Glossary T


Tabla | A pair of small, tuned hand drums attached together and used in Indian music; one is slightly larger than the other and is played using pressure from the heel of the hand to vary the pitch.

Tablature | (Abbreviation: TAB) A system of musical notation that tells players where to place their fingers on a particular instrument rather than which pitches to play; written on lines corresponding to, for example, the strings of a guitar or the holes on a flute.

Tacet | A dynamic marking that means ‘it is silent,’ referring to a voice or instrument.

Tag | (See coda.)

Tailpiece | A piece of metal or wood at the lower end of a stringed instrument to which the strings are attached.

Tall chord | (See extended chord.)

Tambourine | A percussion instrument resembling a small, round drum with metal plates inserted in its rim; played by striking or shaking with the hand.

Tam-tam | (See gong.)

Tango | A passionate Argentinean dance in duple meter with long, gliding steps, marked rhythms and postures, and abrupt pauses.

Tanto | (See molto.)

Tardando | (See ritardando.)

Technique | The mechanical (motor) skill required to sing or play an instrument; a skillful or efficient way of doing or achieving something.

Techno music | A style of fast, heavy electronic dance music, typically with few or no vocals.

Temperament | The tuning of an instrument.

Temple block | (See woodblock.)


Tempo | The speed of the beat in music, which may be expressed in general terms or in beats per minute (using a metronome).

Tempo giusto | A tempo marking that means ‘in strict time.’

Tempo marking | A symbol or phrase (traditionally given in Italian) that indicates the tempo of a piece of music.

Tempo primo | A tempo marking that means ‘return to the beginning tempo.’

Tempo rubato | (See rubato.)

Teneramente | (See dolce.)

Tenor | The highest range of the male voice. Also the lower-pitched member of an instrumental family (example: tenor saxphone).

Tenor clef | A clef that places middle C on the fourth line of the staff; used mostly for the upper ranges of the bassoon, cello, euphonium, double bass, and trombone. (Also C-clef.)

Tenor recorder | A common recorder tuned to C; slightly lower in pitch than the descant (soprano) recorder.

Tenuto | A general term that means ‘held or sustained,’ referring to a note or chord that is held for its full time value or slightly more. (See also sostenuto.)

Tertian harmony | A type of harmony that uses chords built on thirds, as opposed to seconds (secundal) or fourths (quartal); by far, the most common type of harmony in music.

Tessitura | The range of an instrument or a vocal part; voices that remain near the top of their range have a high tessitura, while voices near the bottom of their range have a low tessitura.

Tetrachord | A four-note segment of a scale; one-half of a diatonic major scale.

Text painting | (See word painting.)

Texture | The relationships between melody, harmony, and rhythm in a piece of music.; generally described as monophonic (a single line of melody), heterophonic (elaboration on a single line of melody), homophonic (a single line of melody with harmonic accompaniment), or polyphonic (with many individual melodic lines).


Thematic development | The musical expansion of a theme by varying its melodic outline, harmony, or rhythm. (Also thematic transformation.)

Thematic transformation | (See thematic development.)

Theme | A melodic idea used as a basic building block in the construction of a composition. (See also subject.)

Theme song | (See signature tune.)

Theremin | An electronic musical instrument played without physical touch by waving the hand over wires that create eerie portamento, glissando, tremolo, and vibrato sounds.

Third | An interval of three diatonic degrees. Also, in a chord, the tone that lies a third above the root note.

Third inversion | A chord with four or more notes in which the lowest-sounding pitch is, for example, the seventh.

Thirteenth | A compound interval equal to a sixth. Also, in a chord, the tone that lies a thirtheenth above the root note.

Thirteenth chord | A seven-tone chord spanning a thirteenth between its lowest and highest tones.

Thirty-second note | A note with half the duration of a sixteenth note, represented by a three-flagged stem. (Also demisemiquaver.)

Thirty-second rest | A rest with half the duration of a sixteenth rest. (Also demisemiquaver rest.)

Thorough bass | (See figured bass.)

Through-composed | A song structure with new music for each verse, continually changing from beginning to end.

Thrust stage | A stage that extends out into the audience, so that the audience is seated on three sides of it.

