An Extensive Encyclopedic Music Dictionary

An Extensive
Traditional and Folk Music
Encyclopedic Dictionary

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(Section D2)

direct-octaves and -fifths. motion to a perfect fifth or perfect octave in similar motion.

dirge a slow, mournful song, usually used for funerals. Also called a threnody. Also used informally to describe a song the listener finds slow and boring.

Dirty Linen a folksong magazine about the music and the musicians. Similar to Sing Out! but without published songs. A good read. They can be contacted at Dirty Linen, PO Box 66600, Dept S, Baltimore, MD 21239-6600, (410) 583-7973, Fax (410) 337-6735. See also Internet folk for their Web page. At present (Sep/94), excerpts from recordings featured in the current issue can be heard via any touchtone phone by calling (900) 454-3277. There is a fee charged; for information, contact Music Access, 90 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217, (718) 398-2146. Music Access is not affiliated with the magazine.

disasters few things inspired the songmakers like disasters; they’re second only to love for triggering the muse. There are songs about train wrecks (see train songs), floods, fires, mine collapses, ship sinkings, storms, and just about every sort of devastation imaginable. The writers of topical songs in the folk revival commemorated quite a few disasters in songs, but the last 20 years haven’t seen many, with the possible exception of "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Lightfoot, Gordon. Perhaps the daily parade of calamities presented by the various media makes it difficult to single out one occasion.

discant see descant.

discordant (also "discord", "discordance") synonymous with dissonant; opposite concordant.

disjunct see disjunctive.

disjunctive (also "disjunct") a melody that moves in steps larger than a second or third. Large steps turn up in folksongs, but most melodies are disjunctive’s opposite, conjunctive.

dissonance. any sound that carries a special expectation for its continuance, or which is perceived to be illogical; thus, a rule or law of continuance is constructed. Other uses of this term are fundamentally meaningless.

dissonant see harmony.

dithyramb in musicology, a song of "wild, passionate character" (Webster’s). The reader is encouraged, as an exercise, to think of examples.

ditone a third with a pitch ratio of 81/64 (1.266), formed from two pure tones of 9/8 each. The third in the Pythagorean scale is a ditone. Somewhat larger in span than a pure third, which is 5/4 (1.25). See also diesis. For more information on scale derivation, see temperament.

Divertimento-A divertimento is an instrumental composition intended for entertainment, usually in a number of movements. The term is used particularly in the second half of the 18th century. Haydn described his first string quartets as Divertimenti and the title is also used by Mozart and other composers of the period.

Divertissement-The French word divertissement (= Italian: divertimento) is used in English principally to indicate the additional dance entertainment that is often a part of classical ballet. A well known example would be the series of characteristic dances that entertain the heroine towards the end of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker.

Divider. (Schenker: Teiler). the dominant used as a boundary before a returning tonic section.

Divisi-divided. Used to show that two or more different parts are to be played at the same time on a piece of music.

Dixon, Willie (1915-199?) a bassist who dominated the Chicago blues scene since the 1940s. He was an A&R man for Chess records from 1952 through the 60s and wrote many hit songs for their performers, including "Hootchie Kootchie Man", "Little Red Rooster" (recorded by the Rolling Stones), and "My Babe". He toured with Memphis Slim. His autobiography (1989) is called "I Am the Blues".

do (pron. "dough") the first note of the major scale in the do-re-mi system. What note you select as "do" determines the key. If you have an instrument that can only play in one key and you place do somewhere other than the keynote, you’ll be playing in a mode. See also Guido d’Arezzo for the attributed origin of the do-re-mis.

Dobro a wood acoustic guitar built (since the late 20s) with a large metal resonator in the top (which looks exactly like a hubcap). It is usually stopped with a steel bar and very high action, but models are available with regular fretted necks and action. Its sound is similar to the National, but somewhat mellower. The name is a contraction of "Dopera Brothers", the manufacturers of both the Dobro and the National. The tuning is GBDGBD.

dochter (Scot., pron., more or less, "doctor") daughter.

doct (UK, also "dock") tail, particularly the fleshy part; "to dock a tail" is to cut the hair back without actually injuring the animal.

doffer (UK) a loom operator in the textile factories, usually a woman.

doffin’ mistress the lead hand in charge of a textile mill’s workers ( doffers). The song "Doffin’ Mistress" gives the name of the mistress as "Elsie Thompson", "Anne-Jane Brady" and even a man, "Billy Gillaspie". The song is a short course in industrial relations: when the boss roars at the workers, "Damn you doffers, tie up your ends", they sing behind his back, "Tie our ends up we surely do, for Elsie Thompson and not for you".



Dolcissimo-very sweet.

Dolente-with grief.


