Glossary of Musical Terms
Our glossary of musical terms lets you look up any musical term unfamiliar to you, and comes to us courtesy of our good friends at Naxos.
D is a note of the scale (= Italian, French: re).
Da capo (Italian: from the beginning), abbreviated to the letters D.C. at the end of a piece of music or a section of it, means that it should be played or sung again from the beginning (De capo al fine) or from the beginning up to the sign (Da capo al segno). A da capo aria, often found in the later baroque period, is an aria in three sections, the third an ornamented repetition of the first.
Decrescendo (Italian: growing less) is used as a direction to performers, meaning becoming softer.
Diminuendo (Italian: becoming less) is used as a direction to performers to play softer.
A divertimento is an instrumental composition intended for entertainment, usually in a number of movements. The term is used particularly in the second half of the 18th century. Haydn described his first string quartets as Divertimenti and the title is also used by Mozart and other composers of the period.
The French word divertissement (= Italian: divertimento) is used in English principally to indicate the additional dance entertainment that is often a part of classical ballet. A well known example would be the series of characteristic dances that entertain the heroine towards the end of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker.
The double bass is the largest and lowest of the instruments of the string section of the orchestra. It has generally four or five strings and its music sounds an octave (eight notes) lower than it is written. If, as often in music before 1800, the double bass plays the same music as the cello, the sound will be an octave lower.
A double bassoon plays an octave lower than the bassoon.
The form of drum generally found in the orchestra is the kettledrum or, in incorrect Italian, timpani, since the Italian singular timpano seldom appears in English usage. Other smaller and larger drums may also be used, including the snare-drum, a smaller instrument with a vibrating strip that can be switched on or off, and the bass drum. Timpani are tunable, nowadays usually by means of pedals that loosen or tighten the drum-skin.
A duet is a piece of music written for two performers. On the piano such a piece would involve two players on one instrument.
A duo is a piece of music for two performers. Written for the piano such a piece would need two performers and two pianos.
Dynamics are the levels of sound, loud or soft, in a piece of music.