Violin Online Music Glossary

Learn the definition of musical terms used in violin music
by Dr. Robin Kay Deverich

  • A tempo In tempo. "A tempo" is used after some variation in the tempo, and means return to the original tempo or speed.
  • Accelerando  Accelerate or gradually increase the tempo or speed of the music.
  • Accent  An accent placed over or under a note means the note should be emphasized by playing forcefully. Indicated by the sign: >
  • Accidentals  A sign indicating a momentary departure from the key signature by using a flat, sharp or natural to temporarily alter the pitch of a note by a half step. Accidentals apply to the note immediately following the symbol, and remain in effect throughout the measure in which it appears. 
  • Adagio  A slow, leisurely tempo, often considered to be slower than andante, but not quite as slow as largo. Slow movements of a piece are sometimes titled Adagio.
  • Agitato  Agitated or restless. Agitato is a direction to play in an agitated manner.
  • Air  A melody, tune or song. In fiddle music, airs are often played slowly with rubato, and are not dance tunes.
  • Aleatory  Comes from the Latin term alea, meaning "a game of dice." Aleatory music is also called chance music. Chance or indeterminancy may affect compositional elements, the performance, or both. For example, the performers may throw dice to determine compositional elements such as rhythmic or pitch choices.
  • Allegretto  A lively and moderately fast tempo. Often considered to be slower than allegro, but faster than andante.
  • Allegro  A quick, lively and fast tempo (not quite as fast as presto).
  • Amore  Play with love, lovingly.
  • Andante  A moderately slow tempo. Often considered to be a walking speed.
  • Andantino  A slightly slower tempo than andante (andante is a moderately slow tempo).
  • Animando  Play with increasing animation, liveliness, and expression.
  • Animato  "Animated" or spirited. Play in a lively, spirited manner.
  • Appassionato  Play passionately or with intense emotion and feeling.
  • Arco  Arco is Italian for bow. After a pizzicato (plucked) section of music, arco is often used to indicate the next passage of music should be played with the bow.
  • Aria  An elaborate vocal solo with instrumental accompaniment, used in genres such as an opera, oratorio or cantata.
  • Articulation  Articulation describes the manner of providing definition and shape to individual notes or phrases. For string players, this involves both the right and left hand. The main markings are a dot . which means shorten the note, a line _ or slur  which means play the note smoothly, and an accent > which means add a forceful emphasis. These markings are often used in combination with each other, and mean many different things to different musicians. 
  • Assai  Assai means "very" in Italian. It modifies other terms when added to them, e.g. allegro assai means very fast.
  • Assez  Assez means "enough" or "rather" in French. It modifies other terms when added to them, e.g. assez vif means "rather lively" in French (vif means lively), and assez vite means "rather fast" (vite means fast).
  • Atonality  Music with an absence of tonality. Traditional tonal structures are intentionally ignored or abandoned in this contemporary form of music. 
  • Au talon  Talon is French for heel, and the term au talon, “at the heel,” means play the music with the bow hair at the heel or bottom part of the bow, closest to the hand (other terms for playing music using the bottom part of the bow include "at the frog", heel or nut).
  • Augmented  Augmented means raised, and when the term augmented is combined with a specific interval between notes, it means to raise the interval by a half-step. For example, an augmented fourth is a half-step larger than the interval of a perfect fourth.
  • Ballata  A ballata is a 14th century Italian secular song. It is a monophonic composition often in the following pattern: A b b a A.
  • Bariolage  Bariolage is a French term which means an "odd mixture of colors," and directs the string player to achieve a contrast in tone colors by playing on different strings. An example of bariolage is when the same note is played, alternating between open strings and stopped strings, or by playing a repeated passage and oscillating between two, three, or four strings. Fingering is often used to indicate bariolage.
  • Binary  Binary means dual or two parts.
  • Blue notes When the third, fifth, or seventh notes of a major scale are flattened, these notes are called blue notes. Blue notes are frequently used in blues and jazz music
  • Bow lift  The sign for a bow lift is:   and indicates the string player should lift their bow, and return it to its starting point.
