Vocabulary, part 3

Tempo – the speed at which music is performed; common markings are adagio, andante, and allegro. Examples of these tempos in Danse Macabre: the intro is quite slow (adagio), the music quickly moves to a faster tempo (andante), and then the entire orchestra comes in unison at a more allegro tempo.

Theme – a musical idea, usually a melody, that forms the basis for a composition. An example is the melody, Death’s theme, played by the solo violin in Danse Macabre.

Tone Color/Timbre – the unique sound of an instrument.

Tremolo – quick and continuous sound on a stringed instrument, produced by an up-and-down movement of the bow on a single note; creates a “trembling” effect. An example is tremolo is at the beginning of “Dream of a Witches Sabbath”, when the violins play very softly and mysteriously.


Hitchcock, H. Wiley and Sadie, Stanley. The New Grove Dictionary of Music. 4th Edition. London: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Randel, Don Michael. The New Harvard Dictionary of Music. 2nd Edition. Boston: Harvard College, 1986.

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