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All singers should know the following musical terminology:


A-C | D-G | H-K | L-O | P-S | T-Z

Alto--The range of a voice between mezzo-soprano and tenor. The second highest part in a four-part arrangement.

Articulation--The action of the speech organs in the formation of consonants and vowels.


Baritone--The range of a male voice between tenor and bass.

Bass--The range of the lowest male voice.

Bass clef--It is also called the F clef. It is a musical sign to show low pitched notes.

Bel canto--A style of singing developed in Italy during the Renaissance, characterized by brilliant vocal ornamentation and purity of tone.

Belting--A singing style used in pop, rock, and Broadway music, especially by female singers. Tones are produced in the middle and low registers of the voice, by using chest resonance which is amplified by diaphragmatic pressure.

Breath control--The ability to use breath conservatively and efficiently in order to sing long vocal phrases.

Breath mark--A comma in between music notes to indicate places for singers to breath.

Breath support--Muscular support of the breathing process provided by the diaphragm and rib cage. Breath support creates a feeling of balance between the breath and tone.

Bridge--The transitional section of a song, different than Verse and Chorus sections. It is usually positioned right before the return of the final chorus section of a song.

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Chest register--The low range of the voice, produced by using chest resonance.

Chord symbols--Abbreviations for chords, such as C7, Gm7, or Db.

Chromatic scale--A sequence of notes that progresses in consecutive half steps, ascending and/or descending.

Chorus--1. A group of singers who sing together. 2. A section of a song that always uses the same melody and lyrics.

Clavicular breathing--Shallow breathing which occurs in the upper part of the lungs.

Coloratura--A singer capable of singing brilliant runs, trills and other ornamentations in the soprano range.

Connotative lyric--A song lyric that implies something more than the literal meaning of the written words, such as the use of metaphor.

Contralto--The range of the lowest female voice, usually from the first F below middle C to the second F above.

Countertenor--An adult male voice, usually in falsetto, with a range similar to the contralto and sometimes reaching the soprano.

Crescendo--A gradual increase in volume.

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Decrescendo--A gradual decrease in volume.

Diaphragmatic breathing--Deep breathing which involves the use of the diaphragm.

Diaphragm--A dome-shaped muscular plate that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity.

Diminuendo-- A gradual decrease in volume.

Diphthong--Double vowel sound, such as the "oi" in voice.

Double vowel sound--A complex sound composed of two consecutive vowel sounds, such as sigh and smile.

Dynamics--Degrees of volume in a musical composition.


Eight--An individual section of a song, usually consists eight measures.

Embellishment--An added note or group of notes to a song melody, rhythm, or harmony.

Enunciation--The pronunciation of words with regard to fullness and clearness.

Explosive consonants--The consonants that are produced by using an explosion of air, such as “t”, “p”, and “k”.

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F clef--Same as bass clef. The musical sign indicates low pitched sounds. Hundreds of years ago, a calligraphical letter "F" was written by starting on the fourth staff line to indicate the sound and the position of "F".

Falsetto--The high range of a male singer’s voice, which resembles the normal range of a female singer’s voice. It is also used as a female singer's light and breathy head voice.

Form--The structure of a musical composition.


Grace note--An ornament, a note or a group of notes printed in small type, borrows the rhythmic value from the preceding note.

G clef--Same as treble clef. The musical sign indicates high pitched sounds. Hundreds of years ago, a calligraphical letter "G" was written by starting on the second staff line to indicate the sound and the position of "G".

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Half step--The distance between one key and the next adjacent key of the piano keyboard, including all black and white keys. It is also called an Interval of a Minor Second.

Head register--The high range of the voice, which is produced with head resonance.

Head resonance--The quality of tone produced in the high part of the voice when sung with normal volume.

Hissed consonants--The consonant sounds which are produced with a hissing sound, such as "s", "sh", and "f".

Hummed consonants--The consonant sounds which are produced with nasal resonance.


Intercostal breathing--Breathing that involves the expansion and contraction of the rib cage.

