Glossary R


Raga | In Indian music, a melodic pattern that is roughly similar to a scale in Western music; prescribes the pitches, patterns, ornamentation, time of performance, and mood of a composition.

Ragtime | A style of American popular music, usually for piano; the left hand often plays a march-like pattern while the right hand plays arpeggiated chords and a syncopated melody.

Rainstick | A percussion instrument made from a dried cactus branch that is hollowed out, filled with small pebbles, and capped at both ends. When slightly tilted, it makes the sound of falling rain.

Rallentando | (Abbreviation: rall.) (See ritardando.)

Range | The pitch distance between the lowest note and the highest note of an instrument, voice, or melody.

Rap | A contemporary vocal style in which rhymed lyrics are quickly spoken over a rhythmic drumbeat.

Rapido | A tempo marking that means ‘rapid.’

Recital | A musical performance by a solo instrumentalist or singer or by a small group (example: a piano recital).

Recitative | A form of ‘speech singing’ in which the rhythm follows the natural inflection of words; often used in operas, oratorios, and cantatas.

Record | A song or album created by a musician. (See also phonograph record.) Also the process of preserving music in a permanent form.

Record player | A electronic device used for playing vinyl records. (Also turntable.)

Record producer | In sound recording, a person who supervises the making of a musical recording, especially by determining its overall sound. (Also producer.)

Recorder | A simple woodwind instrument with finger holes and no keys, held vertically and played by blowing air through a shaped mouthpiece against a sharp edge.

Recording engineer | In sound recording, a person who sets up and operates the studio equipment during a recording session. (Also audio engineer, engineer, or sound engineer.)

Recording studio | A room where musical or sound recordings can be made. (Also studio.)


Reduction | An arrangement of an orchestral score for piano or for a smaller group of performers. (Also piano reduction.)

Reed | A thin piece of cane or metal that vibrates in a current of air to produce the sound of various musical instruments, as in the mouthpiece of a clarinet or oboe, at the base of some organ pipes, and as part of a set in the accordion and harmonica.

Refrain | (See chorus.)

Reggae | A style of Jamaican popular music that evolved from ska and rock steady, featuring offbeat rhythms and chanted vocals over a strong bass part.

Register | The relative ‘height’ or range of an instrument or voice.

Registration | A combination of stops used when playing the organ.

Relationship | The way that notes, chords, or keys are connected to each other.

Relative key modulation | (See relative modulation.)

Relative keys | The major and minor keys that share the same key signature but have different tonics (example: F major and D minor, which share one flat).

Relative major | The major key that shares the same key signature with a minor key.

Relative minor | The minor key that shares the same key signature with a major key.

Relative modulation | A change from one key to another between relative keys, where the key signature remains the same (example: C major to A minor, or E minor to G major). (Also relative key modulation.)

Relative pitch | The ability to identify an unknown pitch, based on hearing another given pitch. (See also absolute pitch.)

Release | (See bridge.) Also the end of an audio signal or sound; the opposite of attack. (See also attack, decay, and sustain.)

Religioso | A general term that means ‘with devotion.’


Remix | A different version of a musical recording produced by altering the balance of the separate tracks. Also the process of producing such a recording.

Renaissance | The revival of music, art, and literature between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Renaissance music | European music written during the Renaissance (approximately 1430-1600).

Repeat sign | In music notation, a symbol that indicates a section of a piece of music is to be immediately played again.

Repertoire | A selection of compositions mastered and performed by a musician or ensemble.

Repetition | The repeating of a passage or note (See also contrast and variation.)

Replica | A general term that means ‘repeat.’ (Also ancora.)

Reprise | A repeated section or song, generally after other music has been played.

Resolution | In a harmonic progression, the movement from a dissonance (an active, unstable sound) to a consonance (a more restful or stable sound).

Resonance | The quality of a sound that is deep, full, and reverberating. Also, in acoustics, the vibration of separate strings that are tuned to related pitches, vibrating together when only one of the strings is struck. (Also sympathetic vibration.)

Resonator guitar | (See dobro.)

Response | The quality of sound produced on a wind instrument.

Responsorial singing | (See call and response.)

Rest | A symbol used to indicate silence in music; every note value has a corresponding rest sign.

Retardation | A non-chord tone that keeps a note the same and then steps upward; is sustained and accented, as opposed to an anticipation.


Retrograde | In atonal music, the backwards version of a tone row, moving from the last note of the original sequence to the first note.

Retrograde inversion | In atonal music, the backwards and up-side-down version of a tone row.

Retrogression | A chord progression that moves away from (rather than toward) the tonic.

Reverb | (See reverberation.)

Reverberation | (Abbreviation: reverb) The persistence of sound in a space after the original sound has become silent (like a repeating echo); an effect often used in sound recording.

