Some lesser-known musical terms!


For beginners, one of the mysteries of reading music is all the Italian expressions that we find dotted across the page. With the years, most of us collect quite a vocabulary, but nevertheless, we still now and then come cross a new one. Here are a few lesser known terms you might come across, or might find useful to scribble in your score to impress the next user of your hire copy in some lesser choir.

A tempo con maestro

Watch the conductor!

Accelerando con maestro


Accelerando senza maestro

This conductor is a wally. Either he goes or we go.

Rallentando senza maestro

Surely it must be time for the rehearsal break!

Poco a poco senza maestro

The conductor is losing patience with this choir.

Senza spirito

Surely it must be about time to go home!

Senza maestro

Rehearsal cancelled. The conductor has the íflu / canít face another week of the choir singing flat.

Volti subito

That should have been an E flat. Turn round suddenly and give your neighbour a deprecating look.

Con amore ma non troppo

Tenors, we know this is your favourite bit, but mf should be quite sufficient thank you.

Altissimo ma dolce

Tenors - be honest. If your top B flat sounds like a tortured pig, then just leave it out.


Ok tenors, which of the sopranos are you trying to impress?

Subito pianissimo

In case you hadnít noticed, it said pp two bars ago.

Segno misterioso

No you idiot, itís not a quadriplegic spider, itís a double-sharp!

Segno molto misterioso

Probably a triple-sharp. A couple of enharmonic modulations, a diminished 5th, and the harmonic equivalent of a handbrake turn, and weíll be back in the home key in no time. B# major? Whatís this sense of dťjŗ vue? Where have all the accidentals gone?

Al cappuccino con tre zuccheri

A sickly sweet piece of music.

pppp sempre diminuendo e morendo al fine

Stop breathing. If you pass out, do so as quietly as you possibly can.


(I hasten to add that not all of the above will be useful to members of our esteemed choir.)

Philip Le Riche (Tenor - if you hadnít guessed.)

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