Thumb pick | A thimble-like pick commonly used by banjo players .


Tie | In music notation, a curved line connecting two notes of the same pitch that are played as a single, extended note.

Timbales | A pair of shallow, single-headed drums played with sticks in Latin American dance music.

Timbre | The unique quality of a sound (as distinct from its pitch and intensity) that distinguishes one voice or instrument from another; determined by the size and design of the instrument, and the way it produces sound. (Also tone color.)

Time | The rhythmic pattern or tempo of a piece of music, as expressed by a time signature.

Time signature | In music notation, an indication of rhythm following a clef, which usually includes two numbers: the upper number shows how many beats are in each measure (the quantity of beats), and the lower number shows the note value for each beat (the quality of beats). (Also meter signature.)

Timpani | A set of two or three kettledrums played by one performer in an orchestra or band.

Tin Pan Alley | The hub of of the popular music business in New York City in the late ninteenth century.

Tin sandwich | (See harmonica.)

Tin whistle | A small flutelike instrument made from a thin metal tube, with six finger holes of varying size on top and no thumb holes; commonly used in Irish traditional music. (Also penny whistle.)

Title | The name of a song or composition.

Toccata | A baroque composition for a keyboard instrument designed to exhibit the performer’s touch and technique; full of scale passages, rapid runs and trills, and massive chords.

Tom-tom | A cylindrical drum without snares; part of a standard drum kit.

Tonality | The organized relationship of tones around a central, or home, pitch (tonic).

Tonal music | Music that is based on a tonal center (tonic) or key; by far, the most common and popular type of music in Western culture.

Tone | A musical sound of definite pitch. Also the overall quality of a musical or vocal sound.


Tone cluster | An atonal chord built from adjacent notes in the chromatic scale; the resulting sound is dense and indistinct. (See also note cluster or secundal chord.)

Tone color | (See timbre.)

Tone holes | (See finger holes.)

Tone painting | (See word painting.)

Tone row | A particular sequence of the twelve notes of the chromatic scale used as a basis for twelve-tone (serial) music. (Also series or set.)

Tonguing | On wind instruments, the technique of producing tone effects by interrupting the air flow with the tongue.

Tonic | The first degree, or central note, of the diatonic scale that provides the keynote of a piece of music. Also the triad built on this degree. The tonic serves as the home base or point of rest around which the other pitches revolve and to which they ultimately gravitate. (Also keynote.)

Tonic accent | An emphasis given to a note by virtue of being higher in pitch than surrounding notes.

Tonicization | The treatment of a pitch other than the overall tonic as a temporary tonic in a composition.

Tonicized chord | In a chord progression, a chord that functions temporarily as a tonic (having been preceded by a secondary dominant.)

Top | In a song, the first beat of the first measure (so the phrase, ‘let’s go from the top’ means ‘let’s go from the beginning’).

Topical song | A song that comments on current political and social events.

Tosto | A general term that means ‘rather.’

Track | In sound recording, an individual part of a larger arrangement. On a record, a separate and complete song.

Tracking | The process of recording audio tracks in a studio.


Traditional music | Music that is passed on by example or imitation and performed from memory, without the aid of written notation; easily sung or played by most people. (Also folk music.)

Traditional notation | (See standard notation.)

Trance music | A type of electronic dance music that is typically up-tempo and features hypnotic rhythms and swirling psychedelic sounds.

Tranquillo | (See placidamente.)

Transcription | The act of notating a piece of music or a sound which was previously not written in music notation. Also, an arrangement of a piece of music for a different voice, instrument, or ensemble.

Transient modulation | A change from on key to another that lasts only briefly before the piece modulates again to a different key; the effect of modulation is so short that it does not sound like the real arrival of a new key.

Transition | (See bridge.)

Transposing instrument | An orchestral instrument whose notated pitch is different from its sounded pitch (for example, the clarinet and many brass instruments).

Transposition | The process of shifting a piece of music to a different pitch level or key (that is, raising or lowering each pitch by the same interval). This is usually done when the vocal range is uncomfortable for the singer.

Trap set | (See drum kit.)