Doloroso-with grief.

dominant see progression, note names.

dominant. 1. the fifth degree of a scale, a perfect fifth above the tonic. 2. a chord built on the fifth scale degree.

dominant-function. any chord or sound that implies motion to the tonic; e.g., vii6.

dominant-preparation. any chord or sonority that acts as a link between the two poles of a harmonic axis and implying motion toward the pole of instability. A traditional example is the IV between I and V. See: harmonic-function.

dominant-seventh chord. a seventh chord that is normally built on the fifth degree of a scale. Its structure always consists of a root, major third, perfect fifth, and minor seventh, and any chord having this structure is called a dominant seventh, whether or not it is built on the fifth scale degree.

Donegan, Lonnie (1931- ) (Anthony J. Donegan) Scottish singer/guitarist who performed skiffle music in the 50s and early 60s (after taking the first name of his hero, Johnson, Lonnie). He mined American traditional music, with UK hits of "Lost John", "Battle of New Orleans", "Rock Island Line", and "Cumberland Gap". He also used the music hall sound, with songs like "My Old Man’s a Dustman" and "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight".

Donovan (1946- ) (Donovan Leitch) Scottish singer-songwriter who was catapulted into folk music fame with his 1964 hit "Catch the Wind". Though he was coined a British Bob Dylan, he was actually more of a Scottish Woodie Guthrie. After two albums that were reasonably accepted by folkies, he went on to flower power and pop stardom in 1966 with Sunshine Superman and The Trip.(with a somewhat different vocal approach). He continues to perform.

Dont Look Back (the spelling of "don’t" is probably from Dylan) a 1967 documentary film about the 1965 concert tour of the UK by Dylan, Bob. Directed by D.A. Pennebaker, it has little to do with traditional music, but offers insightful (and unflattering) views into the personalities of Dylan and his manager, Grossman, Albert.

dool (Scot., also "doll", "dule") sorrow, grief.

Doppio-double, in duplicate.

doppler-effect. a change in frequency due to the relative motion of the sound source and listener.

do-re-mi the familiar names for the notes of the major scale: do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. There are small variations in the spelling of these as noted under sol-fa. There are no separate labels for the minor scale, which starts on "la". For a list of the more formal labels, see note names. For the attributed origin of the do-re-mis, see Guido d’Arezzo.

Dorian. a mode consisting of T-S-T-T-T-S-T. (T=tone or whole-step; S=semitone or half-step).

dotted notes in music notation, a dot after the note increases its time value by half again; for example, a dotted quarter-note takes the time value of three eighth-notes. In practice, it means "Hold this one a little longer - til it feels right." A common use of the dotted note in folk music is the Scots snap. A dotover a note calls for staccato playing. A hollow dot (a tiny circle) over a note (esp. in violin notation) calls for the note to be played as a harmonic. There’s a rarer form called the double dotted note. It adds ¼ of the note’s value to the note’s dotted value, so a double-dotted quarter note would equal the time value of seven sixteenth notes (1/4 = 4/16. Half again is 6/16. Add ¼ of ¼ and you get 7/16). It’s certainly a good example of hair-splitting, or note-splitting.

double bass the upright, acoustic bass.

Double bassoon- A double bassoon plays an octave lower than the bassoon.

Double bass-The double bass is the largest and lowest of the instruments of the string section of the orchestra. It has generally four or five strings and its music sounds an octave (eight notes) lower than it is written. If, as often in music before 1800, the double bass plays the same music as the cello, the sound will be an octave lower.

double dominant see progression, note names.

double dotted see dotted notes.

double flat the symbol "bb" in notation, specifying that the following note is to be flatted by one whole tone; for instance, Dbb would become C. Why they don’t specify C in the first place remains a mystery.

double sharp the symbol "X" in notation, used to raise the following note by one whole tone; see double flat.

double stop (n. or v.) to play two of the same note simultaneously; a common decorative effect in stringed instrument playing. See also stop.

double with regards to rhythm, synonymous with "duple". Double rhythms have time signatures with the beats per measure a multiple of two: 2/2, 2/4, 4/4, etc.

double-counterpoint. see invertible-counterpoint.

double-thumbing in guitar and banjo playing, the technique of bringing the thumb (which usually plays the bass strings) up over the treble strings to play a treble note either on or off the beat. It adds a nice syncopation and gets away from boring pattern picking.

doubling. two or more pitches of the same pc sounding in one chord.

Down Bow-when bow is pulled down from the frog.

downbeat see rhythm.

dram (UK) a drink of liquor. While there’s an actual dram measure equal to 1/16 of an ounce, in general it refers to any small quantity of drink.


dreadnought a large-bodied guitar style (the "D" series) popularised by the Martin company; they were introduced in 1931 (1933 for the famous D-18 and D-28) to allow more bass and volume for the guitarist in string bands, and the shape remains a standard today.

