Glossary Of Musical Terminology

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There are 14 names in this directory beginning with the letter O.
Obbligato
An extended solo, often accompanying the vocal part of an aria.

Octave
The interval between two musical notes, the upper one of which has twice the pitch of the lower one. In a major or minor scale, the distance of this interval lies eight steps away, hence the term “octave.”

Octet
A composition written for eight instruments.

Opera
A drama where the words are sung instead of spoken. In opera, singing is the way characters express feeling; as it often takes longer to say something in music than it would in speech, the action may seem delayed or even interrupted. Like a play, an opera is acted out on a stage with performers in costumes, wigs and makeup; virtually all operatic characters sing their lines, although there are exceptions for a role that is spoken or performed in pantomime.

Operetta
A short light, sometimes comical musical drama, some of which is spoken but with many musical numbers.

Opus
Convenient method of numbering a composer’s works where a number follows the word “opus”. For example, Opus 28, No. 4. Often the opus numbers are assigned in order of composition, but at times the numbers are assigned by order of publication.

Oratorio
An extended cantata on a sacred subject.

Orchestra
A large group of instrumentalists playing together, led by the conductor, accompany the singers.

Orchestration
The art of applying orchestral colour to written music by assigning various instruments different parts of the music. This requires a complete knowledge of instrumentals and their timbre, range, etc.

Ornaments
Tones used to embellish the principal melodic tone.

Ostinato
A repeated phrase.

Over breathing
Taking a huge breath in and then constricting the lungs, making it difficult to sustain a note.

Overtone singing
Harmonic singing from the throat, in which the singer manipulates the resonances created as air travels from the lungs through the vocal cords and out of the lips to produce a melody.

Overture
An orchestral introduction to an opera, musical or other large musical work.