13 Useful Musical Terms

13 Useful Italian musical Terms to enhance Your Music

For all musicians. Not just guitarists. Italian musical terms were used to describe how a piece of music should be played back in the days of the Great composers. If you look at scores from the great composers, or anyone for that matter, you will see marks on the actual scores with these Italian musical terms all over them.

Below Ive listed only 13 of them. There are literally too many of them to put into one post so I’ve limited it to the lucky number 13.

This should prevent any information overload. You can find useful Italian musical terms all over the internet as well. But first, read these here as I explain them.

These Italian musical terms come from “the pocket manual musical terms” fifth edition – by Theodore Baker

 

13 Italian Musical Terms 

Con fuoco – with fire, fiery, spirited

I heard something Pavarotti said in a video not too long ago. He was talking about singing and that he would, or had to…sing some parts of his music with fire. Very interesting. He had dig down deep and belt out those notes with fire.

Furioso – Furiously, wildly

This is probably my favorite way to play. Very interesting as well that it is an actual musical term.

ABA – classical song form, the first section comes back in at the end

Here you have a theme in the beginning with or without an intro, then a second theme. The first theme then comes back in at the end either in the same way as the first time or slightly altered to add interest.

Con Abbandono (with abandon) – Yielding wholly to emotion; with a burst of passion; carried away by feelings

Every time I read these words they give me a sense of true musicianship. In other words, I can’t believe that these were actual terms used back then to describe the manner in which to play a piece of music.

Abellimenti – embellishments

These can be slides, bent notes, vibrato etc…

Abendmusik – German for evening music

I never even knew they considered the term night music until I heard Chopin’s Nocturnes. I immediately felt better about all of my darker pieces of music.

A bene placito – at pleasure; meaning that the tempo may be altered, graces or cadenzas added, or that certain specified instruments may be used, or not, at the performers pleasure

This is sort of like the setting for a jam band. You can keep going, add things, take away things, play them faster, switch instruments.

A capriccio – as a Caprice; according to one’s own fancy

This means ones own mental image or conception of the tempo. For some reason when I hear a caprice it’s usually lightning speed.

Accelerando – accelerating, growing faster

Simply means to speed up gradually.

Accelerato – Accelerated, livelier, faster

Play faster.

Accent – A stress, or added emphasis given to notes

Accent certain notes. Or even just one. Sometimes there can be 3 or more accented notes in a measure. This adds to the dynamics of the piece and can dramatically change the way one perceives it.

Acciaccato – Vehemently

Vehemently means showing strong, and often angry, feelings. Play with intense emotions. Usually play like this myself.

Acciaccatura – 1. A short accented appoggiatura. 2. a note a 2nd above, and struck with, the principal note, and instantly released

This is an awesome way to get to a note. For example if you wanted to hit an e note on the 3rd string of the 9th fret – you would strike the 10th fret on the 3rd string while holding down an E note an octave or more below (7th fret of the 5th string, or the Low E open.)

It can also be done by another player. For instance if I’m doubling my melody with a violin player, and we want to emphasize the E note using an acciaccatura one of us would play E and the other would play F or F# then instantly releasing it (pull-off) to the E note. This causes strong tension at first and then releases you after the released note.

Accidental – any chromatic sign not found in the key signature, occurring in the course of a piece

An accidental is simply a note out of key. It can be any chromatic note as used in all types of genres. Lets say I want to use a borrowed chord from another key, I would need to let the reader know that those notes are from another key by using accidentals. The accidentals are natural signs, flat signs or sharp signs. As in F natural which looks like a little box, a flat sign which looks like (b) and a sharp sign which looks like (#). All accidentals are written to the left of the note on the staff.


 

Start thinking about these Italian musical terms, use them, apply them. They will make your music more interesting. Find your own and then find your favorite. Music is such a vast subject. Someone once said from a book I read. He was a teacher and conductor. He said:

“Nobody has a corner on music.”

This quote means that you might go your whole life and not know everything about music. In fact, no one ever has.

Check out the other articles below for some more good stuff.

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