Glossary D


Da capo | (Abbreviation: D.C. or DC) In music notation, a direction to repeat from the beginning of a piece. (See also dal segno.)

Da capo al fine | In music notation, a direction to repeat from the segno sign (.$.) until you come to ‘al coda O+,’ then to the coda (O+).

Dal | A general term that means ‘from the.’

Dal segno | (Abbreviation: D.S. or DS) In music notation, a direction to repeat from the point marked by the ‘segno’ sign. (See also da capo.)

Dal segno al coda | In music notation, a direction to repeat from the beginning to the point marked by the ‘fine’ sign.

Dampening | The technique of muting an instrument while playing it, or soon after, before it has lost its sustain or stopped ringing; used on various string and percussion instruments.

Damper pedal | (See sustaining pedal.)

Dance | The act of moving rhythmically to music, typically following a set sequence of motions.

Decay | The time it takes for a sound to become silent; the opposite of sustain. (See also attack, releaseand sustain.)

Deceptive cadence | A temporary point of rest in a composition, in which a dominant chord (V) is followed not by the expected dominant chord (I) but by another chord, usually the submediant chord (vi), which creates a feeling of suspense. (Also avoided cadence or interrupted cadence.)

Decibel | (Abbreviation: dB) A unit used to measure the intensity of a sound.

Decisivo | A general term that means ‘Decisively.’ (Also risoluto.)

Decoration | (See embellishment.)

Decrescendo | (Abbreviation: decresc.) (See diminuendo.)

Deficiendo | (See calando.)


Degree | (See scale degree.)

Delay | In sound recording, an effect created by slightly offsetting the timing of an instrument or voice.

Delicato | (See dolce.)

Delta | (V) A Greek symbol used to represent a major-seventh chord.

Demisemiquaver | (See thirty-second note.)

Demisemiquaver rest | (See thirty-second rest.)

Demo | A ‘demonstration’ version of a recording; used for reference rather than release.

Derivative | A chord derived or formed from another by inversion.

Descant | An independent treble melody usually sung or played above a basic melody.

Descant recorder | (See soprano recorder.)

Descent | A falling motion in musical pitch.

Diatonic | A term that refers to the intervals, scales, melodies, or harmonies that involve only notes proper to the prevailing key, without chromatic alteration.

Diatonic function | The specific, recognized roles of notes or chords in relation to the key; that is, the way that notes and chords imply movement toward the tonic. (See also functional harmony.)

Diatonic instrument | An instrument that is limited to playing in only one particular key, as opposed to being able to play all 12 notes of the chromatic scale.

Diatonic modulation | Modulation between two closely related keys that involved diatonic melodic movement and in which the ‘pivot chord’ is a diatonic chord in both keys.


Diatonic scale | A major or minor scale with a particular pattern of whole steps and half steps (example: the white keys on a keyboard).

Didgeridoo | An Australian Aboriginal wind instrument, traditionally made from a hollow branch, which is blown to produce a deep, resonant sound, varied by rhythmic accents of timbre and volume. (Also didjeridu.)

Didjeridu | (See didgeridoo.)

Digital | In sound recording, an electronic format designed to duplicate a sound with extreme accuracy; as opposed to analog technology.

Diminished fifth | (Abbreviation: d5) An interval of a semitone below a perfect fifth; enharmonically equivalent to an augmented fourth. (See also tritone.)

Diminished fourth | (Abbreviation: d4) An interval of a semitone below a perfect fourth; enharmonically equivalent to a major third.

Diminished interval | (Abbreviation: d) An interval that is one semitone (half-step) smaller than a corresponding minor interval or perfect interval.

Diminished second | (Abbreviation: d2) An interval of a semitone below a minor second; enharmonically equivalent to a unison.

Diminished seventh | (Abbreviation: d7) An interval of a semitone below a minor seventh; enharmonically equivalent to a major sixth.

Diminished seventh chord | A chord consisting of a dimished triad plus a dimished seventh. (See also half-diminished seventh chord.)

Diminished sixth | (Abbreviation: d6) An interval of a semitone below a minor sixth; enharmonically equivalent to a perfect fifth.

Diminished third | (Abbreviation: d3) An interval of a semitone below a minor third; enharmonically equivalent to a major second.

Diminished triad | A triad made of a tonic, minor third, and dimished fifth; the chord includes two mionor thirds, one on top of the other.

Diminuendo | (Abbreviation: dim.) A dynamic marking that means ‘gradually getting softer.’ (Also decrescendo.)

Diminution | The reduction of a rhythm or melody into shorter note values, so it’s often half as long (and therefore twice as fat) as the original; the opposite of augmentation. Also the narrowing of an interval or chord.


Direct modulation | (See phrase modulation.)

Direct motion | (See parallel motion.)

Dirge | A slow, mournful song associated with funeral and memorial services; a song of lamentation.

Disc jockey | (Abbreviation: DJ) A person who selects and plays prerecorded music for an audience.

Disco | A type of popular dance music from the 1970s; typically soul-influenced and melodic with a regular bass beat and strong percussion in a quadruple meter.

Discography | A list of sound recordings of a particular period, composer, genre, performer, etc.

Disjoint interval | (See skip.)

Disjunct interval | (See skip.)

Disjunct motion | Melodic motion where the notes move by skip; that is, motion in which the melody does not move to the nearest available tone, but instead leaps to a more distant one; as opposed to conjunct motion.

Dislocation | A piano technique of playing the left hand on the beat and the right hand just afterward. (See also rubato.)

