A

a, ΰ (Fr) – at, to, by, for, in, in the style of
a 2 – see a due in this list
aber (Ger) – but
a bene placido – up to the performer
a cappella – in the manner of singing in a chapel; i.e., without instrumental accompaniment
a capriccio - in a capricious style
accelerando – accelerating; gradually increasing the tempo
accentato – accented; with emphasis
acciaccatura – crushing; i.e., a very fast grace note that is "crushed" against the note that follows and takes up no value in the measure
accidental - a sharp, flat, or natural sign (not in the key signature)
accompagnato – accompanied; i.e., with the accompaniment following the soloist, who may speed up or slow down at will
adagietto – rather slow
adagio – at ease; i.e., slow
adagissimo – very slow
ad libitum (commonly ad lib; Latin) – at liberty; i.e., the speed and manner of execution are left to the performer
a due – Intended as a duet; for two voices or instruments; together; two instruments are to play in unison, after divisi or a solo passage for one of the instruments
affabile - in a pleasant manner
affettuoso, affettuosamente, or affectueusement (Fr) – with affect (that is, with emotion); see also con affetto
affrettando – hurrying, pressing onwards
agile – swiftly
agitato – agitated
air - a melodious composition used in some classic suites, which was designed to accompany dancing, but it was not of the standard dance forms such as Gavotte or Minuet
al, alla – to the, in the manner of (al before masculine nouns, alla before feminine)
al fine - to the end
alla breve – two minim (half-note) beats to a bar, rather than four crotchet (quarter-note) beats
alla marcia – in the style of a march
allargando – broadening, becoming a little slower
allegretto – a little lively, moderately fast
allegro – cheerful or brisk; but commonly interpreted as lively, fast
allegro assai - very quick
allemande - the first of the dances in the classic suite, written in duple time and played at a moderate tempo
als (Ger) – than
altissimo – very high
alto – high; often refers to a particular range of voice, higher than a tenor but lower than a soprano
am Steg (Ger) – at the bridge; i.e., playing a bowed string instrument near its bridge (see sul ponticello in this list)
amabile – amiable, pleasant
ambitus - the range of a plainsong from its highest to its lowest tone.
amoroso – loving
andante – at a walking pace; i.e., at a moderate tempo
andantino – slightly faster than andante (but earlier it sometimes used to mean slightly slower than andante)
andare - go on
a niente – to nothing; an indication to make a diminuendo to pppp
animato, animoso – animated, lively
antiphon – a liturgical or other composition consisting of choral responses, sometimes between two choirs; a passage of this nature forming part of another composition
apaisι (Fr) – calmed
a piacere – at pleasure; i.e., the performer need not follow the rhythm strictly
appassionato – passionately
appenato - grieved, distressed
appoggiatura – a grace note that "leans" on the following note, taking up some of its value in the measure
a prima vista – at first sight; i.e., playing or singing something at first sight of the music sheet
arco – the bow used for playing some string instrument; i.e., played with the bow, as opposed to pizzicato (plucked), in music for bowed instruments; normally used to cancel a pizzicato direction
aria - a melodic composition for solo voice with accompaniment, or a song in ABA form in opera, oratorio, or cantata
arietta – a short aria
arioso – airy, or like an air (a melody); i.e., in the manner of an aria; melodious
arpeggio – like a harp; i.e., the notes of the chords are to be played quickly one after another (usually ascending) instead of simultaneously. In music for piano, this is sometimes a solution in playing a wide-ranging chord whose notes cannot be played otherwise. Music generated by the limited hardware of video game computers uses a similar technique to create a chord from one tone generator. Arpeggios (or arpeggi) are also accompaniment patterns. See also broken chord in this list.
assai – very
assai piu - much more
assez (Fr) – enough, sufficiently; sometimes used in the same sense as assai
a tempo – in time; i.e., the performer should return to the main tempo of the piece (after an accelerando or ritardando, etc.); also may be found in combination with other terms such as a tempo giusto (in strict time) or a tempo di menuetto (at the speed of a minuet)
attacca – attack, or go on; i.e., at the end of a movement, a direction to begin (attack) the next movement immediately, without a gap or pause
Ausdruck (Ger) – expression
ausdrucksvoll (Ger) – expressively
avec (Fr) – with or with another

