An Extensive Encyclopedic Music Dictionary

An Extensive
Traditional and Folk Music
Encyclopedic Dictionary

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order
A1 A2 B1 B2 B3 B4 C1 C2 C3 C4 C5 D1 D2 E F1 F2 G1 G2 H1 H2 H3 I J K L M1 M2 M3 M4 N O P1 P2 P3 P4 Q R1 R2 S1 S2 S3 S4 T1 T2 T3 U V W X Y Z

Share page  Visit Us On FB

(Section D1)

D.C. (It. "da capo") marked on music notation to indicate that the player is to go back to the beginning and start over. See also D.S..

D.S. (It. "dal segno") "from the sign", marked on music notation to indicate that the player is to go back to the sign (which looks something like a capital "S") and begin again, playing until the next "D.S." or the word "fine" (end). See also D.C..

D’Urfey, Thomas (1653-1723) an English poet and songwriter. His lyrics were set to music by Purcell, Henry, and he published song collections from 1683-1685. He was believed to be the editor of the song collection "Pills to Purge Melancholy" from 1698 onwards. Its many volumes were a major source for collectors such as Child.

Da capo-Da capo (Italian: from the beginning), abbreviated to the letters D.C. at the end of a piece of music or a section of it, means that it should be played or sung again from the beginning(De capo al fine) or from the beginning up to the sign (Da capo al segno). A da capo aria, often found in the later baroque period, is an aria in three sections, the third an ornamented repetition of the first.

dactylic see foot.

Dalhart, Vernon (1883-1948) (Marion Slaughter) an old-timey musician who first recorded on an Edison cylinder in 1917, he had a big hit with his 1924 recording of "Wreck of the Old 97". See also train songs. He was successful until about 1933 when his career declined; he died in obscurity.

damper a mechanism for stopping the sound that’s being produced, usually from strings. Except for the piano, few folk instruments have a separate device (though the autoharp’s chords are selected by damper bars).

damping reducing the volume of a note, dulling it, or muting it by touching the strings or using a built-in damping mechanism (as in the piano, which has felt pads under control of the damper pedal). For instance, in some styles of fingerpicking and flatpicking, the bass strings are damped by lightly touching them with the heel of the right hand. This gives a percussive effect without totally losing the pitch of the strings. Drums can be damped by applying a soft pad to the head, although the term is usually "muffled". See also mute.

dance see clogging, country dancing, EFDSS, garland dance, morris, squaredance.

danceout morris dancing is usually done in public places. Danceouts can be anywhere: parks, fairs, busy city squares, etc.

Dane, Barbara (1927- ) first began performing folk music in the late 40s. She had a successful career playing concerts, clubs and television throughout the 50s and was active in the antiwar effort of the 60s. She founded Paredon Records for the purpose of publishing political songs, and helped many artists (such as Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Jesse Fuller and Willie Dixon) become established. An editorial advisor for Sing Out!, she wrote the "Dare to Struggle! Dare to Sing!" column in the 70s.

danting (Scot.) sexual play.

Darby and Tarleton Tom Darby (1884-1971) and Jimmie Tarleton (1892-1979) were Georgia old-timey musicians who used the slide guitar or Hawaiian guitar to record some of the first approaches to white country blues. They recorded 60 sides from 1927-33 and played again briefly in the 60s. They popularised "Birmingham Jail" and "Columbus Stockade Blues".

Darling, Erik (1933- ) noted instrumentalist and singer, Erik performed with the Tarriers, the Weavers and the 1960s group Rooftop Singers. In the 50s, he was inspired by the recordings of Seeger, Pete and Leadbelly, and in the 60s began backing other people on guitar and banjo, including Collins, Judy, Elliott, Jack, and dozens of others. He played 12-string guitar on the 1963 hit "Walk Right In" by the Rooftop Singers (with a second twelve played by Bill Svanhoe - see also jug band, Cannon, Gus). Many people were puzzled by the then-new sound of the 12-strings and wondered how it was done. Besides his group work mentioned above, he has a number of albums on Elektra and Vanguard, has recorded with McCurdy, Ed, and has backed other people on over 30 albums.

daunton (Scot.) daunt, cast down.