  • Bravura  Play brilliantly with boldness and spirit. The term bravura is sometimes used in passages where virtuosic skill is required of the performer.
  • Breve  Short.
  • Brio  Spirited and lively. Con brio means play with spirit in a vivacious manner.
  • Caccia  Caccia means chase or hunt, and describes a canonic form of music, often with two voices chasing each other with an underlying third part. Hunting music themes were often used in this form of music.
  • Cantabile  Cantabile means singing, and is a musical direction to play in a singing vocal style.
  • Cantata  The term cantata means "to be sung" (as opposed to sonata, an instrumental work which means "to be played"). A cantata is a vocal work with instrumental accompaniment. It may be sacred or secular, and often contains sections such as solos, choruses, and recitatives. 
  • Chamber music  The term chamber music describes music suitable for performance in a chamber, meaning a room or small hall instead of a large concert hall. Today, chamber music is used to describe instrumental music performed by a small ensemble such as a quartet, trio or chamber orchestra.   
  • Coda  An Italian word for "tail," coda is a musical term referring to a concluding section of a composition.
  • Col legno "With the wood." Col legno means to strike the string with the stick of the bow rather than the hair (it is also called col legno battuto). When there are extended col legno passages in music, some professional violinists use inexpensive bows to avoid damaging their expensive bows. Col legno tratto is a less commonly used bowing direction. It indicates draw the wood of the bow across the string (use with caution, this can damage the wood of the bow). 
  • Collé  Collé means glued. It is a very short stroke, and begins with the bow lightly contacting the string with a distinct and short, sharp pinch. The bow is then lifted to prepare for the next stroke.
  • Comodo  Comodo is Italian for a comfortable, leisurely and convenient tempo or speed, neither too fast nor too slow.
  • Con  Con means "with" or in a style expressive of a certain quality. It is often used to modify another term such as con spirito, meaning to play with a spirited style.
  • Concerto  An instrumental composition for solo instrument(s), often in three movements, frequently accompanied by an orchestra. The sequence of the movements in a concerto generally is fast-slow-fast.
  • Concerto grosso  An instrumental concerto for a small group of soloists (called the concertino), which play in contrast to the main body of instrumentalists or orchestra (called the ripieno or tutti).
  • Continuo  Also known as basso continuo or figured bass, the term continuo describes a bass part in a composition, often with numbers over the notes to indicate harmonic intervals that should be played above the bass line. During the Baroque period, the figured bass or continuo was commonly used by a keyboard player such as a harpsichord to provide harmonic accompaniments (a cello frequently played the continuo part along with the harpsichord).
  • Crescendo  Crescendo (cresc.) means to gradually become louder, and is indicated by the sign:
  • Da capo (D.C.) repeat from the beginning.
  • Da segno (D.S.) repeat from the sign.
  • D.C. al Coda means go back to the beginning of the piece, play to the "Coda" sign: , then jump to the Coda section to finish the piece (Coda means "tail," and refers to a concluding section of a piece).
  • D.C. al Fine means go back to the beginning, and end at the Fine marking (D.C. is an abbreviation for "da capo," and means "from the beginning" and Fine means "end").
  • Détaché  Détaché indicates a smooth, separate bow strokes should be used for each note (it does not mean detached or disconnected). Notes are of equal value, and are produced with an even, seamless stroke with no variation in pressure.
  • Détaché lancé   Détaché lancé is a variation of the détaché bow stroke, and is a slightly separated bow stroke that gently articulates the notes with an unaccented, distinct break between each note. It is often used in combination with the louré or porté stroke to perform several separated notes in the same bow. A combination of a line with a dot over or under it is often used to indicate this bowing. 
  • Diminuendo  Diminuendo (dim.) means to gradually become softer. The term decrescendo (decresc. or decr.) also means to become softer, and is indicated by the sign:
  • Dolce  Dolce is a direction to play sweetly, softly and gently.
  • Down bow  The sign for down bow is    and indicates a downward stroke of the bow from frog to tip. 
  • Drone  A drone is a continuous pitch, held for an extended time beneath the melody to serve as an aural reference point. In early music, drones generally were not notated in manuscripts, so performers should use their judgment in using them. In fiddle music, drones are often played as double stops, with the fiddler playing a drone on one string, while playing the melody on another.
