Glossary Of Musical Terms
Accent: An unusual manner of pronunciation, e.g. "Y'all sang that real good!"
Accidentals: Wronng 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 composer.
Allegro: Leg fertilizer.
Altered Chord: A sonority that has been spayed.
Atonality: Disease that many modern composers suffer from. The most prominent symptom is the patient's lacking ability to make decisions.
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 opera "Frottola".
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 wears chords."
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 washboards.
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 organum.
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 German.
Espressivo: Close eyes and play with a wide vibrato.
Estampie: What they put on letters in Quebec
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 neums. 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 accent).
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 other half Lai: What monks give up when they take their vows.
Lamentoso: With handkerchiefs.
Lasso: The 6th and 5th steps of a descending scale.
Lauda: The difference between shawms and krummhorns
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 time.
Messiah: An oratorio by Handel performed every Christmas by choirs that believe they are good enough, in cooperation with musicians who need the money.
Metronome: 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 modulation."
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 Rings".
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 hour).
Performance practise: Sex education.
Pneumatic melisma: A bronchial disorder caused by hockets.
Prolation: Precautions taken before the Lai.
Quaver: Beginning viol class.
Rackett: Capped reeds class.
Recitative: A disease that Monteverdi had.
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 organ.
Tempo: This is where a headache begins.
Tempus imperfectum: Vire had to leave early.
Tempus perfectum: A good time was had by all.
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 piece.
Trill: The musical equivalent of an epileptic seizure.
Trope: A malevolent Neum.
Trotto: An early Italian form of Montezuma's Revenge.
Tutti: A lot of sackbuts. Vibrato: 1) The singer's equivalent of an epileptic seizure. 2) 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 morals.
If thine enemy wrong thee, buy each of his children a drum.
Guy walks into a shop. "You got one of them Marshall Hiwatt AC30 amplificatior thingies and a Gobson StratoBlaster geetar with a Fried Rose tremolo?" "You're a drummer, aren't you?" "Duh, yeah. How'd you know?" "This is a travel agent."
Bob is throwing a party. Bob decides that to break the ice at his party, he'll ask everyone what their I.Q. is, and then strike up an appropriate conversation from there. The day of Bob's party rolls around and when the first guest knocks on the door, Bob asks the person what their I.Q. is. "200,000" replies the first guest. "Well, that's great," says Bob, let's talk about ethereal astro physics. Bob and this first guest talk about the aforementioned subject for a while. Later in the party, someone else is at the door. "Hi my name is Bob; welcome to my party, what's your I.Q.?" The new guest responds with "250". "Great," says Bob. "Lets talk about advanced math. Bob and his new guest talk about calculus and statistics for awhile. Much later in the party, after many more guests had arrived and been spoken to by Bob, yet another guest arrives at the door. "Hi, my name's Bob; welcome to my party, what's your I.Q.?" This time the guest replies after putting some thought into it "5". "Well, that's great," says Bob, "what kind of drumsticks do you use?"
What did the drummer get on his I.Q. test? Drool.
A drummer, sick of all the drummer jokes, decides to change his instrument. After some thought, he decides on the accordion. So he goes to the music store and says to the owner, "I'd like to look at the accordions, please." The owner gestures to a shelf in the corner and says "All our accordions are over there." After browsing, the drummer says, "I think I'd like the big red one in the corner." The store owner looks at him and says, "You're a drummer, aren't you?" The drummer, crestfallen, says, "How did you know?" The store owner says, "That `big red accordion' is the radiator."
What is the difference between playing an English horn solo and wetting your pants? Both give you a warm feeling, but no one else cares.
A college woman dated a trumpeter and when she came back to the dorm, her roommate ask, "Well, how was it? Did his embouchre make him a great kisser?" The first woman replied, "Aw, that dry, tight, tiny little pucker; it was no fun at all." The next night, she dated a tuba player and when she came back, her roommate asked her, "Well, how was his kissing?" "Ugh!" she replied, "Those rubbery, blubbery, slobbering slabs of meat! Oh, it was just gross!" The next night, she dated a French horn player and when she came back, her roommate asked her, "Well, was his kissing any better?" "His kissing was just so-so," she replied, "but I *loved* the way he held me!" (French horns are played with one hand up the bell, which rests in the player's lap...)