 

B

B (Ger) – B flat in German (and Icelandic); B natural is called H
barbaro – barbarous (notably used in Allegro barbaro by Bιla Bartσk)
bass – the lowest of the standard four voice ranges (bass, tenor, alto, soprano); the lowest melodic line in a musical composition, often thought of as defining and supporting the harmony
basso continuo – continuous bass; i.e., a bass part played continuously throughout a piece to give harmonic structure, used especially in the Baroque period
beat – (1) the pronounced rhythm of music; (2) one single stroke of a rhythmic accent
bellicoso – warlike, aggressive
ben or bene – well, as in, for example, ben marcato (meaning "well-marked")
bewegt (Ger) – moved, speeded
bis (Lat) – twice; i.e., repeat the relevant action or passage
bisbigliando – whispering; i.e., a special tremolo effect on the harp where a chord or note is rapidly repeated at a low volume
bocca chiusa – with closed mouth
bravura – boldness; as in con bravura, boldly
breit (Ger) – broad
bridge – Transitional passage connecting two sections of a composition, also transition. Also the part of a string instrument that holds the strings in place.
brillante – brilliantly, with sparkle
brio – vigour; usually in con brio
brioso – vigorously (same as con brio)
broken chord – a chord in which the notes are not all played at once, but in some more or less consistent sequence. They may follow singly one after the other, or two notes may be immediately followed by another two, for example. See also arpeggio in this list, which as an accompaniment pattern may be seen as a kind of broken chord; see Alberti bass.
bruscamente – brusquely

 

C

cadenza – a solo section, usually in a concerto or similar work, that is used to display the performer's technique, sometimes at considerable length
calando – falling away, or lowering; i.e., getting slower and quieter; ritardando along with diminuendo
calore – warmth; so con calore, warmly
cambiare – to change; i.e., any change, such as to a new instrument
cantabile or cantando – in a singing style
capo – head; i.e., the beginning (of a movement, normally)
capriccioso – capriciously, unpredictable, volatile
cιdez (Fr) – yield, give way
cesura or caesura (Latin form) – break, stop; i.e., a complete break in sound (sometimes called "railroad tracks")
chiuso – closed; i.e., muted by hand (for a horn, or similar instrument; but see also bocca chiusa, which uses the feminine form, in this list)
coda – a tail; i.e., a closing section appended to a movement
codetta – a small coda, but usually applied to a passage appended to a section of a movement, not to a whole movement
col, colla – with the (col before a masculine noun, colla before a feminine noun); (see next for example)
colla parte – with the soloist
colla voce – with the voice
col legno – with the wood; i.e., the strings (for example, of a violin) are to be struck with the wood of the bow; also battuta
col legno: beaten with the wood
coloratura – coloration; i.e., elaborate ornamentation of a vocal line, or (especially) a soprano voice suited to such elaboration
colossale – tremendously
col pugno – with the fist; i.e., bang the piano with the fist
come prima – like the first (time); i.e., as before, typically referring to an earlier tempo
come sopra – as above; i.e., like the previous tempo (usually) common time – the time signature 4/4: four beats per measure, each beat a quarter note (a crotchet) in length. 4/4 is often written on the musical staff as 'C'. The symbol is not a C as an abbreviation for common time, but a broken circle. The full circle at one time stood for triple time, 3/4.
comodo (or, commonly but less correctly, commodo) – comfortable; i.e., at moderate speed; also, allegro comodo, tempo
comodo,
etc.
con – with; used in very many musical directions, for example con allegrezza (with liveliness), con amore (with tenderness); (see also col, colla, above)
con amore, or (in Spanish and sometimes in Italian) con amor – with love, tenderly
con affetto – with affect (that is, with emotion)
con brio – with spirit, with vigour
con dolore – with sadness
con (gran, molto) espressione – with (great, much) expression
con fuoco – with fire, in a fiery manner
con larghezza – with broadness; broadly
con moto – with motion
con slancio – with enthusiasm
con sordina, or con sordine (plural) – with a mute; or with mutes; compare senza sordina in this list; see also Sordina. Note: sordina, with plural sordine, is strictly correct Italian, but the forms con sordino and con sordini are much more commonly used as terms in music.
con sordino, or con sordini (plural) (incorrect Italian) – see con sordina, above
coperti (plural of coperto, which may also be seen) – covered; i.e., on a drum, muted with a cloth
crescendo – growing; i.e., progressively louder (contrast diminuendo)
cut time – same as the meter 2/2: two half-note (minim) beats per measure. Notated and executed like common time (4/4), except with the beat lengths doubled. Indicated by three quarters of a circle with a vertical line through it, which resembles the cent symbol '’'. This comes from a literal cut of the 'C' symbol of common time. Thus, a quarter note in cut time is only half a beat long, and a measure has only two beats. See also alla breve.

