A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z  

7th Chord
– A chord comprised of four notes (a bass note with a 3rd, 5th and 7th above it).


Alberti bass – A simple accompaniment that uses broken chords in succession in the order of lowest, highest, middle and highest. It was named after Venetian composer Domenico Alberti (1710-1740).

Appoggiatura - An embellishing note, usually one step above or below the note it precedes and indicated by a small note or special sign.

Aria – Music composed for a solo voice with or without instrumental accompaniment as part of a larger work such as an opera or cantata.

Arpeggio – The notes of a chord played in succession rather than simultaneously.

Attacca – A musical term that means go immediately to the next section without pausing.


Cadenza – A section of a concerto, usually inserted near the end, where the orchestra stops playing, thus allowing the soloist to continue alone. Depending on what the composer specified, it can be improvised or written in the score.

Concerto – A musical work in which a solo instrument or smaller instrumental grouping is contrasted with the orchestra.

Counterpoint – A system of setting a melody or melodies in combination with one another.


Diatonic - Notes that naturally occur in a standard major or minor scale, without being modified by accidentals other than the sharps or flats in the relevant key signature.

Don Giovanni – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s two act opera with a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte. It was premiered in the Estates Theatre in Prague on October 29, 1787.


Episode – One of the contrasting themes in a Rondo.


Hemiola - Denotes the articulation of two bars in triple meter (ie: 3/2 or 3/4 time) as if they were three bars in duple meter (ie 2/4 or 4/4 time).


“Kreutzer” Sonata – Beethoven’s sonata for violin and piano Opus 47 that he dedicated to Rodolphe Kreutzer, a well-known French violinist and composer.


Legato – Indicates that the notes are to be played smoothly together without stops or silences.


Mazurka – A term used to describe a form of Polish folk dances in triple meter. It originated in the plains of Mazovia around Warsaw.

Modulate – The change of key or mode in a musical work.


Ornamentation – An embellishment of a melody, sometimes indicated by marks on the score. In some cases, the choice of ornament would be left to the discretion of the performer.


Polonaise – A Polish dance with music in triple meter and moderate tempo, performed by couples who walk elegantly around the dance hall.


Recapitulation – Refers to the return of any thematic material introduced in the first section of a composition in subsequent sections.

Recitative – A compositional form where melodic speech is set to music. It’s often used as a linking device between songs in operas, oratorios and cantatas.

Ritornello – Another Italian word that means “return”, it’s a term used for a recurring passage for an orchestra in the first or final movement of a solo concerto.

Rondo – The Rondo form consists of a theme (or refrain) that alternates between one or more contrasting themes (sometimes called episodes). A typical example of the form could be represented as ABACADA. The number of themes can vary from composition to composition.

Rubato – Translates from Italian literally as ‘robbed’. In a composition, it allows a limited expressive freedom of rhythm and tempo. When the piece is performed, the time extension is applied to one note from the adjoining note or notes, hence the idea of robbing.


Scherzo - A sprightly musical composition or movement commonly in quick triple time. It can also be a movement of a symphony or a work for solo piano.

Sisyphus Myth – A story in Greek mythology that tells of Sisyphus who would way-lay travelers and murder them. At one point in the tale, he tricks Thantos, the god of death and put him in chains so the dead cannot make their journey to the underworld. Hades intervenes and punishes Sisyphus. He is sentenced to perpetually roll a giant boulder up a mountain only to have it roll back down once he reaches the peak.


Tonic – The first note of a musical scale after which the key is named.

Tutti - An Italian word that means "all", "together", it usually refers to an orchestral or choral score when the orchestra or all of the voices come in at the same time. In the scores of post-Classical concertos tutti was often used to indicate to the orchestra that care was needed when it accompanied the solo sections so not to overpower the soloist.