  • Dynamics  A term that indicates the degree of loudness or softness in music. When the dynamic level is changed instantaneously, it is called terraced or changed dynamics (this was popular during the Baroque period). When the Italian word "issimo" is added to a dynamic term, it means very, extremely, or as much as is possible. e.g. pianissimo means "as soft as is possible" and fortissimo means "as loud as is possible."
  • Fermata  The sign  under or over a note or rest indicates the note or rest should be held and prolonged at the discretion of the performer or conductor (this sign is also called a "hold" or by the nickname "bird’s eye").
  • First and second endings  First and second endings are repeat signs, and should be played as follows: play the first ending the first time through the music, repeat to the beginning of the section, then skip over the first ending and play the second ending.
  • Flautando  Flautando is a bowing direction to bow slightly over the fingerboard to produce a flutelike sound effect.
  • Forte  Forte means loud, and is indicated by the marking: f
  • Fortissimo  Fortissimo means the music should be very loud, and is indicated by the marking: ff
  • Fortississimo  Fortississimo means the music should be played as loudly as possible, and is indicated by the marking: fff
  • Frog  The bottom part of the bow, a block of wood (often ebony) that bow hairs are attached to. When music indicates “play at the frog,” it means to use the bottom part of the bow hair, closest to the frog, for that section of music. Some scholars postulate the frog is named after the bottom soft part of a horse’s hoof, also called a frog (e.g. Robin Stowell, Cambridge Companion to the Violin, 1992: 24-29). Other terms used to indicate play at the bottom part of the bow include “play at the nut”, heel or au talon (French for “at the heel”).
  • Fuoco  Fuoco means "Fire" and indicates the musician should play with fire in a fiery, spirited manner.
  • Glissando  Glissando is an ornamental effect notated by a wavy or straight line between two notes, indicating a continuous slide in pitch.
  • Grace note  A grace note is used to ornament a note, and is written in a small font indicating the musician should quickly play the grace note, then the note it is attached to (the grace note is not part of the rhythmic value of the measure).
     
  • Grandioso  Play with majestic grandeur.
  • Grave  Play in a slow and solemn manner.
  • Harmonics  Harmonics are overtones of the string and produce soft flutelike sounds when the string is lightly touched at specific fractional divisions (nodal points). Natural harmonics are produced on open strings, and artificial or stopped harmonics are produced on stopped strings.
  • Harmony  Harmony is created when pitches are combined simultaneously. 
  • Homophonic  A form of musical texture with a melody and chordal accompaniment.
  • Hornpipe  A lively British dance, popular during the 16th–18th centuries. The country dance version of the hornpipe was similar to the jig, but with a different meter (often in 3/2). Composers frequently used the lively country dance rhythm of the hornpipe dance for movements in dance suites and incidental theater music. Other meters used in the hornpipe dance were 2/4 and 4/4. 
  • Impressionism  Impressionism began as an artistic movement, and was used to describe a style of art which was designed to convey an impression rather than a literal depiction of the scene. This term was applied to music, particularly to compositions written by French composers in the early 20th century such as Debussy and Ravel when they wrote music that sought to convey subtle impressions, moods and emotions through compositional techniques such as new chord combinations, sonorities and harmonies, colorful instrumentation, and exotic scales.
  • Incidental music  Music supplementing a spoken drama such as music composed for a play. Incidental music could be introducing a play (such as an overture), between acts (an interlude), or as a supplement to spoken parts or dramatic elements.
  • Jeté  Jeté means "thrown" in French. In this bow stroke, the bow is thrown on the string, and then bounces for several notes in the same bow direction. The height and speed of the bounce are regulated through factors such as the amount of pressure used by the index finger, and where the bow is initially thrown or placed. Dots above or under the notes may be used to indicate jeté.
  • Largamente  Play with a large, broad and sustained tone.
  • Larghetto  Slightly faster than largo, larghetto is a similarly broad, large and stately tempo and style.
  • Largo  A broad, slow tempo that is dignified and stately in style. Largo is the slowest of tempo markings.