Driftwood, Jimmy (James Morris) an Arkansas schoolteacher who specialised in spreading the knowledge of American folklore and songs through festival performances and songwriting. In 1959 Johnny Horton had an enormous hit with Jimmy’s "Battle of New Orleans", which was based on an old fiddle tune called "The Eighth of January" (and there was even a version recorded by Donegan, Lonnie for Canadian/UK consumption: "We fired our guns and the rebels kept a-comin’"!). About the same time, Eddy Arnold popularised Jimmy’s "Tennessee Stud", a song that has come to be associated with Elliott, Jack.

drone a continuous tone or repeated note that rarely changes in pitch, and is part and parcel of folk musics the world over. A typical example would be the bagpipes, which have continuously-sounding drone pipes (the ones standing up from the player’s shoulder). Others would be the unfretted strings on a dulcimer, which sound the same notes over and over as the player strums, and the thumb string on a 5-string banjo. The Hardanger fiddle and the hurdy gurdy both use drone strings.

drone strings instrument strings that are not played, but which sound along with the played strings through sympathetic resonance. Examples of instruments with drone strings would be the hurdy gurdy and the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle. The king of drone strings would probably be the Indian sitar, with its mass of unplucked strings that sound along through resonance.

drum kit see drums.

drummer (US usage) a travelling salesman or hawker.

drums at one time, the early 60s, say, drums would have been unthinkable. This was a narrow attitude that had more to do with rejecting the manipulative corporate arrangements of the time than rejecting the drums themselves. Drums were probably the first folk instrument, and have had a long and honorable history since. Today (1994), you couldn’t raise an eyebrow by adding drums. Individual drums are used a lot in performances, such as the bodhran, conga, snare, or side drums. The full complement of drums and cymbals is called a drum kit.

Drum-The form of drum generally found in the orchestra is the kettledrum or, in incorrect Italian, timpani, since the Italian singular timpano seldom appears in English usage. Other smaller and larger drums may also be used, including the snare-drum, a smaller instrument with a vibrating strip that can be switched on or off, and the bass drum. Timpani are tunable, nowadays usually by means of pedals that loosen or tighten the drum-skin.

dry a sound without added reverb or other effects. A performance outdoors with few reflective surfaces would be as dry as you can get, which is why artificial reverb is often added by the PA operators. Some recordings are made in recording studios with absorbent walls and result in a dry sound. They are often left this way by people under the mistaken impression that some sort of folk purity has been added. See also dead, sweeten. The term can also refer to a reasonably pure tone. For instance, the single reed per note of the concertina might be called dry, while the multiple reeds per note of certain melodeons might be called wet.

dubbing (from "double") to replace one track on a recording with another. Also called "overdubbing". See also multi-tracking.

Duet-A duet is a piece of music written for two performers. On the piano such a piece would involve two players on one instrument.

dulcimer music books give a wide range of definitions for the dulcimer, usually meaning the hammered dulcimer, but in North American and British folk, the Appalachian or "mountain" dulcimer holds sway. It’s about two feet long and vaguely hourglass- shaped or elliptical. The stringing varies, but one pair of unison melody strings, one drone string, and a drone bass string are typical (some players fret the drone strings to form chords). It’s played with a pick, but fingerpicking and limited chording are often used, although this is hard to hear in noisy surroundings. Occasionally the strings are fretted with a hard object such as a piece of ebony (a "noter"); this adds an interesting whistling sound and more definite glide tones. The dulcimer’s frets are arranged in the major scale, almost. The seventh note of the scale is flatted, giving the Mixolydian mode. However, the pure major scale is available by starting on the third fret and adjusting the tuning to suit. Some makers fret the instrument with a regular seventh instead of a flat, or use both, which causes grumbling from purists. The key is therefore limited to the range in which the strings can be tuned, usually about C to E. Since the fretboard is basically diatonic, different keys obtained without retuning all the strings are really modes, with Ionian (major), Aeolian (minor), Mixolydian, and Dorian being the most often used. Dulcimer players use a wide variety of tunings, but GGC for the major scale and BbGC for the minor are popular (the two closely-set melody strings are counted as one course). There is also a common variety called the "wall dulcimer", because people buy them in a fit of over-enthusiasm and they end up hanging forever on the living room wall. Compare with hammered dulcimer. See also dulcimer, courting.

dulcimer, courting there have been Appalachian dulcimers made with two sets of strings and fretboards on one body. The idea is that a courting couple can both play the same instrument. For a while, anyway.

dule see dool.