There once was a woman who had gone a long time without so much as the hope of having a relationship. When she finally picked up a handsome looking guy and went out with him, her friends were naturally curious as to how it went. "What's he like?" said the woman's friend the day after the big event. "Oh, he's fine, I guess. He's a musician, you know," said she. "Did he have class?" said the friend. The friend's ears perked up as the woman said, "Well, most of the time, yes, but I don't think I'll be going out with him again." "Oh? Why not?" asked the friend. "Well, he plays the french horn, so I guess it's just habit, but every time we kiss, he sticks his fist up my rear!"
Two musicians are walking down the street, and one says to the other, "Who was that piccolo I saw you with last night?"
The other replies, "That was no piccolo, that was my fife."
Button sported by high school band director: A depiction of a saxophone and a cymbal, with the caption "Sax Cymbal."
The Golden Club, Las Vegas The morning after a night on the town in Las Vegas, Bob told his friend about the Golden Club that he had been drinking in. Everything in the club was lined with gold. The glasses had a gold rim, the rail on the bar was plated with gold, even the urinals were gold plated. Bob was ready to believe his buddy until he mentioned the gold plated urinals so he called the Golden Club. "Is it true that the glasses in your club have a gold rim?" Bob asked. "Yes, it's true" replied the voice on the other end. "And is the rail on the bar plated with gold?" asked Bob. "Yes it is," was the reply from the other end. "And, one more thing, is it true that the urinals are gold plated?" inquired Bob. Bob could hear the person on the other end yell to the band, "Hey Joe, I think I found the guy that pissed in your saxophone last night."
The soprano, not being smart enough to use birth control, says to her saxophone playing lover, "Honey, I think you better pull out now." He replies, "Why, am I sharp??"
There is a frog driving east and a trombonist walking west. What can be surmised from this? The frog's probably on its way to a gig.
Trombone: a slide whistle with delusions of granduer.
Orchestral trombonists count so much rest and play so many repeated figures that the sheep story also works.
Slightly practical joke to play on a trombonist: Assuming she's using water on her slide, empty her water bottle down the mouthpiece. The result is really impressive if she doesn't notice the added weight when she picks it up off the stand. Don't do this if she's using a synthetic lubricant in her water (the stuff is expensive, and she'll be righteously angry).
A colleague of mine played in an "auditions only" orchestra in high school, and one of the pieces that they played was the William Tell Overture. This is well known as the music for the Lone Ranger, the bit with the brassy trumpet fanfare was used for that TV show back in th 60s. Well, the Overture actually does not begin with the trumpets. It begins with a *beautiful* cello solo, which lasts for exactly 13 measures of 4 counts each. The trumpets regularly missed their queue and came in either early or late, slaughtering the piece. One day in rehearsal, the director decided to have the trumpets count out loud, just to make sure they were actually counting. So the cello plays... [insert cello music here] And the trumpets count [One,2,3,4,Two,2,3,4. . .] And the cello continues to play... [more cello music] While the trumpets count [Eight,2,3,4,Nine,2,3,4. . .] And the cello finishes [insert director waving arms madly at trumpets to come in *now*] While the idiot trumpets continue to count [Fourteen,2,3,4,Fifteen,2,3,4...]
In an emergency a jazz trumpeter was hired to do some solos with a symphony orchestra. Everything went fine through the first movement, when she had some really hair-raising solos, but in the second movement she started going improvising madly when she wasn't supposed to play at all.
After the concert the conductor came round looking for an explanation. She said, "I looked in the score and it said `tacit'--so I took it!"
A musician calls the orchestra office, asks for the conductor, and is told that he is dead. The musician calls back 25 times more. Same message from receptionist. She asks why he keeps calling. He replies, "I just like to hear you say it."
