical musical terms and their meanings

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Musical Terms

A list of technical musical terms and the correct definition

Musical Term Description
AccelerandoIncrease of speed in music
AccentStress of one tone over others, making it stand out
AccompanimentMusic that goes along with a more important part
AdagioSlow, leisurely
AllegrettoModerately fast, lively. Faster than Andante, slower than allegro
AllegroLively, brisk, rapid
AndanteModerately slow, a walking speed
BaroqueRelating to the period from about 1600 - 1750, characterized by grandeur and heavy elaboration of design in music
Binary Formthe structure of a musical composition consisting of two main sections
CadenceClosing of a phrase or section of music
CantataA short lyric form dealing with secular or sacred subjects
ChordThree or more tones combined and sounded simultaneously
ClassicalReferring to that period from approximately 1750 - 1800, characterized musically by objectivity of the composer, emotional restraint, and simple harmonies
ConsonanceA simultaneious sounding of tones that produces a feeling of rest
CrescendoGradually growing louder
Da CapoFrom the beginning
DiminuendoGradually growing softer
DissonanceA simultaneous sounding of tones that produces a feeling of tension or unrest and a feeling that further resolution is needed
DolceSweetly, softly
DynamicsVarying intensities of sound throughout a given musical composition
FermataA pause, stop, or interruption
FineThe end of a musical piece
ForteLoud, strong
FortissimoVery loud
GraveHeavy, slow, pondereous in movement
GustoIn good taste, tasteful
HarmonyThe sound resulting from the simultaneous sounding of two or more tones consonant with each other
IntervalThe distance between two tones
Istesso TempoThe same tempo
LegatoSmooth, flowing
LargoLarge, broad, slow and stately
LegatoSmooth and connected
MelodyAn arrangement of single tones in a meaningful sequence
MaestosoMajestic, dignified
Mezzo Forte Moderately loud
Mezzo PianoModerately soft
Molto, MoltaMuch
ObbligatoRequired, indispensable
OstinatoA repeated melodic or rhythmic fragment
PianissimoVery soft
PhraseA section of a composition comprising a musical thought
PolyphonicTwo or more melodies sound simultaneously
Polyrhythms Two or more keys are used simultaneously
RitardandoGradually slower
Retrograde melody is played backwards
Romantic19th century musical period characterized by subjectivity on the part of the composer, emotionalism in music, longer musical forms, and richer harmonies
RootThe tone of the scale upon which a chord is built
Root PositionThe postion of a chord in which the root appears as the lowest tone
Rubato a modification of the strict rhythmical flow
ScaleA series of tones in a specified order
ScherzoA sprightly movement
Slurtwo or more notes executed in a smoothly connected manner without a break
StaccatoSounded in a short, detached manner
SyncopationThe rhythmic result produced when a regularly accented beat is displaced onto an unaccented beat
TempoThe rate of speed at which a musical compostion is performed
ThemeA short musical passage that states an idea
TimbreThe quality of a musical tone
Tone1. A musical sound 2. The quality of a musical sound
Tutto, TuttaAll, whole
VivaceSpirited, bright, rapid, equalling or exceeding allegro
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