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Musical Terms (3)

  • a la regretto: tempo assigned to a performance by the conductor AFTER it is panned by the local music critics.
  • a patella: unaccompanied knee-slapping.
  • a-b-a form: a musical convention long preferred by composers who can't "C."
  • accidentals: wrong notes.
  • ad libitum: a premiere.
  • adagio formaggio: in a slow and cheesy manner.
  • aeolian mode: how you like Mama's cherry pie.
  • agnus dei: a famous female church composer.
  • al capone: performing while standing on a neutered rooster.
  • al dente con tableau: in opera, chew the scenery.
  • allegro con brillo: the fastest way to wash pots and pans.
  • allegro: leg fertilizer.
  • altos: not to be confused with "Tom's toes," "Bubba's toes" or "Dori-toes".
  • an Dante: a musical composition that is Infernally slow.
  • Angus Dei: a divine, beefy tone.
  • antiphonal: referring to the prohibition of cell phones in the concert hall.
  • appologgiatura: an ornament you regret after playing it.
  • approximatura: a series of notes played by a performer and not intended by the composer, usually disguised with an air of "I meant to do that."
  • approximento: a musical entrance that is somewhat close to the correct pitch.
  • arpeggio: "Ain't he that storybook kid with the big nose that grows?"
  • audition: the act of putting oneself under extreme duress to satisfy the sadistic intentions of someone who has already made up his mind.
  • augmented fifth: a 36-ounce bottle.
  • bach chorale: the place behind the barn where you keep the horses.
  • baffoon: baboon with bassoon.
  • bar line: a gathering of people, usually among which may be found a musician or two.
  • barbie dolce: sweet, but plastic.
  • bass clef: where you wind up if you do fall off.
  • bass lure: a seductive refrain.
  • bass: the things you run around in softball.
  • basso continuo: game fishing after the legal season has ended.
  • basso profundo: an opera about deep sea fishing.
  • basso refundo: the sad, but predictable consequence of the ill-fated "Three Basses" concert tour.
  • bassoon: (a) typical response when asked what you hope to catch, and when. (b) a bedpost with a bad case of gas.
  • beat: what music students do to each other with their instruments. The down beat is performed on top of the head, while the up beat is struck under the chin.
  • big band: when the bar pays enough to bring two banjo players.
  • bossa nova: the car your foreman drives.
  • brake drum: an instrument used for slowing the tempo in an orchestra.
  • broken consort: when someone in the ensemble has to leave to go to the bathroom.
  • bull horn: a brass instrument that plays notes you wouldn't believe.
  • cacophany: composition incorporating many people with chest colds.
  • cadence: when everybody hopes you're going to stop, but you don't.
  • cadenza: (a) that ugly thing your wife always vacuums dog hair off of when company comes, (b) the heroine in Monteverdi's opera Frottola
  • caffinato: play loudly enough to wake up those sleeping in the audience.
  • cantus firmus: the part you get when you can play only four notes.
  • carmina banana: a medieval musical plantain.
  • cello: the proper way to answer the phone.
  • chansons de geste: dirty songs.
  • chromatic scale: an instrument for weighing that indicates half-pounds.
  • clarinet: name used on your second daughter if you've already used Betty Jo.
  • clausula: Mrs. Santa Claus.
  • clef: something to jump from before the viola solo.
  • coloratura soprano: a singer who has great trouble finding the proper note, but who has a wild time hunting for it.
  • concerto con carne: a piece for single instrument played in a "chili" manner.
  • concerto grosso: a really BAD performance.
  • conductor: (a) a musician who is adept at following many people at the same time, (b) the man who punches your ticket to Birmingham.
  • contrababoon: the simian assistant of a Latin American revolutionary organ grinder.
  • Coral Symphony: (see Beethoven - Caribbean period).
  • cornetti trombosis: disastrous entanglement of brass instruments that can occur when musicians are not careful exiting the stage. Has also been known to occur in marching bands.
  • crashendo: the increasing sense of aggravation felt by band members as those trumpet players keep dropping their mutes on the hard stage floor.
  • crescendo: a reminder to the performer that he has been playing too loudly.
  • crotchet: a tritone with a bent prong.like knitting, but faster.
  • cut time: (a) parole, (b) when everyone else is playing twice as fast as you are.
  • cymbal: what they use on deer-crossing signs so you know what to sight-in your pistol with.
  • d.c. al capone: you betta go back to the beginning, capiche?
  • detaché: an indication that the trombones are to play with their slides removed.
  • di lasso: popular with Italian cowboys.