 

D

da capo – from the head; i.e., from the beginning (see capo in this list)
D.S. al coda or dal segno al coda (or, strictly but rarely seen, ...alla coda) – from the sign to the coda; i.e., return to a place in the music designated by the sign and continue until directed to move to the coda, a separate ending section. (See Coda in this list.)
D.S. al fine or dal segno al fine – from the sign to the end; i.e., return to a place in the music designated by the sign (see preceding entry) and continue to the end of the piece
D.S.S. al coda or dal segno al coda – same as D.S. al coda, but with a double segno
D.S.S. al fine or dal segno al fine – from the double sign to the end; i.e., return to place in the music designated by the double sign (see D.S. al coda) and continue to the end of the piece
deciso – decisively
decrescendo or decresc. – same as diminuendo or dim. (see below)
delicatamente or delicato – delicately
devoto – religiously
diminuendo, dim. – dwindling; i.e., with gradually decreasing volume (same as decrescendo)
dissonante – dissonant
divisi or div. – divided; i.e., in a part in which several musicians normally play exactly the same notes they are instead to split the playing of the written simultaneous notes among themselves. It is most often used for string instruments, since with them another means of execution is often possible. (The return from divisi is marked unisono: see in this list.)
dolce – sweetly
dolcissimo – very sweetly
dolente – sorrowfully, plaintively
doloroso – sorrowfully, plaintively
double stop – the act of playing two notes simultaneously on a melodic percussion instrument or stringed instrument
D.S. – Dal Segno (see above)
Dur (Ger) – major; used in key signatures as, for example, A-Dur (A major), B-Dur (B♭ major), or H-Dur (B major). (See also moll (minor) in this list.)
dynamics – refers to the relative volumes in the execution of a piece of music

 

E

eco – the Italian word for "echo"; an effect in which a group of notes is repeated, usually more softly, and perhaps at a different octave, to create an echo effect
ein wenig (Ger) – a little
Empfindung (Ger) – feeling
encore (Fr) – again; i.e., perform the relevant passage once more
en dehors (Fr) – prominently
energico – energetic, strong
enfatico – emphatically
en pressant (Fr) – hurrying forward
en retenant (Fr) – slowing
eroico – heroically
espirando – expiring; i.e., dying away
espressivo or espr. – expressively
estinto – extinct, extinguished; i.e., as soft as possible, lifeless
etwas (Ger) – somewhat

 

F

facile – easily, without fuss
fermata – finished, closed; i.e., a rest or note is to be held for a duration that is at the discretion of the performer or conductor (sometimes called bird's eye)
feroce – ferociously
feurig (Ger) – fiery
festivamente — cheerfully, celebratory
fieramente – proudly
fill (English) – a sound (or combination of sounds) which "fills" the brief time between lyrical phrases and lines of melody
fine – the end, often in phrases like al fine (to the end)
flebile – mournfully
focoso or fuocoso – fiery; i.e., passionately
forte or f (usually) – strong; i.e., to be played or sung loudly
fortepiano or fp (usually) – strong-gentle; i.e., 1. loud, then immediately soft (see dynamics), or 2. an early pianoforte
fortissimo – as loudly as possible (see note at pianissimo, in this list)
forzando or fz – see sforzando in this list
freddo – cold(ly), depressive or terror emphasizing
fresco – freshly
fugue - flight
fuoco – fire; con fuoco means with fire
furioso – furiously

 

