accent: emphasis given to a note, chord or rhythm.
Afro-Cuban: a term used to describe a style of
music that emerged from Cuba in the early 50s that blended Western African and European music.
Arabic Numbers: the simple counting numbers (ex.,
1 2 3 4 etc.) have several uses in music. 1. to
identify a note’s position (scale degree) in a major scale
with relationship to the starting note 2. to show a note’s
intervallic relationship to the root of a chord or another note.
3. to label the primary rhythmic beats in a measure.
arpeggio: a chord whose notes are played in succession
(instead of simultaneously).
artist: a person whose creative work shows sensitivity
atonal: having no discernable
augmented chord: a chord with a raised 5 (also
backbeat or offbeat: the
2nd and 4th quarter notes in 4/4 music.
ballad: a slow song or tempo.
bar: a basic unit of time used to organize
rhythm into regular groupings of beats; also known as a “measure.”
beat: 1. a unit of rhythm, or the pulse of music
2. an abbreviation for “beatnik” (a jazz poet of the
be-bop or bop: a musical style
advanced by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Bud
Powell, and others that was considered revolutionary in the late
1940s because of its rhythmic, harmonic and melodic advancements.
Bird: a nickname for alto saxophonist Charlie
Parker (b. 1920 – d. 1955).
big band: a large ensemble traditionally consisting
of a rhythm section, saxophones, trumpets, and trombones. 2. the
style of music played by these groups which reached it’s height
of popularity in the 30s and 40s, sometimes called the “big
bi-tonal: having two simultaneous tonalities or
blues: 1. a 12 bar song form that evolved from
African American folk forms influencing many forms of popular music;
including jazz, rock, R and B, hip hop.
2. various other 8, 16 and 24 bar related forms 3. a quality of
sound (ex. a bluesy sound) 4. a melancholy feeling.
Bop: short for “be-bop.”
bossa nova: Literally means the “new
trend” in Portuguese. This music is a mixture of Brazilian
samba and cool jazz popularized by Stan Getz and Antonio Carlos Jobim.
break: 1. a device to mark the beginning
of a solo when everybody except the soloist lays out for
a specific number of bars or beats 2. a percussion solo
i.e., “a drum break.”
bridge: a contrasting section of the form,
usually the third grouping of 8 bars in a 32 bar tune,
linking the sections together harmonically (aka the “B section”, “release,” or “channel”).
brushes: 1. wire or plastic tines
on the end of a stick that a drummer uses to get soft sounds from
the snare and cymbals 2. a single word to say to the drummer to communicate
that the next tune will be a ballad.
burn or burning: 1. when
a soloist is playing a great solo they are said to be “burning.” 2.
fast tempo 3. slang term coined by tenor saxophonist Lester Young for excellent
cooking, as in “Can Madame burn?”
cadence: a musical point of arrival, ending
or moment of harmonic resolution.
call and response: a musical interaction
in which an idea is stated by one voice or instrument and
responded to or echoed by others.
changes: harmonic movement, or a succession
of chords (also known as “chord progression”).
chart: a written arrangement of a song.
chops: 1. a musician’s dexterity
and technical ability on their instrument 2. the embouchure of a
chord: three or more notes sounding simultaneously.
chord type or chord color: 1.
the general family of chord type (i.e., major, minor, dim,
augmented) that a chord is derived from 2. the
characteristic quality of a chord’s voicing (ex., “dark”, “open”, “block”).
chord fragments: three or more notes sounding
simultaneously that do not fit into traditional chord types
or nomenclature. Ex., a voicing containing only fourth
chord progression: a series or sequence
of chords. (also known as “changes”).
chorus: 1. one cycle through the form
of a tune. (ex., to “take
a chorus” is to improvise a solo over one compete cycle of
the form. 2. in pop or folk music, a contrasting section of the form
3. a choir.
chromatic scale: a scale containing only
clave: 1. a rhythmic pattern or unit forming
the foundation to many forms of Latin and West African
music. (ex., son and rumba) 2.
