An Extensive Encyclopedic Music Dictionary

An Extensive
Traditional and Folk Music
Encyclopedic Dictionary

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(Section U)

Uillean pipes see bagpipes.

ukelele (also "ukulele"). A tiny, four-string instrument resembling a miniature guitar, often contracted to "uke" (for what it’s worth, "ukelele" is said to mean "bouncing flea" in Hawaiian). The strings are nylon and the tuning is the same as the top four strings of a guitar, but up a fifth: A D F# B. The fourth string, the A, is often very thin and tuned one octave up for a brighter tone. This tuning scheme even has a mnemonic: "My Dog Has Fleas", sung by uke owners to remind them of the eleventh- third- fourth relationship. It’s not a versatile instrument and is best suited to simple rhythm accompaniments. Peter Sellers played one on a Steeleye Span recording ( New York Gals), and George Formby used one to good effect in his music hall performances. See taropatch for an unusual cousin, and tiple for a ukelele taken about as far as you can take one.

Una Corda-one string. Means to apply the soft pedal on a piano. It is so named because on grand pianos, applying the soft pedal moves the hammers to such a position that they strike only one string instead of three.


unco (Scot.) extraordinary, very, unknown, strange, awful.

Underlap. (Schenker: Untergriefen) a line rising from a voice below the Urlinie whose goal is a tone in the Urlinie already being approached from above.

undertone-series. (Cowell) a fictitious inversion of the interval of the overtone-series.

union songs the labor struggles from the turn of the century to modern times have produced a wealth of songs, including the ever-popular "Solidarity Forever", "We Shall Not Be Moved", "Joe Hill", "Carry It On", "Union Maid", "Roll the Union On", "Which Side Are You On", and hundreds of others. We Shall Overcome also joined the labor movement after being something of an anthem for the civil rights movement in the US. See also People’s Songs, Hill, Joe. See also Appalachia for a brief history of "Which Side Are You On". To quote Bruce Phillips, writing in Sing Out! 20/2: "Most of Joe Hill’s songs are bad poetry. His tunes are borrowed from what today would amount to the ‘Top Ten’. But Joe could read a letter from a group of strikers 2,000 miles away outlining the particulars of their strike and send them by return mail a song that could immediately be used in their action. The IWW developed a pretty good team of songwriters."

unison when two people sing exactly the same melody in the same key, they’re singing in unison. When two strings are tuned to the same note, they’re tuned in unison. Compare with third or fourth or other intervals. 2.Unison is the simultaneous sounding of the same note by two or more singers or players. Unison songs are not in different parts, with all singers singing the tune together.


unordered-set. (Forte) (set-theory, nonlinear) a pitch-class set in which the linear order is irrelevant. syn.: nonlinear-set.

unplugged (see buzzwords) implies some sort of essential purity and back-to-the-roots. In fact, it means that the performers are using microphones and acoustic instruments instead of pickups or electric guitars. Mariposa Folk Festival’s recent claim that they have been "unplugged since 1961" ignores the fact that instrumentalists are changing over to pickups instead of miked acoustic instruments, a change that is not always for the better. In the case of rock or pop groups, however, it might result in quite a change from their original sound when they switch to acoustic instruments. The electric and acoustic guitars are worlds apart in their capabilities.

Unravelling. (Schenker: Auswicklung) the spinning out of intervals or chords in the Middleground layers of structure.

Unterbrechung. (Schenker: interruption) a return to scale degree #3 (mi) or #5 (sol) following scale-degree #2 of the dominant (la) in the Middleground layers.

Untergreifen. (Schenker: see Underlap).

Up Bow-the bow is pushe up from tip.

upbeat 1. The part of the beat when your tapping foot rises up. See rhythm. 2. A performance that’s sprightly, cheerful and usually fast in tempo.

up-tempo describes a tune or song that’s played faster than usual, but also implies that the performance is upbeat. Can also mean a loud, vigorous performance without an increase in tempo.

Urlinie. [3,5] (Schenker: fundamental line) the fundamental upper line in a tonal structure. This ordinarily takes one of three forms: 3-2-1 or 5-4-3-2-1 or 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 (scale degrees).

Ursatz. [3,5] (Schenker: Background). the fundamental structure of a composition normally shown as a horizontalized tonic chord. This frequently takes the form of two voices: the Urlinie, or basic melodic line, a stepwise progression above the bass with passing tones (normally between tones of the tonic) and the bass arpeggiation (Grundbrechung) (usually the roots of I and V). this is called the background or simplest sketch of the overall motion.

Usenet folk see Internet folk.

ut the first note of the scale until Renaissance times, when it became the familiar "do" of our do-re-mis. For its reputed origin and related information, see Guido d’Arezzo, gamut, hexachord.