Interpretation--An individual singer's stylistic treatment of a song.

Interval--The measurement of distance between two notes on a musical staff or keyboard.

Improvisation--A spontaneous interpretation of a song which may include changes in its melody, rhythm, and/or phrasing.


Key--The tonal center of a song or musical composition.

Key signature--Sharps and flats located at the beginning of the musical staff which indicate the key of the music.

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Larynx--The structure of muscle and cartilage at the upper end of the human trachea, containing the vocal cords and serving as the organ of the voice..

Lead sheet--A chart containing the melody and lyrics of a song, with the harmony indicated in chord symbols.

Legato--A vocal technique that involves smooth and connected singing.

Legit--Short for legitimate, which means the classical style of singing.

Lyrical phrase--A group of words that complete a thought or idea.

Lyrics--The words to a song.

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Measure--Also called a Bar. A unit of musical time, usually composed of two, three, or four beats. The first beat is always accented.

Metaphor--A figure of speech in which one object is spoken of as if it were another.

Mezzo-soprano--The range of a voice between soprano and alto.

Middle register--The range of voice that is produced by using a mixture of head and chest resonance. It is also called Middle Voice.

Mouth tones--The notes of middle register that feel as though they are produced in the mouth.

Musical ear--The ability to recognize and differentiate sounds and pitches.


Octave--A tone with either twice or half the frequency of another given tone, or eight "letter" tones span between such notes.

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Palate--The roof of the mouth, consisting on the hard palate and soft palate. The hard palate is the bony part of the roof of the mouth and the soft palate is the fleshy back part of the roof of the mouth.

Perfect pitch--The somewhat rare ability to sing a precise musical pitch without the aid of an instrument or tuning device. It is also called the Absolute Pitch.

Phrase--A natural division of the melodic or lyrical line, comparable to a sentence of speech.

Phrase mark--A curved line used to mark a musical phrase.

Pitch--The relative highness or lowness of a tone, as measured in its vibrations per second. It is also a single musical note.

Pop--A genre of music characterized by contemporary lyrics, standard chord patterns, and electronic instruments.


Range--A span of notes of a singer's voice or a piece of music.

Reinforced falsetto--The developed falsetto range of a male singer.

Release--The execution of the ending of a word.

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Scale--A specific sequence of tones, beginning and ending on a key note or the tonal center.

Sheet music--The printed version of a song, such as a piano/vocal arrangement.

Skip--Two tones separated by one or more tones.

Song form--The structure of a song, designated by letters naming each section, such as ABA, or AABA.

Sounded consonants--The consonant sounds "z", "dj" and "v", counterparts of hissed consonants "s", "sh", and "f".

Soprano--The range of the highest voice of women or boys, usually from middle C to two or more octaves above.

Staccato--Notes marked with a dot above or below mean to be sung quickly and lightly.

Staff--The lines and spaces upon which musical notes are written to show high or low pitches.

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Tempo--The relative speed of a song or song section.

Tenor--The range of a voice between counter tenor and baritone. The second lowest part in a four-part arrangement.

Tessitura--The most comfortable part of a singer's vocal range.

Time signature--The two numbers at the beginning for the song or the section of a song that represent how many of what type of note in each measure, 4/4 means four quarter notes per measure, and 3/8 means three eighth notes per measure.

Transpose--To change the tonal center of a song, ascending or descending.

Treble clef--It is also called the G clef. It is a sign to show high pitched notes.


Vanish--In phonetics, the faint, final part of certain double vowel sounds, such as the faint "ee" ending of the vowel sound in the word "high" (hah-ee").

Verses--A section of a song that keeps the same melody, but changes lyrics as the song progresses.

Vocalize--To sing vocal exercises.

Voice category--A label designating voice type, such as soprano, alto, tenor, or bass.

Voiced consonants--The consonants "b", "d", and "g", counterparts of explosive consonants "p", "t", and "k".

Vowel consonants--The consonants "y" and "w", which are pronounced as vowel sounds.



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