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Note: not to be used in exams...

  • Accent:
    Playing a Viennese piece in 3/4 time so that it goes da-dum-dum instead of dum-da-da.
  • Accidentals:
    wrong notes.
  • Affections:
    Emotions often on display between principal singers and chorus singers. Often likely to prove awkward and inconvenient when they sour.
  • Agitato:
    1. State of mind when your valve sticks.
    2. A string player's state of mind when a peg slips in the middle of the piece.
  • Air:
    1. An essential ingredient needed by singers in order to perform.
    2. When hot, an ingredient found in great quantities in opera singers, who are full of it.
    3. In the plural (airs) the kind of attitude many opera singers put on before the public.
  • Allegro:
    leg fertilizer.
  • Antiphonal:
    The music that results when half the choir has been given the wrong score.
  • Aria:
    a factor that can be measured to determine how much space a performer requires.
  • Arpeggio:
    "Ain't he that storybook kid with the big nose that grows?".
  • Arrangement:
    An agreement between orchestra and conductor. The will behave if he will stop messing about.
  • Atonal:
    Music written when the composer either forgets or doesn't know what key they are writing in.
  • Attaca:
    'Fire at will!'.
  • B flat:
    A squashed insect.
  • B double flat:
    An insect that was squashed twice.
  • Bass:
    the thing you run around in rounders.
  • Bass clef:
    where you end up if you do fall off.
  • 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 stuck under the chin.
  • Bossa nova:
    the car that belongs to your manager.
  • Bravo:
    Literally, 'How bold!' or 'What nerve!' This is a spontaneous expression of appreciation on the part of the concert goer after a particularly trying performance.
  • Breve:
    A sustained note when you run out of bow.
  • Broken consort:
    When somebody in the ensemble has to leave and go to the bathroom.
  • Cadence:
    when everybody hopes you're going to stop, but you don't.
  • Cello:
    the proper way to answer the phone.
  • Chamber music:
    music written for a very small number of listeners.
  • Chord:
    Usually spelt with an 's' on the end, means a particular type of trousers. e.g. 'He wears chords'.
  • Chromatic scale:
    an instrument for weighing that indicates half-pounds.
  • Clausula:
    Mrs. Santa Claus.
  • Clef:
    1. what you never want to fall off.
    2. something to jump from before the viola solo.
  • Compound meter:
    A place to park your car that requires two pounds
    • duple Meter:
      May take any even number of friends.
    • triple Meter:
      Only rich people should park by these.
    • meter signature:
      The name of the maid who writes you a ticket when you put an odd number of coins in a duple meter.
  • Concert:
    a place where people go to cough and sneeze.
  • Conductor:
    1. the man who punches your ticket to Birmingham.
    2. A musician who is at following many people at the same time.
    3. a musician who is adept at following many people at the same time.
  • Crescendo:
    a reminder to the performer that he has been playing too loudly.
  • Continuo:
    a noise like a bluebottle in a jam jar - usually played on a harpsichord.
  • Cue::
    the long, tapered stick a musician might use after a tough gig in a nice, relaxing game of pool.
  • Cut time:
    when you are going double the speed of everyone else in the ensemble.
  • Da Capo al Fine:
    I like your hat.
  • Detache:
    an indication that the trombones are to play with their slides removed.
  • Development:
    what composers do with the melody in order to produce a composition worthy of a fee.
  • Discord:
    the general atmosphere of most musical companies, as a result of two or more performers who don't get on well together.
  • Ductia:
    a lot of mallards.
  • Duet:
    not to be confused with a duel, which it often resembles.
  • Espressivo:
    Close eyes and play with a wide vibrato.
  • Estampie:
    what they put on letters in Quebec.
  • Fiddle:
    what many unscrupulous people do to the account books.
  • Flute:
    A sophisticated pea shooter with a range of up to 500 yards, blown transversely to confuse the enemy.
  • Form:
    1. the shape of a composition.
    2. The shape of the musician playing the composition.
  • Fret:
    the panic that occurs backstage when it is realised that singers do not have these devices to enable them to pitch the notes correctly.
  • Fuguing tune:
    In operas by Wagner and others, an expression often heard when a simple, repetitive melody keeps coming back and won't go away, as in: "do we have to listen to this fuguing tune again".
  • Glissando:
    a technique adopted by string players for difficult runs.
  • Götterdämmerung:
    An expression often heard from the audience of Wagner operas. (as in, "Isn't this götter-dämm-erung opera finished yet?").
  • Harmony:
    the feeling of goodwill and benevolence that should exist among any group of musicians performing together (with the operative word in that sentence being 'should' as it rarely does occur).
  • Harmonic minor:
    A good music student.
  • Harp:
    a naked piano.
  • Impressionism:
    music that sounds as if it being played in a thick fog.
  • Improvisation:
    what to do when your music falls off the stand.
  • Interval:
    how long it takes 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 go back a bar and try again.
  • Intonation:
    singing through one's nose. Considered highly desirable in the Middle Ages.
  • Key:
    a device for opening doors at a music-hall/theatre, etc. (not to be confused with bribe).
  • Key signature:
    in professional negotiations, the essential or most important signature on a contract or pay stub.
  • Keyboard:
    not to be confused with key board, a sign that the composer should consider a modulation.
  • Lamentoso:
    with handkerchief.
  • Libretto:
    From the Italian for 'little book'' a useful reminder to the concert-goer to bring along a good book in case the performance is dead boring.
  • Lasso:
    the 5th and 6th steps of a descending scale (di lasso: popular with Italian cowboys).
  • Major scale:
    what you say after chasing someone up a mountain "Dang! That was a major scale!".