literally means “key” in Spanish.
claves: the two part percussion instrument
traditionally used to play the clave pattern.
comp or comping: chordal
accompaniment that complements a solo. “The rhythmic pattern of the pianist’s
comping supported each whole-note that the soloist played.”
concept: an unexecuted thought which must
be tested among potential and current users of a product.
consonant: a relative term used to describe
a sound without harmonic tension. Harmonic
intervals that are generally considered to be consonant
are usually thirds, sixths, octave, and unison, as well
as the perfect 4th and 5th.
contrafact: a new melody composed over
established changes, ex., Bird’s “Ornithology” was a new melody written to the chords
of the older standard tune “How High the Moon.”
cool: 1. laid-back style of playing. Miles Davis and Gil
Evans started a musical style with a series of recordings called the “Birth
of the Cool” in the 50s 2. a relaxed and hip attitude or demeanor.
counterpoint: two or more different melodies
Creole: New Orleans natives who are descendents
of Africans, French, and sometimes Spanish heritage.
crescendo: to increasingly get louder.
crosspulse: two or more time signatures
or meters going on in the same amount of time and space.
decrescendo: to increasingly get softer.
descarga: 1. a Latin
jam session (literally means “unloading”) 2.
an improvised tune.
diaspora: the dissemination of culture
to other regions, such as the “African diaspora.”
diatonic: the notes of a major or minor
diminished chord: 1. a triad with a lowered
5th (i.e., b5) and also a b3.
2. a diminished 7th chord is the four note form and contains
the b3, lowered 5th (i.e., b5) and lowered b7 (i.e., double
dirge: a slow march played for a funeral.
dissonant: a relative term used
to describe a sound with harmonic tension. The harmonic
intervals that most people hear as dissonant are usually half step
and tri-tone relationships.
dominant chord: a four note chord consisting
of a root, 3, 5, b7, although additional notes are often
added to alter or “color” its
sound. The dominant chord can create motion in a harmonic sequence
because it contains a tri-tone tension (between its 3rd and 7th degrees)
that is considered an unstable sound which wants to resolve.
double-time: increasing the tempo so that
the music is twice as fast. (opposite of “half-time”).
down beat: 1. the beginning
of a measure of a tune 2. the beginning of a gig 3.
a well known jazz magazine.
drag: to play too far behind the beat
or to drop beats, unintentionally slowing the tempo.
dynamics: the loud and
soft parts in music.
embouchure: the way the lips and tongue
form to contact the mouthpiece of a wind instrument.
enharmonic: a different name or spelling
for the same pitch. ex., A# and Bb are the same key on
ensemble: a group of musicians.
eyes: 1. a slang term that means an attraction
to or interest in, as in “I have eyes to jam with Joe.” “or “I have
eyes for that new saxophone.” 2. a sign to pay attention
to the leader or conductor.
fake: to play by ear and intuition.
fake book: a book full of lead sheets;
the name comes from the users’ ability to “fake” believable
arrangements with a minimal amount of information.
feel: The relationship of the rhythm to
the pulse. When
the balance of tension between the players in the rhythm section
is just right, the song is said to have a good “feel.”
fill: a brief moment of improvisation by a musician
(most often the drummer) during an open moment in the music ex.,
a drummer playing around the kit to leading up to an important down
form: the overall structure and design of a composition. Can
also refer to the sequence of its sections; ex. AABA, ABA, through-composed,
flatted fifth or flat five: the
interval that is one half of an octave, also known as a tri-tone,
b5, #4, and #11.
front line: the melodic instruments of
a traditional New Orleans’ band, usually a trumpet, trombone,
and a clarinet.
fusion: 1. a mixing of
other musical styles with jazz. 2. the mixing of
rock rhythms into jazz.
gig: a paying job, aka casuals, club-dates,
glissando: a smooth slide between pitches.
groove: 1. the music’s characteristic
rhythmic style 2. a good feeling
guide tones: 1. the 3rd
and the 7th of the chord 2. adjacent notes that propel
the melodic line through the changes.
