1. The musical pitch relating to 440 oscillations per second of vibration, or any octave transposition of that pitch.
  2. The key of A.

absolute music

Music without associations outside of itself, in contrast to program music.

absolute pitch

see perfect pitch.

a cappella

“In the manner of the chapel.” Sung music without instrumental accompaniment.


Sharps, flats, or natural signs that raise or lower a given diatonic pitch to deviate from its key signature.


A vocal or instrumental part that supports or is background for a solo part.


See diatonic.


Any instrument that produces sound by means of physical vibrations, without the use of electronic amplification.


  1. The science of sound.
  2. The physical properties of an instrument or a room as they relate to sound.


In a slow manner


Moderately slow —usually used as a direction in music


“Arrival.” The four weeks immediately preceding Christmas.


(ay-Oh-lee-an): A medieval mode whose half- and whole-step pattern is that of playing A to A on the white keys of the piano (same as the natural minor scale).

Agnus Dei

(Lat. AH-nyoos DAY-ee): “Lamb of God.” In the Mass, the fifth part of the Ordinary.


A song or melody.

Alberti bass

Accompanying bass figures consisting of broken chords, generally in the pattern low-high-middle-high.


(Ger., AHL-boom-blot): A page or leaf from a book, or a short, easy piece.


A piece of music that is played or performed in a quick and lively way.


Faster than andante but not so fast as allegro —used as a direction in music


(Fr., ahl-le-MAW[N]D): “German.” A stately 16th-century German dance, initially in moderate duple meter. In 17th and 18th centuries, it was usually the first movement of the suite. By 19th century it becamse a brisk dance in 3/4 time.


The raising or lowering of a note by means of a sharp or flat.

altered chord

A chord in which a note(s) has been raised or lowered chromatically.


  1. The lowest female singing voice and highest male singing voice.
  2. An instrument in the alto range.
  3. A viola.

alto clef

The C clef falling on the third line of the staff. Used almost exclusively by the viola.


The study of the form and structure of music.


In a fugue, the second entry of the subject.


The first phrase of a musical period. In a fugue, the subject.


A choral composition, most often with religious lyric, with or without accompaniment, written either for performance in a church.


In the fugue, the answer.


An air or song for solo voice within an opera or oratorio.


A short aria.


The notes of a chord played in successsion, (harp-like); a broken chord.


An adaptation of a composition.

ars antiqua

“Old Art.” Refers to music of the 12th and 13th centuries.

ars nova

“New Art.” Referes to music of the 14th century.

art song

A serious vocal composition, generally for voice and piano. Denotes a self-contained work (contrast with aria).


Music that lacks a tonal or key center.


Lengthening the duration of notes in a theme.


Raised, enlarged.

augmented chord

A triad composed of a root, a major third, and an augmented fifth.

augmented sixth chord

A kind of chord in which the interval of an augmented sixth resolves outward to an octave. Contains an augmented sixth above the bass, in addition to various other tones, which determine whether the chord is a German Sixth Chord, French Sixth Chord, Italian Sixth Chord, Neopolitan Sixth Chord, or Doubly Augmented Sixth Chord.

authentic cadence

A cadence with a progression from the dominant (V) chord to the tonic (I) chord.