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Glossary of Music: Top 50 Musical Terms You Should Know


Knowing the basic music terms that are commonly used by expert music producers and sound engineers is always helpful. These terms are music-related words that signify a specific effect, note, or audio appearance on a track. Not just in India, this music glossary is recognized worldwide.

For the music enthusiasts and budding music producers, this music glossary is a must know as it is quite beneficial in the long run and understanding the "technical" language of music. You can communicate better with other collaborators about how your music should sound.



Below is the list of top 50 Musical Terms You Should Know


1. Accent

Accent refers to when a specific note/phrase is
emphasized with an increase in intensity above the general non-accented notes.


2. Adagio

'Adagio' is defined as 'slowly'
in Italian. Adagio is a piece that must be played with a slower tempo(speed).


3. Allegro

'Allegro' roughly translates to 'cheerful' in Italian. In music, Allegro describes it as
being played at an upbeat and bright tempo.


4. Andante

Andante is described as a moderately slow tempo or 'at a walking pace'.


5. Alto


Alto refers to the contrapuntal part that is higher than the tenor and its associated vocal range. In a 4-part voice, Alto is the second-highest part.


6. Arpeggio


An arpeggio is a type of broken chord. In Arpeggio, the notes that create a chord are played or sung in a rising or descending order.


7. Bar


In music, a bar is a segment of time that represents the number of beats in which each beat is represented by a particular note value. After fixing the bars, you must write your lyrics within the boundaries of a bar.


8. Cadence


A Cadence is a basically a two-chord progression at the end of a phrase in music.


9. Cadenza


A Cadenza is a specific part where soloists are allowed to sing in a "free" rhythmic style
and often allowing virtuosic display.


10. Canon


Canon in music is when a melody is based on a strict imitation principle. An initial melody is emulated at a specified time interval by one or more parts, either at the same pitch or some other pitch.


11. Clef


It is a symbol used to describe the pitch of written notes.
When kept on a stave, it indicates the name and pitch of the notes on the lines.


12. Coda


Coda is Italian for 'tail'. A coda is a final passage that slides the piece or specific
movement to an end. It is an expanded cadence technically.


13. Crescendo


It is a method used by composers to indicate that the music passage should gradually increase in loudness over time. It is to describe that the volume is increasing.


14. Da Capo


Da capo is an Italian word roughly meaning "from the beginning". The Da capo is an instruction used in sheet music to restart the piece from the beginning and go back to the top. It can also take place after one or more repeats of small sections.


15. Dal Segno


Dal Segno means 'from the sign' and this instruction appears at the end of the bar from which you have to return to either the initial start or the beginning of a piece.


16. Diminuendo


Diminuendo is the opposite of a crescendo.
It means the gradual decrease in dynamic volume during the music.


17. Fermata


Fermata roughly translates to "to stay or stop. "It is a symbol used to indicate that a note should be held longer beyond its normal duration.


18. Flat


In music, a flat is a note that is one-half step lower than the natural note.


19. Forte


Forte(f) is a term in music dynamics to describe a louder note. The Forte should be louder than the mezzo-forte(mf).


20. Fortepiano


Fortepiano (also known as forte piano) describes a sudden dynamic change in a music score. The abbreviation used is 'fp'


21. Giocoso


Giocoso in music means that a piece of music is played in a fun, lively, and humorous manner. It often comes at a higher tempo.


22. Glissando


A glissando instructs the instrumentalists to do a long slide between two specific notes. Although it is played smoothly, there are no major changes in distinct pitches.


23. Glockenspiel


The glockenspiel is a musical instrument with metal bars that are struck by a mallet.


24. Largo/Larghetto


Largo means 'broad' in Italian. In music, it refers to a slow and dignified tempo on the track.


25. Leggero


Leggero means light in Italian. It instructs the musician to play more lightly, usually fast and in a graceful manner.


26. Legato


Legato is Italian for 'tied together' and means that the musical notes are played/sung in a smooth and connected fashion.


27. Motif


A motif in music refers to a short piece of melody that occurs in a musical piece. It can also be called a motive or cell.


28. Natural


As the name states, natural notes are neither sharp nor flat. It is used to tell the musician that the note is natural


29. Nonet


Nonet is a composition that is created with nine musicians or a group of nine performers.


30. Ostinato


An Ostinato can be both a rhythmic or pitch pattern that repeats consistently throughout the musical piece.


31. Pan


To Pan or Panning is the distribution of a sound signal, determined by a pan control setting, into a new stereo or multi-channel sound field.


32. Pianissimo


Pianissimo is Italian for "very soft". Pianissimo is an instruction in music that tells musicians to play in a very softly or quieter tone.


33. Pizzicato


Pizzicato means plucked in Italian, It is a playing technique that involves plucking the strings of a string musical instrument.


34. Quarter tone


A quarter tone is a pitch halfway between the usual notes of music or an interval about half as wide as a semitone.


35. Quintuplet


A quintuplet is defined as a grouping of five sixteenth notes to take place within a one-quarter note.


36. Rhapsody


Rhapsody is a term in music which is a one-movement work that is repeated yet integrated, free-flowing in structure.


37. Ritardando


Ritardando is the gradual slowdown in the tempo of music in a particular direction.


38. Rondo


A rondo is a structure of musical pieces and usually contains multiple repeating sections.


39. Scherzo


Scherzo is a short composition piece, sometimes movement from a large symphony of music.


40. Sforzando


Sforzando is a musical notation to play a note with sudden or abrupt emphasis. It is abbreviated as 'sfz'.


41. Sharp


A sharp musical note is a semitone than the same natural note generally used in a piece.


42. Soprano


A soprano is a range of pitches that has the highest vocal range in all voice types.


43. Sostenuto


Sostenuto in Italian means "sustained". In sheet music, it is a note or musical passage that requires each note to play beyond its normal value.


44. Staccato


When shortened and delayed notes are played,
it is called Staccato. It is the opposite of Staccato.


45. Tempo


The tempo is defined as the pace or speed at which a piece of music is played.


46. Tenor


Tenor is the range of notes between alto and bass. The vocal range lies between the countertenor and voice types of baritone.


47. Tremolo


Tremolo is a modulation effect of trembling in a musical piece. It creates a change in volume.


48. Trill


Trill (also known as 'shake') is a musical element that consists of a rapid alternation between two adjacent notes.


49. Vibrato


The pulsating change in the pitch of a music track is called Vibrato. It is characterized by the variation of the pitch as well as the variable speed.


50. Vivace


Vivace means "lively" and is an indication to play in a very quick, upbeat tempo in a music sheet.