Davenport, Bob British singer, greatly influential in the UK folk revival of the 50s and 60s. It was not until the 70s that he began to receive some of the credit he deserved. Noted for his skillful rewrites of traditional material, he’s a favorite at clubs and festivals. He may be best known in North America for his anti-Vietnam song "When This Bloody War is Over" (set to "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" - see also borrowing).

Davis, Rev. Gary (1896-1972) blind guitarist and singer (and an ordained minister) who influenced many in the late 50s and early 60s. His complicated style of fingerpicking inspired a whole league of guitarists. Songs he made famous include "Samson and Delilah", "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down" (aka "Baby, Let Me Lay It On You"), "Cocaine Blues" and "Candy Man". In the mid-30s, he travelled with Blind Boy Fuller (and said that Fuller took guitar lessons from him) and someone called "Bull City Red", about whom little seems to be known. In 1935 they made records for the ARC company. He began recording as a solo in 1949 and subsequently recorded many albums of instrumentals and songs for labels such as Yazoo, Adelphi, Advent, Biograph, Stinson, and Kicking Mule. He also taught guitar to many of today’s best blues guitarists, including Van Ronk, Dave and Grossman, Stefan.

D-D is a note of the scale (= Italian, French: re).

de Worde, Wynkyn see carol.

dead a room with very little reverb because of a lack of reflective surfaces. Performers have trouble hearing themselves and each other unless the PA operator can compensate. Opposite live. Often used interchangeably with dry, although "dry" usually means a lack of embellishments by the sound board operator.

dead thumb in finger-style guitar playing, and particularly in blues, the righthand thumb can play a steady on-the-beat series of the same note on the 5th or 6th string; sometimes two or three bass strings of the current chord might be played. The name probably comes from the fact that some guitarists damp the bass strings with the heel of the right hand, producing a percussive sound; there’s also the fact that the one-note thumb doesn’t do any syncopation. All this implies that it’s monotonous; actually, it can produce a driving bass effect.

decay time in acoustics, the time for a sound’s reverberations to die away (the technical definition is 60 dB below the level of the original sound). The decay time and reverb time are related. The decay time of large concert halls varies from 1.0 to 2.0 seconds.

decay. the aspects of the end of a sound.

decelerando there’s no such word, although you’d think there would be. See ritard.

deceptive-cadence. 1. a cadence formula that moves from dominant to submediant, V, vi, or sometimes V, IV6. 2. any cadence in which the normal expectation is not fulfilled.

Decktone. (Schenker: overlay-tones) any tones moving above the basic tones of the Urlinie, or structural-upper-line.

decoration see ornament.

Decrescendo-Decrescendo (Italian: growing less) is used as a direction to performers, meaning becoming softer.

definition, folksong see folksong, definition.

degree any of the notes of the scale, counting inclusively; the fourth degree in the key of C would be F, for instance. Some older musical dictionaries consider it the step itself, not the note, so C to E would enclose two degrees (whole tones).

deil (Scot., also "deel") devil, Satan.

delay line a device used in stage and studio sound to produce reverb. There are three methods: the spring line (widely used in PAs and instrument amps because of its small size), the steel plate (confined to studios because it’s about four feet by eight feet), and the digital delay. The last is becoming more widely used as the price of digital components decreases. All three do the same thing: add the sound back onto itself after multiple delays. The more different delays, the richer the reverb. Echo is somewhat different. The true echo is a single repetition without multiple path lengths, and was used as an effect in the 50s and 60s by delaying the sound via a tape recorder. It’s seldom used these days because the effect is rather thin compared to reverb; it might be used in conjunction with other methods.

Delay. (Schenker: Aufhaltung) a prolongation before scale step #2 (in the dominant) of the Urlinie that delays that scale step.




Delicatissimo-very delicate.


Deliverance see Weissberg, Eric.

dell a valley.

Deller, Alfred (1912-1979) an English singer/instrumentalist who formed the Deller Consort to perform classically-oriented arrangements of songs such as Renaissance madrigals. They used guitar, lute, recorder, viol, and other instruments (as well as a cappella versions), and recorded for Vanguard.