Semiconductors are part-time musicians. Rubber bands are musicians who believe in safe sex.
Last summer, the local orchestra decided to play Beethoven's 9th symphony. However, it being quite hot, the players were working up quite a sweat, until a neighbor let them use the ventilators in her house. However, the wind from these ventilators was causing the notes to blow all over the place, so they had to tie them down to the note holders. The din from the ventilators was so bad that the bassists decided it didn't matter if they downed a few drinks and got royally drunk. Two of the bassists get so drunk, they pass out. One of the violinists, in disgust, decided to go home but slipped and fell. Thus, it was the bottom of the 9th, the bassists were loaded, the score was tied with two men out and the fans were roaring wild when one of the players slid home.
It's Saturday night and the local orchestra is giving a concert, but it's five minutes to curtain and the conductor still hasn't shown. When the assistant manager tells the manager about this, the manager goes berserk. He asks all of the employees if they can conduct, but none of them can. He then goes to the lobby and asks the patrons but doesn't find anyone. He finally goes out on the street and collars passerbys but still can't find anyone who can conduct. In desperation, the assistant manager points to a cat, dog, and horse that are standing in the street. The manager shrugs his shoulders and says, "Why not, what do we have to lose?" He goes to the cat and asks if it can conduct and it meows out, "I don't know but I'll try." The cat tries to stand on its hind legs and wave its paws but it can't keep its balance and falls over immediately. The manager goes to the dog and asks the same thing. The dog barks, "I think I can," but although the dog can keep its balance for a while, it can't stand on its hind legs long enough to last through an entire movement. Finally, the manager asks the horse if it can conduct. The horse just stares at the manager for a second, then turns around and presents its rear quarters and starts swishing its tail in perfect 4/4 time. The manager exclaims, "That's perfect! The concert can go on as scheduled." "But, sir," protests the assistant, "will the orchestra accept a horse as a conductor?" Just then the horse drops a big pile of plop on the street. The manager looks at the plop and then at the horse's rear and says, "Trust me, from this angle, the orchestra won't even know that they have a new conductor."
Max dies and meets St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter looks at his resume and says, "Well, I think you belong in the Heavenly Orchestra." and takes him to visit a rehearsal. Mozart is playing violin, Beethoven is playing piano, Paganini is in the back of the 2nd violins, etc. However, the conductor is appalling. Afterwards, Max says, "Well, that was great, but who was that grey-haired old geezer conducting?" St. Peter replies, "Oh, that was God, he thinks he's Herbert von Karajan."
From: Efficiency & Ticket, Ltd., Management Consultants To: Chairman, The London Symphony Orchestra Re: Schubert's Symphony No. 8 in B minor. After attending a rehearsal of this work we make the following observations and recommendations: 1. We note that the twelve first violins were playing identical notes, as were the second violins. Three violins in each section, suitably amplified, would seem to us to be adequate. 2. Much unnecessary labour is involved in the number of demisemiquavers in this work; we suggest that many of these could be rounded up to the nearest semiquaver thus saving practice time for the individual player and rehearsal time for the entire ensemble. The simplification would also permit more use of trainee and less-skilled players with only marginal loss of precision. 3. We could find no productivity value in string passages being repeated by the horns; all tutti repeats could also be eliminated without any reduction of efficiency. 4. In so labour-intensive an undertaking as a symphony, we regard the long oboe tacet passages to be extremely wasteful. What notes this instrument is called upon to play could, subject to a satisfactory demarcation conference with the Musician's Union, be shared out equitably amongst the other instruments. Conclusion: if the above recommendations are implemented the piece under condsideration could be played through in less than half an hour with concomitant savings in overtime, lighting and heating, wear and tear on the instruments and hall rental fees. Also, had the composer been aware of modern cost-effective procedures he might well have finished this work.
The late Herbert von Karajan and his wife enter a hotel room. She: My god, it is cold in here. HvK: But, liebchen, when we are in private, you can call me Herbert.
