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  • Catalog:Lands' End

    Classical Music - Table of Contents

    List of Musical Terms and Instruments

    Classical Music Terms

    • Absolute pitch is either the exact pitch of a note described by its vibrations per second, or the ability, commonly referred to as perfect pitch, to identify a note by name without the benefit of a reference note.

      A person with perfect pitch will be able to, at minimum, know when a piece isn't played in its original key. Most people with perfect pitch will also be able to identify the key a piece is played in (called passive perfect pitch), and some may be able to sing a C-sharp when asked (active perfect pitch). Usually, people with active perfect pitch will not only be able to identify a note, but recognize when that note is too sharp or too flat. Active perfect pitch possessors are about 1 in every 10,000, most of them starting music training before the age of six.

      Persons with perfect pitch will seem annoyed or unnerved when a piece is transposed to a different key, and will have difficulty transposing music without manually calculating intervals between known pitches. They may have a harder time developing relative pitch than others, and for many musical tasks like transposition, perfect pitch can actually be a hindrance.

      Mozart, Leonard Bernstein, and Paul Shaffer are three musicians known to have perfect pitch. However, Stravinsky, Ravel, and Wagner never had perfect pitch. It's worth mentioning here the common mistake of associating perfect pitch with musical genius.

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    • Accidental refers to the use of a symbol such as a sharp or flat in the course of a piece, as opposed to in its key signature. This indicates that the note on the staff is altered from the pitch it normally represents. This reverts at the end of the measure.

      The term accidental presumably refers to the older sense of the word "accidental" meaning "outside the norm", since the notes affected by them fall outside the scale of the current key.

      All accidentals, regardless of the current key, modify their following notes as if they began in the key of C, as follows:

      A sharp raises the pitch by one semitone A double-sharp raises the pitch by two semitones A flat lowers the pitch by one semitone A double-flat lowers the pitch by two semitones A natural cancels the effect of any previous sharp or flat (including in the key signature). Any note following a natural mark will be part of the key of C major. When canceling from a double-sharp to a single sharp, it is acceptable to just write a sharp sign, but better practice to write "natural, sharp" in succession.

      Writing Accidentals

      When an accidental note is tied across a barline, no additional accidental is needed, as it is implied by holding the note. The next occurrence of that note in the second bar will be in key unless given an accidental of its own. Although a barline implicitly resets all lines and spaces to the last key signature, typically a courtesy accidental will be placed to remind performers in some of the following situations:

      • The unaltered note in the bar which follows the altered note
      • The same note as the altered note occurs in a different octave but is itself unaltered
      • The altered note is tied across a barline, and followed by an unaltered note.

      The rules for which accidentals to choose may vary according to the type of music: modal, diatonic or chromatic, and also whether the transcriber is aiming for strictness or clarity, for example C flat versus B in the key of D flat. Nonetheless, some general rules for choosing between flat or sharp accidentals include:

      • When descending, use flats.
      • When ascending, use sharps.
      • Try to use the same kind of accidentals -- sharps or flats -- used by the key signature.

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    • Adagio in Italian means slowly. An example of adagio is the second movement of Beethoven's "Sonate Pathétique," Opus 13, which specifies "adagio cantabile:" slowly, as if singing.

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    • Allegro (Italian: lively) is a direction to the performer meaning "fast and lively". It can also be used as a title of a piece in that style, or to identify a piece or a movement of a piece which carries this direction at the head of the score.

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    • Andante means walking pace, and is typically used to refer to a tempo of 76 to 108 beats per minute.

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    • Arpeggio is an Italian musical term literally meaning like a harp. It is used to indicate that the consecutive notes of a certain chord are to be played quickly one after another, instead of at the same moment. In piano music this is sometimes a solution used to play a wide-ranged chord which, technically speaking, cannot be played simultaneously with one hand. Music played on the limited hardware of video game computers uses a similar technique to create a chord from one tone generator.

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    • Atonality in a general sense describes music that departs from the system of tonal hierarchies that characterized the sound of classical European music from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. Currently, the term is used primarily to describe compositions written approximately 1900 to 1930, in which tonal centers that had been fundamental to most European music since about 1600 are abandoned. This is most notable in the works of Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern. The word "atonality" emerged as a pejorative term to describe and to condemn music in which chords were organized seemingly with no apparent coherence. In Nazi Germany, atonal music was discredited as degenerate music (Entartete Musik).

      The use of the term "atonality" poses two distinct problems. First, it continues to carry negative connotations as a result of its early pejorative use. Second, it has developed a certain vagueness in meaning as a result of its use to describe a wide variety of compositional approaches that deviated from traditional chords and chord progressions. Some authors and academics have actively sought to solve these problems by rejecting the use of the word itself and replacing it with alternative terms such as "pan-tonal," "non-tonal," "free-tonal," and "without tonal center," but these efforts have not gained broad acceptance. It would appear that the term "atonality," an imprecise word describing varied compositional approaches, will remain in use for the foreseeable future.

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    • Bitonality is the use in music of two different keys at the same time. The use of more than two keys at once is known as polytonality. A well known example is the fanfare at the beginning of Igor Stravinsky's ballet, Petrushka. The first clarinet plays a melody in C major, while the second clarinet plays the same melody in F sharp major. Although this example consists of just two melodic lines, some examples of bitonality contrast fully harmonised sections of music in different keys. Examples of this rather more dissonant kind of bitonality can be found in the work of Charles Ives, whose use of the technique in his Variations on "America" (1891) is one of the first in classical music. Earlier examples, such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Ein musikalischer Spass, tend to use the technique for comic effect. Bitonality was used quite often by members of the French group, Les Six, and expecially by Darius Milhaud, who perhaps used it more than any other composer.

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    • Cadence In musical notation, presto (Italian for "quickly") is an indication to play at a fast tempo. describes the particular series of chords that ends a phrase or piece of music. Cadences give phrases a distinctive ending, that can, for example, indicate to the listener whether the piece is to be continued or concluded. In modern music theory, there are four main types of cadences: perfect, imperfect, plagal and interrupted. Each cadence can be described using the roman numeral system of naming triads (see chord):
      • Perfect (or authentic) cadences: V - I
      • Imperfect cadences: any chord (frequently I or IV) - V
      • Plagal sequences: IV - I
      • Interrupted cadences: V - any chord except I (typically vi)
      Early music cadences are different and more varied.

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    • Cadenza is nowadays usually taken to mean a portion near the end of a movement of a concerto in which the orchestra stops playing, leaving the soloist to play alone and demonstrate their virtuosity. At the end of the cadenza, the orchestra re-enters, and generally finshes off the movement on their own.

      The cadenza was originally a vocal flourish improvised by a performer to elaborate a cadence in an aria. It was later used in instrumental music, and soon became a standard part of the concerto. Originally, it was improvised in this context as well, but during the 19th century, composers began to write cadenzas out in full. Third parties also wrote cadenzas for works in which it was intended by the composer to be improvised, so the soloist could have a well formed solo that they could practice in advance. Some of these have become so widely played as to virtually be a part of the original piece, as is the case with Johann Joachim's cadenza for Johannes Brahms' Violin Concerto.

      Nowadays, very few performers improvise their cadenzas, and very few composers have written concertos within the last hundred years that include the possibility of an improvised cadenza.

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    • Chamber music - The phrase chamber music is now used to mean a piece of music written by a composer for a small musical ensemble in which no two instruments play the same music. It is opposed to orchestral music or opera, for example.

      Originally, the phrase meant any kind of music designed to be played in a private room rather than a concert hall, a church or a theatre. In this sense, the madrigals of the renaissance period in the 16th century may be considered chamber music. What is now thought of as chamber music, however, began to be produced in the classical period, with the development of the string quartet. These pieces were often written for amateurs, and not intended to be played in public. Many of the string quartets of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, for example, were written to be played for fun and in private, by a string quartet of which they were both members.

      One of the composers responsible for bringing chamber music to the concert hall is Ludwig van Beethoven. He wrote chamber music for amateurs, such as the Septet of 1800, but his last string quartets are very complex works which amateurs would have struggled to play. They are also seen as pushing the boundaries of acceptable harmony of that time, and are regarded as some of his most profound works. Following Beethoven in the romantic period, many other composers wrote pieces for professional chamber groups.

      Chamber works exist for many different combinations of instruments, with the string quartet often seen as the most important. Other popular chamber groups are the string trio, the piano trio, the piano quintet and the string quintet. Woodwind instruments and brass instruments are used less often. Several composers have written works for mixed groups of wind and strings, and some have written for wind instruments alone, but with the exception of the French horn, brass instruments are very rarely used. This is probably in part due to the fact that at the time chamber music was first being written, brass instruments did not have valves, and so could only produce a limited number of notes.

      The phrase chamber music suggests a piece for at least two instruments, but there is no theoretical upper limit to the number of instruments. In practice, chamber works for more than eight instruments are rare.

      It should be noted that while chamber music is frequently played in public concerts, it is usually heard in halls much smaller than those used for orchestral concerts. The more intimate acoustics of a smaller space, imitating the drawing rooms in which such music was originally played, are more suitable for a small group of instruments.

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    • Choir is a musical ensemble consisting of voices, that is, singers.

