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octave: An interval spanning eight tones with the top and bottom tone having the same name.
organ: Acoustic keyboard instrument with a set of keys that trigger air to be sent through a series of pipes to produce sounds; or an electric version which sounds similar but without the air.
pedal: A mechanism controlled by the foot, commonly found on pianos, organs, and bicycles.
pentatonic: Literally means “five tones.” A scale found in Asian folk music, heavy metal, country, pop, and other music.
perfect pitch: The coveted ability to hear and identify a musical tone correctly without the aid of a musical instrument or device.
pianissimo: Very soft.
310 Piano For Dummies
piano: The instrument you’re playing; literally means “soft.”
pianoforte: Literally means “soft-loud.” Keyboard instrument with a set of 88 keys that trigger hammers to strike strings to produce sounds.
pianola: A “player piano.” A piano affixed with a mechanical drum that spins a roll of paper perforated with holes corresponding to specific keys, air, and other complicated things.
pickup measure: An incomplete measure at the beginning of a song, which allows the music to begin on a beat other than beat 1.
pitch: To throw a baseball; or the highness or lowness of a musical tone.
plectrum: A mechanism inside a harpsichord or other stringed instrument that plucks the strings to produce sounds.
polyphonic: Sounding more than one musical tone at once.
prepared piano: A piano with the sound altered by placing objects such as screws, bolts, pillows, and so on between or on the strings.
presto: What a magician says; or very fast tempo.
rallentando: Gradually get slower but more than ritardando.
reggae: A musical style from Jamaica, emphasizing beats 2 and 4.
relative minor: Underage kinfolk; or a minor chord or scale related to a major chord or scale with the same tones.
rest: A musical beat without sound.
rhythm: The result of putting lots of beats together.
ritardando: Gradually get slower.
rubato: Freely, or an unsteady tempo at the player’s discretion.
sampler: Electric keyboard instrument that makes recordings, or “samples,” of sounds and assigns the resulting tones to appropriate keys.
scale: A specific sequence of musical tones, rising or falling in pitch, in accordance with a strict system of intervals.
sequencer: Device that records a stream of MIDI data to be played back.
Appendix A: Glossary of Musical Terms
sharp: What you hope your knives are; or a half step higher than natural pitch.
shuffle: What every dealer should do to a new deck of cards; or a rhythm marked by the feel of long-short, long-short; commonly found in blues, rock, and jazz music.
slash chord: Chord symbol indicating a specific bass note to play.
sostenuto: Literally means “sustain.” Also the middle pedal on a piano that sustains a specific note, or group of notes, allowing the player to play successive notes without sustain.
staccato: Literally means “detached.” An articulation indicated by a dot under or above the note, telling the player to give that note less than its full rhythmic value.
staff: A hard-working team of employees; or a set of five lines and four spaces on which musical notes are written.
stem: Flower part; or the vertical line extending from a notehead.
subito: Literally means “suddenly;” used with a dynamic or tempo change, such as subito piano or subito allegro.
swing: Frequent act performed by a golfer; or a rhythm similar to shuffle where two eighth notes are played as a quarter-eighth triplet.
syncopation: Playing off the beat. Rhythm that emphasizes beats other than the downbeat.
synthesizer: Electric keyboard instrument that mimics other sounds by manipulating the shape of a sound wave.
tempo: Literally means “time;” more commonly referred to as musical speed.
tenuto: Literally means “held.” An articulation indicated by a short line under or above the notehead, telling the player to give that note its full rhythmic value and then some.
tie: Common gift for dads, uncles, and bosses; or a curved line connecting two notes, telling the player to hold the tone for the combined rhythmic value of both notes.
time signature: Two numbers placed on the music staff to indicate the meter.
312 Piano For Dummies
tone: A sound, whether musical or other, with pitch; the opposite of noise.
transposition: Changing a piece of music from one key to another.
treble clef: Symbol placed on the second line of the staff designating that line to be the tone G above middle C.
tremolo: Musical effect created by rapidly alternating between two notes separated by more than a 2nd interval.
trill: Musical effect created by rapidly alternating between two notes of close proximity.
tuning: Correcting the pitch of a piano string or other acoustic instrument, vivace: Lively and quick.
voicing: Giving your opinion; or the vertical arrangement of notes in a chord.
waltz time: The point in the festivities when everyone dances; or 3/4 meter.