An Extensive Encyclopedic Music Dictionary

An Extensive
Traditional and Folk Music
Encyclopedic Dictionary

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(Section G1)

gaberlunzie (UK, also "gaberlunyie") a beggar or beggar’s wallet.

gaed (Scot., also "ganged") gone, went.

Gaelic the language of the Celtic people. There are five versions of Gaelic extant: Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Manx, and Brittany. There has been a revival of the language in recent years, and it is now being taught again in some areas. Scots Gael can be heard in Cape Breton on Canada’s east coast and turns up in modern recordings by performers such as the Rankin Family. There are folk songs still published in Gaelic. Peter Kennedy’s "Folksongs of Britain and Ireland" includes many (see books).

gaffer (British usage) specifically, the head organizer of a folk club or festival; in general, someone at the top - "When it comes to knowledge of folk songs and guitar playing, Martin Carthy is the gaffer".

Gahr, David one of folkdom’s behind-the-scenes people about whom little is known, except that he has apparently photographed everybody in American folk music. His photographs have appeared regularly in Sing Out!, in Oak Publications, and on album covers since the late 50s. Much of his work has been published in the book "The Face of Folk", Citadel Press NY,, 1968, with text by music critic Robert Shelton.

galliard a baroque court dance popular in the 16th to 17th centuries. It’s usually in triple meter and uses hemiola. It was often paired with a slower dance such as the pavane.

Galliard-The galliard is a courtly dance of the late 16th and early 17th century in triple metre usually following a slower duple metre pavan. The two dances are often found in instrumental compositions of the period, sometimes in suites.

Galop-The galop is a quick dance in duple metre, one of the most popular ballroom dances of the 19th century. The dance appears as a parody in Offenbach's operetta Orpheus in the Underworld in a can-can.

Gamba-Gamba (Italian: leg) is in English used colloquially to designate the viola da gamba or leg-viol, the bowed string instrument popular from the 16th until the middle of the 18th century and held downwards, in a way similar to that used for the modern cello, as opposed to the viola da braccio or arm-viol, the instrument of the violin family, held on the arm or shoulder.

gambolier (pron. "gambo-leer") it seems to be used in songs as "gambler", but since the root of the word is "to frolic", it can also be used in the sense of "rake", or somebody having a good time irresponsibly.

gamut a bit of trivia for you: the word is an archaic term for the musical scale, so the popular phrase "run the gamut from A to Z" is incorrect usage; "A to G" would do it. It’s actually a contraction of "gamma-ut"; the Greek "gamma" stood for G, the lowest note in one of the medieval hexachords, and "ut" was the forerunner of our "do" in the do-re-mis. 17th-century musical dictionaries sometimes give the spelling as "gam-ut". See Guido d’Arezzo for the attributed origin of the do-re-mis.

gandy dancer see lining track.

gang (Scot.) go.

gar (UK, also "gaur") make, force, cause to happen.

garland dance a ritual ring dance - the dancers hold long strands of flowers, and these become woven into patterns as the dance steps progress.
Gateway Singers San Francisco folk group, quite popular from the late 50s through 1961. Lou Gottlieb was the bass player, and left to form the Limeliters. They had several albums on Capitol.

gauge in general, the diameter of the string used on stringed instruments. They are usually available in heavy, medium, light, and extra-light gauges. The smaller the diameter, the easier the instrument is to play, but the softer the loudness and tone. It takes some experimenting to reach a happy medium, so to speak. The definition of heavy, medium, etc., varies with the manufacturer, so some musicians prefer to specify the gauge in thousandths of an inch; most companies now list this on the packaging.

Gaughan, Dick Scottish singer and guitarist who performs both traditional and contemporary songs. Along with Carthy, Martin he remains one of the best folk guitarists in the UK, if not the world - his Leader recording of dance tunes was a landmark effort. Few can match his singing of the epic ballads. Fred Woods of Folk Review said that Dick was "the best singer in the country" and possibly the best singer anywhere. He played guitar and sang for the group Five Hand Reel for a few years, but left to continue a more traditionally-oriented solo career.

gavotte a baroque dance in duple meter with regular four-measure phrases, similar to the bourree but without the syncopation.

genre. classification of music by some combination of function, medium, form, or idiom; examples are: opera (voices, orchestra, dramatic action, staging), etude (an exercise composed for developing skills on an instrument), lullaby (song used to put one to sleep), dirge (a funeral music).

genteel as Bert Lloyd (see Lloyd, A.L.) pointed out in his "Folk Song in England", many songs have been tarted up for the upper classes, complete with gooey words. Greensleeves is a fine example. See also bowdlerize. These songs stick out and wave flags at traddies, since the overblown lyrics have all the grace and flow of a man with a broken leg climbing a flight of stairs. In some cases, the heavy-handed editing produces a lyric that doesn’t even make sense, because the main point has been snipped out.