Dissonance | A combination of two or more pitches that creates a sense of tension and instability, in need of resolution; the opposite of consonance.

Distortion | A harsh or noisy sound effect applied to the guitar, bass, or other instruments, particularly in hard rock, punk rock, and heavy metal music.

Ditty | A short, simple song.

Divisi | A term that means music is divided into separate parts after a group of performers have been playing in unison; the opposite of unisono.

Dixieland | A kind of jazz that originated in New Orleans in the early twentieth century featuring improvisation and a strong two-beat rhythm.


DJ | (See disc jockey.)

Dobro | A type of acoustic guitar with steel resonating disks inside the body under the bridge. (Also resonator guitar.)

Dodecaphonic | A Greek term meaning ‘twelve-tone.’ (See also twelve-tone music.)

Dolce | A general term that means ‘sweetly, affectionately, or with tender warmth.’ (Also affettuoso, amabile, amoroso, delicato, piacevoleor teneramente.)

Dolcissimo | (Abbreviation: dolciss.) A dynamic marking that means ‘very gently’ or ‘very sweetly.’

Dolente | (See con dolore.)

Dominant | the fifth degree of a diatonic scale. Also the triad built on this degree. Also the key oriented around this degree.

Dominant seventh | (See major minor seventh chord.)

Doppio movimento | A tempo marking that means ‘twice as fast.’

Dorian mode | A mode based on the second degree of a diatonic scale.

Dot | (See augmentation dot.)

Double bar | In music notation, a pair of closely spaced bar lines marking the end of a piece or section of music, may also mark repeats, a change of key, or a change of meter.

Double bass | The largest and lowest-pitched instrument of the violin family; provides the bass line of the orchestral string section and is often used in jazz (the 3/4 size of the instrument is popular). (Also bass viol, bull fiddle, contrabass, stand-up bass, string bassor upright bass.)

Double flat | A sign (♭♭) that lowers the pitch of a note by a whole step (or two semitones).

Double-neck guitar | A guitar that has two necks; the most common type has 12 strings on the top neck and six strings on the bottom neck, allowing the guitarist to quickly switch between the two neck without the need to change guitars.


Double octave | An interval of two octaves; that is, an interval of a fifteenth.

Double picking | (See tremolo picking.)

Double reed | A reed with two slightly separated blades, used for playing a wind instrument like an oboe or bassoon.

Double sharp | A sign (x) that raises the pitch of a note by a whole step (or two semitones).

Double stop | The sound of two strings played at once on a violin or similar stringed instrument.

Double time | A rhythm that is played twice as fast as an earlier one.

Double tonguing | On a wind instrument, the use of two alternating movements of the tongue (usually forming the sounds t and k) while playing rapid passages.

Doubling | The performance of the same part by two separate musicians (examples: when two instruments play the same part or when an instrument plays the same notes as the singer).

Downbeat | An accented beat, usually the first of the measure (as opposed to the backbeat on the even beats of a measure).

Downhome blues | (See country blues.)

Downstage | The front of a stage, in the direction of the audience (from the point of view of a performer facing the audience).

Downtempo | A genre of laid-back electronic dance music with influences from jazz, bossa nova, and dub reggae.

Downtuning | The technique of lowering the pitch of one or more strings on a stringed instrument to change the instrument’s timbre or to simplify fingering positions.

Draw | On an accordion, harmonica, or similar instrument, the process of pulling air in through the reeds to create a sound.

Drone | A sustained humming or buzzing sound created by one or more tones played continuously; usually a low pitch, over which a melody unfolds. Also a pipe in the bagpipe, or a string in the hurdy-gurdy or sitar.


Drum | A percussion instrument sounded by being struck with sticks or the hands; typically cylindrical, barrel-shaped, or bowl-shaped with a tight membrane over one or both ends.

Drum beat | A rhythmic or metric pattern sounded by a drum.

Drumhead | (Abbreviation: head) A tight membrane stretched over one or both ends of a drum that vibrates when struck.

Drum kit | (Abbreviation: drums) A set of drums, cymbals, and other percussion instruments used with drumsticks in jazz and popular music. The standard kit includes a bass drum, a floor tom, two tom-toms, a snare drum, a hi-hat cymbal, a ride cymbal, and often a crash cymbal. (Also drum set or trap set.)

Drum major | The leader of a marching band, who often twirls a baton.

Drum roll | A rapid succession of beats sounded on a drum, often used to introduce an announcement or event.

Drum set | (See drum kit.)

Drumstick | A stick, typically with a shaped or padded head, used for beating a drum; some specialized drum sticks are called beaters, mallets, or brushes. (Also stick.)

Dubbing | The transfer or copy of previously recorded audio from one medium to another.

Dub reggae | A genre of popular dance music made from remixing reggae recordings.

Duet | A performance by two people. Also a piece of music written for two voices or instruments.

Dulcimer | (See hammered dulcimer and Appalachian dulcimer.)

Duple meter | a meter with two beats per measure (a strong beat followed by a weak beat.)

Duplet | A pair of equal notes, or a note and a rest, performed in the time usually given to three (indicated by a bracket and the number 2).

Duration | The amount of time that a sound (or a silence) lasts in music.

Dynamic accent | The emphasis given to a note that is louder than surrounding notes.

Dynamic marking | A performance mark that indicates how and when the dynamic level of a piece change.

Dynamic range | The range from the softest to the loudest sound that can be produced by an instrument. Also the range of acceptable or possible volumes of sound that occur within a composition or performance.

Dynamics | The loudness or softness of a sound; that is, the strength or power of a sound. (Also volume.)


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