G

gaudioso – with joy
gentile – gently
geschwind (Ger) – quickly
getragen (Ger) – sustainedly
giocoso or giojoso – gaily
giusto – strictly, exactly, e.g. tempo giusto in strict time
glissando (simulated Italian) – a continuous sliding from one pitch to another (a true glissando), or an incidental scale executed while moving from one melodic note to another (an effective glissando). See glissando for further information; and compare portamento in this list.
grandioso – grandly
grave – slowly and seriously
grazioso – gracefully
gustoso – with gusto

 

H

H (Ger) – B natural in German; B means B flat
Hauptstimme (Ger) – "head" voice, chief part; i.e., the contrapuntal line of primary importance, in opposition to Nebenstimme
hemiola (English, from Greek) – the imposition of a pattern of rhythm or articulation other than that implied by the time signature; specifically, in triple time (for example in 3/4) the imposition of a duple pattern (as if the time signature were, for example, 2/4). See Syncopation.
 

I

immer (Ger) – always
imperioso – imperiously
impetuoso – impetuously
improvisando – with improvisation
improvisato – improvised, or as if improvised
in altissimo – in the highest; i.e., play or sing an octave higher
incalzando – getting faster and louder
insistendo – insistently, deliberate
in modo di – in the art of, in the style of
intimo – intimately
irato – angrily

 

K

krδftig (Ger) – strongly

 

L

lacrimoso – tearfully; i.e., sadly
lamentando – lamenting, mournfully
lamentoso – lamenting, mournfully
langsam (Ger) – slowly
largamente – broadly; i.e., slowly (same as largo)
larghetto – somewhat slowly; not as slow as largo
Larghissimo – very slowly; slower than largo
largo – broadly; i.e., slowly
lebhaft (Ger) – briskly, lively
legato – joined; i.e., smoothly, in a connected manner (see also articulation)
leggiero – lightly, delicately
lent (Fr) – slowly
lento – slowly
liberamente – freely
libero – free, freely
l'istesso – see lo stesso, below
loco – [in] place; i.e., perform the notes at the pitch written (generally used to cancel an 8va direction)
lontano – from a distance; distantly
lo stesso (or commonly, but ungrammatically, l'istesso) – the same; applied to the manner of articulation, tempo, etc.
lugubre – lugubrious, mournful
luminoso – luminously
lusingando – coaxingly

 

M

ma – but
ma non troppo – but not too much
maestoso – majestically, in a stately fashion
magico – magically
magnifico – magnificent
main droite (Fr) – [played with the] right hand (abbreviation: MD or m.d.)
main gauche (Fr) – [played with the] left hand (abbreviation: MG or m.g.)
malinconico – melancholy
mano destra – [played with the] right hand (abbreviation: MD or m.d.)
mano sinistra – [played with the] left hand (abbreviation: MS or m.s.)
marcatissimo – very accentuatedly
marcato – marked; i.e., accentuatedly, execute every note as if it were to be accented
marcia – a march; alla marcia means in the manner of a march
martellato – hammered out
marziale – in the march style
mδssig (Ger) – moderately
MD – see mano destra and main droite
melancolico – melancholic
melisma – the technique of changing the note (pitch) of a syllable of text while it is being sung
measure – the period of a musical piece that encompasses a complete cycle of the time signature, e.g., in 4/4 time, a measure has four quarter-note beats
meno – less; see meno mosso, for example, under mosso
mesto – mournful, sad
meter (or metre) – the pattern of a music piece's rhythm of strong and weak beats
mezza voce – half voice; i.e., with subdued or moderated volume
mezzo – half; used in combinations like mezzo forte (mf), meaning moderately loud
mezzo forte – half loudly; i.e., moderately loudly. See dynamics.
mezzo piano – half softly; i.e., moderately softly. See dynamics.
mezzo-soprano – a female singer with a range usually extending from the A below middle C to the F an eleventh above middle C. Mezzo-sopranos generally have a darker vocal tone than sopranos, and their vocal range is between that of a soprano and that of an alto.
MG – see main gauche
misterioso – mysteriously
mobile – flexible, changeable
moderato – moderate; often combined with other terms, usually relating to tempo; for example, allegro moderato
modesto – modest
moll (Ger) – minor; used in key signatures as, for example, a-moll (A minor), b-moll (Bb minor), or h-moll (B minor) (see also dur (major) in this list)
molto – very
morendo – dying; i.e., dying away in dynamics, and perhaps also in tempo
mosso – moved, moving; used with a preceding piω or meno (see in this list), for faster or slower respectively
MS – see mano sinistra
moto – motion; usually seen as con moto, meaning with motion or quickly
munter (Ger) – lively
musica ficta (Lat) - 'false' or 'feigned' music. A performer is expected to alter a pitch notated in the score by a semitone in order to avoid a dissonant clash with another part in European music prior to about 1600.