  • Legato  Legato indicates the notes should be smoothly connected, played either in one or several bows. Slurs are often used to indicate legato.
  • Lento  Lento means slow in Italian (lent in French). Lento and lent are both slow tempos in between largo and andante.
  • Louré  Louré strokes are a short series of gently pulsed legato notes executed in one bow stroke (it is also known as portato).
  • Madrigal  A madrigal is an Italian song form, often with Italian text. It is a short work in one movement, sung by a small group of vocalists. Madrigal texts were often set to music using word painting (where the melody would follow the line of the text, e.g. waterfall would have music in the contour of falling water).
  • Maestoso  Majestic and dignified.
  • Marcato  An Italian term which means marked or accentuated.
  • Martelé  Martelé is a French term meaning hammered. Each note is percussive, and commences with a sharp accent or "pinch" at the beginning of the note, followed by a quick release. Martelé may be notated in more than one way: with dots, hammer heads or accents.
  • Mass  The Mass is the principal act of worship of the Catholic Church. As a vocal form, the Mass has been used in almost all periods of music history. It has two basic parts—the Proper and the Ordinary.  Sections of the Mass that vary from day to day in each musical service are called the Proper. The Ordinary of the Mass consists of sections that are constant for every Mass. The fixed order of the Ordinary of the Mass is 1) Kyrie, 2) Gloria, 3) Credo, 4) Sanctus, and 5) Agnus Dei. The text of the Mass is given either as a Low Mass or High Mass. A Low Mass involves spoken text, while a High Mass is sung.
  • Meno  Meno means less. It often is used with other terms such as meno mosso (less rapid or less motion).
  • Meter  The grouping of beats in stressed and unstressed patterns.
  • Mezzo forte  Moderately loud. Mezzo forte is indicated by the marking: mf
  • Mezzo piano  Moderately soft. Mezzo piano is indicated by the marking: mp
  • Mode  Modes are often used to structure the melody or tonality of a piece, and are comprised of notes arranged in a specific scale or pattern of intervals.
  • Moderato  Moderato means to play at a moderate tempo or speed. This term sometimes modifies others such as Allegro moderato, which means moderately fast.
  • Modo ordinario  Modo means "manner" or "style" and ordinario means ordinary. Modo ordinario means play in the ordinary way (often used after an unusual way of playing such as col legno).  
  • Monophony  Monophony is a musical texture for a single melodic line without any accompaniment or other melodic lines.
  • Mosso  Mosso means moved. When used alone as a tempo term, the meaning of mosso is similar to con moto: with motion. Mosso is sometimes used with other qualifying terms such as piu mosso, meaning a little faster (more motion).
  • Motet  Motet generally means a vocal piece with sacred text, musically composed in the style of the period. During the 13th-15th centuries, motets were sacred, unaccompanied choral works, often based on a preexisting melody and text. New melodies were then added to the preexisting melody, usually in counterpoint. Beginning in the 16th century, the preexisting melody frequently was secular.
  • Motive  A short melodic or rhythmic idea that recurs throughout a musical composition.
  • Moto  Moto means motion. It is often used with other terms such as con moto (with motion).
  • Multiple stops  Multiple stops describe chords played on a stringed instruments. For example, double stops describe playing notes simultaneously on two strings, and triple stops mean playing notes simultaneously on three strings.
  • Muted  A direction for the musician to play with a mute. For string players, mutes are small clamps of wood, metal, rubber, leather or plastic, which fit onto the bridge and result in a softer, muted sound with a veiled quality. To mute something is also indicated by the Italian term con sordino or the German term mit dampfer. The terms arco (bow), via sordini (take off mute) and senza sordino (without mute) are used to indicate when the muted section ends and the musician should resume playing with a bow.
  • Notation  The writing down of musical notes and symbols to represent pitch, rhythm, and melodies.
  • Office  The regular round of prayer and worship in monastic communities.
  • Opera  A musical form of drama, originating in Italy, set to music. In an opera, most or all of the text is sung, using musical forms such as arias, songs, recitatives, duets, and choruses, with instrumental accompaniment. A few of the various subcategories of opera include heroic or grand opera, comedy opera and comic opera.