  • diatonic: low-calorie Schweppes.
  • dill piccolo: a wind instrument that plays only sour notes.
  • diminderwindo: fading of daylight at dusk, as seen from indoors.
  • diminished fifth: an empty bottle of Jack Daniels.
  • diminuendo: the process of quieting a rumor in the orchestra pit.
  • ducita: a lot of mallards.
  • eardrum: a teeny, tiny tympani.
  • embouchure: the way you look when you've been playing the Krummhorn.
  • estampie: what they put on letters in Quebec.
  • etude brute: an early form of Roman music performed with a rapid, sharp repetitive beat.
  • fermantra: a note that is held over and over and over and.....
  • fermattahorn: an Alpine wind instrument used for playing long notes.
  • fermoota: a rest of indefinite length and dubious value.
  • fiddler crabs: grumpy string players.
  • first inversion: grandpa's battle group at Normandy.
  • flute flies: gnat-like bugs that bother musicians playing out-of-doors.
  • fog horn: a brass instrument that plays when the conductor's intentions are not clear.
  • follyphonic: harmonized and arranged badly.
  • fortississippi: with mighty, flowing strength.
  • french horn: your wife says you smell like a cheap one when you come in at 4 a.m.
  • frugalhorn: a sensible, inexpensive brass instrument.
  • fruitti tutti: a chorus singing together in an exaggerated, overripe manner.
  • garglefinklein: a tiny recorder played by neums.
  • Gaul blatter: a French horn player.
  • glissando: a technique adopted by string players for difficult runs.
  • good conductor: A person who can give an electrifying performance.
  • grace note: the I.O.U. you deposit in the church collection plate when you're out of cash.
  • gregorian champ: monk who can hold a note the longest.
  • ground brass: when someone in the marching band drops a sousaphone.
  • groundhog: someone who takes control of the repeated bass line and won't let others play it.
  • half step: the pace used by a cellist when carrying his instrument.
  • Herbert von Carryon: a conductor who never rides in the cargo hold.
  • hocket: the thing that fits into a crochet to produce a rackett.
  • hyperportamento: a tone that soars, bends, strains until it pierces into another dimension and leaves, ever after, a porthole to heaven.
  • interval: how long it takes to find the right note. There are three kinds
  • intonation: singing through one's nose. Considered highly desirable in the Middle Ages.
  • Inverted interval: when you have to go back a bar and try again.
  • isorhythmic motet: when half of the ensemble got a different edition from the other half.
  • kvetchendo: gradually getting ANNOYINGLY louder.
  • lamentoso: with handkerchiefs.
  • lasso: the 6th and 5th steps of a descending scale.
  • lauda: the difference between shawms and krummhorns.
  • maestrousseau: at the pace of a wedding march.
  • Major interval: a long time.
  • major scale: what you say after chasing wild game up a mountain - "Damn! That was a major scale!"
  • mallade: a romantic song that's pretty awful.
  • matterhorn: an intrument of cosmic influence designed to create something out of nothing.
  • melodic minor: loretta Lynn's singing dad.
  • metronome: a city-dwelling dwarf.
  • Middle C: the only fruit drink you can afford when food stamps are low.
  • minnesinger: a boy soprano.
  • Minor interval: a few bars.
  • minor third: your approximate age and grade at the completion of formal schooling.
  • molto bolto: head straight for the ending, but don't make it seemed rushed.
  • mucho caffinato: play loudly enough to wake up those sleeping in the audience.
  • music: a complex organizations of sounds that is set down by the composer, incorrectly interpreted by the conductor, who is ignored by the musicians, the result of which is ignored by the audience.
  • musica ficta: when you lose your place and have to bluff until you find it again.
  • neumatic melishma: a bronchial disorder caused by hockets.
  • neums: renaissance midgets.
  • oboe: an ill wind that nobody blows good.
  • oeuferture: musical composition commissioned by the National Egg Marketing Council.
  • opera buffa: musical stage production at a nudist camp.
  • oraToro: a lawn mower may be substituted for the soloist at this point.
  • order of sharps: what a wimp gets at the bar.
  • ordo: the hero in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
  • Passing tone: frequently heard near the baked beans at family barbecues.
  • pastorale: beverage to drink in the country when listening to Beethoven with a member of the clergy.
  • perfect fifth: a full bottle of Jack Daniels.
  • perfect pitch: the smooth coating on a freshly paved road.
  • phollyphonic: badly arranged harmonizations.
  • pianissimo: "refill this beer bottle".
  • pianorama: instrument capable of broad, sweeping musical performances.