half-time: slowing the music’s tempo by half (the opposite
of “double time.”)
hard bop: a style of jazz characterized
by its driving rhythms and blues based harmonies mixed
with bebop sensibilities.
harmony: 1. the relationship of simultaneous
musical notes or chords 2. the musical function of a series
harmonic rhythm: the rate at which chords
head: the melody of the song.
heterophony: multiple interpretations
of a phrase or melody, played simultaneously by several
hi-hats: two cymbals mounted on the same
stand which are played against each other by a foot pedal.
in straight ahead jazz they are often played on the second
and fourth beats.
hot: fast, exciting, intense music.
improvise: to extemporaneously make up
new melodies or rhythms during a performance.
inside: a relative term for notes that
fit the harmony of a song.
interval: the space or distance between
two pitches as
measured in half steps or identified by specific sound quality (Melodic)
intervals are two notes sounding in succession; (Harmonic) intervals
have two notes sounding simultaneously.
jam session: an informal gathering of
musicians calling tunes that everybody on the bandstand
keeping the store: an old school idea
in the band needs to keep the form and tempo of the tune.
key center (tonality): usually refers
to an implied major scale that forms the harmonic center
of the music.
kick: 1. the biggest
drum on a drum set. It
is played with a foot pedal 2. the way a drummer might play to “set
launch an important rhythmic phrase or section of the chart.
lady: a favorite name that Lester Young
used for almost everybody regardless of gender. It stuck
with Billie Holiday who is widely known as “Lady Day.”
laying back: playing slightly behind the
beat causing the groove to feel relaxed.
lay out: to stop playing.
lead sheet: a chart with basic musical
information, i.e., melody, chords and form.
lick: an identifiable short musical phrase
regularly used by a player in his/her improvisations.
lyrical: has the quality
lyrics: the words to a song.
major: an overall tonality characterized
by a major third interval above the tonal center.
melody: 1. a succession of single tones
in rhythm that create a musical phrase or idea 2. the
part of a song that
is easily recognizable and easy to sing.
meter: the number of beats per measure.
minor: an overall tonality characterized
by a minor third interval above the tonal center.
mnemonic syllables: using the voice in
imitation of an instrument, such as the kre kre ki te kre
ki te syllables used to describe the sounds of the west
African kongongue (bell).
modal: based on modes.
mode: 1. each of the seven different scales
that can be played using only the white keys of the piano. ex.,
the notes D E F G A B C D are called D Dorian mode, and the notes
E F G A B C D E are called an E Phrygian mode. The remaining modes
are F Lydian, G Mixolydian, A Aeolian, B Locrian. In all cases the
parent scale is C major, though the relationships can transpose to
any key. The modes have Greek names, were important in 16th century
church music and became useful in describing some of the scales jazz
players began to use in the late 1950’s. For a an explanation
of modes and modal jazz, see www.stanfordjazz.org/newsletter/newsletter_apr08.html#story2
montuno: 1. the repetitive
rhythmic part that a piano plays in Latin salsa music 2.
The open vamp section of a song.
mute: a device added to a musical instrument
to dampen or soften the sound.
octave: an interval of twelve half steps.
offbeat: the un-emphasized or weak beats.
(the) one: 1. the beginning of a measure
2. the tonic or I chord.
orchestration: the art of blending and
voicing different instruments together.
ostinato: a repeated melodic
figure usually played in the lower register.