Georgia Bill pseudonym used by Blind Willie McTell.

Georgia Sea Island Singers started in the 1920s to preserve the culture and songs of the islands off the coast of Georgia. Their repertoire is a mix of gospel, rowing songs, work and play songs, etc. "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" is said to have originated in the Georgia Sea Islands. The group has played many major festivals and has a number of albums.

Geremia, Paul (1944- ) a Rhode Island guitarist, pianist, harp player, and vocalist who performs blues, ballads, ragtime, etc. He was influenced by older bluesmen such as Johnson, Robert, Anderson, Pink, and Hurt, John, as well as the urban interpreters like Van Ronk, Dave, Koerner, John, and Rush, Tom. He recorded for Folkways and Adelphi.

Gerlach, Fred a singer/guitarist specializing in the 12-string, and one who has preserved the complex arrangements of Leadbelly for that instrument. He made a Folkways album in 1962, "Folk Songs and Blues".

German dance-The German dance (= German: Deutsche, Deutscher Tanz) describes generally the triple metre dances of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, found in the Ländler and the Waltz. There are examples of this dance in the work of Beethoven and of Schubert.

German-sixth. an augmented-sixth chord that is built on the raised fourth in the key and normally occurs in first-inversion. Thus, F# A-flat C E-flat in C-Major becomes A-flat C E-flat F#, forming the augmented-sixth that resolves to an octave on the dominant. This chord is enharmonically equivalent to a dominant-seventh chord built on the minor-sixth degree of the key.

G-G is a note of the musical scale (= French, Italian: sol)

Gibson a famous guitar brand, one of the top US three along with Martin and Guild. The company was formed by Orville Gibson (1856-1918) in NY, later Michigan. After WWI, they produced guitars, banjos, and mandolins, and brought out an electric model after WWII (see also Paul, Les). The guitar lines were expanded after the guitar’s popularity got a boost from performers such as the Carter Family; another peak occurred during the folk revival of the 50s and 60s.

Gibson, Bob (1931-1996) a popular Chicago and NYC folksinger during the mid-50s, Bob toured extensively and recorded for various labels (Riverside, Stinson, etc.) into the 90s. He had a great influence on the up-and-coming performers in the 60s, such as the Kingston Trio, Lightfoot, Gordon, Peter, Paul & Mary, and many others of the folk revival. He collaborated with Ochs, Phil, Baez, Joan, Silverstein, Shel, Paxton, Tom, Camp, Hamilton and Smith, Michael. His performances and songs are part of the roots of the revival.

gie (Scot.) give.

gig (from jazz argot) a public performance, which may consist of multiple appearances. A gig is usually paid, but playing for free just to do it is a matter of course in folk music. See money. As Ian Robb pointed out in a 1991 Sing Out!, the North American folk circuit is not large enough to support everyone who would like to make a full-time living from it. See also house concert.

Gigue-The gigue (= Italian: giga; English: jig) is a rapid dance normally in compound duple metre (the main beats divided into three rather than two). The gigue became the accepted final dance in the baroque instrumental suite.

Gilbert, Ronnie member of the Weavers from their inception in the late 40s and still performing as a singer.

gill (UK) with a hard "g", a glen; with a soft "g", a liquid measure equal to ¼ pint and, in older songs, usually referring to liquor. The current gill served in English pubs is much smaller than this, closer to the North American shot of liquor.

gin 1. (Australian, with a soft "g") aborigine, esp. a woman. 2. (Scot. with a hard "g"), if.


Giocoso-Giocoso (Italian: jocular, cheerful) is sometimes found as part of a tempo instruction to a performer, as in allegro giocoso, fast and cheerful. The same Italian adjective is used in the descriptive title of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, a dramma giocoso.

Giusto-Giusto (Italian: just, exact) is found in tempo indications, as, for example, allegro giusto, as in the last movement of Schubert's Trout Quintet, or tempo giusto, in strict time, sometimes, as in Liszt, indicating a return to the original speed of the music after a freer passage.

glass harmonica a device invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761, and also called an "armonica". Nothing whatsoever to do with folk’s harmonica - it was a series of different-sized glass bowls rotating on a spindle; touching the bowls with a wetted finger produced tones. Some models had keyboards to eliminate wet fingers. Beethoven and Mozart wrote for it.