  • Oral tradition  Oral tradition means that music is passed down from one musician to another orally, instead of through notated music.
  • Oratorio  An oratorio is a large musical work, generally based on a sacred text or religious topic, with soloists, chorus and orchestra. Although many musical elements of an oratorio are similar to opera, no costumes, sets or acting are used, and oratorios are usually performed as a concert.
  • Ordinario  Ordinario or ord. means ordinary, and is used to indicate a return to ordinary playing after playing a special effect such as col legno or sul ponticello.
  • Ostinato  Ostinato means "obstinate" in Italian. An ostinato is a short musical pattern, e.g. a melodic, rhythmic or harmonic figure, persistently repeated throughout a composition. A melodic pattern set in the bass is called basso ostinato (and is also known as ground bass).
  • Patronage  A system of employment for musicians whereby a composer agreed to exclusive employment under the auspices of a patron. Patrons often were wealthy aristocrats or the church.
  • Phrase  A musical idea or passage of music that is short, continuous and unbroken; similar to a musical sentence.
  • Pianissimo  Very soft. Pianissimo is indicated by the marking: pp
  • Pianississimo  As soft as possible. Pianississimo is indicated by the marking: ppp
  • Piano  Soft. Piano is indicated by the marking: p
  • Pitch  Pitch is the relative "highness" or "lowness" of a sound when compared with other notes. It can also indicate an absolute fixed position in a range of musical notes (e.g. the pitch "middle C").
  • Piu  More.
  • Pizzicato  Pizzicato (pizz.) is a term that means the string is plucked with the finger instead of being bowed. 
  • Plainchant  Also known as plainsong, chant or Gregorian Chant. Plainchant is a single melody, sung in unison by a soloist or choir, often using Latin words and a liturgical text. 
  • Poco  Poco means "little" or slightly. A poco a poco means little by little or gradually. Poco modifies other terms when added to them such as poco diminuendo, meaning to become slightly softer.
  • Polyphony  Polyphony is a form of musical texture with several interdependent, overlapping melodic lines.
  • Portamento  Portamento is an expressive device, and is a slide from one pitch to another. 
  • Prelude  A prelude is a piece which often serves as a musical introduction or prelude to a larger musical work (it sometimes is a short, independent instrumental piece in one movement). 
  • Presto  A fast, rapid and lively tempo, faster than allegro.
  • Program music  Instrumental music which represents extra-musical concepts such as emotions, scenes or events through the music, not through words. It is also sometimes called descriptive music.
  • Punta d’arco  Punta d’arco is a bowing direction to bow at the point or tip of the bow (punta means point, and arco means bow).
  • Quasi  Quasi means "as if," "almost," or "nearly." It is often used to modify terms e.g. allegretto quasi andantino, meaning an allegretto tempo almost at an andantino tempo.
  • Rallentando  Rallentando means gradually becoming slower. It also is abbreviated as rall.
  • Recitative  A speechlike, declamatory form of singing used in vocal works such as operas, oratorios, and cantatas. Recitatives are often characterized by rhythmic freedom.
  • Religioso  Play in a devotional or religious style.
  • Repeat Signs. A double bar with two dots is a repeat marking, and indicates the music in between the repeat signs should be repeated. If there is only one repeat sign with the dots facing to the left, go back to the beginning and play the entire section of music again (for more repeat sign variations, see Da capo, da segno, D.C. al Fine, D.C. al Coda, and first and second endings).
  • Requiem  A Requiem Mass is a Mass for the dead. 
  • Ricochet  Ricochet is a bow stroke where the bow is dropped on the string and rebounds (bounces) on the string for several notes in the same bow direction.
  • Riff A riff is a short, repeated melodic pattern, and is often used in jazz. 
  • Risoluto  Resolutely; play in a resolute and decisive manner.
  • Ritardando  Gradually become slower and slower (the same meaning as rallentando). Ritardando is often abbreviated as rit.
  • Rondeau  A French musical term used during the Baroque era to describe a musical composition with a main section or theme which alternates with subsidiary sections or themes. This musical form was later expanded during the Classical era to become the musical form Rondo. 