 

N

narrante – narratingly
naturale or nat. – natural; i.e., discontinue a special effect, such as col legno, sul tasto, sul ponticello, or playing in harmonics
N.C. – No chord, written in the chord row of music notation to show there is no chord being played, and no implied harmony.
Nebenstimme (Ger) – under part; i.e., a secondary contrapuntal part, always occurring simultaneously with, and subsidiary to, the Hauptstimme
nicht (Ger) – not
nobile or nobilmente – in a noble fashion
notes inιgales (Fr) – unequal notes; i.e., a principally Baroque performance practice of applying long-short rhythms to pairs of notes written as equal

 

O

omaggio – homage, celebration
one-voice-per-part, or OVPP – the practice of using solo voices on each musical line or part in choral music.
ossia – or instead; i.e., according to some specified alternative way of performing a passage, which is marked with a footnote, additional small notes, or an additional staff
ostinato – obstinate, persistent; i.e., a short musical pattern that is repeated throughout an entire composition or portion of a composition
ottava – octave; e.g. ottava bassa: an octave lower

 

P

parlando or parlante – like speech, enunciated
Partitur (Ger) – full orchestral score
passionato – passionately
pastorale – in a pastoral style, peaceful and simple
pausa – rest
pedale – pedal
perdendosi – dying away
pesante – heavy, ponderous
peu ΰ peu (Fr) – little by little
pianissimo or pp (usually) – very gently; i.e., perform very softly, even softer than piano. This convention can be extended; the more ps that are written, the softer the composer wants the musician to play or sing, thus ppp (pianississimo) would be softer than pp. Note: any dynamics in a piece should always be interpreted relative to the other dynamics in the same piece. For example, pp should be executed as softly as possible, but if ppp is found later in the piece, pp should be markedly louder than ppp. Likewise, ff should be executed as loudly as possible, but if fff is found later in the piece, ff should be noticeably quieter. More than three ps (ppp) or three fs (fff) are uncommon.
piano or p (usually) – gently; i.e., played or sung softly (see dynamics)
piano-vocal score – the same as a vocal score, a piano arrangement along with the vocal parts of an opera, cantata, or similar
piacevole – pleasant
piangevole – plaintive
piω – more; see mosso for an example
pizzicato – pinched, plucked; i.e., in music for bowed strings, plucked with the fingers as opposed to played with the bow; compare arco (in this list), which is inserted to cancel a pizzicato instruction
pochettino or poch. – very little
poco – a little, as in poco piω allegro (a little faster)
poco a poco – little by little
poi – then, indicating a subsequent instruction in a sequence; diminuendo poi subito fortissimo, for example: getting softer then suddenly very loud
portamento – carrying; i.e., 1. generally, sliding in pitch from one note to another, usually pausing just above or below the final pitch, then sliding quickly to that pitch. If no pause is executed, then it is a basic glissando; or 2. in piano music, an articulation between legato and staccato, like portato, in this list
portato – carried; i.e., non-legato, but not as detached as staccato (same as portamento [2], in this list)
posato – settled
potpourri or pot-pourri (Fr) – potpourri (as used in other senses in English); i.e., a kind of musical form structured as ABCDEF... etc.; the same as medley or, sometimes, fantasia
precipitato – precipitately
prestissimo – extremely quickly, as fast as possible
presto – very quickly
prima volta – the first time; for example prima volta senza accompagnamento (the first time without accompaniment)
primo or prima (the feminine form) – first

 

Q

quasi (Latin and Italian) – as if, almost, e.g. quasi recitativo like a recitative in an opera, or quasi una fantasia like a fantasia

 

