of music terms
An unusual manner of pronunciation, e.g. "Y'all
sang that real good!"
Accidentals: Wrong notes
Ad Libitum: A premiere.
Agitato: A string player's state of mind
when a peg slips in the middle of a piece.
Agnus dei: A famous female church
Allegro: Leg fertilizer.
Altered Chord: A sonority that has been
Atonality: Disease that many modern
composers suffer from. The most prominent
symptom is the patient's lacking ability to make
Augmented fifth: A 36-ounce bottle.
Bar Line: A gathering of people, usually
among which may be found a musician or two.
Beat: What music students to do each
other with their musical instruments. The down
beat is performed on the top of the head, while
the up beat is struck under the chin.
Bravo: Literally, "How bold!" or "What
nerve!" This is a spontaneous expression of
appreciation on the part of the concertgoer
after a particularly trying performance.
Breve: The way a sustained note sounds
when a violinist runs out of bow.
Broken consort: When somebody in the
ensemble has to leave and go to the restroom.
Cadence: When everybody hopes you're
going to stop, but you don't.
Cadenza: The heroine in Monteverdi's
Cantus firmus: The part you get when you
can only play four notes.
Chansons de geste: Dirty songs.
Chord: Usually spelled with an "s" on the
end, means a particular type of pants, e.g. "He
Chromatic Scale: An instrument for
weighing that indicates half-pounds.
Clausula: Mrs. Santa.
Coloratura Soprano: A singer who has
great trouble finding the proper note, but who
has a wild time hunting for it.
Compound Meter: A place to park your car
that requires two dimes.
Con Brio: Done with scouring pads and
Conductor: A musician who is adept at
following many people at the same time.
Conductus: The process of getting Vire
into the cloister.
Counterpoint: A favorite device of many
Baroque composers, all of whom are dead, though
no direct connection between these two facts has
been established. Still taught in many schools,
as a form of punishment.
Countertenor: A singing waiter.
Crescendo: A reminder to the performer
that he has been playing too loudly.
Crotchet: 1) A tritone with a bent prong.
2) It's like knitting, but it's faster. 3) An
unpleasant illness that occurs after the Lai, if
prolation is not used.
Cut time: When you're going twice as fast
as everybody else in the ensemble.
Da capo al fine: I like your hat!
Detache: An indication that the trombones
are to play with the slides removed.
Di lasso: Popular with Italian cowboys.
Discord: Not to be confused with Datcord.
Drone: The sound of a single monk during
an attack of Crotchet.
Ductia: 1) A lot of mallards. 2) Vire's
Duration: Can be used to describe how
long a music teacher can exercise self-control.
Embouchre: The way you look when you've
been playing the Krummhorn.
English horn: A woodwind that got its
name because it's neither English nor a horn.
Not to be confused with French horn, which is
Espressivo: Close eyes and play with a
Estampie: What they put on letters in
Fermata: A brand of girdle made
especially for opera singers.
Fermented fifth: What the percussion
players keep behind the tympani, which resolves
to a 'distilled fifth', which is what the
conductor uses backstage.
Fine: That was great!
Flute: A sophisticated pea shooter with a
range of up to 500 yards, blown transversely to
confuse the enemy.
Garglefinklein: A tiny recorder played by
Glissando: The musical equivalent of
slipping on a banana peel. Also, a technique
adopted by string players for difficult runs.
Gregorian chant: A way of singing in
unison, invented by monks to hide snoring.
Half Step: The pace used by a cellist
when carrying his instrument.
Harmonic Minor: A good music student.
Harmony: A corn-like food eaten by people
with accents (see above for definition of
Hemiola: A hereditary blood disease
caused by chromatics.
Heroic Tenor: A singer who gets by on
sheer nerve and tight clothing.
Hocket: The thing that fits into a
crochet to produce a rackett.
Hurdy-gurdy: A truss for medieval
percussionists who get Organistrum.
Interval: How long it takes you to find
the right note. There are three kinds: Major
Interval: a long time; Minor Interval: a few
bars; Inverted Interval: when you have to back
one bar and try again.
Intonation: Singing through one's nose.
Considered highly desirable in the Middle Ages
Isorhythm: The individual process of
relief when Vire is out of town.
Isorhythmic motet: When half of the
ensemble got a different photocopy than the
Lai: What monks give up when they take
Lamentoso: With handkerchiefs.
Lasso: The 6th and 5th steps of a
Lauda: The difference between shawms and
Longa: The time between visits with Vire.
Major Triad: The name of the head of the
Music Department. (Minor Triad: the name of the
wife of the head of the Music Department.)
Mean-Tone Temperament: One's state of
mind when everybody's trying to tune at the same
Messiah: An oratorio by Handel performed
every Christmas by choirs that believe they are
good enough, in cooperation with musicians who
need the money.
etronome: A dwarf who lives in the city.
Minim: The time you spend with Vire when
there is a long line. Breve: The time you spend
when the line is short.
Minnesinger: A boy soprano or Mickey's
girlfriend in the opera.
Modulation: "Nothing is bad in
Motet: Where you meet Vire if the
cloister is guraded.
Musica ficta: When you lose your place
and have to bluff till you find it again. Also
known as 'faking'.
Neums: Renaissance midgets
Opus: A penguin in Kansas.
Orchestral suites: Naughty women who
follow touring orchestras.
Ordo: The hero in Tolkien's "Lord of the
Organistrum: A job-related hazard for
careless medieval percussionists, caused by
getting one's tapper caught in the clapper.
Organum: You may not participate in the
Lai without one.
Paralell organum: Everybody standing in a
double line, waiting for Vire.
Pause: A short period in an individual
voice in which there should be relative quiet.
Useful when turning to the next page in the
score, breathing, emptying the horn of salvia,
coughing, etc. Is rarely heard in baroque music.
Today, the minimum requirements for pauses in
individual pieces are those of the Musicians'
Union (usually one per bar, or 15 minutes per
Pneumatic melisma: A bronchial disorder
caused by hockets.
Prolation: Precautions taken before the
Quaver: Beginning viol class.
Rackett: Capped reeds class.
Recitative: A disease that Monteverdi
Rhythmic drone: The sound of many monks
suffering with Crotchet.
Ritornello: An opera by Verdi.
Rota: An early Italian method of teaching
music without score or parts.
Rubato: Expression used to describe
irregular behaviour in a performer with
sensations of angst in the mating period.
Especially common amongst tenors.
Sancta: Clausula's husband.
Score: A pile of all the individual
orchestral voices, transposed to C so that
nobody else can understand anything. This is
what conductors follow when they conduct, and
it's assumed that they have studied it
carefully. Very few conductors can read a score.
Sine proprietate: Cussing in church.
Solesme: The state of mind after a rough
case of Crotchet.
Stops: Something Bach did not have on his
Tempo: This is where a headache begins.
Tempus imperfectum: Vire had to leave
Tempus perfectum: A good time was had by
Tone Cluster: A chordal orgy first
discovered by a well-endowed woman pianist
leaning forward for a page turn.
Transposition: An advanced recorder
technique where you change from alto to soprano
fingering (or vice-versa) in the middle of a
Trill: The musical equivalent of an
Trope: A malevolent Neum.
Trotto: An early Italian form of
Tutti: A lot of sackbuts.
Vibrato: The singer's equivalent of an
Vibrato: Used by singers to hide the fact
that they are on the wrong pitch.
Virelai: A local woman known for her
expertise in the Lai.
Virtuoso: A musician with very high