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  • Chris Anderson

Music Revision - Glossary A - D

Over the next seven blogs I’ll give you a glossary of words to use when describing music and things that happen in music. There’ll be the word, a brief description, and where possible a not so good word to use in its place!


A Capella - Unaccompanied singing.


Accelerando (acce.) - Quicken the pace/increase the tempo.


Accent - A note is given extra force. It’s marked with a > above or below the note head.


Acciaccatura - A short note crushed into the main note.


Anacrusis - An unaccented beat at the start of a phrase. Also known as an upbeat.


Appoggiatura - Similar to an acciaccatura except that it is a grace note which delays the next note of the melody. It is a note (or series of notes) that doesn’t belong to the chord of the melody.


Arco - Direction for stringed instruments to play with the bow.


Basso Continuo - A type of bass line used in the Baroque period. Literally means continuous bass. Played on a harpsichord and/or cello.


Binary Form - A musical structure in two parts.


Cadence - Two chords used to finish a phrase. See here for more info about cadences.


Cadenza - A section of a concerto to display virtuosic skills on the solo instrument. (Don’t say “the soloist shows off” (even though they are!))


Cantabile - In a singing style.


Col Legno - Direction for string players to use the back of the bow


Concerto Grosso - a concerto for more than one solo instrument.


Conjunct - Music that moves in a stepwise manner without any big leaps. (Don’t say “scaley”)


Consonance - A pleasant sound created when notes being played together don’t clash. (Don’t say “sounds nice”)


Diatonic - Music that is in a major or minor key.


Discordance - Notes that create an unpleasant sound when being played together. (Don’t say “clashy” - the notes clash because they’re together, but use the proper term).


Disjunct - Music that moves with big leaps between the notes. (Don’t say “jumpy”)


Dominant - The fifth note of the scale.


Dissonance - See “Discordant”


Dolce - Sweetly


Double-Stopping - When a stringed instrument plays two notes at the same time.


Duet - Two instruments/players performing together.


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