      Structure of choirs

      Choirs are often led by a conductor. Most often choirs consist of four parts but there is no limit to the number of possible parts. However, other than four, the most common number of parts is three, five, six and eight. Choirs can sing with or without instrumental accompaniment. Singing without accompaniment is called a cappella singing. When singing with instrumental accompaniment, the accompanying instruments can consist of practically any instruments, one or several.

      There exists a large number of different types of choirs, among others:

      Mixed choirs, perhaps the most common type, usually consisting of soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices, often abreviated as SATB. Another typical division is SSAATTBB, where each voice is divided into two parts. Female choirs, usually consisting of soprano and alto voices, two parts in each, often abreviated as SSAA.

      Male choirs, usually consisting of tenor and bass, two parts in each, often abreviated as TTBB.

      Children's choirs, often three part SSA, sometimes more voices.

      Choral music

      A great number of composers have written choral works. However, composing instrumental music is an entirely different field than composing vocal music. Inclusion of text and to cater the special capabilities and limitations of the human voice makes composing vocal music in some ways more demanding than composing instrumental music. Due to this difficulty, many of the greatest composers have never composed choral music. Naturally, many composers have their favourite instruments and rarely compose for other types instruments or ensembles and choral music is in this sense not a special case. One of the first great choral composers was Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643), a master of counterpoint, who conclusively showed some of what could be done with choirs and many other musical ensembles. Monteverdi, together with Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672), demonstrated how music can support and enforce the message of the lyrics. They both composed a large number of music for both a cappella choir as well as choirs accompanied by different ensembles.

      A century later, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was the next to make his prominent mark in history. Due to his work as a cantor he came to compose an overwhelming amount of sacred choral music; cantatas, motets, passions and other music.

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    • Chord is two or more pitches sounded simultaneously. Chords are named according to the notes of the scale that they contain.

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    • Chromatic scale is a musical scale that contains all twelve pitches of the Western tempered scale. All of the other scales in traditional Western music are subsets of this scale. Each pitch is separated from its upper and lower neighbors by the interval of one half step, or semitone.

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    • Clef (French for key) is a symbol used in musical notation that assigns notes to lines and spaces on the musical staff. A clef can be thought of as assigning a certain note to a specific line on the staff, and adjacent spaces are assigned the notes that follow logically. Clef Symbols

      There are three commonly used types clef symbols: the G clef, the F clef, and the C clef. All of these clef symbols intentionally resemble their respective letters. They have letter names because they assign the note with that name to a particular line on the staff. Writing an "8" immediately above a clef symbol shifts the notes of the staff up an octave; likewise, writing the 8 beneath the clef symbol shifts the notes down an octave. This notation is used mostly for the G and F clefs.

      The G Clef

      The G clef assigns the note G to a particular line on the staff; the curl of the "G" determines which line gets assigned to G. The G clef is normally placed on the musical staff, with the spiral originating from the second line; this usage of the G clef is so common that the name treble clef is often used as a synonym (see below), but the G clef can be placed on other lines: in the baroque period, for example, the G clef was sometimes placed on the first line of the staff for music with a high range.

      The F Clef

      Two symbols, both a stylized letter F, are in use to represent the F clef, although one is more predominant. The two dots of the F clef surround around the line that represents the note F. The most common use of the F clef is the bass clef, which places F on the 2nd lines from the top of the staff; the name "F clef" is frequently used to mean the bass clef. However, the F clef has historically been used on other lines of the musical staff most notably on the middle line, when it is known as the baritone clef. This usage is nowadays very rare, however.

      The C Clef

      The C clef resembles two backwards letter 'C's, one above the other. The line that falls between the 'C's is assigned the note middle C. There are two common clefs that use the C clef symbol: The alto clef, which assigns C to the middle line of the staff, and the tenor clef, which assigns C to the second line from the top of the staff. The C clef is sometimes also used to indicate the soprano clef, which assigns C to the second line from the bottom of the staff.

      Commonly Used Clefs

      The Treble Clef

      The treble clef is probably the most widely-used clef, followed by the bass clef. It uses the G clef symbol (see above) to assign the note G above middle C to the second line from the bottom of the staff. Most woodwind instruments read treble clef, as well as high brass, violins, and tuned percussion. On the piano, the right hand usually is written in treble clef, while the left hand is written in bass clef.

      The Bass Clef

      The bass clef uses the F clef (see above) to assign the note F below middle C to the second line from the top of the staff. Most lower-pitched instruments, such as the lower brass, strings and woodwinds read bass clef. On the piano, the left hand is usually written in bass clef, while the right hand is written in treble clef.

      The Alto Clef

      The alto clef assigns the note middle C to the middle line of the musical staff. It uses the C clef as its symbol. The alto clef is used by violas and trombones. It is also used in vocal music.

      The Tenor Clef

      The tenor clef uses the C clef to assign the note middle C to the second line from the top of the musical staff. Cellos read the tenor clef; it is also used in vocal music. Bassoons and trombones, which normally read the bass clef, use the tenor clef to avoid excessive ledger lines in extended high passages.

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    • Composers are people who write music. There is a stronger distinction made between composers and performers in classical music than in other musical genres. In most popular music forms the term "songwriter" is used for people who write music and lyrics.

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    • Counterpoint is a musical device where melodic phrases play on top of each other, causing notes to work against other notes. The term comes from the latin punctus contra punctum (note against note). A note moves against another note when the interval between the two notes grows or shrinks. Chords may (and often do) develop when more than two parts are involved, but are incidental; this kind of music focuses on individual melodies working together. The composer Johann Sebastian Bach frequently wrote music using counterpoint.

      Generally, such music created from the Baroque period on is described as counterpoint, while music created prior to Baroque times is called polyphony. Hence, the composer Josquin Des Prez wrote polyphonic music.

      Homophony, by contrast, features music where chords or intervals play out the melody without working the notes against each other. Most popular music written today use homophony as a dominant feature within the music.

      The fugue offers perhaps the most complex contrapuntal convention used today in music.

      Species Counterpoint

      Johann Fux published Gradus ad Parnassum, a work published in 1725 intended to help teach students how to write counterpoint. In this, he describes five species.

      In first species counterpoint, a note simply works against another note. The two notes are played simultaneously, and move against each other, also simultaneously. The species is said to be expanded if one of the notes is broken up (but repeated). In second species counterpoint, two notes work against a longer note. The species is said to be expanded if one of the shorter notes varies in length from the other. In third species counterpoint, three notes move against a longer note. As with second species, it is expanded if one of the shorter notes vary in length from another. In fourth species counterpoint, a note is held while changing note move against the holding note, creating a dissonance, followed by the holding note changing to create a subsequent consonance as the changing note holds. Fourth species counterpoint is said to be expanded when the notes vary in length from each other. The technique requires holding a note across the beat, creating syncopation. In fifth species counterpoint, sometimes called florid counterpoint, the other four species of counterpoint are combined within the melody.

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    • Concerto - (from the latin concertus, from certare, to strive, also confused with concentus), in its most general sense, is a name for a piece of classical music in which there are two distinct groups of instruments, one larger than the other. The most usual kind of concerto is one that pits a solo instrument against a full orchestra.

      The term appears in the beginning of the 17th century, at first as a title of no very definite meaning, but which early acquired a sense justified by its etymology and became applied chiefly to compositions in which unequal instrumental or vocal forces are brought into opposition.

      Although by Johann Sebastian Bach's time the concerto as a polyphonic instrumental form was thoroughly established, the term frequently appears in the autograph title-pages of his church cantatas, even when the cantata contains no instrumental prelude. Indeed, so entirely does the actual concerto form, as Bach understands it, depend upon the opposition of masses of tone unequal in volume with a compensating inequality in power of commanding attention, that Bach is able to rewrite an instrumental movement as a chorus without the least incongruity of style. A splendid example of this is the first chorus of a university festival cantata, "Vereinigte Zwietracht der weckseinden Saiten," the very title of which ("united contest of turn-about strings") is a perfect definition of the earlier form of concerto grosso, in which the chief mass of the orchestra was opposed, not to a mere solo instrument, but to a small group called the concertino or else the whole work was for a large orchestral mass in which tutti passages alternate with passages in which the whole orchestra is dispersed in every possible kind of grouping. But the special significance of this particular chorus is that it is arranged from the second movement of the first Brandenburg concerto and that while the orchestral material is unaltered except for transposition of key, enlargement of force and substitution of trumpets and drums for the original horns, the whole chorus part has been evolved from the solo part for a kit violin (violino piccolo). This admirably illustrates Bach's grasp of the true idea of a concerto, namely, that whatever the relations may be between the forces in respect of volume or sound, the whole treatment of the form must depend upon the healthy relation of function between that force which commands more and that which commands less attention. Ceteris paribus the individual, suitably placed, will command more attention than the crowd, whether in real life, dram.a or instrumental music. And in music the human voice, with human words, will thrust any orchestral force into I the background, the moment it can make itself heard at all. Hence it is not surprising that the earlier concerto forms should show the closest affinity (not only in general aesthetic principle, but in many technical details) with the form of the vocal aria, as matured by Alessandro Scarlatti. And the treatment of the orchestra is, mulcitis mutandis, exactly the same in both. The orchestra is entrusted with a highly pregnant and short summary of the main contents of. the movement, and the solo, or the groups corresponding thereto, will either take up this material or first introduce new themes to be combined with it, and, in short, enter into relations with the orchestra very like those between the actors and the chorus in Greek drama. If the aria before Mozart may be regarded as a single large melody expanded by the device of the ritornello so as to give full expression to the power of a singer against an instrumental accompaniment, so the polyphonic concerto form may be regarded as an expansion of the aria form to a scale worthy of the larger and purely instrumental forces employed, and so rendered capable of absorbing large polyphonic and other types of structure incompatible with the lyric idea of the aria. The da capo form, by which the aria had attained its full dimensions through the addition of a second strain in foreign keys followed by the original strain dci Ca po, was absorbed by the polyphonic concerto on an enormous scale, both in first movements and finales (see Bach's Klavier concerto in E, Violin concerto in E, first movement), while for slow movements the ground bass diversified by changes of key (Kiavier concerto in D minor), the more melodic types of binary form, sometimes with the repeats ornamentally varied or inverted (Concerto for 3 klaviers in D minor, Concerto for kiavier, flute and violin in A minor), and in finales the rondo form (Violin concerto in E major, Klavier concerto in F minor) and the binary form (3rd Brandenburg concerto) may be found.

