Glossary L


La | (See il.)

Label | A company that produces recorded music.

Lacrimoso | (See con dolore.)

Lament | A song or poem that expresses grief, regret, or sorrow.

Lamentoso | (See con dolore.)

Lap steel guitar | (Abbreviation: lap steel) A steel-stringed guitar played laying flat on its back (with the strings facing upwards) and by sliding a metal bar along the strings as they are plucked to create a glissando effect. (Also Hawaiian guitar or steel guitar.)

Largamente | A tempo marking that means ‘broadly.’

Larghetto | A tempo marking that means ‘slow,’ but not as slow as largo.

Larghissimo | A tempo marking that means ‘extremely slow.’

Largo | A tempo marking that means ‘broad, very slow, and dignified.’

Latin American music |A general term for the music of all countries in Latin America.

Lead guitar | A role within a popular music band, especially a rock band, that performs melody lines, instrumental fills, and guitar solos.

Lead sheet | A form of music notation that describes the melody, lyrics, and harmony of a popular song. The melody is written in traditional music notation, the lyric is written as text below the staff, and the harmony is described by chord symbols above the staff.

Lead singer | A singer who performs the main melody in a song. (See also backup singer.)

Leading tone | The seventh scale degree of a major, harmonic minor, or rising melodic minor scale; one semitone below the tonic; so called because it creates a strong desire to resolve (or ‘lead’) to the tonic.


Leap | (See skip.)

Ledger line | In music notation, a short horizontal line written above or below the staff to extend the pitch range of the staff.

Legato | A general term that means ‘smoothly’; a seamless connection of adjacent notes in a melody; the opposite of staccato.

Leggiero | A dynamic marking that means ‘light or delicate.’

Leitmotif | A recurring musical theme throughout a composition, associated with a particular person, idea, or situation.

Lentamente | A tempo marking that means ‘slowly.’

Lentissimo | A tempo marking that means ‘extremely slow,’ but not as slow as larghissimo.

Lento | A tempo marking that means ‘slow.’

Letter | In music, letters of the alphabet are generally used as pitch names, to mark different sections in a composition, as abbreviations of musical terms, and to label chords using Roman numerals.

L.H. | An abbreviation for ‘left hand’; sometimes used in music notation for keyboard music. (See also r.h.)

Librettist | The author of a libretto.

Libretto | The text of an opera or other long vocal work (like an oratorio, cantata, operetta, or musical).

Lick | In popular music, a short (usually instrumental) phrase or solo; the term is commonly used by rock music guitarists.

Lift | (See pre-chorus.)

Ligature | In music notation, a curved line connecting notes to be sung or played as a phrase; a slur or tie.


Line | A general term used to describe different note patterns in a song (examples: a bassline, melody line, vocal line, etc.).

Lip-sync | The act of moving one’s lips silently to music or speech that has been prerecorded.

Loco | In music notation, a direction to play the notes as written, cancelling an earlier instruction to play an octave higher or lower than written.

Locrian mode | A mode based on the seventh scale degree of a diatontic scale; almost never used because its tonic triad is an unstable diminished chord.

Lo-fi | (See low fidelity.)

Longa rest | In music notation, a rest symbol equal to two breve rests; rarely used in modern music notation. (Also four-measure rest.)

Longa | In music notation, a note symbol equal to two breve notes; no longer used in modern music notation.

Long-playing | (Abbreviation: LP) A vinyl phonograph record with about 25 minutes of music on each side.

Loop | A short segment (or ‘sample’) of music that is repeated continually; common in electronic music. (See also sampling.)

Loud pedal | (See sustaining pedal.)

Loudspeaker | A device that converts electrical impulses into sound, typically as part of a public address system or stereo equipment. (Also speaker.)

Low fidelity | (Abbreviation: lo-fi) The reproduction of sound using a lower quality standard than high fidelity, producing a recordings that contains distortion or environmental noise.

LP | (See long-playing.)

Lullaby | A soothing song, usually sung to children before they go to sleep.

Lunga pausa | A tempo marking that means ‘a long pause.’

Lusingando | A general term that means ‘alluringly or flatteringly.’

Lute | A fretted guitar-like instrument with a pear-shaped body and between seven and eleven strings arranged in courses; widely used during the Renaissance and baroque periods.

Lydian mode | A mode based on the fourth scale degree of a diatonic scale.

Lyre | An ancient Greek stringed instrument that resembles a small U-shaped harp with strings fixed to a crossbar, but strummed with a plectrum like a guitar or zither.

Lyricist | A person who writes the words to a song.

Lyrics | The words of a song.


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