  • 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.
  • Metronome:
    a city-dwelling dwarf.
  • Mezzo voce:
    a reminder for singers to sing more quietly therefore reducing the dynamic from the ear-splitting, to the merely uncomfortable.
  • Motives:
    impulses that drive musicians to certain, usually selfish behavior. Often called ulterior motives.
  • Music:
    1. a complex organisation 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.
    2. In printed form, any assortment of obscure lines, dots, curves, squiggles, and blotches assembled into something resembling an organised score. (in 20th Century music it's mostly just the blotches and squiggles, with very few of the lines, dots and curves.).
  • Musicals:
    In many Broadway/west-end style shows, the essential quality some productions lack. Ironically, many musicals are hardly musical at all.
  • Musica ficta:
    when you lose your place and have to bluff until you find it again. Also known as faking.
  • Natural:
    in opera, an adjective used to describe a style of performing much admired, but rarely obtained.
  • Notes:
    small, folded pieces of paper passed by students during music class.
  • Ordo:
    the hero in Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings".
  • Opera buffa:
    not as you might expect, opera in the nude (well at least not yet, anyway). Not to be confused with opera buffet, a little party that comes after the performance.
  • Operetta:
    A kind of calorie reduced Opera-Lite, with less fat and generally easier to digest.
  • Pang:
    A kind of stomach pain that is suffered by singers while attempting to sing Puccini tenor roles (for those of you not familiar with opera, Pang actually is a character in Puccini's Turandot...).
  • Parallel minor:
    a music student who is as tall as his instructor.
  • Piano:
    A cumbersome piece of furniture found in many houses, where playing it ensures the early departure of unwanted guests.
  • Pianissimo:
    an entirely theoretical concept.
  • Piano tuner:
    A person employed to come into the home, rearrange the furniture, and annoy the cat.
  • Pizzicato:
    a small Italian pie garnished with cheese, anchovies, etc.
  • Perfect pitch:
    the smooth coating on a freshly paved road.
  • Quartet:
    What's left of most orchestras after the latest round of funding cutbacks.
  • Quaver:
    What nervous performers do before a concert.
  • Racket:
    in 20th century music, the best word to describe most of what you hear.
  • Recitative:
    a disease that Monteverdi had.
  • Refrain:
    don't do it, the part you should not attempt to play/sing etc.
  • Relative major:
    An Uncle in the Army.
  • Rescue opera:
    what someone should do to the whole art form before it goes down the tube.
  • Resolution:
    an oath frequently made by music teachers, e.g. "I'll never use that song again!".
  • Rest:
    what some of us need after being subjected to long performances.
  • Risoluto:
    indicates to orchestras that they are to stubbornly maintain the correct tempo no matter what the conductor tries to do.
  • Ritornello:
    An opera by Verdi.
  • Rhythm:
    a complicated mathematical method of preventing collisions and unwanted overlaps in music.
  • Rota:
    an early Italian method of teaching music without scores or parts.
  • Scale:
    the rate of pay the union demands for a singer who has mastered such material.
  • Scat:
    a command for getting rid of unwanted animals, and sometimes singers.
  • Sharp:
    what managers and agents have to be to stay ahead of the game.
  • Senza sordino:
    a term used to remind the player that he forgot to put his mute on a few bars ago.
  • Slur:
    as opposed to madam.
  • Staccato:
    how all the ceilings are done in a mobile home.
  • String quartet:
    a good violinist, a bad violinist, an ex-violinist, and someone who hates violinists, all getting together to complain about composers.
  • Subdominant:
    chief officer aboard a submarine.
  • Subito piano:
    indicates an opportunity for some obscure orchestra player to become a soloist.
  • Tacet al section X:
    Often in percussion parts. The world's most useless instruction, especially without specification of bar numbers or cues. Means that there's probably time to go to the pub before next entry, unless the sections are particularly short. (submitted by Christine Letch).
  • Tacet al fine:
    Another term found in percussion parts, meaning there's definitely time to go down to the pub. (submitted by Christine Letch).
  • Takt:
    an essential quality of diplomacy and consideration that most musicians lack.
  • Temperament:
    an aspect in the personality of performers that must be delicately balanced and manipulated to produce a pleasing sound.
  • Tie:
    1. At a performance, a decorative article of clothing prone to attracting spills during the interval.
    2. In duets, the only diplomatic way to decide the winner.
  • Transposition:
    An advanced recorder technique where you change from alto to soprano fingering (or vice-versa) in the middle of a piece.
  • Tune:
    A simple melody created by a composer and then butchered by performers.
  • Tuning:
    1. a means by which harmonic consensus - often as a result of bribery or coercion.
    2. An abstract concept with which singers have very little firsthand knowledge.
  • Upbeat:
    what conductors must remain to encourage their performers, even when things are falling apart.
  • Upright:
    How singers and audiences should remain for the duration of the opera.
  • Vibrato:
    used by singers to hide the fact that they are on the wrong pitch.

Musical Styles

  • Big Band:
    20 men who take it in turns to stand up plus a drummer.
  • Blues:
    Played exclusively by people who woke up this morning.
  • Classical:
    Discover the other 45 minutes they left out of the TV ad.
  • Folk:
    Endless songs about shipwrecks in the 19th century.
  • Heavy Metal:
    Codpiece and chaps.
  • House Music:
    OK as long as ifs not the house next door.
  • Jazz:
    Five men on the same stage all playing different tunes.
  • Opera:
    People singing when they should be talking.
  • Rap:
    People talking when they should be singing.
  • World Music:
    A dozen different types of percussion all going at once.

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