      When conceptions of musical form changed and the modern sonata style arose, the peculiar conditions of the concerto gave rise to problems the difficulty of which only the highest classical intellects could appreciate or solve. The number and contrast of the themes necessary to work out a first movement of a sonata are far too great to be contained within the single musical sentence of Bach's and George Friderich Handel’s ritornello, even when it is as long as the thirty bars of Bach's Italian concerto (a work in which every essential of the polyphonic concerto is reproduced on the harpsichord by means of the contrasts between its full register on the lower of its two keyboards and its solo stops on both). Bach’s sons had taken shrewd steps in forming the new style; and Mozart, as a boy, modelled himself closely on Johann Christian Bach, and by the time he was twenty was able to write concerto ritornellos that gave the orchestra admirable opportunity for asserting its character and resource in the statement in charmingly epigrammatic style of some five or six sharply contrasted themes, afterwards to be’worked out with additions by the solo with the orchestra's co-operation and intervention. As the scale of the works increases the problem becomes very difficult, because the alternation between solo and tutti easily produces a sectional type of structure incompatible with the high degree of organization required in first movements; yet frequent alternation is evidently necessary, as the orchestral solo is audible only above a very subdued orchestral accompaniment, and it would be highly inartistic to use the orchestra for no other purpose. Hence in the classical concerto the ritomello is never abandoned, in spite of the enormous dimensions to which the sonata style expanded it. And though from the time of Mendelssohn onwards most composers have seemed to regard it as a conventional impediment easily abandoned, it may be doubted whether any modern concerto, except the four magnificent examples of Johannes Brahms, and Dr Joachim's Hungarian concerto, possesses first movements in which the orchestra seems to enjoy breathing space. And certainly in the classical concerto the entry of the solo instrument, after the long opening tutti, is always dramatic in direct proportion to its delay. The great danger in handling so long an orchestral prelude is that the work may for some minutes be indistinguishable from a symphony and thus the entry of the solo may be unexpected without being inevitable. This is especially the case if the composer has treated his opening tutti like the exposition of a sonata movement, and made a deliberate transition from his first group of themes to a second group in a complementary key, even if the transition is only temporary, as in Ludwig van Beethoven's C minor concerto. Mozart keeps his whole tutti in the tonic, relieved only by his mastery of sudden subsidiary modulation; and so perfect is his marshalling of his resources that in his hands a tutti a hundred bars long passes by with the effect of a splendid pageant, of which the meaning is evidently about to be revealed by the solo. After the C minor concerto, Beethoven grasped the true function of the opening tutti and enlarged it to his new purposes. With an interesting experiment of Mozart's before him, he, in his G major concerto, Op. 53, allowed the solo player to state the opening theme, making the orchestra enter pianissimo in a foreign key, a wonderful incident which has led to the absurd statement that he abolished the opening tutti, and that Mendelssohn in so doing has followed his example. In this concerto he also gave considerable variety of key to the opening tutti by the use of an important theme which executes a considerable series of modulations, an entirely different thing from a deliberate modulation from material in one key to material in another. His fifth and last pianoforte concerto, in E flat, commonly called the Emperor, begins with a rhapsodical introduction of extreme brilliance for the solo player, followed by a tutti of unusual length which is confined to the tonic major and minor with a strictness explained by the gorgeous modulations with which the solo subsequently treats the second subject. In this concerto Beethoven also dispenses with the only really conventional feature of the form, namely, the cadenza, a custom elaborated from the operatic aria, in which the singer was allowed to extemporize a flourish on a pause near the end. A similar pause was made in the final ritornello of a concerto, and the soloist was supposed to extemporize what should be equivalent to a symphonic coda, with results which could not but be deplorable unless the player (or cadenza writer) were either the composer himself, or capable of entering into his intentions, like Joachim, who has written the finest extant cadenza of classical violin concertos.

      Brahms's first concerto in D minor, Op. 15, was the result of an immense amount of work, and, though on a mass of material originally intended for a symphony, was nevertheless so perfectly assimilated into the true concerto form that in his next essay, the violin concerto, Op. 77, he had no more to learn, and was free to make true innovations. He succeeds in presenting the contrasts even of remote keys so immediately that they are serviceable in the opening tutti and give the form a wider range in definitely functional key than any other instrumental music. Thus in the opening tutti of the D minor concerto the second subject is announced in B flat minor. In the B flat pianoforte concerto, Op. 83, it appears in D minor, and in the double concerto, Op. 102, for violin and violoncello in A minor it appears in F major. In none of these cases is it in the key in which the solo develops it, and it is reached with a directness sharply contrasted with the symphonic deliberation with which it is approached in the solo. In the violin concerto, Op. 77, Brahms develops a counterplot in the opposition between solo and orchestra, inasmuch as after the solo has worked out its second subject the orchestra bursts in, not with the opening ritornello, but with its own version of the material with which the solo originally entered. In other words we have now not only the development by the solo of material stated by the orchestra but also a countei-development by the orchestra of material stated by the solo. This concerto is, on the other hand, remarkable as being the last in which a blank space is left for a cadenza, Brahms having in his friend Joachim a kindred spirit worthy of such trust. In the pianoforte concerto in B flat, and in the double concerto,i Op. 102, the idea of an introductory statement in which the solo takes part before the opening tutti is carried out on a large scale, and in the double concerto both first and second subjects are thus suggested. It is unnecessary to speak of the other movements of concerto form, as the sectional structure that so easily results from the opposition between solo and orchestra is not of great disadvantage to slow movements and finales, which accordingly do not show important differences from the ordinary types of symphonic and chamber music. The scherzo, on the other hand, is normally of too small a range of contrast for successful adaptation to concerto form, and the solitary great example of its use is the second movement of Brahms's B flat pianoforte concerto.

      Nothing is more easy to handle with inartistic or pseudoclassic effectiveness than the opposition between a brilliant solo player and an orchestra; and, as the inevitable tendenèy of even the most artistic concerto has been to exhaust the resources of the solo instrument in the increased difficulty of making a proper contrast between solo and orchestra, so the technical difficulty of concertos has steadily increased until even in classical times it was so great that the orthodox definition of a concerto is that it is an instrumental composition designed to show the skill of an executant, and one which is almost invariably accompanied by orchestra. This idea is in flat violation of the whole history and aesthetics of the form, which can never be understood by means of a study of averages. In art the average is always false, and the individual organization of the greatest classical works is the only sound basis for generalizations, historic or aesthetic.

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    • Harmony is the sound made by two or more different notes played simultaneously; this combination of notes is called a chord. Harmony deals both with the construction of individual chords and with the transitions between chords, called chord progressions. Harmony is closely related to melody. For much of the history of western classical music the conventions and rules of harmony were strictly enforced, often by the controlling influence of the Church, while folk music and non-Western music also developed often widely different notions of harmony. Church music was controlled by the churches in the Baroque and Classical periods; many hymns were written for the daily masses.

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    • Diatonic scale is the fundamental building block of the Western musical tradition. The diatonic scale is composed of two tetrachords separated by intervals of a whole step. The pattern of intervals is as follows Whole-Whole-Half (Whole)Whole-Whole-Whole-Half. The major scale begins on the first note and proceeds by steps to the first octave of the root note. In solfege, the syllables for each scale degree are "Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti-Do".

      The natural minor scale can be thought of in two ways, the first is as the relative minor of the major scale, beginning on the sixth degree of the the scale and proceeding step by step through the same tetrachords to the first octave of the sixth degree. In solfege "La-Ti-Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So."

      Alternately, the natural minor can be seen as a composite of two different tetrachords of the patter Whole-Half-Whole (Whole) Half-Whole-Whole. In solfege "Do-Re-Me-Fa-Sol-Le-Te-Do."

      All of Western Harmony from the late Renaissance up to the early Twentieth Century is based upon these two objects and the unique relationships created by this system of organizing 7 notes.