Outside or out: a relative
term for notes that don’t fit the harmony of a song or are unusual or quite different from
expectations. “As the soloist continued, his improvisation
had less and less relationship to the chord changes and structure
of the tune, until he was eventually playing completely outside.”
parallel chords: chords that keep the
same intervallic structure but that can be moved by half
steps or whole steps, or other specific intervals.
pedal point: a way of creating
tension by sustaining one note below the harmony rather than following
the chord changes.
pentatonic scales: five note scales based
on the root, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, degree of a major scale. Each
Pentatonic scale has five possible inversions or modes.
percussion: a family of instruments usually
struck with sticks, mallets or hands
phasing, or canon, or round: the same rhythm or melody is played with two
or more starting points so that it overlaps with itself. Ex., the classic children’s
song “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”
phrasing: how a musician “sings” or
interprets a melodic idea.
polyphony: two or more discernable melodies
played at the same time.
polymeters: multiple meters played simultaneously.
polyrhythms: multiple rhythms played simultaneously.
ragtime: a late 19th century style of
piano music that influenced early jazz. Ragtime
music usually had a specific form reminiscent of marches
and polkas in 2/4 time, though its syncopated rhythms were
said to be “ragged,” or that the musicians would “rag” the
re-harmonize: to change
the harmonic structure of a tune.
register: 1. a part of
the total pitch range of an instrument or voice that has
qualities that are distinct from other parts of this range. 2.
the classification of the notes that an instrument can play based
on its tone quality and range.
resolution: the moment when the harmony
changes from dissonant to consonant, or a more general
change from tension to release.
rhythm changes: refers to the 32 bar song
form that is central to “I Got Rhythm” by George Gershwin. Many
song melodies or contrafacts have been written over this basic harmonic
structure, second in quantity only to the blues form.
rhythm section: considered to be the piano,
bass, and drums, but can include the guitar, vibes, and
ride: a solo or the experience of a solo,
ex., the band or soloist can take the audience for a ride.
ride cymbal: 1. a larger
cymbal most often used to accompany a soloist 2. a ride
pattern is a repeated pattern that is often played on this
cymbal. ex.,ting tanka tang tanka tang etc.
riff: 1. a repeated rhythmic,
melodic figure. 2.
to ad lib or solo i.e. “to riff on a tune.”
ritard: to slow down gradually, usually at the
end of a song.
Roman numerals: in jazz, roman numerals (ii, V, I) are used
to denote chord function and harmonic movement.
root: the bottom of the chord, also known as the tonic.
root position chords: chords that are voiced from the root.
rubato: phrasing without strict rhythmic structure,
usually an intro to a song.
rush: to speed up the tempo or to play ahead of
salsa: 1. a general description of the Latin music
of Cuba coined in NY in the 60s 2. Literally means “sauce” in Spanish.
scale: a successive pattern of pitches, usually whole or half
steps spanning an octave.
samba: a style of music from Brazil.
scat singing: a style of singing where the singer uses nonsense
syllables with jazz phrasing.
score: a musical “map” created by a composer that
shows the relationship of all the parts of an arrangement.
second line: an upbeat band/groove following a
New Orleans funeral procession.
set: 1. a segment of jazz performance
usually 45 minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes in length,
after which the musicians take a break. “Rather
than play two 45 minute sets with an intermission in between, the band preferred
to play one 90 minute set.” 2. a list or group of songs i.e., “set
list.” 3. a trap drum set. ex., “Is the drummer
going to bring his own set?”
sideman: a hired or supportive player who is not
shout chorus: 1. a composed section that
creates excitement at the end of an arrangement
or the conclusion of a solo section.
shuffle: a 12/8 groove often played by blues bands.
slash chord: 1. a chord superimposed over a bass-note.
2. a chord superimposed over a different chord.
slur: playing two or more notes in a row without attacks or
solo: 1. (verb) to improvise
a new melody over the changes 2. (noun) one player’s improvisation
with accompaniment 3. an unaccompanied performance.
son: a style of popular Cuban dance music that
is at the root of today’s salsa music.
snare: 1. wires under a drum that change its timbre 2. a
drum with a snare underneath that can be turned on and off.
stop time: a method of breaking down the time,
opening up space for soloists by accenting sparse rhythms or downbeats.
stride: a two beat style played by piano players that was first
frequently heard in Ragtime music.
stroll: means to “lay” out or to stop
substitution: a different chord or harmonic movement instead
of what is written.
