Notes On Music Glossary

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Music Glossary

Anacrusis- The note or notes that form an upbeat(s) to the first downbeat of the phrase
Antiphony- When two instrumental groups or two choirs alternate in dialogue
Appoggiatura- Leaning note
Auxiliary note- A non-harmony note which is a step above or below the harmony note and returns to it.
Atonal- Does not use keys or modes. B

Binary form- Two part structure
Bitonal/ Polytonal- Uses two different keys simultaneously; polytonal can refer to music using any number of keys greater than one.


Col legno- A string technique of playing with the wood of the bow
Con sordino- An instruction to the performer to play with a mute
Consonant- Intervals or chords which are stable and sound pleasant as opposed to its opposite, dissonant
Continuo- This is short for Basso Continuo. The continuo instruments form the accompaniment in baroque music. It may include instruments such as the harpsichord and a cello or bassoon reinforcing the bass line


Da capo aria- Common aria form a baroque opera and sacred music.
Diatonic- Using notes that belong to the current key


Glissando- A slide between two notes
Ground Bass- Repeating bass that are usually four or eight bars in length, with changing music in the other parts. This is very popular in baroque music.


Homophonic- A texture in which one part has a melody and the other parts accompany.
Harmony- The study of the structure, progression, and relation of chords, A combination of sounds considered pleasing to the ear.


Leitmotif- A theme which is associated with a character, situation, mood, object or idea, especially in the operas of Wagner and dramatic works/ films of later composers.
Libretto- The script or words for a dramatic work which is set to music

Masque- Opera-like English court entertainment from the 17th and 18th centuries
Modulation- The process of changing keys
Monophonic- A musical texture that uses a single melodic line


Obbligato- Used in Baroque music to denote an instrumental solo part which must be included
Ondulé- A string technique of rapidly alternating between two strings