R

rallentando or rall. – Broadening of the tempo (often not discernable from ritardando); progressively slower
rapido – fast
rasch (Ger) – fast
religioso – religiously
repente – suddenly
restez (Fr) – stay; i.e., remain on a note or string
rinforzando (rf) – reinforced; i.e., emphasized; sometimes like a sudden crescendo, but often applied to a single note risoluto – resolutely
rit. – an abbreviation for ritardando; also less frequently considered an abbreviation for ritenuto
ritardando, ritard., rit. – slowing down; decelerating; opposite of accelerando (see in this list)
ritenuto, riten., rit. – held back; i.e., slower (usually more so but more temporarily than a ritardando, and it may, unlike ritardando, apply to a single note)
roulade (Fr) – a rolling; i.e., a florid vocal phrase
rubato – robbed; i.e., flexible in tempo, applied to notes within a musical phrase for expressive effect
ruvido – roughly

 

S

saltando – bouncing the bow as in a staccato arpeggio, literally means "jumping"
sanft (Ger) – gently
scherzando, scherzoso – playfully
scherzo – a joke; i.e., a musical form, originally and usually in fast triple time, often replacing the minuet in the later Classical period and the Romantic period, in symphonies, sonatas, string quartets and the like; in the 19th century some scherzi were independent movements for piano, etc.
schleppen (Ger) – to drag; usually nicht schleppen ("don't drag"), paired with nicht eilen ("don't hurry") in Gustav Mahler's scores
schnell (Ger) – fast
schneller (Ger) – faster
scordatura – out of tune; i.e., an alternative tuning used for the strings of a string instrument
secco, or sec (Fr) – dry
segno – sign, usually Dal Segno (see above) "from the sign", indicating a return to the point marked by segue – carry on to the next section without a pause
sehr (Ger) – very
semitone – The smallest pitch difference between notes (in most Western music), (e.g., F–F#).
semplice – simply
sempre – always
senza – without
senza misura – without measure
senza sordina, or senza sordine (plural) – without the mute; compare con sordina in this list; see also Sordina. Note: sordina, with plural sordine, is strictly correct Italian, but the forms con sordino and con sordini are much more commonly used as terms in music. In piano music (notably in Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata), senza sordini or senza sordina (or some variant) is sometimes used to mean keep the sustain pedal depressed, since the sustain pedal lifts the dampers off the strings, with the effect that all notes are sustained indefinitely.
serioso – seriously
sforzando or sfz – made loud; i.e., a sudden strong accent
silenzio – silence; i.e., without reverberations
simile – similarly; i.e., continue applying the preceding directive, whatever it was, to the following passage
slargando or slentando – becoming broader or slower (that is, becoming more largo or more lento)
smorzando or smorz. – dying away, extinguishing or dampening; usually interpreted as a drop in dynamics, and very often in tempo as well
soave – smoothly, gently
solenne – solemn
solo, plural soli – alone; i.e., executed by a single instrument or voice. The instruction soli requires more than one player or singer; in a jazz big band this refers to an entire section playing in harmony.
sonatina – a little sonata
sonatine – a little sonata, used in some countries instead of sonatina
sonore – sonorous
sordina, sordine (plural) – a mute, or a damper in the case of the piano. Note: sordina, with plural sordine, is strictly correct Italian, but the forms sordino and sordini are much more commonly used as terms in music. See also con sordina, senza sordina, in this list.
soprano – the highest of the standard four voice ranges (bass, tenor, alto, soprano)
sordino – see sordina, above
sospirando – sighing
sostenuto – sustained, lengthened
sotto voce – under voice; i.e., softly and subdued, as if speaking under one's breath
spiccato – distinct, separated; i.e., a way of playing the violin and other bowed instruments by bouncing the bow on the string, giving a characteristic staccato effect
spinto - pushed
spiritoso – spiritedly
staccato – making each note brief and detached; the opposite of legato. In music notation, a small dot under or over the head of the note indicates that it is to be articulated as staccato.
stanza – a verse of a song
strepitoso – noisy
stretto – tight, narrow; i.e., faster or hastening ahead; also, a passage in a fugue in which the contrapuntal texture is denser, with close overlapping entries of the subject in different voices; by extension, similar closely imitative passages in other compositions
stringendo – tightening, narrowing; i.e., with a pressing forward or acceleration of the tempo (that is, becoming stretto, see preceding entry)
subito – suddenly
sul ponticello – on the bridge; i.e., in string playing, an indication to bow (or sometimes to pluck) very near to the bridge, producing a characteristic glassy sound, which emphasizes the higher harmonics at the expense of the fundamental; the opposite of sul tasto
sul tasto – on the fingerboard; i.e., in string playing, an indication to bow (or sometimes to pluck) over the fingerboard; the opposite of sul ponticello