      The white keys on a piano correspond to the diatonic scale of C major (C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C), with the notes 1 whole tone apart, except for E-F and B-C, which is an interval of 1 semitone (half a tone).

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    • Harmonic series - Pitched musical instruments are usually based on some sort of harmonic oscillator, e.g. a string, or a column of air, which can oscillate at a number of frequencies.

      The lowest of these frequencies is called the fundamental or first harmonic. This is the note you get when with normal bowing of a stringed instrument or from lowest octave of a woodwind instrument.

      The second harmonic (or first overtone) is twice the frequency of the fundamental which makes it an octave higher. On most wind intruments, e.g. the saxophone, oboe or bassoon, there is an octave key which open a small hole in tube that prompts the instrument to oscillate at the second harmonic giving the second octave of the instrument.

      The third harmonic (or second overtone), at three times the frequency of the fundamental, is a fifth above the second harmonic, and the fourth harmonic is a fourth higher than that, or two octaves above the fundamental.

      After that the harmonics come thick and fast, getting closer and closer together. Some harmonics correspond exactly to named pitches, others, e.g. 7th, lie between the semitones.

      For example, given a fundamental of C', the first few harmonics are:
      • 1st C'
      • 2nd C
      • 3rd G
      • 4th c
      • 5th e
      • 6th g
      • 7th b-flat (not in tune)
      • 8th c'
      • 9th d'
      • 10th e'
      • 11th between f' and f-sharp
      • 12th g'

      These notes are exact in just intonation. In modern equal temperament they are approximate, so that music can be played in any key without retuning. See musical tuning

      Not all musical instruments have overtones that exactly match the harmonics as described here. cpiano overtones are increasingly sharper than harmonics because the strings are stiff.

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    • Interval in musical theory is the difference in pitch between two notes.

      When speaking of notes in the chromatic scale, it is normal to use names such as "major third", "perfect fifth" and "augmented fourth". When speaking of other scales, however, or when talking about two pitches without the context of a scale, such names are often meaningless. Some such intervals have names of their own.

      It is also possible to measure the size of the interval between any two notes by using the logarithmic measure of cents. 1200 cents are equal to an octave, and an equally tempered semitone is equal to 100 cents.

      Intervals in the chromatic scale

      Intervals are named after the number of notes they span in the diatonic scale. The names are inclusive of the two notes being considered; for example the interval between a C and a G is a fifth (C,D,E,F,G is a distance of 5 notes). In addition to the number of tones between notes, the nature of the interval can also be described. In a major scale, intervals starting from the tonic can be perfect or major. A Unison is the interval between a note and itself (meaning normally just one note heard.)

      Compound intervals

      When an interval exceeds an octave, it is called a compound interval. For example, if a note was a 10th above middle C in a major scale it would be known as a 'compound major third.'

      Concodant and discordant intervals

      Concordant intervals usually 'sound' right. Discordant intervals jar, and can sound as if one of the notes wants to move up (this is the basis of suspensions.) Concordant intervals include:

      • Perfect intervals - 4ths, 5ths, 8ves
      • Imperfect intervals - minors/majors 3rds and 6ths

      Discordant intervals include:

      • All other intervals - 2nds, 7ths, augmented or diminished notes

      Modifying intervals

      It is possible to modify intervals. Naming follows these rules:

      • If the bottom note of a perfect or major interval is lowered a semitone (or the top is raised,) the interval has been augmented.
      • If the bottom note of a perfect or minor interval is raised a semitone (or the top etc...,) the interval becomes diminished.
      • If the bottom note of a minor interval is lowered a semitone, the interval becomes major.
      • If the bottom note of a major interval is raised a semitone, the interval becomes minor.

      Modified intervals often have more than one name. For example, a minor 7th can also be written as an augmented 6th. These are called enharmonic intervals. Typically names with 'minor' or 'major' in them are preferred, so the more correct way to write the interval given in the example is 'minor 7th.' The primary exception to this being in the case of a diminished 7th, which has a specific function within a full diminished 7th chord.

      The interval of augmentation and diminishment is a semitone only in modern equal temperament, where a semitone is exactly half a tone. More generally it is a tone less a semitone. An interval is augmented by changing one its semitones into a tone. Also this means that an augmented 6th is not generally equal to a minor 7th. This is only true in modern music.

      Other intervals

      There are also a number of intervals not found in the chromatic scale which have names of their own. These intervals describe small discrepencies between notes tuned according to just intonation:

      • A Pythagorean comma is the difference between twelve justly tuned perfect fifths and seven octaves. It is expressed by the frequency ratio 531441:524288, and is equal to 23.46 cents
      • A syntonic comma is the differene between four justly tuned perfect fifths and two octaves plus a major third. It is expressed by the ratio 81:80, and is equal to 21.51 cents
      • Diesis is generally used to mean the difference between three justly tuned major thirds and one octave. It is expressed by the ratio 128:125, and is equal to 41.06 cents. However, it has been used to mean other small intervals: see diesis for details
      • A schisma is the difference between five octaves and eight justly tuned fifths plus one justly tuned major third. It is expressed by the ratio 32805:32768, and is equal to 1.95 cents.

      A number of cultures around the world who do not use the chromatic scale have their own names for intervals found in their music.

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    • Key signature is the series of sharps or (alternatively) flats are to be used, unless the notes are indicated otherwise, in a section of music. Key signatures are generally written immediately after the clef at the beginning of a line of musical notation, although they can appear in other parts of a score.

      A key signature defines the diatonic scale which a piece of music uses. Unless the piece is in the key of C, some notes must be consistently sharpened or flattened.

      For example, in the key of G major, the leading-note is F sharp. The key signature indicates that each time an F is written in the staff it is in fact to be played as F sharp.

      Individual sharp, flat or natural signs that modify an individual note in the piece are called accidentals (for example, an F natural in a piece in the key of G). These override the key signature for the duration of the bar they occur in.

      Key signatures are in fact merely a convenience of notation. Some pieces which change key (modulate) insert a new key signature on the staff partway; while others use accidentals: natural signs to "neutralize" the key signature and other sharps or flats for the new key.

      Figure 1 shows the key signature of the scale of B-major. Any note which is on the same line or space as its five sharps is increased from its natural pitch by a semitone. Although key signatures can technically consist of any collection of sharps or flats, musical tradition dictates that they be arranged in a fixed order according to the key of the piece. As each major key has an equivalent relative minor key that may be represented with the same key signature, the number of standard key signatures is less than the actual number of keys.

      The table below illustrates the relative major key signatures for minor scales.

      Key Sig. Major Scale Minor Scale
      0  C major  A minor
      1#  G major  E minor
      2#  D major  B minor
      3#  A major  F# minor
      4#  E major  C# minor
      5#  B major  G# minor
      6#  F# major  D# minor
      7#  C# major  A# minor
      1b  F major  D minor
      2b  Bb major  G minor
      3b  Eb major  C minor
      4b  Ab major  F minor
      5b  Db major  Bb minor
      6b  Gb major  Eb minor
      7b  Cb major  Ab minor

      For key signatures with sharps, the first sharp is placed on F line (for the key of G major/E minor). Subsequent additional sharps are added on C, G, D, A, E and B. For key signatures with flats, the first flat is placed on the B line, with subsequent flats on E, A, D, G, C and F. There are 15 different key signatures, including the "empty" signature of C major/A minor.

      The key signatures with seven flats and seven sharps are very rarely used, because they have simpler enharmonic equivalents. For example, the key of C# major (seven sharps) is more simply represented as Db major (five flats) - for modern practical purposes these keys are the same, because C# and Db are the same note. Pieces are written in these seven sharp or flat keys, however. The third Prelude and Fugue from Book One of Johann Sebastian Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier is in C# major, for example.

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    • Largo In musical notation, largo means the music is to be played at a slow tempo. It is roughly analogous to adagio, but usually taken to be slower.

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    • Major scale is one of the diatonic scale. It is made up of eight notes, divided into two groups of four, the tetrachords. The pattern of steps in each tetrachord is, in ascending order:

      tone, tone, semitone, tone

      The major scale (and most other western scales) has eight notes - an octave. At the piano keyboard, the simplest major scale is C major (see figure 1). It is unique in that it is the only major scale to use only the white notes, and therefore no sharps or flat on the staff.

      When writing out major (and minor scales), every line and space on the stave has to be filled, and no note can have more than one accidental. This has the effect of forcing the key signature to feature just sharps or just flats; ordinary major scales never include both.

      Constructing major scales

      Analyzing scales with sharps

      Scales and key signatures are closely linked in music. It is necessary to construct a key signature - consisting of a number of sharps or flats - in order to know which notes a particular major scale will have. An easy, but time consuming, way to do this would be to use the pattern of tone/tone/semitone/etc... given above. If we choose to write the scale of D-major, we know immediately that the scale begins on a D. The next note will be a tone above - an E. The note after that will also be a tone above, however it is not simply an F as would seem obvious. Because the difference between an E and an F is actually a semitone (look on a piano keyboard, there is no 'black note' in-between them) it is necessary to raise the F to become an F-sharp to achieve a difference of a whole tone.