Revolutions per minute | (Abbreviation: rpm) The number of full rotations a vinyl record completes when spinning on a phonograph; different speeds (rpm) are used for certain types of records.

R.H. | An abbreviation for ‘right hand’; sometimes used in music notation for keyboard music. (See also l.h.)

Rhyme | A similarity of sound between different words.

Rhyme scheme | The ordered pattern of rhymes at the ends of the lines of a stanza or verse.

Rhythm | The movement or flow of music through time; a strong, regular, repeated pattern of uneven note duration over the steady background of a beat.

Rhythm and blues | (Abbreviation: R&B) A style of popular music featuring a solo singer accompanied by a small ensemble (piano, guitar, acoustic bass, drums, tenor saxophone), driving rhythms, and blues and pop song forms; a precursor of rock and roll.

Rhythm and lead guitar | A guitar part in a piece of popular music that performs rhythm guitar most of the time, but also performs solos occasionally.

Rhythm guitar | A role within a popular music band, especially a rock band, that outlines the chord progression of a song and provides a rhythmic pulse.

Rhythmic notation | A form of music notation in which chord names are written above the staff and rhythm is indicated using traditional duration, though pitch is unspecified through the use of slashes placed on the center line instead of notes.

Rhythm section | In jazz and popular music bands, the instruments that supply the harmony and rhythm; usually includes a piano, double bass (or electric bass), guitar, and drums.


Ride cymbal | A type of cymbal used to maintain a continuous rhythm, rather than to provide accents; part of a standard drum kit.

Riff | In popular music and jazz, a short, repeated chord progression or melodic pattern often played by rhythm section instruments; its equivalent in art music is the ostinato.

Rim | The metal ring around the head of a drum.

Rim shot | A drum stroke in which the stick hits the rim and the head of a drum at the same time.

Rinforzando | (Abbreviation: rfz.) A dynamic marking that means ‘reinforcing.’

Risoluto | (See decisivo.)

Risvegliato | A dynamic marking that means ‘with more animation.’

Ritardando | (Abbreviation: ritard. or rit.) A tempo marking that means ‘gradually getting slower.’ (Also rallentando, slendendo, slentando, strascinando, or tardando.)

Ritenuto | (Abbreviation: riten. or rit.) A tempo marking that means ‘holding back the tempo, sometimes suddenly taking a slower tempo.’

Ritmico | A general term that means ‘rhythmically.’

Rock | (See rock music.)

Rock and roll | A type of popular music from the 1950s, influenced by country music and rhythm and blues, that features a heavy beat, simple melodies, a twelve-bar structure and instrumentation of guitar, bass, and drums. (Also rock music.)

Rock anthem | (See anthem.)

Rock band | A group of musicians that performs rock music; often forming a quartet that includes a guitarist, lead singer, bass guitarist, and drummer.

Rock music | Another name for rock and roll. More specifically, a type of popular music that evolved from rock and roll and pop music during the mid- and late 1960s, featuring a prominent vocal melody accompanied by guitar, drums, and bass (and sometimes keyboard and wind instruments). (Also rock.)


Rock steady | An early form of Jamaican reggae music in the 1960s, characterized by a slow tempo.

Roman numeral | Any of the letters that represent numbers in the Roman numerical system, used to label chords built from different scale degrees (I = 1, II = 2, III = 3, IV = 4, V = 5, VI = 6, VII = 7). (See also figured bass.)

Roman numeral analysis | The use of Roman numerals and other chord symbols to indicate the quality of chords and their positions in relation to a key center. (See also figured bass.)

Romantic music | A musical style popular in the nineteenth century (Approximately (1820-1900) characterized by an impulsive, adventurous, and passionate approach to composition.

Root | (See fundamental note.)

Root motion | In a chord progression, the movement from one chord’s root to another chord’s root.

Root position | In a chord, an arrangement of notes with the root (fundamental note) as the lowest sounding pitch. (Also normal form chord or uninverted chord.)

Rosalia | (See sequential modulation.)

Rosin | A substance made from hardened tree sap, rubbed on the hair of a bow to help it grip the strings of a violin, viola, cello, or double bass.

Round | A short, simple canon with three or more parts singing the same melody but starting one after the other, at the same pitch or in different octaves (example: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”).

RPM | (See revolutions per minute.)

Rubato | A flexible tempo in which the duration applied to one note is taken (or ‘robbed’) from an adjoining note or notes. (See also dislocation and tempo rubato.)

Rumba | A Latin dance from Cuba in duple meter with syncopated rhythms.

Run | A rapid ascending or descending of notes (often part of a scale) passing quickly or smoothly in a particular direction.

Rural blues | (See country blues.)


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