Definitions of Musical Terms

string quartet: a good violinist, a bad violinist, an ex-violinist, and someone who hates violinists, all getting together to complain about composers.
detache: an indication that the trombones are to play with their slides removed.
glissando: a technique adopted by string players for difficult runs.
subito piano: indicates an opportunity for some obscure orchestra player to become a soloist.
risoluto: indicates to orchestras that they are to stubbornly maintain the correct tempo no matter what the conductor tries to do.
senza sordino: a term used to remind the player that he forgot to put his mute on a few measures back.
preparatory beat: a threat made to singers, i.e., sing, or else....
crescendo: a reminder to the performer that he has been playing too loudly.
conductor: a musician who is adept at following many people at the same time.
clef: something to jump from before the viola solo.
transposition: the act of moving the relative pitch of a piece of music that is too low for the basses to a point where it is too high for the sopranos.
vibrato: used by singers to hide the fact that they are on the wrong pitch.
half step: the pace used by a cellist when carrying his instrument.
coloratura soprano: a singer who has great trouble finding the proper note, but who has a wild time hunting for it.
chromatic scale: an instrument for weighing that indicates half-pounds.
bar line: a gathering of people, usually among which may be found a musician or two.
ad libitum: a premiere.
beat: what music students do to each other with their instruments. The down beat is performed on top of the head, while the up beat is struck under the chin.
cadence: when everybody hopes you're going to stop, but you don't.
diatonic: low-calorie Schweppes.
lamentoso: with handkerchiefs.
virtuoso: a musician with very high morals. (I know one)
music: a complex organizations of sounds that is set down by the composer, incorrectly interpreted by the conductor, who is ignored by the musicians, the result of which is ignored by the audience.
oboe: an ill wind that nobody blows good.
tenor: two hours before a nooner.
diminished fifth: an empty bottle of Jack Daniels.
perfect fifth: a full bottle of Jack Daniels.
ritard: there's one in every family.
relative major: an uncle in the Marine Corps.
relative minor: a girlfriend.
big band: when the bar pays enough to bring two banjo players.
pianissimo: "refill this beer bottle".
repeat: what you do until they just expel you.
treble: women ain't nothin' but.
bass: the things you run around in softball.
portamento: a foreign country you've always wanted to see.
conductor: the man who punches your ticket to Birmingham.
arpeggio: "Ain't he that storybook kid with the big nose that grows?"
tempo: good choice for a used car.
A 440: the highway that runs around Nashville.
  1. men who wear dresses.
  2. An advanced recorder technique where you change from alto to soprano fingering (or vice-versa) in the middle of a piece
cut time: 1.parole. 2.when everyone else is playing twice as fast as you are.
order of sharps: what a wimp gets at the bar.
passing tone: frequently heard near the baked beans at family barbecues.
middle C: the only fruit drink you can afford when food stamps are low.
perfect pitch: the smooth coating on a freshly paved road.
tuba: a compound word: "Hey, woman! Fetch me another tuba Bryll Cream!"
  1. that ugly thing your wife always vacuums dog hair off of when company comes.
  2. The heroine in Monteverdi's opera Frottola
whole note: what's due after failing to pay the mortgage for a year.
clef: what you try never to fall off of.
bass clef: where you wind up if you do fall off.
altos: not to be confused with "Tom's toes," "Bubba's toes" or "Dori-toes".
minor third: your approximate age and grade at the completion of formal schooling.
melodic minor: loretta Lynn's singing dad.
12-tone scale: the thing the State Police weigh your tractor trailer truck with.
quarter tone: what most standard pickups can haul.
sonata: what you get from a bad cold or hay fever.
clarinet: name used on your second daughter if you've already used Betty Jo.
cello: the proper way to answer the phone.
bassoon: 1.typical response when asked what you hope to catch, and when. 2.a bedpost with a bad case of gas.
french horn: your wife says you smell like a cheap one when you come in at 4 a.m.
cymbal: what they use on deer-crossing signs so you know what to sight-in your pistol with.
bossa nova: the car your foreman drives.
time signature: what you need from your boss if you forget to clock in.
first inversion: grandpa's battle group at Normandy.
staccato: how you did all the ceilings in your mobile home.
major scale: what you say after chasing wild game up a mountain: "Damn! That was a major scale!"
aeolian mode: how you like Mama's cherry pie.
bach chorale: the place behind the barn where you keep the horses.
plague: a collective noun, as in "a plague of conductors."
audition: the act of putting oneself under extreme duress to satisfy the sadistic intentions of someone who has already made up his mind.
accidentals: wrong notes.
augmented fifth: a 36-ounce bottle.
broken consort: when someone in the ensemble has to leave to go to the bathroom.
cantus firmus: the part you get when you can play only four notes.
chansons de geste: dirty songs.
clausula: Mrs. Santa Claus.
crotchet: 1.a tritone with a bent prong. knitting, but faster.
ducita: a lot of mallards.
embouchure: the way you look when you've been playing the Krummhorn.
estampie: what they put on letters in Quebec.
garglefinklein: a tiny recorder played by neums.
hocket: the thing that fits into a crochet to produce a racket.
interval: how long it takes to find the right note. There are three kinds:
  1. Major interval: a long time.
  2. Minor interval: a few bars.
  3. Inverted interval: when youhave to go back a bar and try again.
intonation: singing through one's nose. Considered highly desirable in the Middle Ages.
isorhythmic motet: when half of the ensemble got a different edition from the other half.
minnesinger: a boy soprano.
musica ficta: when you lose your place and have to bluff until you find it again.
neums: renaissance midgets.
neumatic melishma: a bronchial disorder caused by hockets.
ordo: the hero in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
rota: an early Italian method of teaching music without score or parts.
trotto: an early Italian form of Montezuma's Revenge.
lauda: the difference between shawms and krummhorns.
sancta: Clausula's husband.
lasso: the 6th and 5th steps of a descending scale.
di lasso: popular with Italian cowboys.
quaver: beginning viol class.
rackett: capped reeds class
ritornello: a Verdi opera.
sine proprietate: cussing in church.
supertonic: Schweppes.
trope: a malevolent neum.
tutti: a lot of sackbuts.
stops: something Bach didn't have on his organ.
agnus dei: a famous female church composer.
metronome: a city-dwelling dwarf.
allegro: leg fertilizer.
recitative: a disease that Monteverdi had.
transsectional: an alto who moves to the soprano section.

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