Glossary F


Facilmente | (See semplice.)

Fade | A gradual increase (fade-in) or decrease (fade-out) in volume.

Fake book | A collection of musical lead sheets, common in jazz, intended to help a performer quickly learn new songs; each song contains the melody line, basic chords, and lyrics.

Falsetto | A vocal technique of singing notes pitched higher than the singer’s normal range; a voice or sound that is unusually or unnaturally high.

Fantasia | A loosley-structured instrumental piece often featuring improvisation.

F-clef | (See bass clef.)

Feedback | A whining, howling noise created when two electrical devices interfere with one another (like a loudpseaker and a microphone).

Fermata | In music notation, a symbol that indicates a note is held beyond its normal time value; the exact length is decided by the performer; over a double-bar line, it marks the end of a song. (Also hold or pause.)

Feroce | (See furioso.)

Festival | An organized series of concerts, typically held annually in the same place.

Fiddle | A slang term for a violin, especially when used to play folk music.

Fifth chord | A two note chord made up of a root and its fifth note. (Also power chord.)

Figured bass | A shorthand system of writing numbers next to a bassline to indicate the harmony (chord intervals and inversions) to be played by the performer. (Also basso continuo, continuous bass, or thorough bass.)

Fill | In popular music, a short interjected phrase on a particular instrument (example: a drum fill).

Film score | The background or foreground music in film.


Filter | In sound recording, an electronic device that permits certain audio frequencies to pass while stopping others.

Final | The principal note in a mode, similar to the tonic note in a scale.

Finale | The last (and especially dramatic or exciting) part of a piece of music or performance.

Fine | A general term that means ‘end or close.’

Fine arts | The creative art forms meant to be appreciated for their imaginative, aesthetic, or intellectual content (rather than for their practical use); these include the performing arts (like music, dance, and theater) as well as the visual arts (painting and film).

Fingerboard | A flat strip of wood on the neck of a stringed instrument, against which the strings are pressed to play different notes. (See also fretboard.)

Finger holes | The holes through the wall of a wind instrument that a player can cover with his or her fingers or leave uncovered to change the pitch. (Also tone holes.)

Fingering | The choice of which fingers and hand positions to use when playing a musical instrument.

Fingerpicking | A guitar playing technique of plucking the strings directly with the fingertips, fingernails, or small picks attached to the fingers. (See also pattern picking.)

Finger vibrato | On a stringed instrument, a rapid alternation between two pitches through movement of the fingers (and sometimes also the wrist, hand, or entire arm.)

First ending | The last bar or the last two bars of a section followed by a repeat sign (often marked by a ‘1’ with a bracket); the music is then repeated and concluded with an alternate second ending. (See also second ending.)

First inversion | A chord in which the lowest-sounding pitch is the third of the chord. (Also six chord or six-three chord.)

Flag | In music notation, a hook attached to the stem of a note that determines the rhythmic value of the note.

Flageolet | A small flutelike instrument resembling a recorder but with four finger holes on top and two thumb holes below.

Flamenco | A style of Spanish music, played especially on the guitar and accompanied by singing and dancing.


Flange | In sound recording, an audio effect that occurs when two identical signals are mixed together, but with one signal time-delayed by a small and gradually changing amount.

Flat | A symbol (♭) that lowers a pitch by one half step. Also used as a critical term for someone who sings under pitch.

Flat pick | (See pick.)

Floor tom | A large double-headed tom-tom drum that stands on the floor on three metal legs; part of a standard drum kit.

Flugelhorn | A valved brass instrument like a cornet but with a mellower tone, typically used in jazz and popular music.

Flute | A wind instrument made from a metal tube with holes along it that are stopped by the fingers or keys; held vertically or horizontally so the player’s breath strikes a narrow mouth hole.

Flutter-tonguing | The action of vibrating the tongue (as if rolling an r) in playing a wind instrument to produce a whirring effect.

Folk blues | (See country blues.)

Folk rock | A popular music style that combines folk music with the stronger beat and amplified instruments of rock.

Form | The structure or design of a musical work and how it is divided into sections; based on repetition, contrast, unity, and variety; the organizing principle (or how the parts are put together) in music; often labeled using letters (example: AABA).

Formalism | A concern (or excessive concern) with form and technique rather than content in artistic creation.

Forte | (Abbreviation: f.) A dynamic marking that means ‘loud or strong.’

Forte-piano | (Abbreviation: fp.) A dynamic marking that means ‘loud (forte) then immediately soft (piano).’

Fortissimo | (Abbreviation: ff.) A dynamic marking that means ‘very loud.’ The markings ‘fff.’ or ‘ffff.’ can be used to indicate an even greater dynamic range.

Forzando | (Abbreviation: forza or fz.) (See sforzando.)


Four-measure rest | (See long rest.)

Foxtrot | A popular box-step dance from the early twentieth century in 4/4 time, often with a hesitation on the third beat of the bar.

Free jazz | An improvised style of jazz characterized by the absence of set chord patterns or time patterns.

French horn | A mellow brass instrument that descended from the ancient hunting horn. (Also horn.)

Frequency | In acoustics, the number of times per second that the air carrying a sound vibrates as a wave; the determining factor in pitch.

Fret | A small metal strip inserted in the fingerboard of a stringed instrument (like a guitar) that acts as a guide to where the fingers should be placed.

Fretboard | A fretted fingerboard on a guitar or other musical instrument. (See also fingerboard.)

Front line | In jazz bands, the instruments that carry the melodic material; as opposed to the rhythm section.

Fugue | A contrapuntal composition in which a short melody or phrase (the subject) is introduced by one part and successively taken up by others and developed by interweaving the parts.

Functional harmony | A system of organizing chords and progressions to establish a sense of key. (See also diatonic function.)

Fundamental note | The lowest note of a chord in its original (uninverted) form; the pitch upon which a chord is built; the note that gives a chord its name. (See also root and tonic.)

Fundamental tone | The basic pitch of a tone.

Funk music | A type of popular music that combines elements of jazz, blues, and soul and features a syncopated rhythm and a heavy, repetitive bass line.

Furioso | A general term that means ‘furiously or wildly.’ (Also feroce.)

Fusion | A style of music that combines jazz improvisation with the amplified instruments of rock.

Fuzz | A buzzing or distorted sound, typically added as an effect to an electric guitar.


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