Delmore Brothers in the 30s and 40s, Alton (1908-1964) and Rabon (1916-1952) Delmore made a name for themselves with vocal duets accompanied by six-string guitar and tenor guitar. Their tight but relaxed harmonies are reminiscent of the Everly Brothers. They made many records on the Bluebird label in the 30s, and performed for the Grand Ole Opry until 1941. After that date, they were joined by Wayne Raney, who backed them on harmonica. Some of their songs still performed today are "Blue Railroad Train", "Brown’s Ferry Blues", "Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar", and "Freight Train Boogie" - songs that greatly influenced old-timey bands of today.

delta blues blues songs originating in the US south. There is some geographical confusion; the Mississippi river delta is in Louisiana, but many of the "delta" blues performers were from the state of Mississippi or Arkansas. The term often refers to the older country blues of 1920-40. See Johnson, Robert as an example.

Denny, Sandy see Fairport Convention.

density. 1. the number of different sounds at a time within a given time and spatial interval, inversely proportional to frequency and time. The triad c,e,g is relatively thin in a high register compared to the same triad in a low register, i.e., as the frequency of pitch lowers the density increases. 2. the number of different sounds within a given time.

Denver, John (1943-1997) (Henry John Deutschendorf) in 1965, he was chosen to replace Chad Mitchell in the Chad Mitchell Trio and remained with them for four years. After a brief stint (with the group name changed to Denver, Boise and Johnson), he left for a solo career, becoming famous for singing his own songs. While folkies might look askew at his somewhat saccharine productions, "Take Me Home, Country Roads" remains popular, and his "Leaving on a Jet Plane" was a big hit for Peter, Paul & Mary in 1969.

derived-set. (set-theory, linear) a tone-row that is constructed by symmetry operations upon a subset; e.g. the trichord G A# B can be used to create F E C# by retrograde transposition (R6), and C A G# by inversion (I4), and D D# F# by retrograde-inversion (RI7) to form the complete derived-set: G A# B F E C# C A G# D D# F#.

descant 1. (n.) A melody sung or played above the main melody. 2. (adj.) high-pitched, as in "descant recorder", which is designed for playing the descant.

Detaché-a broad legato stroke with a slight space between each note.(Strings)

developing-variation. (Schoenberg) the generation of music from a single idea, or "basic shape" (Grundgestalt), especially in tonal music after the Baroque. Previously, musical development was achieved not so much by reworking ideas but by repeating them and placing them in different contexts. After 1750, however, composers focused more on the transformation of an idea, e.g. by changing its rhythm, interval expansion, contraction, interpolation, etc. Schoenberg cites Brahms's music as the prime example of using this type of variation.

development section. a section in which subjects or themes are varied and played in counterpoint.

DI ("Direct Insertion") a cable and adapter that allows an instrument with a pickup to be directly connected to a sound board, eliminating the need for a microphone or amplifier. The plus is that players aren’t tied to a microphone position and the output of instruments like the guitar is much increased. The minus is that the sound is altered, almost never for the better. Some sound board operators try to make acoustic guitars sound electric, for instance, with the result that they don’t sound like either (see rock mixers. In other cases, the pickup is poorly fitted and accentuates just one aspect of the sound of acoustic instruments. Some instruments benefit from pickups, such as violins, accordions and melodeons, if the pickups are properly installed.

DI. (set-theory, linear) abbreviation for directed-interval.

diabolus in musica. (the devil in music) a melodic tritone.

diad see interval.

dialogue dialogue features heavily in traditional ballads as a way of making the story unfold. Some songs, like "Lord Randall", are pure dialogue; in this case, questions from the mother and answers from her son tell the entire tale. Not all ballads use this technique; most have the narrator describe the scene in much the same way as a movie script. In general, the narrator is unseen and speaks in the third person, detailing any conversations for us. Occasionally, the narrator will be in the first person, usually as an onlooker, and in some cases, the narration switches back and forth between first and third. These lapses are always overlooked, since the narrator never becomes involved, at least not in the usual ballads. For songs in which the narrator actively participates, see come-all-ye.

diapason other than a stop on an organ, this is an archaic word that means the span of an octave and its included notes. It’s a word from ancient Greek that survived in medieval Latin, and then to the present day.

diapente (archaic) the interval of a fifth.

diastematic notation of intervals by a pictorial system such as our current staff. Medieval non-diastematic systems noted pitch with words, numerals, etc. See also Guido d’Arezzo.

diatessaron the fourth. Like diapente and diapason, an ancient Greek word that kept going through medieval Latin.