Treble | A high-pitched voice (like a boy’s singing voice). Also a part written for a high voice or an instrument of a high pitch (the upper pitch ranges of a musical composition). Also a relatively high-pitched member of a family of similar instruments. Also the high-frequency output of an audio system.

Treble clef | The clef on the grand staff that shows pitches mostly below middle C; a stylized letter “G” that indicates the second line of the staff is named ‘G’; the most common clef in music. (Also G-clef.)

Treble staff | The upper staff (which includes the treble clef) in the grand staff; typically used with instruments of a higher pitch range.

Tre corde | In piano music, a marking that means the left (soft) pedal is released following a section marked ‘una corda.’

Tremolo | (Abbreviation: trem.) A trembling or wavering effect created by a quick repetition of the same note or the rapid alternation between two notes. (See also vibrato.)


Tremolo arm | (See whammy bar.)

Tremolo bar | (See whammy bar.)

Tremolo picking | A guitar playing technique of rapidly moving a pick up and down to hit a string and create a humming, drone-like sound. (Also double picking.)

Triad | A three-note chord built from thirds (with a root, third, and fifth). The four types of triad are: major, minor, augmented, and diminished. (See also tertian harmony.)

Triangle | A percussion instrument made from a slender steel rod bent into a triangle and struck with a small steel beater to produce a bright, tinkling sound.

Trill | A quavering or warbling sound produced by a rapid alternation between notes that are a half-tone or whole-tone apart.

Trio | A group of three musicians. Also a composition written for three voices or instruments.

Triple meter | (See triple time.)

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

Triplet | A group of three equal notes performed in the time usually given to two or four (indicated by a bracket and the number 3).

Triple time | A time signature with three beats to the measure. (Also triple meter.)

Triple tonguing | On a wind instrument, the use of alternating movements of the tongue (typically forming the sounds t-t-k) while playing rapid passages.

Tritone | A dissonant interval of three whole steps between two notes; an important interval in the relationship between the circle of fifths and the chromatic scale. (Also augmented fourth or diminished fifth.)

Tritone substitution | The substitution of a chord whose root is a tritone away from the originally intended chord (example: replacing a B7 chord with an F7 chord).

Trombone | A large brass instrument with a moveable U-shaped slide that alters the length of the vibrating tube; an Italian term that means ‘large trumpet.’ (See also valve trombone.)


Troppo | A general term that means ‘too much or excessively.’

Troubadour | A medieval poet-musician of southern France.

Trouvere | A medieval poet-musician of northern France.

Trumpet | A brass instrument with a flared bell and a bright, penetrating timbre; the highest pitched member of the brass family.

Tuba | A large brass wind instrument of bass pitch, with three to six valves and a broad bell typically facing upward.

Tubular bells | (See chimes.)

Tune | The (generally catchy) melody in a piece of music.

Tuner | A person or device that tunes (or adjusts the pitch of) a musical instrument.

Tuning | The process of adjusting a musical instrument to the correct or uniform pitch.

Tuning peg | A peg or knob used to hold a string in the pegbox of a stringed instrument (like the guitar).

Tuning pin | A pin to which the strings of a piano or harpsichord are attached.

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

Turnaround | In a song, a chord progression that ends one section and leads smoothly into a repeated section.

Turntable | (See record player.) Also a device used by a disc jockey (DJ) to mix and scratch records.

Tutta forza | A dynamic marking that means ‘as loud as possible.’

Tutti | A general term that means ‘all,’ as in ‘all voices or instruments together’; the opposite of solo.

Tweeter | A loudspeaker designed to reproduce high frequencies.

Twelve-bar blues | A chord structure based on a repeated harmonic and rhythmic pattern of three chords in twelve measures (I-I-I-I-IV-IV-I-I-V-V-I-I).

Twelve-string guitar | An acoustic or electric guitar with twelve strings (placed in courses), which produces a richer, more ringing tone than a standard six-string guitar.

Twelve-tone music | A type of atonal music developed in the twentieth century that applies mathematical rules to manipulate all twelve chromatic tones without using a key or tonic. (Also serial music.)

Twentieth Century music | Classical music written during the twentheith century (approximately 1900-2000).


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