Definitions

Allegro (a-leg-row): an Italian word that means “fast”

Andante (ahn-dahn-tay): an Italian word that means “walking speed” or “moderately slow”

Baton: the special stick a conductor uses to keep time during an orchestra.

Bow: a wooden stick that has horsehair attached to it. It is drawn across string instruments to make them vibrate.

Brass: instruments that are made out of shiny, yellowish brass and need tthe players to buzz their lips to create a sound. The four brass instruments in the orchestra are the French horn, trumpet, trombone and tuba.

Cadence: Sequence of notes or chords at the end of musical phrases that give the sense of conclusion.

Chord: Three or more tones sounding at the same time.

Composer: the person who writes the music that the orchestra peforms.

Concert: a program of music performed by one or more musicians. The first public concerts charging admission were held in the 16th century.

Concertmaster: the first violinist of the orchestra who leads the orchestra in tuning at the beginning of the concert, and sometimes has special solos to play.

Concerto: Musical composition for one or more solo instruments and orchestra.

Conductor: the leader of the orchestra who makes sure everyone plays together and at the right time by using special arm and hand signals.

Drum: Along with the flute, this is one of the oldest instruments. Drums are found everywhere in the world.

Fantasia: Musical composition where style and form take second place to improvisation. This leaves room for the composer’s imagination.

Forte (for-tay): an Italian word meaning “loud”

Harmony: more than one musical part sounding together.

Interval: The distance between two notes in a musical scale.

Intonation: The musical sense of “pitch” -how high or low the note sounds. Sometimes called “playing in tune”

Mallets: special sticks that percussionists use to strike drums and create sounds.

Melody: an organized sequence of notes

Mouthpiece: the part of any wind instrument that the mouth touches. Each instrument in the woodwind and brass families includes a mouthpiece.

Music Stand: the device placed in front of musicians that holds up the sheet music. It helps musiciansbe able to read their music and play their instrument at the same time.

Orchestra: the group of musicians that play instruments in the four instrument families of woodwinds, brass, strings and percussion.

Overture: A musical work played before an opera to get the attention of the audience to inform them that it is time to take their seats.

Percussion: instruments that are played by hitting, shaking or scraping them.

Piano: an Italian word that means “softly” or “quietly”

Pizzicato (pits-uh-kah-toh): an Italian word that means “plucked.” String players can play pizzicato by plucking the strings with their fingers instead of drawing the bow over them.

Reed: a piece of wood or cane that is attached to the mouthpieces of most woodwind instruments. Musicians blow air across the reed to create sound.

Rhythm: a pattern of long and short note values in music.

Score: the book of music that a conductor reads to know what each instrument is playing during a concert.

Sheet music: the individual music parts for each instrument that musicians read during a concert.

Strings: instruments that have four strings stretched over them and are played either with a bow or by plucking the strings with the fingers. The four string instruments are the violin, viola, cello and double bass.

Symphony: A musical composition in several movements (parts) written for orchestra.

Tempo: The speed at which a musical piece is performed. “Allegro” indicates fast while “Largo” and “Adagio” indicate a slow speed.

Timbre: The quality of sound or tone that characterizes a musical instrument or voice.

Tone: A vibration the ear can hear. A tone can be high or low in pitch and loud or soft in intensity. Instruments produce different timbres; “colors” of  tone.

Tuning: the process by which the orchestra musicians make sure that they sound good together. Before each concert, the concertmaster asks the oboe player to play a note, and then everyone in the orchestra makes sure that they sound good on that note, too.

Woodwinds: the instruments that are, or used to be, made out of wood and are played by blowing wind through the mouthpiece. The six woodwind instruments are the flute, piccolo, oboe, English horn, clarinet and bassoon.