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Italian - The Language of Music

A cappella Sung with no instrumental accompaniment
Accelerando accelerating
Acciaccatura An extra, very fast grace note
Accompagnato The accompaniment must follow the singer who can speed up or slow down at will
Adagietto Faster than adagio; or a short adagio composition
Adagio Slow, but not as slow as largo
Affettuoso Tenderly
Affrettando accelerating
Agitato Excited and fast
alla marcia In strict tempo at a marching pace (e.g. 120 bpm)
Allargando slowing down and broadening, becoming more stately and majestic, possibly louder
Allegretto Slightly slower than allegro
Allegro Moderately fast
Altissimo Very high
Alto Second-highest vocal line
Andante Moderately slow, flowing along
Animato Animated
Appoggiatura A type of ornament
Aria A song, esp. one from an opera
Arietta A short or light aria
Arpeggio A chord with the notes spread out in time
Assai Used with other terms, such as allegro assai
Attacca Proceed to the next section without pause
Ballabile (song) to be danced to
Basso Or ""bass;"" the lowest vocal line
Basso continuo Continuous bass accompaniment (see figured bass.)
Basso profondo A very deep bass voice
Battaglia A piece suggesting a battle
Bel canto Any fine singing, esp. that popular in 18th and 19th c. Italian opera
Bergamasca A peasant dance from Bergamo
Bocca chiusa Wordless humming in a choral piece
Bravo! a cry of congratulation to a male singer or performer. Fem. brava, pl. bravi, brave
Bravura A performance of extraordinary virtuosity
Brillante Brilliant, bright
Bruscamente Brusquely
Burletta A light comic or farcical opera
Cadenza A florid solo at the end of a performance
Calando Becoming softer and slower
Cambiare Any change, such as to a new instrument
Campana A bell used in an orchestra; also campane ""bells""
Cantabile In a singing style
Cantata A piece for orchestra and singers
Capriccio A lively piece of music
Castrato A male singer, castrated so as to be able to sing soprano (now sung by women, conventional countertenors, or sopranisti)
Chiuso Calls for a horn to be muted by hand
Coda The end of a piece
Col arco Cancels ""col legno"" and ""pizzicato"" (in a string passage, arco is usually expected and is not written.)
Col legno Calls for a bowed instrument to be struck with the wood rather than the hair of the bow
Colla voce A note to accompanists to play with (in time with) the singer, especially when slowing for textual effect
Coloratura Elaborate ornamentation of a vocal line
Comodo Unrestrainedly
Comprimario/a A supporting role
Con amore with love
Con brio (Con Spirito) With spirit
Con fuoco with fiery manner
Con moto With movement
Con sordino Calls for mute to be applied, esp. to string instruments.
Concertino A short concerto; the solo instrument in a concerto
Concertino The smaller, more virtuosic, group of musicians in a concerto grosso
Concerto A work for one or more solo instruments accompanied by an orchestra
Concerto grosso A Baroque form of concerto, with a group of solo instruments
Contralto Alto, esp. a female alto
Coperti Of a drum, muted with a cloth
Cornetto An old woodwind instrument
Crescendo Becoming louder
Dal Segno Abbreviated as D.S., informs the performer to repeat a specific section marked by a sign (segno)
Decrescendo Becoming softer
Diminuendo Becoming softer
Divisi Instructs one section to divide into two or more separate sections, each playing a separate part. Often these separate parts are written on the same staff.
Dolce Sweet
Due corde With the soft pedal, on a piano. For why both terms exist, see piano.
Falsetto High male voice, affecting a female voice
Fermata Marks a note to be held or sustained
Forte Loud
Fortissimo Very loud
Grazioso With charm
Intermezzo A short connecting instrumental movement
Larghetto Not as slow as largo
Largo Slow and dignified
Lento Slow
Libretto A work containing the words to an opera or musical
ma non troppo But not too much, such as allegro ma non troppo
Maestoso Stately
Maestro Conductor, music director, music teacher, also composer and other eminent musicians and singers
Maestro collaboratore Assistant conductor
Maestro sostituto Assistant conductor
Maestro suggeritore Prompter
Meno Used with other terms, such as meno mosso
Mezzo forte Moderately loud
Mezzo piano Moderately soft
Mezzo-soprano Between soprano and alto
Misterioso Mysteriously, secretively, enigmatic
Moderato At a moderate speed
Molto Used with other terms, such as molto allegro
Oboe d'amore A Baroque woodwind instrument
Opera A drama set to music for singers and instrumentalists
Opera buffa A comic opera
Opera seria An opera with a serious, esp. classical theme
Orchestra An ensemble of instruments
Pianissimo Very soft
Piano Soft
Piano(forte) A keyboard instrument
Piccolo A tiny woodwind instrument
Più Used with other terms, such as più mosso
Pizzicato Calls for a bowed instrument to be plucked with the fingers
Poco a little. Used with other terms, such as poco diminuendo
Poco a poco little by little, ""slowly but steadily"". Used with other terms, such as poco a poco crescendo
Prestissimo Very very fast, as fast as possible
Presto Very fast
Prima donna Leading female role
Primo uomo Leading male role
Rallentando decelerating
Ripieno The larger group of musicians in a concerto grosso
Ritardando decelerating
Rubato free flowing and exempt from steady rhythm
Scherzando Playfully
Scordatura Alternate tuning (of strings)
Semplicemente Simply
Senza sordino Calls for mute to be removed, esp. from string instruments.
Sforzando Sharply accented
Sonata A composition for one or two instruments in sonata form
Soprano The highest vocal line
Sotto Subdued
Tempo The speed of a piece of music
Tenuto holding or sustaining a single note
Timpani Large drums
Tre corde or tutte le corde Cancels an una corda
Tuba A large brass instrument
Una corda With the soft pedal, on a piano
viola A medium-sized stringed instrument
Viola da braccio A stringed instrument held in the arm, such as a violin or viola
Viola da gamba A stringed instrument held between the legs
Viola d'amore A tenor viol with no frets
Vivace up-tempo