      This could be followed to create a whole scale, with all the sharps (or with a different scale, flats) put correctly in. However a cleverer way of constructing scales arises from analysing patterns in the whole series of major scales. Starting on the scale of C-major, there exists no sharps or flats. If you start a new scale on the 5th of C-major - G-major - you will find one sharp, augmenting the F. Starting the scale on the 5th of G major (a D) it will be necessary to put 2 sharps in - an F-sharp and a C-sharp. Writing this pattern out for all the scales looks like this:

       C  maj - 0 sharps
       G  maj - 1 sharp  - F# (meaning F-sharp)
       D  maj - 2 sharps - F#, C#
       A  maj - 3 sharps - F#, C#, G#
       E  maj - 4 sharps - F#, C#, G#, D#
       B  maj - 5 sharps - F#, C#, G#, D#, A#
       F# maj - 6 sharps - F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#
                7 sharps - F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#

      In this table it can be seen that for each new scale (starting on the fifth of the previous scale) it is necessary to add a new sharp. The order of sharps which need to be added follows: F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#. This pattern of the sharps can be easily remembered through the use of the mnemonic:

         F       C      G    D   A   E     B
       Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle

      Looking closer, the last accidental added matches the tonic (first note) of the scale two-fifths before it (in this table, two lines up.) A useful rule for use in recognising major scales with sharps is that the tonic is also always one note above the last sharp.

      Analysing major scales with flats

      A similar table can be constructed for major scales with flats in them. In this case each new scale starts on the 5th below the previous one:

       C  min - 0 flats
       F  min - 1 flat  - Bb (meaning B-flat)
       Bb min - 2 flats - Bb Eb
       Eb min - 3 flats - Bb Eb Ab
       Ab min - 4 flats - Bb Eb Ab Db
       Db min - 5 flats - Bb Eb Ab Db Gb
       Gb min - 6 flats - Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb
                7 flats - Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb Fb

      Here, a similar pattern can be recognised, each new scale keeps all the flats of the previous scale but adds a new one following the sequence: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb. Interestingly this is the direct inverse of the pattern of sharps given above. Luckily (!) the mnemonic can now be reversed to form the sentence:

          B    E    A   D    G      C       F
       Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles' Father.

      Again there is a similar, but reversed, relationship between tonics and accidentals. The tonic matches the second to last flat added on.

      The circle of fifths

      The information gathered from analysing scales can be used in constructing the circle of fifths.

      This is a useful way of finding key signatures of major scales. Starting clockwise from the top C each new letter represents a new scale, a fifth above the one before it. This means that each new scale (clockwise) requires an extra sharp to be added to its key signature. The exact sharps to be added are found by reading off the letters starting from the F (to the left of the C.) For example, if we needed to know how many, and which, sharps a scale of E major requires, we note that E is at position 4 - it requires 4 sharps. These sharps are (reading off from F): F#, C#, G#, D#. If you were faced with a key signature of 5 sharps, you would count off 5 from the top to arrive at B - it is the scale of B major.

      Similarly, key signatures with flats can be created. Each new letter starting from F represents a new scale, and the position of the letter indicates how many flats it has. The actual flats are read anticlockwise from the Bb on position 2. Ab is on position 2, so it has 2 flats: Bb and Eb.

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    • Melody is a sequence of notes, each heard separately. The main theme is called the melody. It consists of one or more musical phrases, and is usually repeated throughout the song in various forms. Different musical styles use melody in different ways. In western classical music, composers introduce an initial melody and then create variations. Classical music often has several melodic layers, such as those in a fugue.

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    • Minor scale in musical theory can be viewed as the sixth mode of the major scale.

      Minor scales are sometimes said to have a more interesting, possibly sadder sound than plain major scales.

      Constructing and recognising minor scales

      Finding key signatures

      Like major scales, minors are named after their tonic (first) note. However unlike majors, minor scales do not have their own set of key signatures. Instead it is necessary to use the key signature of a minor's relative major scale. The relative major is found by augmenting the minor tonic note by 3 semitones; for example the relative major of E minor is G major. We know that the key signature of G major is two sharps (see major scales for how to find this,) therefore E minor also has two sharps in its key signature.

      This table illustrates the relative major key signatures for minor scales.

       Key Sig.  Major Scale          Minor Scale
       0#        - C     major           - A     minor
       1#        - G     major           - E     minor
       2#        - D     major           - D     minor
       3#        - A     major           - F#    minor
       4#        - E     major           - C#    minor
       5#        - B     major           - G#    minor
       6#/6b     - F#/Gb major           - D#/Eb minor
          5b     -    Db major           -    Bb minor
          4b     -    Ab major           -    F  minor
          3b     -    Eb major           -    C  minor
          2b     -    Bb major           -    G  minor
          1b     -    F  major           -    D  minor

      Types of minor scales

      Natural minor scales

      Scales produced from just using the key signature of the relative major are called natural minors. The simplest natural minor scale is A natural minor:

      A  B  C  D  E  F  G  A'

      Melodic minor scales

      The melodic minor scale is constructed by sharpening the 6th and 7th scale degrees of the minor scale (or, equivalently, flatting the third degree of the major scale). This variation is used primarily for ascending lines, since it has strong motion towards the tonic.

      For example, in the key of A minor, the ascending melodic minor scale is:

      A  B  C  D  E  F# G# A'

      Harmonic minor scales

      Harmonic minors are constructed by sharpening the 7th degree of the minor scale.

      For example, in the key of A minor, the harmonic minor scale is:

      A  B  C  D  E  F  G# A'

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    • Musical notation or score is the practice, science and art of describing music in symbolic form.

      The most common form of Music notation is the modern European system. There are a number of other systems in use, including non-western schemes such as the Indian svar lippi, along with other alternatives such as Ailler-Brennink. Notation systems have been developed for use with particular instruments; examples include guitar tablature and Klavar notation for keyboard music.

      Modern day music notation is based around a staff of five lines. Music notes are represented by drawing note heads on the lines and spaces of the staff to represent pitches. The shape of the note head, or the characteristics of the stem attached, are varied to specify different note durations. Notes are written in a left-to-right sequence.

      Elements of the Staff

      A staff is generally presented with a clef, which indicates the particular range of pitches encompassed by the staff. A treble clef placed at the beginning of a line of music indicates that the lowest line of the staff represents the note E above middle C, while the highest line represents the note F one octave higher. Other common clefs include the bass clef (second G below middle C to A below middle C), alto clef (F below middle C to G above middle C) and tenor clef (D below middle C to E above middle C). These last two clefs are examples of "C clefs", in which the line pointed to by the clef should be interpreted as a C.

      Another common element of a staff is the time signature, which indicates the rhythmic characteristics of the piece. Time signatures generally consist of two numbers; the upper number indicates the number of beats per measure (or "bar"), while the lower indicates what sort of note constitutes a "beat". A time signature of 4/4 (also known as "common time" and sometimes indicated with a large "C" symbol) implies that there will be four beats per measure, with each beat constituting a quarter note. A signature of 2/2 (or "cut time", a "C" with a vertical slash) allows 2 beats per measure, with each half note lasting a beat.

      Finally, the key signature on a staff indicates the key of the piece by specifying certain notes to be held flat or sharp throughout the piece, unless otherwise indicated.

      Notes representing a pitch outside of the scope of the five line staff can be represented using leger lines, which provide a single note with additional lines and spaces.

      Multiple staves can be grouped together to form a staff system.

      Development of Modern Music notation

      Might be good to describe the early Greek and Roman systems of notation

      The ancestors of modern symbolic music notation originated in the Catholic church, as monks developed methods to put plainchant (sacred songs) to paper. These early systems utilized a "staff" consisting of four parallel, horizontal lines, with sequential square marks representing musical notes. The vertical position of each mark on the staff indicated which pitch it represented (pitches were derived from a musical mode, or key.) Plainchant notation included only the most rudimentary notion of timing; certain notes were drawn differently to indicate that they would be held longer.

      The modern 5-line staff was first adopted in France, and became standard by the 16th century. Prior to that time, staffs containing differing numbers of lines were used to transcribe music for various instruments.

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    • Musical ensemble is a group of several musicians who gather to perform music. There are several denominations of ensembles according with their size and composition.

      The terms duet, trio, quartet, quintet, sextet, septet, octet, and nonet are used to describe groups of two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine musicians, respectively. A common quartet is the string quartet, composed of two violins, a viola and a violoncello. The most usual string quintet is similar to the string quartet, but with the viola duplicated. In same cases, though, it is the violoncello that duplicated. A piano quintet is usually a string quartet plus a piano.

      A group with more instruments is usually called an orchestra. A small orchestra is called a chamber orchestra. A symphony orchestra is a large body of several tens and often more that a hundred musicians, divided in groups of instruments: violins (I and II), violas, violoncellos, basses, woodwinds, brass, percussion, and sometimes more.There is no difference between Symphonic, Philharmonic, and similarly titled orchestras. These are only names used to distinguish different symphony orchestras. A Sinfonietta usually denotes a somewhat smaller orchestra (though still not a chamber orchestra), and the terms concert or pops orchestra usually mean an orchestra concentrating mainly on the light classical and more popular repertoire.

      A string orchestra has only strings, i.e., violins, violas, violoncellos and basses.

