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.
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: maître 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. The key in which a piece of music is written indicates the scale used and the key note or home note, on the chord of which it must end. Not all music is in a key, since attempts have been made in the 20th century to extend music beyond the supposed limitations of key or tonality. It is, in any case, only the very simplest music that remains in one key throughout. Contrast is usually sought by changes of key during a composition, which will end in the key in which it began, although mode may change from major to minor (that is, a symphony in C minor may end with a movement in C major, after intervening movements in other keys). The Fifth Symphony of Beethoven, for example, is in C minor and opens with a movement in that key, followed by a slow movement in A flat major, a C minor third movement with a Trio section in C major and a last movement in C major.
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. In the scale of C major, played on the white notes of the piano, these semitones fall between E and F and between B and C, a fact apparent from the piano keyboard, where there is no black key between the notes that form these pairs. To keep the same pattern in the scale of G, the note F must be raised to F sharp, so that there is still a semitone between the seventh and eighth notes of the scale. Major key signatures can be calculated on the same system. Each key with an extra sharp starts on a key note a fifth higher, while the keys with flats are in a descending order of fifths. C major itself has no sharps or flats, G has one sharp, D two, A three, E four, B five, F sharp six and C sharp major seven, each new sharp the seventh note of the scale. Descending in fifths, F has one flat, B flat two flats, E flat, three, A flat four, D flat five, G flat six and C flat seven, each new flat the fourth note 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.