Glazer, Tom (1914- ) American folksinger from the 40s and 50s; see People’s Songs. He was particularly successful with children’s records; from 1950 to 1960 he sold about a half million albums.


glee 1. (from the OE "gliw", "music") Originally in the 18th-19th centuries, the glee was a specific type of a cappella choir piece. It had different settings for various groups of verses, but wasn’t as complex as the full madrigal. The present meaning, as in "glee club", has lost all connection with this and simply means a singing group. 2. (Scot.) Glove.

Glesca (Scot.) Glasgow.

glissando a continuous, rapid glide up or down the scale - it can be produced by running the finger up or down the piano keyboard, or by sliding the lefthand finger on a violin neck to produce a gliding tone. 2. Derived from the French glisser, to slide, the Italianised word is used to describe sliding in music from one note to another. On the harp or the piano this is achieved by sliding the finger or fingers over the strings or keys, and can be achieved similarly on bowed string instruments, and by other means on the trombone, clarinet, French horn and pedal timpani among others.

Glockenspiel-The glockenspiel is a percussion instrument similar in form to the xylophone, but with metal rather than wooden bars for the notes. The instrument appeared only gradually in the concert-hall and opera-house and is found in Handel's oratorio Saul and elsewhere. Mozart made famous use of the glockenspiel in The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte), where it is a magic instrument for the comic bird-catcher Papageno. It is now a recognised if sparingly used instrument in the percussion section of the modern orchestra.

Glover, Tony Dave "Tony" Glover took his nickname to avoid being confused with Dave Ray, his colleague along with Koerner, John in Koerner, Ray & Glover; he was also called (apparently rarely) "Little Sun". His harp playing for the trio led to the writing of his tutorial "Blues Harp" for Oak Publications. He is also one of the few people from the university days in Minneapolis in 1959 who maintained a friendship with Dylan, Bob.

go down (UK). Child gives the definition as "be hanged", which would be consistent with its usage in many shanties. However, it’s also used in mining songs as "go down to the coal". In some songs, it functions as a mere expression to keep things going.

go the distance performers often arrive at a festival on a Friday night and proceed to sing and play and party and drink until dawn, blissfully forgetful of the fact that they may have workshops at noon on Saturday. Bleary-eyed and unedifying morning workshops are par for the course. The real Trojans are the ones who can claim to have been on the road for two weeks, doing exactly the same thing each night. Said performers may or may not learn to pace themselves so that they retain enough energy to put on good night concerts. A close look at them in the afternoon beer tent may reveal this. Performers wearing dark glasses indoors are suspect.

Golden-mean or -section or -ratio. a mathematical proportion in which the smaller number is to the larger as the larger is to their sum. This works out to be approximately .618 :1 in practice. A number of composers and artists have used this proportion, whether consciously or not, throughout history. It is well known in architecture. Recently, the proportion has been used consciously by Stockhausen, Xenakis, Le Corbusier and others; see also Fibonacci series.

Goldstein, Kenneth (1927-1995) prominent US folklorist and folksong collector as well as a record producer, having produced over 500 records of folk music. He has a number of books on folklore and song and is a widely quoted authority in various works.

goliard 12th- and 13-century minstrels who wrote songs based on church music of the time, but in favour of revelery in general. Carl Orff used verses by the goliards in his famous setting "Carmina Burana Suite".

Gong-The gong is a percussion instrument originating in the East. In the modern orchestra it is usually found in the form of the large Chinese tam-tam. The gong appears in Western orchestral music in the late 18th century, and notable use of sets of gongs of varying size is found adding exotic colour to Puccini's oriental operas Madama Butterfly and Turandot.

goober peas the dictionary says that they’re peanuts, but Lomax, Alan, collector of "Eating Goober Peas", said that they’re chickpeas; it probably depends on the locality.

good- (Scot.) an in-law, such as goodson, goodbrother. Or as "goodman" or "goodwife", a husband or wife. Also spelled "gude" or "guid".

