Glossary Of Musical Terminology

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There are currently 53 names in this directory beginning with the letter S.
Scat
Using the voice as an instrument. A jazz term referring to a technique where singers use wordless sounds and improvised notes, often imitating jazz instruments. Cleo Laine “doo-be-doo-be-do” is an example of scatting.

Slur
A curve over certain note(s) indicating that the respective note(s) are to be played or sung smoothly.

Solo
To perform or sing alone.

Step
A musical interval between pitches (such as C–D or C–B♭) comprising two semitones or two half steps.

Scale
Musical term referring to successive notes of a key or mode that are either ascending or descending in a specific defined pattern.

Scena
Literally “a scene;” a dramatic episode which consists of a variety of numbers with a common theme. A typical scena might consist of a recitative, a cavatina and a cabaletta.

Scoop
Beginning a note beneath it’s pitch, then sliding up to the correct pitch. Scooping was the prominent feature of “crooners” in the 1920s-50s; Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Perry Como were among the singers famous for this style.

Score
The written music of an opera or other musical work.

Segno
Sign, usually used in Dal Segno (D.S.)

Sharp
A symbol indicating the pitch of the specific note by 1 semitone.To be above the note When your pitch is too high. (often the result of over-singing) when you can’t hear yourself properly, so you are not in tune.

Sixth
An interval of a distance of 6 notes.

Staff
Made up of five horizontal parallel lines and the spaces between them on which musical notation is written, indicating their pitch or key.

Stave
Also means Staff.   Made up of five horizontal parallel lines and the spaces between them on which musical notation is written.indicating their pitch or key.

Suite
A loose collection of instrumental compositions.

Second
An interval of a distance of 2 notes.

Sempre
Always. For example, sempre forte would mean always loud.

Septet
A set of seven musicians who perform a composition written for seven parts.

Sextet
A set of six musicians who perform a composition written for six parts.

Spinto
A type of soprano or tenor. Translated, the word literally means “pushed,” and describes a more dramatic, dark sound, and usually a heavier voice.

System
A combination of two or more staves on which all the notes are vertically aligned and performed simultaneously in differing registers and instruments.

Scherzo
Pertaining to the sonata form, a fast movement in triple time.

Seventh
An interval of a distance of 7 notes

Soprano
The highest female voice with a range extending from middle C to the C two octaves above it.

Stretto
Pertaining to the fugue, the overlapping of the same theme or motif by two or more voices a few beats apart.

Sustain
To sing or play a specific note for the specified duration.

Semitone
Half of a tone; the basic pitch unit of the classical music system.

Sequence
A successive transposition and repetition of a phrase at different pitches.

Serenade
A piece of music honoring someone or something.

Staccato
To sing or play in a short or detached manner.  Each note is separate from the one before and after it. The opposite of Legato.

Strophic
Describes an aria in which the same music repeats for all stanzas of a text.

Synopsis
A written description of an opera’s or musical’s plot.

Sforzando
Forceful, usually accented.

Stagehand
One who works behind-the-scenes setting up lighting, props, rigging, scenery and special effects for a production.

Scordatura
The retuning of a stringed instrument in order to play notes below the ordinary range of the instrument or to produce an usual tone color.

Semiquaver
One-sixteenth of a Whole Note; 1/8 of a beat in duration.

Sempre piu
Always more.

Sight Singing
The ability to look at sheet music and read sing it with near-perfection. Very few singers have this ability. Most professional singers can read music and sight read with at least some accuracy.

Simple Time
Rhythm characterized by 2 or 3 beats or pulses to a measure.

Singing Flat
When your pitch is too low. To be under the correct pitch, not quite in tune.

Siren Sound
Making a sound like an old-fashioned war siren. A vocal technique used to create one voice within the registers, it is used to smooth out breaks, flips and cracks within the voice.

Soft Palate
The fleshy part at the back of the roof of your mouth.

Solar Plexus
Located at the centre and base of the ribs, the soft part just above the stomach. The centre of diaphragmatic power.

Song Cycle
A sequence of songs, perhaps on a single theme, or with texts by one poet, or having continuous narrative.

Stage Areas
The various sections of the stage. Left and right are as seen by those on stage, not in the audience. Since many stages are raked, that is higher in back than in front, upstage is at the back and downstage at the front. If an actor stays upstage, all the others have to turn their backs to the audience when speaking to him. This is the origin of the phrase “to upstage someone.”

Stage Director
The one responsible for deciding the interpretation of each character, the movements of the singers on stage, and other things affecting the singers. Is in charge at rehearsals.

Stage Manager
The person in charge of the technical aspects of the entire opera, including light changes, sound effects, entrances (even of the conductor) and everything else that happens.

Staggered Breathing
Staggered breathing is a technique used in choirs where there is an extremely long phrase in a piece of music. If it is deemed impossible for each individual singer to get through the phrase without running out of breath, staggered breathing comes into play. This is where singers in the same part take short breaths at different times to their neighbor, to create the illusion that the overall sound created by the choir is one single unbroken line.

Subdominant
4th note of a musical scale.

Submediant
6th note of a musical scale.

Supertitles
Translations of the words being sung, or the actual words if the libretto is in the native language, that are projected on a screen above the stage.

Supertonic
2nd note of a musical scale.

Sustaining
Sustaining is a breathing technique, which allows a vocalist’s sound to stay consistent throughout a phrase. It involves tensing the abdominal muscles around the diaphragm and controlling the air flow as the sound is produced. It is often overlooked outside of classical music, however it is an extremely important technique in any genre if you want your overall tone to sound consistent.

Swallowing the Note
Pushing down too far on the larynx, strangling the vocal cords.


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