  • Rubato  Rubato means "robbed." It refers to a temporary robbing of time by either slowing or speeding the tempo or rhythmic value of notes in a passage of music.
  • Sautillé  Sautillé is a fast, bouncing or springing stroke in which the bow naturally bounces off of the string, producing a lighter, more rapid, and less percussive sound than spiccato.
  • Scale  An ascending or descending arrangement of pitches.
  • Scherzo  The term scherzo literally means "joke." In music, it is used to either describe an instrumental piece with a light, humorous character, or the second or third movement of a symphony or quartet (in place of the minuet). Scherzos often have a quick triple meter, a vigorous rhythm and a sharply contrasting harmony.
  • Scordatura  Scordatura means abnormal tuning, and indicates one or more strings should be tuned higher or lower than usual (specific tuning directions for the new pitches are generally provided).
  • Semplice  Simply. Semplice means to perform in a simple, unadorned, natural manner.
  • Sforzando  Sforzando means forced or accented, and is usually attached to a single note or chord. It generally indicates the note should be played loudly with a sudden, accented emphasis, and is indicated by the marking: sfz
  • Simile  In a similar manner. Simile is often used to indicate a passage of music should be performed in the same manner as a preceding section.
  • Slur  A slur is a curved line grouping notes together, and means the notes included in the slur should be played in the same bow . Unless otherwise indicated, notes in the slur should be played legato (smoothly). When slurs are used with dots over or under the notes, this indicates a slight separation should be used between the notes (the terms slurred staccato or dotted slurs are often used to describe this technique). When a slur is placed between two notes with the same pitch, this is called a "tie" and the two notes are played in one bow for the duration of both notes. 
  • Sonata  The word sonata comes from the Italian word sonore, meaning "to be played" (as opposed to cantata, a vocal work which means "to be sung"). A sonata is an instrumental form of music, and describes a multi-movement work for an instrument, often with accompaniment. The term has had varied meanings during different music eras, and during the Baroque period, the trio sonata was one of the most popular forms of sonata (often for two violins and continuo). During the Classical period, sonata came to mean a multi-movement work for a solo instrument with piano accompaniment, or piano alone. 
  • Sonata form  Sonata form is often used in the first movement in multi-movement works such as symphonies. It consists of an exposition section, followed by a development section, and concludes with a recapitulation. 
  • Spiccato  Spiccato is an off-the-string, controlled bouncing bow stroke which produces a crisp sound and very short notes. It is the slowest of the bouncing strokes. Dots above or under the notes may be used to indicate spiccato.
  • Staccato  Staccato indicates the bow should remain on the string to play shortened and detached notes, distinctly separate from successive notes. Staccato is sometimes used with slurs (slurred staccato) for a series of short, stopped notes played in the same up or down bow (many violinists perform slurred staccato as a series of slurred martelé strokes).
  • String Quartet  A string quartet is a composition for four stringed instruments: two violins, a viola and a cello. String quartet music generally is composed in a multi-movement form. The term string quartet is also used to describe a performance group comprised of four stringed instruments.
  • Suite  A suite may be described as a collection of pieces, put together in an ordered manner. During the Baroque era, pieces in a suite were often dance forms such as: prelude, allemande, courante, saraband, gigue, bourre, gavotte, and minuet. After the Baroque era, suites were generally pieces extracted from a larger work such as The Nutcracker Suite, a compilation of pieces taken from the ballet The Nutcracker.  
  • Sul  Sul means "on the" or "near the." Sul is used in terms such as sul tasto (bow over or near the fingerboard), sul ponticello (bow near the bridge), or sul G (play on the G string and only the G string until otherwise indicated). In violin music, when only a specific string should be used for particular passages, sul is sometimes used with numerals such as sul IV to indicate only one string should be used (G, the fourth string, is indicated by the numeral IV, A is III, D is II and E is I).
  • Sul ponticello  Sul ponticello is a bowing direction to play with the bow near the bridge. The result is a glassy, whispery sound.
  • Sul tasto  Sul tasto is a bowing direction to bow over or near the fingerboard. The resulting sound is soft and flutelike (see flautando).