suspended or sus chord: usually
refers to a chord that has a 4th in the voicing that resolves to
swing: 1. a satisfying sense of forward motion
inherent in a repeating rhythmic feeling. 2. a style and era of
music that conveys this feeling as a triplet sub rhythm of an 8th
symmetrical scales: scales that have equal distance
between intervals, i.e. chromatic, diminished, whole tone etc.
syncopation: off beat accents.
tempo: the pace of a piece of music.
theme: a recognizable melodic statement.
through-composed: a song with a melody that does
not have repeating sections.
time feel: playing with an explicit and well understood pulse
(see groove and feel).
thirty-two bar form: also known as AABA.
timbre: the colors, textures, and/or overtones that give
an instrument or voice its unique sound. For example, the qualities that
give the distinction between a middle c played on a trumpet and oboe.
time signature: a numerical symbol at the beginning
of a chart usually
consisting of two numbers. The top number stands for the number of
beats in a measure and the bottom number stands for which subdivision
of the beat gets one count ex., 3/4 means there will be three beats per measure and the quarter
note will get one count.
Tin Pan Alley: the name given to the collection of New York
City-centered music publishers and songwriters who dominated the popular music
of the early to mid twentieth century. Many of the popular songs written in the
30s and 40s became vehicles for jazz improvisers.
tonic: the root, beginning, or home to a key center, chord or
trade fours: to take turns soloing for four measures
at a time, often between a drummer and other members of the band.
transpose: 1. to change the key of a song 2. to
take a musical idea and move it up or down by an interval or to another key,
ex., what an Eb saxophone (alto, baritone) player, Bb (trumpet,
tenor) player or a bass player would have to do when reading a part written for
a treble clef C instrument (piano, flute).
triad: the root, 3, and 5 of a chord.
trill: switching between two notes over
and over very quickly.
tritone: 1. an interval consisting of
6 half steps or three whole steps. 2. a pitch that divides
the twelve half-steps of an octave exactly in half. A tritone
occurs naturally between the fourth and seventh degree
of a major scale, aka b5, #4, or a #11
turnaround: a harmonic phrase that brings
the song back to the tonic or beginning
tumbao: a rhythmic repetitive bass line
in salsa music.
twelve bar form: a song form that has
12 measures can refer specifically to a blues
two beat (feel): 1. not in 4/4 time, often
times a feel played during the head of a song. 2.
a ballad feel that was popular in the Big Band era.
two five one (ii V7 I): a harmonic progression
common in many jazz songs, usually referred to by the roman
numerals which represent the component chords. Although
it is formed by a sequence of three diatonic chords (ii,
V7, I) from a single key, the three chords function together
as a kind of harmonic phrase called a “cadential formula” in classical harmony. Experienced
jazz players can recognize ii V7 I progressions in many different songs, and
they play the way the chords move rather playing each chord individually.
understood pulse: when all the players are “soloing” together
and no one instrument is marking the tempo with steady quarter notes.
unison: two different instruments playing
the same pitch and rhythm simultaneously. “The trumpet and the tenor started out playing in
unison then split into harmony on the last note of the phrase.”
up (tempo): a fast song ex., “let’s play something
vamp: a repeated rhythmic phrase found
usually at the beginning or the end of a tune or used as
verse: Most of the Tin Pan Alley tunes
have a verse at the beginning to introduce the song. Ex,.
The verse to the popular song “I Left My Heart
in San Francisco” begins with “The loveliness of Paris…” Some
jazz players will omit the verse when using a standard song as a
vehicle for improvisation.
vocalese: the art of putting lyrics to
a recorded solo.
voice leading: a compositional device
that creates smooth harmonic
motion helping to resolve a chord, see also guide tones.
voicing: a specific arrangement of the
tones that create the sound of a chord.
walking bass: refers to the rhythmic
propulsion in the bass part which is a predominately a
quarter note bass line which provides forward motion and
is consistent with the harmony and form.
whole tone scale: a scale made up of whole steps.