Glossary I


Idiophone | A world music classification for instruments that produce sound when struck, shaken, or scraped (like a xylophone, cymbals, or maracas).

Il | A general term that means ‘the.’ (Also la.)

Imitation | The repetition of a phrase or melody in another part or voice (usually at a different pitch) while the first voice continues with new material; a kind of musical ‘follow the leader.’

Imperfect interval | Any interval that is not perfect (seconds, thirds, sixths, and sevenths).

Impetuoso | (See con passione.)

Impressionism | A musical style of the late nineteenth century that emphasizes mood and atmosphere, rich timbres, elegance, and beauty of sound.

Impromptu | A short piano piece, often improvised and performed solo.

Improvisation | The spontaneous, on-the-spot creation of music while it is being performed. (See also embellisment.)

Incalzando | (See accelerando.)

Incidental music | Music used in a film or play as a background to intensify the mood or drama.

Incomplete cadence | A temporary point of rest in a composition, created by ending a phrase on the dominant seventh chord; the cadence does not sound complete because the dominant seventh feels tense.

Indeterminacy | (See aleatory.)

Indie music | A type of popular music characterized by (real or perceived) independence from commercial pop music and mainstream culture; often features a deliberately unpolished or uncommercialized style.

Industrial music | A general term for different styles of electronic and experimental music; typically a type of harsh rock music that uses sounds that resemble those produced by industrial machinery.

Inflection | Any change or modification of a pitch or note. (See also blue note.)


Inspiration | A creative force or influence. Also the process of being mentally stimulated to do something creative.

Instrument | An object or device used for producing musical sounds.

Instrumental | Music performed by instruments without any vocals or lyrics.

Instrumentation | The particular instruments used in a piece of music. Also the way a piece is arranged for instruments.

Interlude | An optional section, often between the choruses in a song, that adds variety to the music.

Interpretation | The way a performer carries out a composer’s performance directions; a performer’s stylistic representation of a creative work.

Interrupted cadence | (See deceptive cadence.)

Interval | The distance and relationship between two pitches; an interval quality may be major, minor, perfect, augmented, or diminished. (See also harmonic interval and melodic interval.)

Intonation | The ability of a performer to maintain accurate pitch.

Introduction | The opening section in a piece of music; sometimes called the “Intro.”

Inversion | A reversed interval between two notes. Also a chord with a note other than the root on the bottom. Also, in atonal music, the upside-down version of a tone row.

Inverted turn | An ornament consisting of the note below the one indicated, the note itself, the note above it, and the note itself again.

Ionian mode | A mode based on the first degree of a diatonic scale; identical to the major scale. (See also major scale.)

Irish harp | A plucked-string instrument with about thirty strings; used to accompany Irish songs and dance music. (Also Celtic harp.)

Irregular meter | (See odd meter.)

Irregular progression | A chord progression that deviates from a common circle progression by using very unusual chord changes. (See also alternate progression.)


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