Goodman, Steve (1948-1984) singer-songwriter from Chicago who is probably best known for "Penny Evans" and "The City of New Orleans" (written in 1970), a plaintive song about the decline of the railroads, and a hit by Guthrie, Arlo in 1972. He also popularized "The Dutchman" by Smith, Michael. He was a hit at international festivals and clubs, and his wide-ranging repertoire even included a satire of C&W: "I was drunk the night Mama got out of prison..." and he even did commercial jingles for a while. As Arlo wrote in Sing Out! "...his songs will survive a long time. It’s nice that he left something that’s going to outlive all of us." Steve died of leukemia in September, 1984.

goodnight ballad a song with lyrics said to be a dying confession, or the last words of someone, usually a condemned person. See also broadside. Lomax, Alan wrote "...the criminal is given an opportunity to tell his story and make an appeal for sympathy as he stands upon the scaffold. In other ballads the stories are reported with an obvious relish, although an apologetic moral may be tacked on at the end." For a condemned man who’s anything but apologetic, see the brief history of "Sam Hall" under song family. One of the best of the American goodnight ballads is "Hang Me, Oh, Hang Me" (aka "Been All Around This World", though there are other songs by this name): "Hang me, oh, hang me,And I’ll be dead and gone. (2x)Wouldn’t mind the hangin’,But the layin’ in the grave so long, poor boy,I been all around this world.Been all around Cape Girardeau,Parts of Arkansas.All around Cape Girardeau,Parts of Arkansas,Got so goddamn hungry,I could hide behind a straw, poor boy,I been all around this world.Went up on the mountain,And there I made my stand. (2x)Rifle on my shoulder,And a dagger in my hand, poor boy,I been all around this world.They put the rope around my neck,Hung me up so high. (2x)Last words I heard ‘em say,Won’t be long now ‘fore you die, poor boy,I been all around this world."

gospel traditional music from the church, basically divided into southern white gospel (for example, as popularized by the Stanley Brothers) and black gospel (which greatly influenced freedom songs).

Gossett Jr, Lou best known as an actor, Lou started in the folk revival in Greenwich Village in the 60s. He is the author of "Handsome Johnny", recorded by Havens, Richie.

Gow, Niel (1727-1807) famous Scottish violinist who composed many reels and strathspeys that are still played today, such as "Farewell to Whisky" (his doctor’s orders) and "Welcome Whisky Back Again" (apparently he got well). Note the odd spelling of "Neil".

gowd (Scot.) gold.

grace notes notes of short duration used to ornament a melody. They can be removed without losing the essential tune, but add interest. In music notation, the grace notes are often printed in a smaller size and tied to the melody notes, and with a diagonal line through the stems. The grace note and main note share the allotted time value of the main note (the division is up to the performer). In stringed-instrument playing, grace notes are often played with the left hand - see hammer.

grace-note. an auxiliary note normally written smaller than the main note that follows it. It is played just before the main note.

Graham, Davey (1940- ) British guitarist and singer from the 60s. He is little known to the public, but greatly influenced other guitarists (such as Renbourn, John and Jansch, Bert) with such compositions as his intricate finger-style instrumental "Angie" (which is sometimes seen as "Anji"). International music and jazz influenced his writing. He is said to have popularized the now-common DADGAD open tuning, which he adapted from Middle Eastern instrument tuning. He has a number of albums on Decca and Kicking Mule.

Grainger, Percy (1882-1961) Australian composer (later an American citizen). He collected folk songs and popularized several morris tunes that he heard in the Cotswolds, including "Shepherd’s Hey". He received the morris tune Country Gardens (later "An English Country Garden") from Sharp, Cecil and had an enormous success with his arrangement of it. He also arranged "Londonderry Air", discussed under Irish music. His early phonograph recordings of traditional singers (such as the singers at Lincolnshire’s Brigg Fair) are an important resource to both collectors and performers. His compositions were full of folksong influence: one of his works was entitled "Mock Morris" and featured morris-like tunes. He was noted as being quite good at composing original tunes, although he’s better remembered for his arrangements of existing material. Although he did well as a composer and arranger, Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians noted, "He has escaped the bane of importance." Many of us share that characteristic.

grammarie (UK, also "grammaree", "gramarye") in folksong, this refers to basic education (the three Rs), although the word is occasionally used to mean the occult, or magic. "Glamour" is still used in Scottish dialect with the meaning of magic. See also folk process for more on this word.

grand clef see great clef.

Grand Ole Opry a radio variety program that presented a wide range of country music, Appalachian music, etc., from 1926 to the present TV productions, which began in the 50s. It went national in 1939 when NBC carried it on network radio. Since its inception, the cast has included just about everybody who’s famous in C&W. Since the 70s, it has gone big-time show-biz, located in a Nashville theme park called "Opryland USA". See also Macon, Uncle Dave. In the early decades, the G.O.O. brought many rural musicians to the fore, capitalizing on the popularity of "hillybilly" music. They exploited the rural image, insisting on band names such as "Honey Drippers", "Possum Hunters", and so on.