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musical terminology

An A-Z list of musical terms

Even if you’ve not picked up an instrument since you were eight and tootled away on a recorder, or stood at the back of a school hall holding a tambourine, you probably know the odd piece of musical terminology – forte, perhaps, or andante might ring a bell. Unsurprisingly, there are plenty more where those came from – and we’ve looked into The Oxford Dictionary of Music and the Oxford Dictionary of Musical Terms to create an A-Z of directions and expression markings in French (F), German (G), and Italian (I).

arraché (F) Torn. Extreme form of pizzicato.

bouche fermée (F) Closed-mouth singing; humming (in choral music).

cupo (I) Dark, sombre.

dehors (F) Prominent; a melody that the composer intends to be particularly prominent.

étouffer (F) To stifle; to damp, e.g. with violin mute, piano pedal, etc.

feierlich (G) Solemn (for religious occasions), festive (for secular).

giustamente (I) With exactitude; unvarying speed and rhythm.

hüpfend (G) Hopping; same as spiccato.

im Takt (G) In time.

jeté (F) A bowstroke in which the bow is dropped onto the string so as to bounce several times.

kneifend (G) Plucking; same as pizzicato.

leggiadramente (I) Gracefully.

markig (G) Vigorous.

naturale (I) Natural; return to a natural style after performing in some unusual way, e.g. falsetto or muted.

ôter (F) To take off; discontinue use of a stop (organ music).

posément (F) Steadily, sedately.

quasi (I) Almost, ‘as if’.

raddoppiamento (I) Doubling.

sinistra (I) Left (hand).

taktfest (G) Time-firm; in steady time.

una corda (I) 1. One string 2. Use the `soft’ pedal (in piano music).

Verschiebung (G) Shoving away. Soft pedal.

Wie anfänglich (G) As at the beginning.

xy – we couldn’t find any musical directions borrowed from French, Italian, or German beginning with these letters, I’m afraid…

zitternd (G) Trembling.

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