Music Dictionary M

Machicotage - Mezza voce

Mezzo-forte - Mute

Machicotage - (French) ""; the practice of embellishing plainchant by adding notes to create a solemn mood

Madrigal - (Latin) "in the mother tongue"; monophonic form of a cappela vocal music during 14th century Medieval Italy, worded to existing poetry, which evolved into a polyphonic style of 4 to 6 vocalists, sometimes more;

Maestoso - (Italian) "majestic"; an instruction to play majestically

Maestro - (Italian) "master"; an honorary title offered to masters of their profession, be it a conductor, composer, musician, singer, educator, or instrument maker

Maggiore - (Italian) "major"; the major key

Magnifico - (Italian) "great"; a complimentary term of praise often shouted by the audience members; magnificent

Major Chord - a chord consisting of a root, major third, and perfect fifth

Major Key - the major scale or pitches which form the basis of a composition

Major Triad - a set of three notes stacked vertically in thirds; Right: a major chord which is also a major triad

Major Scale - a predominant diatonic scale developed from the Greek Ionian modes of the 16th century; a scale in which the third scale degree, mediant, is a major third above the tonic note; 7 tone scale with note intervals after the first of tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone

Malinconico - (Italian) "melancholy"; to play in a sad or melancholy manner

Mancondo - (Italian) "dying away"; style of fading the music away

Mannerism - a term borrowed from art describing certain musical works from 1530 to 1630 which contained exaggerated effects to emphasize a point

Manualiter - (German) "on the manuals"; play the keyboard with the hands

Marcato - (Italian) "marked"; instruction to play in a well-defined or bold manner for contrast with its accompaniment

March - a musical piece with an exaggerated drum beat in which the tempo and main beat is set to match the steps of the parading bands, soldiers, or other marching performers or showmen, first developed in 17th century France

Markig - (German) "vigorous"; to be played vigorously

Maartelé - (French) "hammered"; instruction to strike piano keys heavily or hard to produce a percussive effect

Mascherata - (Italian) "masked"; a musical form of entertainment popular during the Italian Renaissance in which masked actors mimed to musical accompaniment from carnival floats; a type of comic song of the Renaissance

Masque - (Italian) "mask"; a musical production popular among nobility of 16th and 17th century England developed in the middle ages; entertainment of masked actors, elaborate costumes and stage settings with music, dance, singing, and acting

Mässig - (German) "moderate"; play moderately; 

Mattinata - (Italian) "early"; morning song; song written for morning performance

Measure - the distance, space, or time between two bars or bar-lines on the musical staff; a bar of music

Mechanical - term designation of non-acoustic instruments operated by mechanical means to produce its sound

Medley - a selection of songs performed concurrently or one after another; numerous short phrases or samples from songs which are grouped together into a single musical work

Meistersinger - (German) "master singer"; amateur poet-musicians popular in medieval Germany, often called 'Master Singers'

Melisma - (Greek) "song"; a vocal effect in which numerous notes are sung in a single syllable found in plainchant; a practice of modern soul and ballad singers who specialize in the legato style; see also legato

Melodie - (French) "melody"; a 19th century form of French art song which sets poetry to music; see also 'lied'

Melody - (Greek) "singing"; song written in a specific pitch with rhythm; the main melodic line of a composition; the instrument playing the main musical line

Membranophone - one of the Hornbostel-Sachs classifications of instruments which produce sound through the vibrations of a stretched membrane

Memesis - music composed to imitate the sounds of nature; the imitation or representation of aspects in the natural world, including human actions in art, literature, and music

Mesto - (Latin) "sad"; a direction to played sadly or in a sorrowful manner

Meter, Metre - the regular occurring patterns of the beat and rhythm of the music; the count and beat of music as determined by the time-signature

Metronome - a mechanical practice device for musicians which ticks upon setting a beat and tempo to keep musical time which is measured in beats per minute (bpm)

Mezzo, Mezza - (Italian) "half";  a prefix in relation to a written direction or instruction, as in mezzo forte meaning "half as loud"

Mezza Voce - (Italian) "half-voice"; instruction to play quietly in a lower volume

Mezzo Forte - (Italian) "half-loud"; to play in a moderately raised volume

Mezzo-soprano - (Italian) "half-"; a classical female singer with a vocal pitch between soprano and contralto, overlapping both

