Musical Glossary

Brought to you by
Keyboard Exchange International

Below are some musical terms and their definitions. This was take directly from the Hammond Organ Owner's Playing Guide for Console Models D-100, RT-3, B-3, C-3 and A-100 series on pages 82-83.

A cappella – Choral music without instrumental accompaniment.

Accelerando – Becoming faster.

Accidental – Sign of chromatic alternation, momentarily introduced for single notes or measures.

Adagio – Slow, tranquil.

Agogic – Denoting all the subtleties of performance achieved by modification of tempo.

Alla Marcia – In march style.

Allegretto – Quite lively, moderately fast (faster than Andante, slower than Allegro).

Allegro – Lively, rapid.

Andante – Moving, moderately slow.

Andantino – A little faster than Andante.

Appoggiatura – Note of embellishment, grace note.

Attack – The speed with which an organ speaks ; time between the playing of a note and the resulting tone.

Augmented Interval – Interval increased by a half step.

Aria – An elaborate solo song.

Arpeggio – Notes of a chord when played one after another.

A tempo – Return to the original rate of speed.

Cantabile – In a singing style.

Chromatic scale – Composed of successive half steps.

Coda – A concluding section added to a composition.

Con brio – With vigor and spirit.

Con moto – With movement.

Consonance – A combination of tones in agreement of sound.

Counterpoint – A study of melodies and their interrelationships.

Da capo al fine – Repeat from the beginning to the end (D.C).

Dal Segno al fine – Repeat from the sign( ) to the end (D.S).

Decay – The time during which one or more sustained notes die away.

Diminished Interval – Interval decreased by a half step.

Diapason – A flue-pipe work of the organ which forms the backbone of each manual ; the characteristic full (foundation) sound of the organ.

Diatonic – Denoting the natural scale consisting of five whole steps and two half steps, e.g. as it is produced on the white keys of the keyboard.

Dissonance – A combination of tones in disagreement, unrestful, needing a consonance to follow for completeness.

Dolce – Sweet, soft.

Duet – Composition for or rendition by two performers.

Dynamic marks – Words, signs, etc., indicating degree of sound volume.

Etude – A study, primarily designed to aid the student in the development of his mechanical and technical ability.

Fine – Close, end.

Flat – Sign (b) which indicates lowering the pitch of a note by a halt step.

Forte (f) – Loud.

Fortissimo (ff) – Very loud.

Glissando – The execution of rapid scales by a sliding movement of the hand or finger over the keys.

Half Step – Next adjacent key up or down.

Harmonics – Over-tones (or integral multiples of fundamental frequency) that make up tone color.

II canto ben marcato – The melody played very distinctly.

Largo – Extremely slow, broad.

Lento – Slow

Legato – Connected, smooth.

Ledger lines – Lines added above or below the staff for those notes too high or low to be represented on the staff.

Meno – Less.

Mezzo – Half.

Mezzo forte (mf) – Moderately loud.

Mezzo piano (mp) – Moderately soft.

Misterioso – In a style suggestive of mystery.

Moderato – Moderate rate of speed.

Molto – Much.

Non tanto – Not so much.

Octave – Interval embracing eight diatonic tones; e.g. C to C, up or down.

Percussion – Pertaining to those instruments which are sounded by striking or shaking.

Perdendo – Gradually dying away. Perfect Interval – The unison, 4th, 5th and octave which retain the same character when inverted.

Pesante – Heavy.

Piano (p) – Soft.

Pianissimo (pp) – Very soft.

Poco a poco – Little by little

Presto – Very quick.

Prestissimo – As fast as possible.

Primo – First.

Rallentando – Gradually growing slower (rall.).

Rinforzando – A sudden stress applied to a single note or chord.

Ritardando – Gradually growing slower (rit.).

Ritenuto – Immediate reduction of speed.

Root – That note on which a chord is built.

Secondo – Second.

Semplice – Simple.

Sempre – Always.

Senza – Without.

Sforzando (sfz) – A sudden and strong accent on a single note or chord.

Sharp – The sign (#) which indicates a raising of a note by a half step.

Smorzando – Dying away.

Solfeggio – Singing the degrees of the scale by syllables (usually DO, RE, MI, etc.).

Sopra – Above.

Sotto – Under.

Strepitoso – Noisy.

Stringendo – Quickening.

Subito – Suddenly.

Syncopation – Any deliberate upsetting of the normal pulse of meter, accent, and rhythm.

Tacet – Is silent.

Tanto – Much, so much.

Tempo – Rate of speed of a composition.

Teneramente – Tenderly.

Tenuto – Hold, sustain.

Timbre – The color or quality of tone.

Timoroso – Timid, fearful.

Triad – Three-toned chord : root, third, and fifth.

Troppo – Too much.

Turn – An embellishment consisting of four or five notes (usually a principal note played in alternation with its higher and lower auxiliary).

Tremolo – The continuous quick reiteration of the same tone, or the alternation of a tone and its octave, third, fifth (sometimes denotes a light fluctuation of pitch, i.e. vibration).

Tremulant – A mechanical organ device which produces pulsations of tone. Una corda – In piano, a direction to use the left (soft) pedal.

Unison – The pseudo-interval formed by a tone and its duplication.

Veloce – Quick.

Vibrato – A continuous fluctuation of pitch used to increase the emotional quality of tone.

Vivace – Lively, brisk.

Vivo – Lively.

Whole step – Two half steps.

Hammond B3 World is brought to you buy Keyboard Exchange International. Are you looking to buy a Hammond Organ? You can view our current inventory of Hammond Organs for sale. If you need financing for your Hammond Organ we can help! We buy, sell, trade and restore Hammond Organs and Leslie Speakers. Contact us at or 407-323-7493