Duo-A duo is a piece of music for two performers. Written for the piano such a piece would need two performers and two pianos.


duple with regards to rhythm and meter, synonymous with "double". Duple or double rhythms have two or four beats per measure: 2/2, 4/4, etc. See also simple meter, compound meter. The other type of basic meter is triple.

duple. a meter consisting of alternating strong and weak beats.

duration-series. (set-theory) an ordering of time lengths. syn., rhythmic series.

Durchgang. (Schenker) a passing sonority, a chord or tone of lesser importance that acts as a bridge between two structural chords; e.g., a dominant-preparation.

dyad see interval.

dyad. (set-theory) a group (set) of two pitch-classes.

Dyer-Bennett, Richard (1913-1991) a singer-guitarist-lutenist who brought "artful" arrangements to folk songs, and sang them from the 40s onward. Some people prefer this classical approach, while others like their folk music with a bit of edge to it. In any case, he was an important figure in stimulating the folk revival. He made many albums on his own label and on others. He was an activist who believed in civil rights and the rights of the worker, and this caused trouble with the blacklist of the 50s. He continued to disseminate his music via small venues and recordings.

Dylan, Bob (1941- ) writing about Bob Dylan is a minor industry, and the writings tend to contradict each other; some of the fault lies with Dylan himself, noted as he is for manipulating his image from time to time. The reader is referred to two of the best books: "Bob Dylan - An Intimate Biography" by Anthony Scaduto, and "No Direction Home - The Life and Music of Bob Dylan" by Robert Shelton. Dylan had a standard middle-class upbringing as Bob Zimmerman in Minnesota, but came to New York City in 1961 at the height of the folk revival. He affected the image of the unlettered hobo with an incisive view of the world and an ability to write clever songs to get his point across. This persona owed much if not all to Guthrie, Woody and Elliott, Jack. His first album ("Bob Dylan", 1962) was a collection of traditional songs plus two of his own ("Talkin’ New York" and "Song to Woody" were an indication of how much he owed to Woody Guthrie’s influence). It was very skillfully done, and the country blues flavor was radically different in approach from the usual 60s pressed-and-starched folksingers in matching suits. During his "acoustic period" up until the mid-60s, he also backed other people, usually on harp, and usually under a pseudonym such as Blind Boy Grunt. People he played for included Jack Elliott, Spivey, Victoria, and Von Schmidt, Eric. His second album ("The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan", 1963) was a landmark - it had mostly his own songs, and included " Blowin’ in the Wind", "Girl From the North Country", "Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall" and "Masters of War". Dylan had established himself as a masterful topical songwriter, and he was completely at ease in the folk tradition - see borrowing. After his third album ("The Times They Are A-Changin’", 1964), he had taken the folk world by storm. For those who missed the 60s and the folk revival, it’s important to remember that Dylan was not just a brilliant performer, but a spokesman for a community - a community involved deeply in protesting the status quo. The role of protest songs in 60s folk shouldn’t be underestimated - something that may be all too easy to do at this remove in time. It’s interesting to note that after Dylan refused to do an Ed Sullivan appearance because they wouldn’t let him sing "Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues", he did only occasional appearances on American TV until the 70s (see Cash, Johnny), but the CBC gave him a TV special of his own in the early 60s. His fourth album ("Another Side of Bob Dylan", 1964) was interesting, but hastily put together. Its main interest for Dylan fans was the song "My Back Pages", in which he seemed to be recanting some of his previous views. With the 1965 "Bringing It All Back Home" album, Dylan had added electric instrumentation and a Chuck Berry-like sound, infuriating the folkies, who accused him of selling out and so on. Dylan had parted company with the folkies and rejected the neo-Guthrie image. He was now appealing to a much wider audience, with a new range of melodies and highly adventuresome lyrics. See also Dont Look Back. He also caused a fuss at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 when he used electric instrumentation; he was accompanied by musicians such as Bloomfield, Mike, Kooper, Al, and others from the Paul Butterfield band (see Butterfield, Paul. Not everybody turned away - the faithful were mesmerised by the "Highway 61 Revisited" (1965) and "Blonde on Blonde" (1966) albums. They may well be Dylan’s masterpieces, along with "Bringing It All Back Home". As for the rest, it’s been well documented by others. For all his faults (sloppy performances, disdain for the public, uncredited use of tunes), he remains the most influential, creative musician to have come out of folk music.

dynamics the range of loudness of a performance. Fiddle tunes might have very limited dynamics because the volume is more or less constant; a complex vocal might have a very wide dynamic range. Also called "tessitura".

dynamics. 1.signs that indicate the loudness or softness of music; e.g. f=loud, p=soft, mf= medium loud. 2. the actual loudnesses and softnesses themselves. Dynamics are the levels of sound, loud or soft, in a piece of music.