  • pipe smoker: an extremely virtuosic organist.
  • pitch, time, and temp.:
  • pizzacato: the act of removing anchovies from an Italian dish with short, quick motions and tossing them to a nearby awaiting feline friend.
  • Placebo Domingo: faux tenor.
  • plague: a collective noun, as in "a plague of conductors."
  • pollyphonic: orchestra made up of lots of parrots.
  • poochini: When singing, to be accompanied by your dog.
  • portamento: a foreign country you've always wanted to see.
  • praylude: a cue, found in some of the earlier oratorios, instructing those singing the roles of the wicked to pray in a profane or offensive manner.
  • Pre-Classical Conservatism: school of thought which fostered the idea, "If it ain't Baroque, don't fix it."
  • prelude: a cue, found in some of the earlier oratorios, instructing those singing the roles of the wicked to pray in an offensive or profane manner.
  • preparatory beat: a threat made to singers, i.e., sing, or else....
  • presto chango: quickly going from a very fast to a very slow tempo.
  • pseudo-dolce: Nutrasweet.
  • quarter tone: what most standard pickups can haul.
  • quaver: beginning viol class.
  • rackett: capped reeds class.
  • recitative: a disease that Monteverdi had.
  • relative major: an uncle in the Marine Corps.
  • relative minor: a girlfriend.
  • repeat: what you do until they just expel you.
  • risoluto: indicates to orchestras that they are to stubbornly maintain the correct tempo no matter what the conductor tries to do.
  • ritard: there's one in every family.
  • ritornello: a Verdi opera.
  • rooti tooti: use of a potato as a trumpet mute.
  • rota: an early Italian method of teaching music without score or parts.
  • rubato: cross between rhubarb and a tomato.
  • sancta: Clausula's husband.
  • Schmaltzando: a sudden burst of music from the Guy Lombardo orchestra.
  • senza sordino: a term used to remind the player that he forgot to put his mute on a few measures back.
  • sine proprietate: cussing in church.
  • snacktus: Quiet, contemplative music played during the appetizer at Catholic wedding receptions.
  • sonata: what you get from a bad cold or hay fever.
  • Sosaphone: a cylindrical wooden instrument used to play smash hits.
  • spinet: politician's order.
  • spritzicato: plucking of a stringed instrument to produce a bright, bubbly sound, usually accompanied by sparkling water with lemon.
  • staccato: how you did all the ceilings in your mobile home.
  • status cymbal: an instrument to be played at inaugurations and socialite balls.
  • stops: something Bach didn't have on his organ.
  • string quartet: a good violinist, a bad violinist, an ex-violinist, and someone who hates violinists, all getting together to complain about composers.
  • subito piano: indicates an opportunity for some obscure orchestra player to become a soloist.
  • supertonic: Schweppes.
  • suvioso: a gradual buildup to a fiery conclusion.
  • Tempe Arizona: a hot passage.
  • tempo tantrum: what the conductor has when the orchestra can't keep up with him/her.
  • tempo: good choice for a used car.
  • tenor: two hours before a nooner.
  • The Rights of Strings: manifesto of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Bowed Instruments.
  • time signature: what you need from your boss if you forget to clock in.
  • timpani alley: a row of kettledrums. Term originated in New York City area.
  • tincanabulation: the annoying or irritating sounds made by an unmusical person using extremely cheap bells.
  • toiletto: the effect on the human voice of reverberation in small rooms with ceramic tiles.
  • transposition: the act of moving the relative pitch of a piece of music that is too low for the basses to a point where it is too high for the sopranos.
  • Transpositions: (a) men who wear dresses, (b) An advanced recorder technique where you change from alto to soprano fingering (or vice-versa) in the middle of a piece.
  • transsectional: an alto who moves to the soprano section.
  • treble: women ain't nothin' but.
  • trope: a malevolent neum.
  • trotto: an early Italian form of Montezuma's Revenge.
  • trouble clef: any clef one can't read; e.g. the alto or tenor clefs for keyboard players.
  • tuba: a compound word - "Hey, woman! Fetch me another tuba Bryll Cream!"
  • tutti: a lot of sackbuts.
  • vesuvioso: a gradual build up to a fiery conclusion
  • vibrato: used by singers to hide the fact that they are on the wrong pitch.
  • virtuoso: a musician with very high morals. (I know one)
  • whole note: what's due after failing to pay the mortgage for a year.
  • woodwind: a noise in the game of golf, made by a club missing the ball on a tee shot
  • zzzforzando: playing really loud, to wake up the audience