Download Vocabulary List for Music and Movies

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Music Vocabulary
Motif – a short repeating pattern within music, which can include rhythmic and/or melodic
Mode – music is generally written in major or minor mode, but there are also other modes,
known as medieval modes (see below).
Interval – the distance between two notes
Texture – the density of the music, relating to how many layers of sound are heard at once. A
single instrument or group of instruments playing the same notes would be thin of texture; an
entire orchestra or group of instruments with each instrument playing their own part is much
Cadenza – extended improvisatory section
Coda – section added to the end of a musical piece
Fine – end
Glissando – sliding from one pitch to another
Legato – smooth
Portato – semi-detached, between legato and staccato
Staccato – separated, detached
Subito – suddenly, immediately
Tacet – does not play
Tremolo – rapid repetition of a note or alternation of notes
Tutti – all parts
Unison – all on melody line
Tempo- speed of the music
Lento – slowly
Largo – broadly
Larghetto – somewhat faster than
Adagio – easily, unhurried
Andante – walking tempo, flowing
Moderato – moderately, neither
slow nor fast
Allegro – lively
Presto – fast
Prestissimo – very fast
Tempo modifiers
Accelerando – becoming faster
Allargando – broadening
Grave – solemnly
Ritardando – gradually slowing
Rubato – flexible tempo (“give a
little, take a little”)
Dynamics (from quietest to loudest)
Pianissimo – (pp) very softly
Piano – (p) softly
Mezzo piano – (mp) medium softly
Mezzo forte (mf) medium loudly
Forte – (f) loudly
Fortissimo – (ff) very loudly
Dynamic Modifiers
Crescendo – growing louder
Decrescendo – growing softer
Diminuendo – diminishing in
Sforzando – sharply accented
Agitato – excitedly
Cantabile – song-like
Dolce – sweetly
Espressivo – expressively
Fuoco – intensity, ardor
Giocoso – playfully
Grazioso – gracefully
Maestoso – majestically
Marcato – stressed, marked
Scherzando – jokingly
Tenuto – extra length or stress
Notes and Modes
The musical alphabet uses only A, B, C, D, E, F, and G (then A again, etc.)
Flat – placed in front of a note, the flat lowers the note by ½ step, or a minor second
Sharp – placed in front of a note, the sharp raises the note by ½ step, or minor second
Natural – placed in front of a note, the natural cancels a sharp or flat
Scale – a succession of musical tones, usually arranged in half and whole steps and forming a
particular pattern.
Half step – the interval between one tone and its closest neighbor, to the right or left, on
the piano keyboard.
Whole step – consists of two half steps.
Major – the most frequently used mode, which follows with a consecutive set of stepwise
tones, such as C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. All the steps are whole steps, with the
exception of those from E to F (3 to 4), and B to C (7 to 8).
Minor – a different arrangement of whole and half steps from the major mode. There are
actually three types of minor scales: natural minor, as A to A on the piano keyboard, with the
half steps falling between B and C (2 to 3), and between E and F (5 to 6). The other minor
scales are the harmonic minor and the melodic minor, with other variations of half and whole
step placement.
Medieval Modes – each mode has its own arrangement of whole and half steps. Use of the
modes creates the basis for melody and harmony within a composition. Use the white notes of
the piano to play the different modes.
Ionian mode – our present day major scale, from C to C.
Dorian mode – from D to D on the keyboard
Phrygian mode – from E to E on the keyboard
Lydian mode – from F to F on the keyboard
Mixolydian mode – from G to G on the keyboard
Aeolian mode – from A to A on the keyboard; otherwise known as natural minor scale
Locrian mode- from B to B; rarely used and heard
Compositional Forms
Call and Response- solo or a small group sounds musical statement, larger group either repeats
statement or answers with new but relative material
Canon – passage where one voice precisely follows another
Chorale – harmonized hymn tune
Concerto – composition for soloist and orchestra
Fugue – passage where a theme is imitated among the voices
Interlude – music to be played between movements or acts
Mass – choral setting of the Roman Catholic church service or a funeral (Requiem Mass)
Opera – staged dramatic multi-act vocal work with orchestra
Oratorio – non-staged (often religious) choral and instrumental work
Overture – orchestral introduction to a larger work
Prelude – short composition to be played before another composition
Reprise- new version (different somehow) of song previously heard in soundtrack
Rhapsody – very free-form composition
Rondo – composition where the main theme returns after each of several other themes
Suite – set of programmatic movements meant to be played one after the other
Symphony – large-scale multi-movement composition for orchestra
Variations – successive alterations of a melody
verse and chorus- alternating between two melodies or themes; for example ABAB bridge B,
AABAAB instrumental B outro, intro ABAAB, etc.