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Anne Beetem Acker


Electronic music player that accompanies singers with pre-recorded music. The name comes from Japanese, kara (‘empty’) and oke (‘orchestra’). The basic karaoke machine includes some form of music player, a built-in audio mixer, microphone inputs, and audio outputs. The first karaoke systems included a microphone, eight-track tape player, amplifier, loudspeaker, and printed songbooks. Later machines display the lyrics on a video screen, and the more expensive versions can adjust the pitch level to suit the singer without changing tempo (some early systems allowed for changing the pitch but only by changing the tape speed, altering the tempo). Some early 21st-century versions include an Auto-Tune audio processor to correct intonation and software for making music videos. Karaoke systems for public spaces often are integrated into a pedestal that holds the controls, song storage, microphones, and video display, with separate loudspeakers. Portable systems resemble portable CD players, with or without a video screen. Wireless-microphone karaoke systems by companies such as Entertech use television or entertainment consoles for both audio and video. Video-game versions allow singers/players to receive scores or perform ‘with’ famous bands, sometimes as an animated character onscreen....


Anne Beetem Acker

Term for any device, mechanism, or means by which a player controls an instrument. It embraces keys and keyboards, valves, mouthpieces, bows, plectra, beaters, ribbon controllers, joysticks, touchscreens, other computer input devices and displays running control software, and any other intermediary between player and instrument (real or virtual) giving the player control of the sound-producing elements....


Brandon Smith

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

[polyphonic key pressure, polyphonic aftertouch]

On an electronic instrument, an expressive MIDI characteristic or data type (in the form: channel, note number, pressure) that transmits the key pressure for individual keys, and therefore separately for each note played, even when several are played simultaneously. This allows the performer to play different notes simultaneously at different loudness levels or with other effects, such as adding vibrato or triggering a filter. As with the more common monophonic MIDI data type (which averages the pressure for different keys pressed simultaneously, as if all were played with the same pressure), the pressure value is transmitted when the performer strikes a key while it is depressed, allowing the tone to change while a note is held.

The term ‘polyphonic aftertouch’ is also used to describe controllers (usually keyboards) with the capability to sense and send polypressure MIDI data, a characteristic found only in relatively expensive equipment. In velocity-sensitive keyboards without aftertouch, only the speed with which the key is initially depressed is sent as data....


J. Richard Haefer

Five-stringed small guitar of Mexico. Commonly known as the vihuela, it is played in the mariachi ensemble as a harmony and rhythm instrument, and should not be confused with the Spanish vihuela de mano. It has a loud, crisp, rapid-decay sound. The soundbox is typically 39 cm long with a 29 cm maximum width, a 28 cm neck with four to six movable nylon frets, and 50 cm string length. The maximum depth of the sides is 10.5 cm plus an additional 6 cm depth to the apex of the vaulted, angled back. Wooden pegs inserted from the rear of the pegboard are traditional but nowadays most vihuelas have mechanical tuners. The tuning is a-d′-g′-b-e′ but sometimes the lowest three strings are tuned an octave higher. The soundhole (boca) is surrounded by nácar (mother of pearl) and wood inlay in a starburst pattern, and the purfling has intricate ...



Konin Aka

Scraper of the Baule and Agni-Morofwe peoples of Ivory Coast. A serrated stick passes through a hole pierced in a nut; the right hand moves the nut along the stick against which the left hand occasionally presses a small resonator. The instrument, played only by women and young girls, is used for rhythmic accompaniment to singing for amusement....


Howard Mayer Brown

(1) An adjective used, like ‘contra-’, to indicate a lower octave, hence qualifying particular instruments. Thus the double bassoon (or contrabassoon) plays in the octave below the bassoon, the double bass (or contrabass) an octave below the cello, and so on. This usage derives from the old practice of identifying notes below gamma ut (the G on the bottom line of the bass stave) by double letters, FF, EE, and so on. Organ builders still refer to these low pitches as ‘double F’, ‘double E’, etc., and name 16′ manual ranks ‘double open diapason’, etc. ‘Double harp’ (arpa doppia) denotes either a harp with two ranks of strings or a harp with a downward extension of pitch, or both. Keyboard instruments with two manuals are often called ‘double’. But in the 16th and 17th centuries the terms ‘double harpsichord’, ‘double regals’, ‘double virginals’, or even ‘double curtall’ (and also the ...


Douglas Leedy

revised by Charles Corey

Systems of organization of the pitch scale. Such systems are either “just” or “tempered.” Just systems consist entirely of pure intervals, and though literal transposition of patterns or scales may be very limited, other musically useful symmetries are available. Tempered systems are those in which the purity of some or all intervals is deliberately compromised in order to render other intervals less impure, and thus increase the number of musically serviceable intervals. Over the course of centuries countless tunings and temperaments have been proposed, but few have been of practical importance; of these, 12-tone equal temperament has become the standard in Western music since the 19th century.

Until about 1850 many organs in New England were tuned to some practical variant of meantone temperament, while in areas of German influence (such as the Moravian communities) equal temperament prevailed. The universal acceptance of 12-tone equal temperament as standard from the mid-19th century nearly silenced discussion of alternative systems; only a few isolated composers and theorists advocated or experimented with non-standard tuning systems before about ...


Clive Brown

Symbols appended to musical notation which indicate to the performer the manner in which particular notes and phrases should be played.

Until the late 18th century the only signs commonly used to indicate distinctions of articulation were the slur and the staccato mark (a dot, a vertical stroke, or a wedge) placed above or below the note head. In the 19th century composers became concerned to specify their requirements with ever greater precision, and other forms of articulation mark were introduced, though only a few of these were widely adopted. The principal meaning of the slur has remained relatively constant, though the manner of its employment has varied greatly over the centuries. Except where slurs are written over a succession of notes on the same pitch to indicate portato, they specify that notes of different pitches should be performed without separation, that is, legato. There is, strictly speaking, no greater or lesser degree of connectedness; terms such as ...


The Fingering of keyboard music with figures 1 to 5 for each hand, 1 standing for the thumb, a system in general use throughout the world today. The term was used in Britain in the 19th century in contrast to so-called English fingering (not, however, exclusively English), which provided for four fingers (marked 1 to 4) and a thumb (marked +)....


Owen Jander

(Lat.: ‘high [part] against the tenor’)

A line in polyphony lying just above the tenor. In the 15th century, as music came to be written in four rather than only three voices, composers approached the addition of the fourth voice by an extension of earlier compositional procedure. The most common arrangement of three voices had been superius (or cantus), tenor and Contratenor; in the new four-voice texture the composer used two contratenor parts, a contratenor bassus and a contratenor altus. The original method of writing these two voice parts is still evident in Pietro Aaron’s Il Thoscanello de la musica (1523), where ten rules set out ‘the method of composing the controbasso and the controalto, after the tenor and canto’ (bk 2, chap.21). In Italy ‘contratenorbassus’ was abbreviated to ‘bassus’, ‘controbasso’ or ‘basso’; ‘contratenor altus’ became ‘altus’, ‘controalto’, ‘contr’alto’, ‘contralto’ or ‘alto’. In France the term became Haute-contre. English usage was complicated because even in the late 16th century (by which time the word ‘contratenor’ had long been obsolete on the Continent) an alto part might also be called a meane, a contra, a counter or a ...