Music Vocabulary List: 50+ Great Beginner Terms

A music vocabulary list is something that is super important to have! I have quickly summarized all the important terms into a quick list, so you can play almost every classical piece with ease. Scroll down to get right to the list!

The style or fashion in which a particular piece of music should be played has equal importance to prescriptive music notation such as beats, melody, or pitch. Such notation may describe whether the music should be played energetically, solemnly, or sweetly. But such symbols are usually denoted in Latin, which could be confusing for a beginner. So whether you play Violin or Piano this can help you out a little bit on your journey to learning Music Vocabulary. You might also want to look into Diction while you are here…. anyway enjoy this music vocabulary list.

Online Music Resource for Teachers and Students

Handouts displaying a glossary of Latin music terminology will prove invaluable for students who need a quick reference guide when it comes to music composition or performing.

Other musical elements that are great for students are musical note values, pentatonic scales, and standard music scales. The following music definitions for teachers and students can be used in preparation for a music course!

Music Vocabulary List Oversized

Music Vocabulary List For Tempo

The following describes the speed at which the music should be played:

  • Lento: Very slow
  • Largo: Quite slow
  • Larghetto: Moderately slow
  • Adagio: Slow
  • Grave: Solemnly
  • Adante: At walking pace
  • Moderato: Moderate pace
  • Andantino: Marching pace
  • Allegretto: Moderately fast
  • Allegro: Lively
  • Vivace: Vivaciously
  • Presto: Very fast
  • Prestissimo: Speedily
  • Guisto: In exact timing

Music Vocabulary List Describing Tempo Variations in Music

Music that requires a shifting pace in tempo can be notated in the following ways:

  • Accelerando (Accel.): Gradually accelerating in tempo
  • Allargando (Allarg.): Gradually decelerating in tempo
  • A Tempo: Go back to normal speed after a deviation
  • Doppio movinmento: Double the momentum
  • Meno mosso: Abruptly slower
  • Pui allegro: Faster
  • Pui moto: Abruptly faster
  • Rallentando (Rall): Becoming slower
  • Ritardando (Ritard): Gradually slower
  • Stringendo (String.): Becoming gradually faster in pace
  • Temp primo: Back to original speed
Glasses on Music Sheet
Now for Dynamics

Terminology on Dynamics in Music

Learning music notation not only involves the pitch and length of each note but how the music should be played, whether it should possess a marching quality, grandiosity, solemnity, or love. Most sheet music will contain Latin music notation that defines the manner in which the music should be played. Providing a handy source of information on what each means will help familiarise students with them as well as enhance music performance and composition.

Music Vocabulary List For Dynamics (General)

A piece that needs to be played at a particular volume will use the following notations:

  • Pianissimo (pp): Very softly
  • Piano (p): Softly
  • Mezzo piano (mp): Moderately softly
  • Mezzo forte (mf): Moderately loudly
  • Forte (f): Loudly
  • Fortissimo (ff): Very loudly

Music Vocabulary List For Music Dynamics (Specific)

A specific quality or emphasis on the music can be described by the following notation:

  • Affrettando: At a hurried pace
  • Alla Marcia: At marching pace
  • Cantabile or Cantando: In the style of a singing voice
  • Con grazia: Gracefully
  • Glissando (Gliss.): Gliding over adjacent notes on a stringed instrument
  • Legato: Smoothness
  • Marcato: With emphasis on each note
  • Parlando: In a speaking voice
  • Semplice: Simply
  • Sonore: Deep and resonating
  • Sostenuto: In a sustained way

Music Vocabulary List Describing Changing Dynamics

Any variation in tone or volume within sheet music may contain any of the following terms:

  • Calando: Decrease in both speed and tone
  • Crescendo (Cresc.): Gradually increasing in tone
  • Decrescendo (Decresc.): Gradually becoming softer in tone
  • Dimineuendo (Dim.): Becoming gradually softer
  • Forte piano (fp): Loud followed by soft
  • Morendo: Diminishing away
  • Perdendosi: Diminishing away and decreasing in tempo
  • Smorzando (Smorz): Diminishing away
Musical Sheet
Now for Musical Terms Dealing With Emotion

Music Vocabulary List Emotions: For Sweetness, Passion or Love in Music

Soft or ardent expression within music may contain any of the following:

  • Animato: In animated style
  • Appassionato: Play with passion
  • Con amore: Expressively or with love
  • Con anima: With feeling and heart
  • Con fuoco: With fiery passion
  • Delicato: Delicately
  • Dolce: With sweetness
  • Dolcissimo: Very sweetly
  • Volante: Swiftly and lightly

Music Vocabulary List Emotions: Wrath, Solemnity or Sadness in Music

Negative emotions within music may contain the following notation:

  • Agitato: In agitated style
  • Dolento: With sadness
  • Dolore: With Grief and sorrow
  • Furioso: With fury
  • Piangevole: Plaintive
  • Serioso: Seriously

Music Vocabulary List Describing Other Emotions in Music

Injecting any other type of emotion or passion into music may be described by using the following terminology within sheet music:

  • Ad libitum (Ad lib.): Speed and style at the discretion of the performer
  • Bravura: With boldness and spirit
  • Brillante: Brilliantly, fiercely
  • Con brio: Vigorously
  • Con forza: Forcibly
  • Con spirit: With spirit
  • Energico: Energetically
  • Giocoso: In a comical way
  • Leggiero: With lightness and delicacy
  • Maestoso: With nobility and majesty
  • Pesante: With weight
  • Pomposo: With pomp and dignity
  • Risoluto: With boldness and resoluteness
  • Scherzando: Playfully
  • Sotto voce: In an undertone
  • Strepitoso: In a noisy and boisterous way
  • Tranquillo: With tranquillity
  • Vigoroso: With vigour and boldness
  • Vivo: Lively
Hand reaching for paper
Final Terms and Goodbye

Other General Music Terminology for Reference

The following commonly-used musical terms are also used in sheet music as modifiers:

  • Assai: Very
  • Con: With
  • Da Capo (D.C.): From the start
  • Fine: End
  • Meno: With less
  • Molto: With a lot
  • Pausa: Rest or pause
  • Poco a poco: A little at a time
  • Piu: More
  • Senza: Without
  • Subito: Sudden
  • Tacet: Silence
  • Tutti: All
  • Un poco: Little


If you didn’t find the term you are looking for check for the complete list here!

Parlours Music

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