Guitarist's Glossary of Musical Terms
Peter Kun Frary, Professor of Music • University of Hawaii, Leeward

AB CDE F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


A
accelerando (Italian), "accelerate." Gradually increase the tempo. Abbr.: accel.

adagio (Italian), "slowly, at ease." Slower than andante and faster than largo.

ad libitum (Latin), "at liberty." 1) After an instrument name (e.g., Guitar II ad libitum) it indicates the optional omission of that part. 2) As a tempo marking it indicates rhythmic freedom. 3) In a cadenza it indicates improvisation or rhythmic freedom. Abbr.: ad lib.

affettuoso (Italian), "affectionate.

agitato (Italian), "agitated."

alla breve (Italian), "in shortness." Cut time or 2/2 meter. Indicated with the symbol "¢."

allargando (Italian), "broadening, becoming slower."

allegretto (Italian), "cheerful, lively." Moderately fast but a little slower than allegro.

allegro (Italian), "cheerful, lively." Fast.

andante (Italian), "walking." Moderately slow: faster than adagio and slower than allegro.

andantino (Italian). A little faster than andante.

animando, animato, animandosi (Italian), "animating, animated, becoming animated."

apoyando (Spanish), "leaning." Rest stroke.

appassionato (Italian), "passionately."

arm., abbr. for armonici (harmonic).

armonici (Italian), "harmonic." Abbr.: arm.

assai (Italian) "much, very." Allegro assai: very lively.

a tempo (Italian), "in tempo." Resume normal tempo.


B

B [plus Roman numeral), abbr. for barré or bar.

bar (English), barré (French). Fretting of two or more strings with the first finger. Indicated with a capitol B and a Roman numeral corresponding to the fret: BIII, bar third fret. A slash through the letter indicates a half bar.

brio, con (Italian), "with vigor."


C

C [plus Roman numeral, e.g., CIV], abbr. for capotasto or ceja.

cantabile, cantando (Italian), "songlike, singing."

capotasto (Italian), ceja, cejilla (Spanish). Barré or bar. Indicated with a capitol C and a Roman numeral corresponding to the fret: CIII, bar the third fret. A slash through the letter (¢) indicates a half bar.

con (Italian), "with." For phrases beginning with this term, see the second word.

cresc., abbr. for crescendo.

crescendo (Italian). Gradual increase in volume. Abbr.: cresc.


D

da capo (Italian), "from the head." Return to the beginning. Abbr.: D.C. Da capo al fine: return to the beginning and play to fine. Da capo al : return to the beginning and skip ahead to the next occurrence of the sign (the coda).

dal segno (Italian), "[play] from the sign ." Abbr.: D.S. Dal segno al fine: go to the sign and end at fine.

D.C., abbr. for da capo.

D.S., abbr. for dal segno.

decresc., abbr. for decrescendo.

decrescendo (Italian). Gradual decrease in volume. See diminuendo. Abbr.: decresc.

dim., abbr. for diminuendo.

diminuendo (Italian). Gradual decrease in volume. See decrescendo. Abbr.: dim.

dolce, (Italian), "sweetly, softly.

doloroso (Italian), "painful, sorrowful."


E

espressivo (Italian), "expressively."

étouffé (French), "suffocate or smother." The technique of muting (not stopping) a tone by laying the palm on the bridge while plucking the string. See pizzicato.


F

f, abbr. for forte.

ff, abbr. for fortissimo.

fine (Italian), "finish, end." See da capo.

forte (Italian), "loud." Abbr.: f.

fortissimo (Italian), "very loud." Abbr.: ff.

forzando, forzato (Italian), "forced." A sudden stress on a single note or chord in a passage. Abbr.: fz. See sforzando.

fz, abbr. for forzando or forzato.


G

gliss., abbr. for glissando.

glissando (Italian), "slide." A rapid succession of pitches made by sliding a finger up or down a string. Indicated with a straight line between note heads. Abbr.: gliss.

golpe (Spanish) "blow, stroke." Percussive tapping on the guitar body. See tambora.

grave (Italian), "heavy, solemn." Slow and serious. Similar to adagio.

grazioso (Italian), "graceful."


H-I-J-K

har., harm., abbr. for harmonic or harmoniques.

harmonic (English), harmoniques (French), "overtone." Abbr.: har., harm. See armonici.


L

larghetto (Italian). Slow and broad but faster than largo.

largo (Italian), "wide." Slow and broad.

legato (Italian), "bound." Played smoothly with no separation between notes.

leggiero (Italian), "lightly." Light, nimble and quick. Abbr.: legg.

lento, lentamente (Italian) "slow."