When the percussionist for the Space Coast Philharmonic's all-woman performance quit at the last minute, the Florida group fill in with a man. The dressed him in a robe, powdered his mustache and ordered him to "maintain a low profile." No one noticed.
What do you do with a percussionist that loses one of his/her drumsticks? Stick them up in front of the group and tell them to wave their arms!
While at a concert being performed by a very bad orchestra, George Bernard Shaw was asked what he'd like them to play next. "Dominoes," he replied.
During a spirited on-stage sword fight during a September 1994 performance of the opera "The Vagabond King" in Denver, one of the swords broke off, flew through the air, and severed the bow of a violinist in the orchestra. Opera officials were considering stringing a net over the orchestra pit for protection.
These are stories and test questions accumulated by music teachers in the state of Missouri...
Agnus Dei was a woman composer famous for her church music.
Refrain means don't do it. A refrain in music is the part you better not try to sing.
A virtuoso is a musician with real high morals.
John Sebastian Bach died from 1750 to the present.
Handel was half German, half Italian, and half English. He was rather large.
Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music. He took long walks in the forest even when everyone was calling him. I guess he could not hear so good. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died from this.
Henry Purcell is a well known composer few people have ever heard of.
Aaron Copland is one of your most famous contemporary composers. It is unusual to be contemporary. Most composers do not live until they are dead.
An opera is a song of bigly size.
In the last scene of Pagliacci, Canio stabs Nedda who is the one he really loves. Pretty soon Silvio also gets stabbed, and they all live happily ever after.
When a singer sings, he stirs up the air and makes it hit any passing eardrums. But if he is good, he knows how to keep it from hurting.
Music sung by two people at the same time is called a duel.
I know what a sextet is but I had rather not say.
Caruso was at first an Italian. Then someone heard his voice and said he would go a long way. And so he came to America.
A good orchestra is always ready to play if the conductor steps on the odium.
Morris dancing is a country survival from times when people were happy.
Most authorities agree that music of antiquity was written long ago.
Probably the most marvelous fugue was the one between the Hatfields and McCoys.
My very best liked piece of music is the Bronze Lullaby.
My favorite composer is Opus.
A harp is a nude piano.
A tuba is much larger than its name.
Instruments come in many sizes, shapes and orchestras.
You should always say celli when you mean there are two or more cellos.
Another name for kettle drums is timpani. But I think I will just stick with the first name and learn it good.
A trumpet is an instrument when it is not an elephant sound.
While trombones have tubes, trumpets prefer to wear valves.
The double bass is also called the bass viol, string bass, and bass fiddle. It has so many names because it is so huge.
When electric currents go through them, guitars start making sounds. So would anybody.
Question: What are kettle drums called? Answer: Kettle drums.
Cymbals are round, metal CLANGS!
A bassoon looks like nothing I have ever heard.
Last month I found out how a clarinet works by taking it apart. I both found out and got in trouble.
Question: Is the saxophone a brass or a woodwind instrument? Answer: Yes.
The concertmaster of an orchestra is always the person who sits in the first chair of the first violins. This means that when a person is elected concertmaster, he has to hurry up and learn how to play a violin real good.
For some reason, they always put a treble clef in front of every line of flute music. You just watch.
I can't reach the brakes on this piano!
The main trouble with a French horn is it's too tangled up.
Anyone who can read all the instrument notes at the same time gets to be the conductor.
Instrumentalist is a many-purposed word for many player-types.
The flute is a skinny-high shape-sounded instrument.
The most dangerous part about playing cymbals is near the nose.
A contra-bassoon is like a bassoon, only more so.
Tubas are a bit too much.
Music instrument has a plural known as orchestra.
I would like for you to teach me to play the cello. Would tomorrow or Friday be best?
My favorite instrument is the bassoon. It is so hard to play people seldom play it. That is why I like the bassoon best.
It is easy to teach anyone to play the maracas. Just grip the neck and shake him in rhythm.
Just about any animal skin can be stretched over a frame to make a pleasant sound once the animal is removed.
Source: Missouri School Music Newsletter, collected by Harold Dunn