Middle C - the 'C' note about center of the piano keyboard; the fourth 'C' from the left on a standard keyboard; a tone with a pitch frequency around 261.63 Hz

Military Band - a regimental orchestra comprised of brass, percussion, and woodwind instruments; marching band which marches ahead or behind soldiers

Minim - (Italian) "half"; half-note; a note with a duration of half of a whole note

Minimal Music -  a musical form of music made up of only the essential elements utilizing repetition and little embellishment and constant harmony

Minimalism -  a musical form from post WWII, primarily the 1960s or 1970s, of music made up of only the essential elements utilizing repetition and little embellishment; see also Minimal Music

Minnesinger - (German) "love singer"; minstrels and troubadours 12th to 14th century Europe who sang of love and romance; the predecessor of 'Meistersingers'

Minore - (French, Italian, Latin) "minor"; minor

Minor Chord - a chord consisting of a root, a minor third, and a perfect fifth

Minor Key - the minor scale or pitches which form the basis of a composition

Minor Scale - a diatonic scale developed from the Greek Aeolian modes of the 16th century; a scale in the sixth scale degree of its relative major; 8 tone scale with note intervals of tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone

Major Triad - a set of three notes stacked vertically in thirds; Right: a minor chord which is also a minor triad

Minstrel - () "";  a professional singer of the Middle Ages;

Modéré - (French) "moderatel"; play at a moderate tempo

Moderato - (Italian) "moderate"; play at a moderate tempo

Modulation - a variation in the pitch, strength, or tone of one's voice; a change of tonality or tonal center;  a change of key within a composition

Molto - (Italian) "very"; a prefix in relation to a written direction or instruction, as in molto allegro meaning "very fast"

Monodrama - a theater drama, melodrama, or opera played by a single actor or singer portraying a single character

Monody - (Greek) "singing alone"; song for a solo vocalist accompanied by music

Monophonic - a musical form of a single vocal or instrumental part developed in the middle ages and Medieval times

Monothematic - musical composition or movement based on a single theme

Monotone - a single tone of no variation

Morbido - (Italian) "soft, tender"; play or sing in a soft and gentle manner; softly

Mordent - written ornamentation to a melodic line as directed by the composer

Morendo - (Italian) "dying"; an instruction to gradually fade the music away

Mosso - (Italian) "moved"; faster; a suffix or prefix instructing 'fast or faster'

Motet - (Latin) "to move"; unaccompanied sacred choral music, polyphonic in form, often sung in Latin from the 13th century Renaissance

Motif - (French) "motive"; a short recurring melodic or rhythmic idea (theme) of a composition or movement

Motion - the linear pattern of a melody's flow or progress

Moto - (Italian) "motion"; a written instruction to play quickly or with motion

Motto Theme - a recurring musical idea or theme of the Renaissance and Baroque period

Mouthpiece - a detachable part of a wind instrument which is blown through

Movement - a self contained section of a larger composition

Muffle - covering a drum head with cloth to produce a softer or muted tone

Multiphonics - a simultaneous sounding of two or more tones with the voice or on an instrument or both; example: singing into the mouthpiece while playing a tone

Music - (Greek) "art of the Muses"; a melodic combination of tones in pitch into a rhythmic pattern of sounds; the product of a musician

Music Box - a 19th century mechanical device which plays music by striking tuned metal prongs with a rotating pinned cylinder driven by clockwork gearing

Musical - a dramatic blending of theatrical drama with music or song and melodies based upon the theme of the music itself

Musical Comedy - a dramatic form of operetta based upon a romantic storyline coupled with popular songs originating in 19th century Europe and America

Music Hall - a theatrical entertainment consisting of music, dance, comedy, drama, acting, and more from the mid 19th into the early 20th centuries, prior to the invention and development of film

Musicology - (Greek, Latin) "study of music"; the academic study of music outside of composing and performance based upon research and scholarly analysis; the study or science of sound

Muta - (Italian) "to change"; either a change of instrument or a change in tuning

Mute - to dampen or soften the sound with a cloth, the hand, a mute, or other apparatus; a device for toning down or quieting the sound of an instrument