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Understand and Know Classical Music Vocabulary with This Glossary of Terms for Symphony Orchestra

Need to know the difference between a symphony and the orchestra? An ensemble and a concerto? Fanfare and a requiem?

Understand and Know Classical Music Vocabulary with This Glossary of Terms for Symphony Orchestra
By The Flash List

We don't want to bog you down with an overweight backpack of heavy music vocabulary, but we would like to share a few terms that you might like to know before you head over to the symphony.


The People


Performance Artists

Musicians and artists invovled in visual as well as dramatic or musical activity such as theater, film, dance, etc.


Orchestra

A performing group playing various instruments including:

  • String instruments (violin, viola, cello, double bass, guitar, etc.)
  • Woodwind instruments (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone, etc)
  • Brass instruments (trumpet, trombone, tuba, French horn, coronet, etc.)
  • Percussion instruments (drums, cymbals, piano, bells, tambourine, etc.)

Wind Orchestra (wind band or concert band)

Musical group consisting of woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments.


Conductor

Person who leads the orchestra by means of gestures and indications.


Ensemble (pronounced on-sahm-bull)

Musical performing group 'assembled' together such as an orchestra, choir, chamber group, or band.


The Music


Melody

A succession of singles tones; a simple song.


Harmony

The combination of two or more different notes sounding simultaneously.


Texture

The interweaving of melodic and harmonic elements in music.


Symphony

A large instrumental composition generally divided into three or four parts.


March

A piece of music written for marching to.


Concerto (pronounced kuhn-chair-toe)

A piece of music written for a soloist and an accompanying orchestra.


Suite (pronounced sweet)

An ordered set of musical pieces which may be derived from an opera, movie, or ballet (such as the Nutcracker Suite).


Overture

An instrumental introduction for opera, ballet, or an oratorio.


Movement

Complete, self-contained sections, or parts, of a larger musical work.


Fanfare

A short piece of music played by brass instruments and trumpets (and sometimes percussion), usually for ceremonial purposes.


Requiem (pronounced rek-wee-em)

A musical composition associated with death or mourning.


Tempo

The rate, speed, or pace of the music.


Crescendo

A gradual increase in the volume or force of music.


Register

The specific range in the sound of an instrument or voice


SATB (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass)

  • Soprano - the highest singing voice of a woman or young boy.
  • Alto - A low female singing voice.
  • Tenor - A high adult male voice.
  • Bass - a male singing voice of the lowest range.

More? Oh yes, of course there's more! But we'll let these terms marinate for now. One chapter at a time ...

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