diatonic based on an octave divided into five whole tones and two semitones, as are the major and minor scales. Any notes that fall outside this construction are called accidentals. An instrument is diatonic if it can only play in one key; that is, it lacks the extra sharps and flats required to play in other keys. A whistle or harmonica would be diatonic, as is the dulcimer, which can’t play in other keys unless the strings are retuned (but see mode). The opposite is chromatic. Note that diatonic does not mean that sharps and flats are not present at all (a diatonic instrument in the key of D would still have C# and F#); the word for the complete lack is anhemitonic, which applies to certain constructions, such as some of the pentatonic scales.

diatonic interval an interval belonging to the diatonic scale, which would be our major or minor scale. The opposite would be an interval using an accidental.

diatonic. 1. part of the key, 2. having different letter names, e.g., C#,D.

diatonic-semitone. a half-step with different letter names.

diddley bow from the tradition of US black people, the diddley bow is a string attached to a wall; tensioning the string and stopping it with a slide or bottleneck allows simple melodies to be plucked. Used mostly by children. A singer/guitarist named Elias Bates (later Elias McDaniel) reversed the order of the words to make his stage name - Bo Diddley. Its single-string simplicity makes it a relative of the mouth bow and washtub bass.

diddling (Scottish) to substitute for an instrument by singing nonsense syllables. See mouth music, scat singing.

didjeridu (also "didgereedoo" and other spellings) a northern Australian aborigine instrument, consisting of a large tube made from a tree branch. The player blows into one end to produce a drone, and can embellish this by singing at the same time or beating a rhythm on the sides.

diesis 1. An old word for the sharp symbol. 2. Something you’ll only come across in musicologist’s books or books on the physics of music - it’s another of the many commas or discrepancies that arose during the scale development that led to our equal-tempered scale. One definition is the ratio of six pure tones (ratio 9:8 each) to three pure thirds (ratio 5:4 each). They’re both almost an octave, with the tones working out to 2.027 (23.5 cents sharp) and the thirds coming to 1.953 (41.2 cents flat). Another definition is the difference between a pure fourth (C to F, say, ratio 4/3) and two pure tones, each with a ratio of 9/8. The difference works out to about 1.0535, about ten cents flat from the expected pure semitone (16/15, or about 1.066). For other information related to temperament, see comma of Pythagoras, ditone, just intonation, meantone scale, Pythagorean scale, syntonic comma, wolf tone.

difference tone see beat, sense 4.

difference tone. (syn. combination tones) a frequency that is heard as the difference in two frequencies, also called combination-tones or beat-frequencies. Two frequencies that are very close to a unison contain beats, which are pulse-like variations. The rate of beating is determined by subtracting the two frequencies; e.g., 440 and 442 Hz will have a beat-frequency of 2 Hz. These are difference tones that are heard as beats, rather than as "tones". When the frequencies differ by 20Hz or more, the beats fuse into a tone. Thus, 440 and 330 Hz combine to create a difference tone of 100Hz.

Dillards a bluegrass group formed in the 60s, and consisting of Doug and Rodney Dillard, Mitch Jayne, and Dean Webb. They recorded for Elektra, and one of their selections was "Dueling Banjos", later to be made famous by Weissberg, Eric in the 1972 film "Deliverance". They continued to perform and record into the 70s.

dim the name of a diminished chord, as in Cdim.

diminished an interval whose pitch has been lowered by a semitone. See also diminished chord, minor.

diminished chord a chord built from the root, flatted third, flatted fifth, and sixth notes of the scale. For example, Cdim would be C-Eb-Gb-A. Note the symmetry: it’s really a series of minor thirds. Because of this symmetry, the chord can take its name from any of the notes. To confirm this, work out the notes for Adim and you’ll find the same notes as in Cdim, above. It’s even handier for guitarists: a single four-note chord can slide up a fret at a time to yield every possible diminished chord within three frets.

diminished-chord. a chord whose triad is diminished (consists of a minor-third and diminished-fifth).

diminished-seventh chord. a diminished chord with the added interval of the diminished-seventh.

diminuendo a gradual softening of the loudness. Opposite crescendo. , (Italian: becoming less) is used as a direction to performers to play softer.

diminution. 1. a thematic variant which is played faster than the original theme. 2. (Schenker) variation achieved by an elaboration of a basic shape, or prolongation, especially in the Foreground.