  • Syllabic  In vocal music, syllabic, neumatic and melismatic are terms used to indicate whether the syllables of the text are sung to a single note (syllabic), several notes (neumatic), or many notes per syllable (melismatic).
  • Symphonic Poem  A symphonic poem is a programmatic orchestral work, often in one movement. It is also known as a tone poem. In a symphonic poem, extra musical ideas such as emotions, scenes or events, are expressed through the music, not through words. 
  • Symphony  A symphony is an extended composition for orchestra and is often comprised of three to five movements.
  • Syncopation  Rhythmic patterns with unexpected accents. Syncopation is generally achieved by shifting the musical accent from a strong beat to a weak one. This results in an irregular feel to the rhythm.
  • Tempo  Tempo means the rate of speed or pace of the music. Tempo also may be used with other qualifying words such as "a tempo," meaning return to the original tempo or speed. Various tempo markings are used to indicate directions for the rate of speed such as andante (moderately slow) and allegro (fast). Metronome markings are another way to specify even more precisely the tempo of music e.g.  = 60 means each quarter note should be played at the speed of 60 quarter notes per minute.
  • Tempo di valse  Play the music at the rate of speed or pace of a waltz.
  • Tenuto  Tenuto means the note(s) should be played sustained or broadly, and held for its whole value. A line placed under or over the note is usually used to indicate tenuto: _.
  • Theme  A theme is the main musical subject of a composition such as a melody, phrase or short motive.
  • Theme & variations  A composition with a theme and variations of that theme.
  • Tie  When a slur is placed between two notes with the same pitch, this is called a "tie" and the two notes are played in one bow for the duration of both notes.
  • Time Signature  A sign or fraction placed at the beginning of a piece to show how many beats are in each measure. For example, a time signature of 3/4 indicates each measure contains three quarter notes. 
  • Tremolo  Tremolo means rapidly repeating a single note or chord (see bowing chart for more details).
  • Trill  A trill ornaments a note, and is a rapid alternation between two pitches, usually a major or minor second above the note. The letters tr and a wavy symbol  are used as trill markings. Accidentals are often used to indicate whether the trill is a major or minor trill.
  • Troppo  Troppo means "too much." It is often used to modify other terms such as Adagio ma non troppo, meaning, slow but not too slow.
  • Turn  Turns are ornaments mainly used in 17th-19th century music, and generally indicate four notes should be played, encircling the notated note. The following symbol for a turn is placed above the note: .
  • Twelve tone technique The twelve tone technique refers to a system where the composer arranges the twelve notes of the chromatic scale in a fixed order. This ordered sequence of the twelve notes is called a twelve-tone row or series that forms a unique melody. Composers using this method generally would not repeat any note in the tone row until the entire series of twelve notes had been heard. Variations to the tone row include mathematical approaches such as retrograde, inverted and transposed versions of the tone row. The twelve-tone technique was later called serialism, and continues to be used by some composers today. 
  • Up bow  The sign for up-bow is  and indicates an upward stroke of the bow from the point (or tip) to the frog (or nut). 
  • Vibrato  Vibrato for stringed instruments is similar to vocal vibrato—it is a slight and rapid fluctuation in pitch, and is used to add warmth and expression to music. There are three types of vibrato: finger, hand, arm or a combination of all three. Many violinists use a combination of finger and hand vibrato. This type of vibrato is produced by a back and forth rolling motion of the finger and hand on the string, resulting in the pitch being lowered and raised. Variations in the width and speed of the vibrato can produce a wide range of expression.
  • Virtuoso  Virtuoso means "exceptional performer" in Italian, and is used to describe a highly proficient, technically skilled performer. When the descriptive term virtuosic playing is used, it generally means the performer is playing difficult music in a highly skilled manner.
  • Vivace  Lively and brisk. As a tempo marking, vivace is often considered slightly faster than allegro.
  • Waltz  A dance in triple meter which was very popular during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
  • Whole Bow  Initials are sometimes used in music to indicate what part of the bow should be used:
    WB = Whole Bow; LH = Lower Half; UH = Upper Half; MB = Middle of the Bow.