Terms and Processes Used in the Interpretation of Music: Letters A-F

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In music, the repetition of a theme in such a manner that each note is increased to double its original value. Augmentation occurs most frequently in the fugue, but also has its value in the free style of writing. For augmentation of intervals, see INTERVAL.



The deepest or lowest part in a musical composition, and the deepest or lowest tone in a chord. It is next to the upper part in the independence and originality of the melodic design, and in respect to harmony it is the most important part, containing more frequently the fundamental notes of the chords; on it, moreover, is formed the effective musical figure known as organ-point. Bass or Basso.__The lowest male voice, generally with a compass of F to d, all in the chest register. Bass. The name of an old bow instrument with five or six strings.


The name of a short staff presented to a field-marshal in foreign armies as a symbol of his newly bestowed authority. It is also the name of the long staff carried by the drum-major of an infantry regiment, of a policeman's stick or club, and of the rod wielded by the conductor of an orchestra.


The motion of the hand and arm, or baton, by which the conductor of a chorus or orchestra indicates the time and rhythm of a musical composition, and insures perfect unanimity of performance on the part of the singers or players. In ancient times the leader used his foot to mark the time, and this person, called by the Greeks coryphaeus, and by the Romans pedicularius, wore sandals of wood or metal to make his beat more emphatic. Leaders who marked the time by clapping their hands were called manaductores. The etiquette of modern musical performance demands that the conductor shall perform his task as inaudibly and inconspicuously as possible; but this refinement is of recent date; for Rousseau, in 1768, writing of the Paris Opera, declares that the listener is "shocked by the continual and disagreeable noise made by him who beats the measure."

With the Greeks the up beat (arsis) indicated the accented, and the down beat (thesis) the unaccented, part of the measure. In modern time beating this is reversed. The first note or count of the measure, which has always the strongest accent, is marked by a downward motion of the hand or baton. In duple time, with two beats to the measure, t his down beat is followed by an upward beat on the unaccented count. In triple time, with one strong and two weak beats, the first beat is down, the second to the right, and the third upward. In quadruple time, with four beats, the usual order is down, to the left, to the right, and up.



No one who is at all familiar with music has any difficulty in naming the instrument or class of instruments from which a given tone proceeds. "The same note" may be sounded, e.g. on piano, organ, violin, and harp. We recognize it as "the same" in every case; and yet it "sounds different," so that we can say, "This is the note of a pipe, this of a struck, or bowed, or plucked string." The criterion of difference, in such cases, is termed clang tint, or clang color, or timbre. The note of a musical instrument is not a pure tone, but a mixture of tones. Strongest of the 'partial' tones is the fundamental, the lowest constituent tone; this dominates and gives name to the whole tonal mass, so that the a of the above-named instruments is named a and sounds as a in virtue of its fundamental__a pure tone of (say) 440 vibrations in the one second. Besides the fundamental, the note contains a number of higher partials or overtones. If we represent the pitch-number of the fundamental by 1, then the pitch-numbers of the overtones stand to it in the ratios 2, 3, 4, etc.; hence a perfect musical note would contain the vibration-ratios 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7.....the overtones decreasing in intensity with their height, until they finally became inaudible. The primary reason that differences of clang tint obtain is that the various musical instruments favor certain overtones, and suppress others (Helmholtz); in some cases, e.g., the resonance chamber of the instrument reinforces only the odd-numbered partials, 3, 5, etc. (clarinet); in others, a particular overtone is killed by the striking of a string at a certain fraction of its length (in most modern pianos, the sixth overtone or seventh partial is thus suppressed); in others, again, the low overtones are weak and the high are strong (bassoon, harmonium). A practiced ear is sensible of these differences as such, and can analyze the note into its tonal components. For most hearers, however, the differences exist merely as differences in the 'coloring' of the fundamental.

