ABA FORM - A piece of music with three sections. The first musical section is played (A), followed by a new section (B), then by a repetition of the first section (A).
ABSOLUTE MUSIC - Instrumental music is music that is not about anything. It doesn't try to tell a story or paint a picture. It just is. Absolute music pieces have titles like "Sonata" or "Symphony". Opposite of "Program Music".
A CAPELLA - Singing without instrumental accompaniment.
ACCELERANDO - Gradually getting faster.
ACCENT - A musical symbol indicating that the note should be played louder to make it stand out from the others.
ACCIDENTAL - A sharp, flat, or natural not included in the key signature.
ACCOMPANIMENT - A part that supports to the main part. For example, a violinist might be supported by a piano or an orchestra when performing a solo work.
ACCORDION - A portable wind instrument with bellows, metal reeds, and a keyboard to play the melody, with buttons for bass notes and chords. It is played by opening or closing the pleated bellows, which move air through the reeds.
ADAGIO - Slow.
AD LIBITUM - At one's pleasure. Indicates that a section of the music may be left out, or played without keeping a steady beat.
AEROPHONE - Any instrument that produces sound by causing air to vibrate within the instrument. Aerophones include instruments like the flute, trumpet and bagpipe.
AGITATO - Agitated; with excitement.
AIR - A song form for voice or instrument.
AL CODA - To the coda.
ALEATORIC MUSIC - Music composed with some element left to chance. Also called "Chance Music".
AL FINE - To the finish.
ALLA - "In the style of." For example, "alla turca" means in the Turkish style.
ALLA BREVE - Cut time. A time signature which indicates that there are two beats per measure, with the half note receiving the beat.
ALLEGRETTO - Slower than Allegro.
ALLEGRO - Fast. Also called "March Tempo".
ALLEGRO VIVACE - Faster than "Allegro".
ALTO - The lowest female voice in choral music. Also, the second highest sounding instrument in a family, such as the Alto Clarinet from the woodwind family.
ALTO CLEF - This clef tells you that the third line of the staff is C. Also called the C clef or viola clef.
ANDANTE - A moderate, walking tempo.
ANDANTINO - Slightly faster than Andante.
ANIMATO - Animated.
ARIA - A vocal solo from an opera.
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ARPEGGIO - Notes of a chord that are played or sung in one after another, rather than simultaneously. Arpeggio is an Italian word that means "in the manner of the harp".
ARRANGEMENT - An adaption of a composition from the way the composer originally wrote it. It may include changes to the melody, harmony, and rhythm of the music.
ARTICULATION - Referring to the musical performance of a note or groups of notes. Articulation marks include the slur, staccato, accent, and legato.
A TEMPO - Return to the previous tempo.
ATONAL - Music that does not have a key "center" or tonic pitch.
AUGMENTATION - To make greater. In music, this typically involves lengthening of rhythmic values of a melody. For example, an eight quarter note melody is augmented if the composer later writes it as eight half notes. Opposite of "Diminution".