 

T

tacet – silent; do not play
tempo – time; i.e., the overall speed of a piece of music
tempo di marcia – march tempo
tempo di sturb de neighbors – occasionally seen on jazz charts
tempo di valse – waltz tempo
tempo giusto – in strict time
tempo primo, tempo uno, or tempo I (sometimes also written as tempo I°) – resume the original speed
teneramente – tenderly
tenerezza – tenderness
tenor – the second lowest of the standard four voice ranges (bass, tenor, alto, soprano)
tenuto – held; i.e., touch on a note slightly longer than usual, but without generally altering the note's value
tessitura – appropriate range and timbre for a given voice
tranquillo – calmly, peacefully
tremolo – shaking; i.e., a rapid repetition of the same note, or an alternation between two or more notes. It can also be intended (inaccurately) to mean a rapid and repetitive variation in pitch for the duration of a note (see vibrato). It is notated by a strong diagonal bar across the note stem, or a detached bar for a set of notes (or stemless notes).
tre corde or tc (or sometimes inaccurately tre corda) – three strings; i.e., release the soft pedal of the piano (see una corda)
troppo – too much; usually seen as non troppo, meaning moderately or, when combined with other terms, not too much, such as allegro [ma] non troppo (fast but not too fast)
tutti – all; i.e., all together, usually used in an orchestral or choral score when the orchestra or all of the voices come in at the same time, also seen in Baroque-era music where two instruments share the same copy of music, after one instrument has broken off to play a more advanced form: they both play together again at the point marked tutti. See also: ripieno.

 

U

un, uno, or una – one, as for example in the following entries
una corda – one string; i.e., in piano music, depress the soft pedal, altering, and reducing the volume of, the sound. In some pianos, this literally results in the hammer striking one string rather than two or three. (For most notes on modern instruments, in fact it results in striking two rather than three strings.) Its counterpart, tre corde (three strings; see in this list), is the opposite: the soft pedal is to be released.
un poco – a little
unisono or unis (Fr) – in unison; i.e., several players in a group are to play exactly the same notes within their written part, as opposed to splitting simultaneous notes among themselves. Often used to mark the return from divisi (see in this list).

 

V

veloce – with velocity
velocissimo – as quickly as possible; usually applied to a cadenza-like passage or run
vibrato – vibrating; i.e., a more or less rapidly repeated slight alteration in the pitch of a note, used to give a richer sound and as a means of expression. Often confused with tremolo, which refers either to a similar variation in the volume of a note, or to rapid repetition of a single note.
vittorioso – victoriously
virtuoso – (noun or adjective) performing with exceptional ability, technique, or artistry
vivo – lively
vivace – very lively, up-tempo
vivacissimo – very lively
vocal score or piano-vocal score – a music score of an opera, or a vocal or choral composition with orchestra (like oratorio or cantata) where the vocal parts are written out in full but the accompaniment is reduced to two staves and adapted for playing on piano
voce – voice
volante – flying
V.S. (volti subito) – turn suddenly; i.e., turn the page quickly

 

W

wenig (Ger) – a little, not much
wolno (Polish) – loose, slowly; found as a directive in The Elephant from The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saλns

 

Z

Zδhlzeit (Ger) – beat
zart (Ger) – tender
Zartheit (Ger) – tenderness
zδrtlich (Ger) – tenderly
Zeichen (Ger) – sign
Zeitmaί, also spelled Zeitmass (Ger) – time-measure, i.e., tempo
zelo, zeloso, zelosamente – zeal, zealous, zealously
ziehen (Ger) – to draw out
zitternd (Ger) – trembling; i.e., tremolando
zφgernd (Ger) – doubtful, delaying; i.e., rallentando