      A choir is a group of voices. Sometimes the group of similar instruments in an orchestra are referred to as a choir. For example, the woodwind instruments of a symphony orchestra could be called the woodwind choir.

      A group that plays popular music is usually called a band.

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    • Musical staff or stave is a set of five horizontal lines on which note symbols are placed to indicate pitch and time.

      The staff is read left to right: one note to the right of another means that it is to be played later. The vertical position of the notehead on the staff indicates which note is to be played: notes that are higher in pitch are marked higher up on the staff. The notehead can be placed in the gap between two lines, or centred vertically on a line. Each rise to the next position, be it line or space, represents an rise of one step in the diatonic scale.

      The staff alone does not represent any specific notes without a clef, although a clefless staff may be used to represent a set of percussion sounds. The clef fixes one particular position as being a specific note, for example the treble clef puts the G above middle C on the first line up from the bottom.

      Once fixed by a clef, the notes represented by the positions on the staff can be modified by the key signature, or by accidentals on individual notes. Unmodified, the positions on the staff give the scale of C major.

      Notes which fall outside the range of the staff are placed on or between leger lines, lines the width of the note they need to hold, added above or below the staff.

      The musical staff can be thought of as a graph of pitch with respect to time; pitches are roughly given by their vertical position on the staff, and notes on the left are played before notes to their right.

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    • Musical tuning is the system used to define which tones, or pitches, to use when playing music. In other words, it is the choice of level and spacing of frequency values which are used. The tuning systems are usually defined in such a way that a listener perceives it as "nice".

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    • Note is an abstract concept used to refer both to a unit of fixed pitch which has been given a name, and also the graphic representation of that pitch in a notation system. A note can also be a specific instance of either, so one can speak of "the second note of Happy Birthday" for example. The general and specific meanings are freely mixed by musicians, although they can be initially confusing: "the first two notes of Happy Birthday are the same note".

      In English, the notes are given 7 letter names: A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Each letter name is assigned to a specific pitch regardless of the octave in which the pitch resides. Notes are used together as a scales or tone row. However, because there are actually 12 notes needed by diatonic music, the 7 letter names can also be given a modifier.

      The two main modifiers are sharps and flats which respectively raise or lower the pitch of a note by a semitone. These are used to create the additional five notes necessary to complete the chromatic scale. The sharp symbol is #, the flat symbol is similar to a lower case 'b'. HTML does not allow these to be rendered.

      In notation, a note is sharpened or flattened (raised or lowered) by placing a sharp symbol or flat symbol directly in front of the note. When using letters, the symbol follows the letter: A#

      Modifiers can be set for the duration of a piece at the front of the staff immediately after the clef and before the time signature, in which case they form the key signature: for example, a sharp symbol on the F line indicates that every F in the staff is to be understood as an F sharp. Modifiers which occur during the piece and alter a specific note are called accidentals.

      Also common are double flats and double sharps, which alter the pitch of the note by a whole step, rather than a half step. There is also a natural accidental in notation, which undoes the change made by a previous accidental or the key signature itself.

      When notes are written out in a score, each note is assigned a specific vertical position on either a line or in a space on the staff. Each line or space is assigned a note name, these names are memorized by the musician and allows him or her to know at a glance the proper pitch to play on his or her instrument for each note-head marked on the page.

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    • Opera is an art form consisting of a dramatic stage performance set to music.

      The drama is presented using the typical elements of theater, such as scenery, costumes, and acting. However, the words of the opera (collectively referred to as the libretto) are sung rather than spoken. The singers are accompanied by a musical ensemble, which in some operas can be as large as a full symphonic orchestra.

      In the most traditional type of opera, there are two modes of singing: recitative, which is similar to ordinary declamation, and aria, which refers to sung solo passages. Short sung passages are also referred to as ariosos. Each type of singing is accompanied by musical instruments.

      Singers, and the roles which they play, are classified depending on their respective pitches. Male singers are classified, in increasing pitch, as bass, bass-baritone, baritone, tenor, alto or countertenor. Female singers are classified, in increasing pitch, as contralto, mezzo-soprano, or soprano.

      Opera draws from many other art forms. Its backbone is certainly music, but since it is performed with dialogue, it also has elements of drama. The visual arts, such as painting, are employed to create the visual "spectacle" on the stage, which is considered an important part of the perfomance. Finally, dancing is often part of an opera performance. For this reason, the famous opera composer Richard Wagner referred to the genre as Gesamtkunstwerk, or "total art work".


      Opera began in Italy during the Renaissance, as an attempt to revive the classical Greek theater. Opera means simply "work" in the Italian language. The first opera was written around 1597 in Northern Italy, though sources differ on the exact date and place. For centuries, Italian opera was the standard form of opera, and many operas were written in Italian even though their composers spoke primarily English or German. The operas of Mozart are an example.

      A separate French tradition, sung in French, was founded by Jean-Baptiste Lully. Well into the middle of the nineteenth century, operas performed in France were usually written or translated into French. Spain also produced its own distinctive form of opera, known as zarzuela.

      The evolution of opera reached its most dramatic phase during the 19th century, with the advent of Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi.

      Wagner rejected the format of traditional opera, which consisted of relatively quiet recitatives accompanied by basso continuo, interspersed with aria pieces accompanied by the full orchestra - with a pause after each aria to accommodate enthusiastic applause by the audience. Instead, Wagner pioneered a through-singing style in which recitative and aria blend into one another, and are constantly accompanied by the orchestra, with applause taking place only between acts. Wagner also developed the leitmotif, a musical device which associates a musical line with each character or idea in the story.

      Famous Opera Theatres

      • Arena, Verona
      • Bayreuth Festspielhaus, Bavaria
      • Colon Theater, Buenos Aires, Argentina
      • La Scala, Milan
      • La Fenice, Venice
      • Metropolitan Opera, New York
      • Opera Garnier, Paris
      • San Carlo, Naples
      • Sydney Opera House
      • Teatro Regio, Parma
      • Staatsoper, Wien

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    • Octave (sometimes abbreviated to 8ve) is the interval between one musical note and another whose pitch is twice its frequency. For example, if one note is pitched at 400Hz, the note an octave above it is at 800Hz, and the note an octave below is at 200Hz. The ratio of frequencies of two notes an octave apart is therefore 2:1.

      As well as being used to describe the relationship between two notes, the word is also used when speaking of a range of notes that fall between a pair an octave apart. In the diatonic scale, this is 8 notes if one counts both ends, hence the name "octave", from Italian for 8. In the chromatic scale, this is 13 notes counting both ends, although traditionally, one speaks of 12 notes of the chromatic scale, not counting both ends. Other scales may have a different number of notes covering the range of an octave, but the word "octave" is still used.

      The octave is the most fundamental interval in music. The human ear tends to hear both notes as being essentially "the same". For this reason, notes an octave apart are given the same note name in the western system of music notation - the name of a note an octave above A is also A.

      In music notation, 8va is sometimes seen in sheet music, meaning for "play this an octave higher than written." 8va stands for ottava, the Italian word for octave. Sometimes 8va will also be used to indicate a passage is to be played an octave lower, although the similar notation 8vb (ottava basso) is more common.

      In most Western music, the octave is divided into 12 semitones (see musical tuning). These semitones are usually equally spaced out in a method known as equal temperament.

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    • Orchestra - is a musical ensemble used most often in classical music. A small orchestra is called a chamber orchestra. See our Symphony Orchestra page for a detailed description.

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    • Overtone A sinusoidal wave, of greater frequency than the fundamental.

      The first overtone is usually twice the frequency of the fundamental, and thus then corresponds to the second harmonic; the second overtone is usually three times the frequency of the fundamental, and thus then corresponds to the third harmonic, etc. Not all musical instruments have overtones that match the harmonics as described in this note.

      Use of the term overtone is generally confined to acoustic waves, especially in applications related to music.

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    • Pentatonic scale is a scale with just five notes. The notes in the pentatonic scale are all notes of the major scale; the two notes missing from the major scale are the fourth and the seventh (the leading tone). Pentatonic scales are used heavily in most types of music throughout the world. This is possibly because the notes of the pentatonic scale are the first few notes in the harmonic series. Also, chords made from notes of the pentatonic scale are usually pleasant-sounding. Many composers use the pentatonic scale to get an "oriental" sound. Blues musicians also make heavy use of the pentatonic scale. The scale is also used by various folk musics around the world. In Chinese music, each pentatonic scale has a different name, depending on which note it begins on.

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    • Piano quintet - A piano quintet is a chamber musical ensemble made up of one piano and four other instruments, or the name of a piece written for such a group.

      The most common grouping is one piano, two violins, a viola and a cello, that is a piano with a string quartet. This combination of instruments is so prevalent in classical music, that when the phrase piano quintet is used with no qualifications, it usually refers to this particular group.

      Several composers have written piano quintets, although few have written more than one, a rare exception being Gabriel Fauré, who wrote two. Other composers to have written for the usual grouping of a string quartet plus piano include Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Antonin Dvorak and Dmitri Shostakovich. Franz Schubert's famous Trout quintet is written for the less usual combination of piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass.

      Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven both wrote pieces for a piano and four wind instruments. Although these pieces could be called piano quintets, they are more often referred to as "quintets for piano and wind" so as to distinguish them from pieces with the more usual instrumentation.

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    • Pitch refers to the frequency of a note. For example, the A above middle C is nowadays set at 440 Hertz (often written as "A=440 Hz"), although this has not always been the case (see below).

      The relative pitches of individual notes in a scale may be determined by one of a number of tuning systems. In the west, the twelve-note chromatic scale is the most common method of organisation, with equal temperament now the most widely used method of tuning that scale. In it, the difference in pitch between any two successive notes of the scale is exactly the twelfth root of two. In well-tempered systems (as used in the time of Johann Sebastian Bach, for example), different methods of musical tuning were used. Almost all of these systems have one interval in common, the octave, where the pitch of one note is double the frequency of another. For example, if the A above middle C is 440 Hz, the A an octave above that will be 880 Hz.

      Historical pitch standards

      As well as various systems of musical tuning being used to determine the relative frequency of notes in a scale, various pitch standards have been used historically to fix the absolute position of the scale. In 1955, the International Organization for Standardization fixed the frequency of the A above middle C at 440 Hz, but in the past, various frequencies have been used.

      Until the 19th century, there was no concerted effort to standardize musical pitch and the levels across Europe varied widely. Even within one church, the pitch used could vary over time because of the way organs were tuned. Generally, the end of an organ pipe would be hammered inwards to a cone, or flared outwards to raise or lower the pitch. When the pipe ends became frayed by this constant process, they were all trimmed down, thus raising the overall pitch of the organ.

      Some idea of the variance in pitches can be gained by examining old tuning forks, organ pipes and other sources. For example, an English pitchpipe from 1720 plays the A above middle C at 380 Hz, while the organs played by Johann Sebastian Bach in Hamburg, Leipzig and Weimar were pitched at A=480 Hz, a difference of around four semitones. In other words, the A produced by the 1720 pitchpipe would have been at the same frequency as the F on one of Bach's organs.

      Pitch levels did not just vary from place to place, or over time - pitch levels could vary even within the same city. The pitch used for an English cathedral organ in the 17th century for example, could be as much as five semitones lower than that used for a domestic keyboard instrument in the same city.

      The need to standardize pitch levels, at least within one city or country, rose as performance of music which combined the organ with with instrumental ensembles became more popular. One way in which pitch could be controlled was with the use of tuning forks, although even here there was variation - a tuning fork associated with Handel, dating from 1740, is pitched at A=422.5 Hz, while a later one from 1780 is pitched at A=409 Hz, amost a semitone lower. Nonetheless, there was a tendency towards the end of the 18th century for the frequency of the A above middle C to be in the range of 400 to 450 Hz.

      Throughout the first half of the 19th century, there was a tendency for the pitch used by orchestras to rise. This was probably largely due to orchestras competing with each other, each attempting to fill increasingly large concert halls with a brighter, more "brilliant", sound than that of their rivals. They were helped in this endevour by the improved durability of the violins' E-strings - in the 16th century, Michael Praetorius had rejected various high pitch standards as leading to snapped strings, but the new strings could take the higher tension without breaking.

      The rise in pitch at this time can be seen reflected in tuning forks. A 1815 tuning fork from the Dresden opera house gives A=423.2 Hz, while one of eleven years later from the same opera house gives A=435 Hz. At La Scala in Milan, the A above middle C rose as high as 451 Hz.

      The most vocal opponents of the upward tendency in pitch were singers, who complained that it was putting a strain on their voices. Largely due to their protestations, the French government passed a law on February 16, 1859 which set the A above middle C at 435 Hz. This was the first attempt to standardize pitch on such a scale, and was known as the diapason normal. It became quite a popular pitch standard outside of France as well.

      There were still variations, however. The diapason normal resulted in middle C being tuned at approximately 258.65 Hz. An alternative pitch standard known as philosophical or scientific pitch, which fixed middle C at exactly 256 Hz (that is, 28 Hz), and resulted in the A above it being tuned to approximately 430.54 Hz, gained some popularity due to its mathematical convenience (the frequencies of all the Cs being a power of two). This never received the same official recognition as A=435, however, and was not as widely used.

      In 1939, an international conference recommended that the A above middle C be tuned to 440 Hz. This standard was taken up by the International Organization for Standardization in 1955 (and was reaffirmed by them in 1975) as ISO 16. The difference between this and the diapason normal is due to confusion over which temperature the French standard should be measured at. The initial standard was A=439 Hz, but this was superceded by A=440 Hz after complaints that 439 Hz was difficult to reproduce in a laboratory owing to 439 being a prime number.

      Despite such confusion, A=440 Hz is now used virtually world wide, at least in theory. In practice, as orchestras still tune to a note given out by the oboe, rather than to an electronic tuning device (which would be more reliable), and as the oboist himself may not have used such a device to tune in the first place, there is still some variance in the exact pitch used. Solo instruments such as the piano (which an orchestra may tune to if they are playing together) are also not universally tuned to A=440 Hz. Overall, it is thought that the general trend since the middle of the 20th century has been for standard pitch to rise, though it has certainly been rising far more slowly than it has in the past.

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    • Plainsong (or plainchant) is medieval Christian religious music sung without accompaniment or harmony.

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    • Polyphony - Having several independent melodic voices instead of e.g. a single voice and chords. Johann Sebastian Bach was the greatest composer in this style.

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    • Presto In musical notation, presto (Italian for "quickly") is an indication to play at a fast tempo.

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    • Rhythm is the measure of a movement by regular recurring accents. When governed by rule, it is called metre. It is a major aspect of music, dance, and most poetry.

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    • Scale is a series notes, each of which is separated by an interval. Each note in a scale is referred to as a scale degree, with an additional numeric designation derived from its relation to the root of the scale. Though the scales from various musical traditions around the world are often quite different, the frequency of the notes in a given scale are usually related by a mathematical rule.

      Scales in traditional Western music consist of seven notes made up of a root note and six scale degrees whose pitch lies between the root and the first octave of the root, separated by whole and half step intervals (tones and semitones). Another kind of scale is the pentatonic scale (with five notes to the octave). Both are subsets of the twelve note chromatic scale. Some non-Western cultures use scales based on a completely different kind of musical tuning, and some composers (like Harry Partch) have devised scales of their own.

      The early music of Greek antiquity referred to scales in the context of scalar modes. There is a common misconception that the Church Modes of later European music were directly descended from this notion of modality; this is incorrect. The modern conception of modal scales describes a system where each mode is the usual diatonic scale but with a different starting note. This is an innovation of the tonal musical period, Early Music made heavy use of the so called church modes, which were later organized due to their relationship to the interval pattern of the major scale. Modes would come back into favour some time later in the development of jazz and more contemporary 20th century music.

      In Western music, notes in scales are usually separated by tones or semitones. However it is possible to encounter scales built on other intervals. The music of India is a prime example, utilizing quarter steps and intervals roughly equivalent to a minor third. Music based on intervals of less than a semitone is called microtonal music. The American jazz vibraphonist Emil Richards experimented with such scales in his 'Microtonal Blues Band' in the 1970s.

      There are a number of different types of scales used commonly in Western music, including:

      • The major scale
      • The minor scales
      • The chromatic scale
      • The modal scales
      • The whole tone scale
      • The diminished scales

      Major scale have seven notes, which are named, in order: tonic, supertonic, mediant, subdominant, dominant, submediant, leading tone. Also commonly used is the "movable do" solfege naming convention in which each scale degree is given a syllable. In the major scale, the solfege syllables are: Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do.

      The simplest system is to name each degree after its numerical position in the scale, for example: the first, the fourth. Because intervals are inclusive, a fifth describes a note which is four notes after the tonic.

      Scales are closely related to chords, as the notes in a chord can be regarded as selected from a particular scale.

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    • Percussion instruments - See our musical instrument page.

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    • Serialism is a rigid system of writing music in which various elements of the piece are ordered according to a pre-determined series, and variations on it. The elements thus controlled may be the pitch of the notes, their length, their dynamics, their accents, or virtually anything else.

      Serialism is an extension of Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique, which involves the use of tone rows: the basis of the system is that the main theme of the composition consists of one (and only one) instance of each of the twelve notes in the chromatic scale.

      Founded by Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg around the late 1910s, the method was used during the next 20 years almost only by the Second Viennese School (Alban Berg, Anton Webern, and Arnold Schoenberg himself), though was later taken up by composers such as Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, Luigi Dallapiccola and Igor Stravinsky. Some of these composers extended the technique to control aspects other than the notes, thus producing serial works. Some even subjected all elements of music to the serial process.

      This music is usually atonal, meaning a total absence of tonality, and treats each of the 12 semitones of the musical scale with equal importance, as opposed to classical Western music (which treats some notes as more important than others ie. the tonic note or 1st, dominant note or 5th). From this, the tone row was created, using each of the 12 pitches in any order. This became known as the "basic series" or "prime order" of the composition.

      During the course of a piece, various manipulation of the tone row follow. They are:-

      • Retrograde, in which the tone row is heard backwards
      • Inversion, in which the tone row is heard upsidedown, that is with all its intervals inverted
      • Retrograde Inversion, which is a combination of the above two

      Each of these versions of the tone row may began on any one of the twelve notes of the chromatic scale.