M

maestoso (Italian), "majestically."

marcato (Italian), "marked." With emphasis or stress. Abbr.: marc.

meno (Italian), "less." Meno mosso: less moved (slower).

metàlico (Spanish), "metallic." Play near the bridge. See sul ponticello.

mezzo forte (Italian), "half loud." Moderately loud (softer than forte, louder than mezzo piano). Abbr.: mf.

mezzo piano (Italian), "half soft." Moderately soft (louder than piano, softer than mezzo forte). Abbr.: mp.

mf, abbr. for mezzo forte.

moderato (Italian), "moderately." A tempo midway between andante and allegro.

molto (Italian), "very, much." Molto accelerando: accelerate greatly.

morendo (Italian), "fading away, dying."

mosso (Italian), "moved."

mp, abbr. for mezzo piano.


N-O

niente (Italian), "nothing." Diminuendo niente: decrescendo [to] nothing (until inaudible).

non troppo (Italian), "not too much." Allegro non troppo: lively [but] not too lively.


P

p, abbr. for piano.

perdendosi (Italian), "dying away." See morendo.

pesante (Italian), "heavy." Play with emphasis.

piacere, a (Italian), "to please." With rhythmic freedom.

pianissimo (Italian), "very soft" (softer than piano). Abbr.: pp.

piano (Italian), "soft." Abbr.: p.

più (Italian), "more."

più mosso (Italian), "more moved." Faster.

pizz., abbr. for pizzicato.

pizzicato (Italian), "to pluck or pinch." The technique of muting--but not stopping--the strings by laying the palm on the bridge while playing. Abbr.: pizz. See étouffé.

poco (Italian), "little." Poco crescendo: crescendo slightly.

poco a poco (Italian), "little by little." Poco a poco crescendo: crescendo in small increments.

pp, abbr. for pianissimo.

prestissimo (Italian). As fast as possible.

presto (Italian), "quickly." Very fast, faster than allegro.


Q-R

quasi (Italian), "almost." Quasi allegro: almost allegro (slightly slower than allegro).

rall., abbr. for rallentando.

rallentando (Italian), "slowing down." Abbr.: rall. See ritardando.

rasgueado (Spanish). A strumming technique which uses the fingernails to strike the strings in an outward motion. Abbr.: rasg.

risoluto (Italian), "resolute, energetic."

rit., abbr. for ritardando.

ritardando (Italian), "gradually slowing down." Abbr.: rit., ritard. See rallentando.

ritenuto (Italian), "held back." A sudden slowing of tempo. Abbr.: riten.

ritmico (Italian), "rhythmic."

rubato (Italian), "rob." Use of a flexible beat.


S

scherzando (Italian), scherzhaft (German), "playfully."

schnell (German), "fast."

segue (Italian) "follows." Indicates that a movement or section should continue without a break.

sempre (Italian), "continuously, always." Sempre legato: continuously legato.

senza (Italian), "without." Senza tempo, senza misura: without a strict tempo.

sforzando, sforzato (Italian), "forcing." A sudden stress on a note or chord. Abbr.: sfz or sf. See forzando.

sfz, sf, abbr. for sforzando or sforzato.

simile (Italian), "same." Continue in the same manner.

slentando (Italian), "slowing down."

sostenuto (Italian), "sustained." Andante sostenuto: moderately slow [and] sustained. Abbr.: sost.

staccato (Italian), "detached." Durations are shortened by touching the string immediately after plucking it. Indicated by a dot over or under the note.

stendendo (Italian), "slowing or stretching out."

stentando, stentato (Italian), "halting, labored."

stringendo (Italian), "pressing, becoming faster."

subito (Italian), "suddenly." p subito: suddenly soft.

sul ponticello (Italian), "on the bridge." Pluck the string near the bridge. Produces a metallic tone. Abbr.: sul pont. or pont.

sul tasto (Italian), "on the fingerboard." Pluck the string over the fingerboard between the 12th and 19th frets. Produces a soft, hollow tone. Abbr.: tasto.

sul, sulla (Italian). Preposition meaning at, on or on the. Sul Re or sul D: on the D [string].


T

tambora (Spanish), "two-headed drum." Percussive tapping on the guitar. See golpe.

tanto (Italian), "so much." Non tanto: not so much.

tempo (Italian), "time." Speed of the beat.

tempo primo (Italian), "first tempo." Return to the original tempo.

ten., abbr. for tenuto.

teneramente (Italian), "tenderly."

tenuto (Italian), "held." The holding of a note pass its indicated value, slightly delaying the following beat. Indicated by an abbreviation (ten.) or a short dash (-) over or under the note.

tirando (Spanish). Free stroke.

tristamente (Italian), "sadly, sorrowfully."


U-V-W-X-Y-Z

un (Italian). Indefinite article similar to 'a' in English: un poco rubato, a little rubato.

vivace (Italian), "lively, brisk." The same or faster than allegro. If used after another term (allegro vivace), play faster than the first term's normal tempo.

vivo (Italian), "lively, brisk."


©Copyright 2001-2017 by Peter Kun Frary • All Rights Reserved

AB CDE F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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