There are two further constituents of clang tint: (1) Different musical tones are accompanied by characteristic noises in wind instruments, by the rush or hiss of the air: in string instruments, by a scrape scrape or thud or pluck. (2) Different musical tones begin and end in characteristic ways; the clangs of the zither are dry and short, those of the organ full and sustained; the oboe is flexible, the bombardon or bass tuba lumbers into the orchestral complex, etc. Finally, there are many secondary criteria for the recognition of musical tones; the range within which the fundamental falls, the intensity of the clang, the peculiar melodic task set to a sequence of tones, etc.

Consult: Helmholtz, Sensations of Tone (Eng. trans., London, 1895); Stumpf, Tonpsychologie (Leipzig, 1890); Titchener, Experimental Psychology (New York, 1901). See INSTRUMENTATION.


An instrument of the harpsichord family, and an important step in the evolution of the pianoforte. Its history previous to the fifteenth century is unknown. The clavichord was shaped like the square pianoforte, having a keyboard of white and black keys, and strings of brass wire set in vibration by the action of tangents or 'jacks' covered with metal. Its tone, though weak, was delicate, and unlike the harpsichord, or spinet, in which the strings were plucked or twanged by quills or pieces of hard leather, it responded to the gradations of the player's touch. The clavichord was used in Germany until the beginning of the nineteenth century. Bach preferred it to the pianoforte of his day, and wrote an essay for his son, Versuch uber die wahre Art Klavier zu spielen, for this instrument. Mozart used the clavichord in composition, and Beethoven preferred it to other keyed instruments; for upon it, he said, "one could best control tone and expressive interpretation." See HARPSICHORD; SPINET.




In music, the method of clearly presenting the emotional and intellectual characteristics of a work. There are a few broad rules which are generally accepted as being at the basis of expression. A crescendo movement is usually accompanied by an intensification, a diminuendo by a slight drawing back: a musical phrase is played with increasing fervor to its climax, and from that point is diminished to its end; any striking melody or rhythm in a passage should be emphasized; a modulation to a new key is accompanied by a crescendo. It is interesting to note that passages of increasing intensity generally have rising melodies, while those which show a decrease have falling. There are a number of works on the theory and practice of expression, among them; Lussy, Traite de l'expression musicale (Paris, 1873, translated into English London, 1885; into German, Leipzig, 1886); Klauwell, Der Vortag in der Musik (Berlin, 1883); Riemann, Musikalische Dynamik und Agogik (Hamburg, 1884); Christiani, Das Verstandnis im Klavierspiel (Leipsiz, 1886); Haweis, Music and Morals (London, 1871).


In stringed musical instruments, the thin strip of wood glued upon the neck, above which the strings are stretched and on which the player presses his finger when shortening the strings. At its lower end the finger-board projects over the sounding-board of all instruments played with the bow, but in other varieties, as in the guitar, it is glued down on both neck and sounding-board. In some stringed instruments plucked with the fingers the finger-board is divided by frets to enable the player more readily to find the correct pitch. See KEYBOARD.


In music, the method of applying the fingers to the keys, holes, strings, etc., of musical instruments. The simplest fingering is upon the brass wind-instruments, whose keys are so few that they can be manipulated by one hand without change of position. The woodwind instruments come next in order of difficulty, various functions being assigned to each finger, and sometimes the same key being pressed by different fingers. For the fingering of stringed instruments, such as the violin, see POSITION. The most complicated fingering, however, is on instruments having keyboards. The method of notation for fingering used at present on the pianoforte in which the thumb is marked X and the fingers 1, 2, 3, 4 (English) ; or the thumb 1, and the fingers 2, 3, 4, 5 (German), is the outcome of a long series of experiments, prominent among the reformers being Liszt, Tausig, and Bulow. Consult: Whittingham, Companion to All Instruction Books for Keyed Instruments (London); Reinagle, A Few Words on Pianoforte Playing, with Rules for Fingering (London, 1854); Cramer, Studies for the Pianoforte (New York, 1828). See also articles on the various instruments.


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Article Name: Terms and Processes Used in the Interpretation of Music: Letters A-F
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my Collection of Books: The New International Encyclopedia; 1902-1905 Dodd, Mead and Company-New York Total of 21 Volumes
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