Glossary of Musical Terms


Chapel (= German: Kapelle; Italian: cappella; French: chapelle) is a musical establishment, generally of a king, prince or other ruler.


The Kapellmeister is the director of music (= Italian: maestro di cappella; French: maƮtre de chapelle) of a musical establishment, either of a king or prince, or of an opera-house or municipality. The term Kapellmeistermusik has a pejorative implication, suggesting music that is correct but uninspired, a criticism widely if inaccurately applied to a number of 19th century composers now subject to re-evaluation.


Keys on a musical instrument are the levers which when depressed produce a particular pitch of note. The word may be applied to keyboard instruments such as the piano, the organ and the harpsichord, or to the metal keys on woodwind instruments such as the flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon.

Key signature

The key signature is the sharps or flats, or absence of either, at the beginning of a piece of music, indicating the sharps, flats and naturals belonging to the key of the music. Since a major or minor scale, the two now in common use, has a fixed order of tones and semitones (whole steps and half steps), these can only be preserved when there is a change of key note by the addition of sharps or flats. In the major scale, for example, there are semitones or half steps between the third and fourth degrees and seventh and eighth degrees of the scale.


The leader of an orchestra (that is, the principal first violin) is known in German as a Konzertmeister and in the United States as a concertmaster, the latter term now finding more general favour in other English-speaking countries, apart from Great Britain, where the word leader is still preferred.