      One of the best known twelve-note compositions is Variations for Orchestra by Arnold Schoenberg.

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    • Sonata (From Ital. sonare, to sound), in music, orginally merely a piece "played" as opposed to cantata, a piece sung, though the term is said to have been applied once or twice to a vocal composition. By the time of Corelli two polyphonic types of sonata were established, the sonata da chiesa and the sonata da camera.

      The sonata in its main classical significance is a work for one or two instruments consisting of a group of movements, four movements being the full scheme; the last movement in the same key as the first; each movement normally in one tempo, complete in design, independent from the other movements in themes, but aptly related to them in key and style; and constructed in the sonata forms. Though, since the time of Bach (when trios were called sonatas), the term is not applied to works for more than two instruments, the full (and even the normal) characteristics of this most important of all instrumental art-forms are rarely revealed except in trios, quartets, &c., and symphonies. A movement is a piece of music forming a complete design, or at least not merely introductory; and within such limits as either to contain no radical change of pace or else to treat changes of pace in a simple and symmetrical alternation of episodes. The first complete movement of a sonata seldom leads without break to the others, except in modern examples; but the later movements are often connected.

      The sonata da chiesa, generally for one or more violins and bass, consisted normally of a slow introduction, a loosely fugued allegro, a cantabile slow movement and a lively finale in some such binary form as suggests affinity with the dance-tunes of the suite. This scheme, however, is not very clearly defined, until the works of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Friderich Handel, when it becomes the sonata par excellence and persists as a tradition of Italian violin music even into the early 19th century in the works of Boccherini.

      The sonata da camera consisted almost entirely of idealized dance-tunes. By the time of Bach and Handel it had, on the one hand, become entirely separate from the sonata, and was known as the suite, partita, ordre or (when it had a prelude in the form of a French opera-overture) the overture. On the other hand, the features of sonata da chiesa and sonata da camera became freely intermixed. But Bach, who does not use those titles, yet keeps the two types so distinct that they can be recognized by style and form. Thus, in his six solo violin sonatas, Nos. 1, 3 and 5 are sonate de chiesa, and Nos. 2, 4 and 6 are called partitas, but are admissible among the sonatas as being sonate da camera.

      The sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti are a special type determined chiefly by those kinds of keyboard technique that are equally opposed, on the one hand, to contrapuntal style, and, on the other hand, to the supporting of melodies on a lifetess accompaniment. Longo’s complete collection of Scarlatti's sonatas shows that, short of the true developed sonata-style, there is nothing between the old sonata da chiesa and Beethovenish experiments in unorthodox 'complementary keys' that Scarlatti does not carry off with a delightfully irresponsible “impressionism” that enables him to be modern in effect without any serious modern principle. Great, however, as the variety of his forms is now known to be, and numerous as are the newly published slow movements, the normal Scarlatti sonata is that which the concerl-player popularizes; fireworks in binary form, with a perfunctory opening, a crowd of pregnant ideas in the complementary key, and, after the double bar, a second part reproducing these ideas as soon as possible in the tonic. The sonatas of Paradies are mild and elongated works of this type with a graceful and melodious little second movement added. The manuscript on which Longo bases his edition of Scarlatti frequently shows a similar juxtaposition of movements, though without definite indication of their connexioii The style is still traceable in the sonatas of the later classics, whenever a first movement is in a uniform rush of rapid motio1s, as in Mozart's violin sonata in F (Kochel's Catalogue, No. 377), and in several of Clementi's best works.

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    • Sheet music is musical notation written down on paper; it is the musical analog of a book. Reading sheet music is the standard way to learn a piece; even jazz music, which is mostly improvised, has lots of sheet music describing arrangements, melodies, and chord changes.

      Sheet music may come in several different forms. If a piece is written for just one instrument (for example, a piano), all the music will be written on just one piece of sheet music. If a piece is intended to be played by more than one person, each person will usually have their own piece of sheet music. If there are a large number of performers required for a piece, there may also be a score, which is a piece of sheet music which shows all or most of the instruments' music in one place. Scores come in various forms:

      • A full score is a large book showing the music of all instruments. It will be large enough for a conductor to use in rehersals or performance.
      • A miniature score is like a full score, but reduced in size. It is too small for practical use, but handy for studying a piece of music.
      • A study score is a rather vague term, sometimes used as a synonym for miniature score, and sometimes used to mean a score somewhere between the size of a full and a miniature score.
      • A piano score is an arrangement of a piece for many instruments, for just a piano. It will often include indications of which instrument plays the various melodies and other notes.
      • A vocal score is a piano score which has all the vocal parts, both choral and solo, on separate staves. It is used by singers.
      • A short score is a reduction of a work for many instruments to just a few staves. Short scores are not usually published, but are often used by composers on their way to producing a finished piece. Often, a short score is completed before work on orchestration begins.

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    • String instruments - See our musical instrument page.

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    • String quartet - Although theoretically a string quartet can be any combination of four string instruments or any piece written for such a group, in practice the term is almost always used to mean a group consisting of two violins, one viola and one cello, or a piece following a similar form to a symphony for that instrumental combination. It is widely seen as the most important form in chamber music.

      The form first came to be used around the middle of the 18th century, Joseph Haydn being one of the first composers to develop it. Indeed, he is often referred to as "the father of the string quartet" (as well as being called "the father of the symphony"). Haydn played his compositions in a string quartet of which Mozart was also a member.

      Aside from Haydn, composers noted for composing string quartets include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert Bela Bartok and Dmitri Shostakovich.

      Many other chamber groups are based on the string quartet, such as the piano quintet, which is a string quartet with an added piano; the string quintet, which is a string quartet with an extra viola or cello; the string trio, which is a string quartet with only one violin; and the piano quartet, a string quartet with one of the violins replaced by a piano.

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    • Tempo (Italian for "time") refers to the speed or pace of a given piece. The plural is tempi, although tempos is commonly used.

      The tempo of a piece will typically be written at the start of a piece of sheet music. In most popular forms of music the tempo is usually measured in beats per minute (BPM). Such a measurement is sometimes called a metronome mark, especially in classical music. Classical musicians also frequently use words to describe the tempo of a piece, sometimes on their own, sometimes with an additional metronome mark. Because many of the most important early composers in the renaissance period were Italian, that is the laguage typically used.

      Common tempo markings in Italian are:

      • Largo - slowly and broadly
      • Larghetto - a little less slow than largo
      • Adagio - slowly
      • Andante - at a walking pace
      • Moderato - at a moderate tempo
      • Allegro - quickly
      • Presto - fast
      • Prestissimo - very fast

      It is not possible to give BPM equivalents for these terms; the actual number of beats per minute in a piece marked allegro, for example, will depend on the music itself. A piece consisting mainly of minims (half notes) can be played very much quicker in terms of BPM than a piece consisting mainly of semi-quavers (sixteenth notes) but still be described with the same word.

      Although Italian has been the prevalent language for tempo markings throughout most of classical music history, many composers have written tempo indications in their own language. French baroque composers such as Francois Couperin and Jean Philippe-Rameau for example, used French tempo indications. Common tempo markings in French are:

      • Grave - slowly and solemnly
      • Lent - slowly
      • Modéré - at a moderate tempo
      • Vif - lively
      • Vite - fast
      Many composers have used German tempo markings. One of the first to do this was Ludwig van Beethoven. Typical German tempo markings are:

      • Langsam - slowly
      • Mässig - moderately
      • Lebhaft - lively
      • Rasch - quickly
      • Schnell - fast
      English indications, for example quickly, have also been used, by Benjamin Britten, amongst many others.

      If a composer wishes to indicate a gradual change in tempo, they will typically use the Italian terms accelarando (getting quicker) and rallentando or ritenuto (getting slower), even if they have written their initial tempo marking in some other language.

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    • Theory of Musical Scales - See the Mathematics of the Western music scale

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    • Timbre is the quality of a musical note which distinguishes different types of musical instrument. For example, a note of the same pitch can be played on several different instruments: it has the same frequency, yet the human ear hears them as different, and with a little practice can identify the instruments involved.

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    • Tone Row - In music, the tone row system is generally credited to Arnold Schoenberg. The basis of the system is that the main theme of the composition consists of one (and only one) instance of each of the twelve notes in the chromatic scale. The most well known example of this is in the work of Schoenberg's follower, Alban Berg. His concertofor violin uses a tone row, introduced as the main theme for the first movement. In spite of this, the work is structured in a highly traditional classical sonata form. The tone row consists of alternating minor and major chords starting on the open strings of the violin (ascending G, B flat, D, F sharp, A , C, E, G sharp, B) finishing the tone row with a portion of an ascending whole-tone scale (C sharp, D sharp, F). Interestingly, the whole tone scale is also used later, in the second movement when the chorale "It is enough" (Es ist genug) from Bach's cantata no. 60, which opens with consecutive whole tones, is quoted literally in the woodwinds (mostly clarinet).

    • Wind instruments - See our musical instrument page.

    Some Classical Music Categories:

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
    This article licensed under GFDL.

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