An Extensive Encyclopedic Music Dictionary

An Extensive
Traditional and Folk Music
Encyclopedic Dictionary

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(Section E)

Easy Rider the blues, not the movie. It goes:

Easy Rider see what you done done, (2x) You made me love you, now your regular man done come." This is a wildly popular song among blues singers, and it has been recorded with an amazing number of garbled titles: "C. C. Rider", "See See Ryder" and so forth. Perhaps it’s deliberate - the sexual imagery isn’t genteel enough.

ecclesiastical modes see mode.

echo if a sound is added back on itself with enough time delay for it to be perceived as a separate sound, this is echo. It will happen naturally if there is a reflective surface quite a distance away, or it can be added to a recording using a digital or mechanical delay line. The effect sounds artificial, and was done to death on recordings by pop stars in the 50s. Some of them (like Buddy Holly) sounded as if they were singing down in a sewer. A performance in a large room with reflective surfaces, such as a church, might result in echo returns that are perceived as duplicates of the original. This is extremely confusing to the performers, and the only cure is to reduce the tempo. It is often confused with reverb.

ee (Scot.) eye.

E-E is a note of the scale (= Italian, French: mi).

een (Scot.) one, eyes, even, or evening, depending on the context of the song.

eenst (UK) once.

EFDSS the English Folk Dance and Song Society (or if you prefer, the "Eccentric Fuddy-Duddy Silly Society"), with headquarters at Cecil Sharp House (see Sharp, Cecil), London, England. Dedicated to the promotion and study of folk music and dance. Their crest is a portrayal of a star. See Internet folk for an unofficial EFDSS Web page.

effects box a small electronic device that processes the signal from a pickup or electric instrument. They usually have a footswitch so that the performer can turn them on or off easily. There are many special effects available, including increased sustain, volume control, tremolo, and phasing (a swooshing sound, more or less like a jet aircraft passing overhead at a high altitude - see phaser).

Eisteddfod (Welsh, "session") an annual gathering of bards in Wales, said to date back to at least the 7th century. Featured are poetic and musical competitions, etc.

electric folk (also "folk-rock") folk music was always performed with acoustic instruments until the mid-60s, when the Byrds and Bob Dylan caused a fuss by introducing electric instruments and a rock drum kit (the Animals were probably the first, but didn’t get as much notice). It wasn’t long until many other musicians followed suit in experimenting with different musical forms. The traddies and folk Nazis who objected seemed to be more interested in keeping everything museum-quality than in doing an analysis of the "new music". They conveniently forgot that guitars and banjos are relative newcomers - Thomas Hardy in "The Mayor of Casterbridge" recounts that the village musicians played brasses and woodwinds (see quire - and that the only reason the medieval waits were unplugged is that they had no place to plug in. The argument seems curiously removed and pointless now (1994), although you’ll occasionally hear objections to this instrument or that. In most cases, it’s not the instrumentation that’s at fault, but the approach to the music. Even a lot of traddies relented on hearing the ground-breaking groups like Pentangle, Steeleye Span, the Albion Band, and/or Fairport Convention. On changes in tradition, it’s worth quoting from "The Ballad as Song", by Bronson, Bertrand: "Last year’s blooms are not this year’s, though they spring from the same root. For each season there has to be a fresh re-creative effort; and in the day of Burns, thanks to a living tradition, as good versions were burgeoning as perhaps had ever flowered."

Electric Muse a multiple-LP set detailing the growth of electric folk from its acoustic roots, beginning with performers like Leadbelly and Guthrie, Woody and ending with the major electric performers of the 70s, such as Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention. A brilliant compilation by Karl Dallas.

elegy a dirge or memorial poem.

Elegy-An elegy (= French: élégie) is a lament, either vocal or instrumental.

eleventh 1. The eleventh note of the scale; that is, the octave plus three notes. For example, the F in the octave above C is the eleventh in the key of C. 2. The compound interval formed by playing two notes an eleventh apart.

elf although the word is often used in the fairy-tale sense, in the older ballads it can mean someone possessed of magical powers (such as "The Elfin Knight", Child 2). For a similar case of words changing meaning, see outlandish.

elision. 1. the omission of pitches from a melodic line, thereby truncating it. 2. (Riemann) the superposition of the end of one phrase with the beginning of another, or by omission of a weak rhythmic element.

Elizabethan in general usage, a catch-all name for music of the time period from 1500 to 1700; in fact, the outpouring of English music during the reign of Elizabeth I, which was from 1558-1603. Some beautiful stuff - compare with medieval, which is a term that’s misused as well. See also Purcell, Henry, Playford.

Elliott, Jack (1931- ) (Elliott Adnopoz) Brooklyn denizen "Ramblin’ Jack", who first called himself "Buck" Elliott, came to visit Woody Guthrie in 1951 (see Guthrie, Woody) and stayed around him for years, absorbing his musical style. Guthrie said "He sounds more like me than I do." Jack is less known for particular songs than for his infinite songbag of American folk, country and cowboy songs and his image of the down-home back-porch folksong expert. (Like Bob Dylan, he invented his ramblin’-hobo persona.) He had a great influence on the up-and-coming pickers and singers of the 60s and 70s, with his greatest influence being on Dylan, Bob. His 60s recordings for Vanguard are exemplary. He continues to perform.

embouchure the lips when in position for playing a brass instrument. It can take quite a while to develop a good "lip" or embouchure.

Emmett, Dan (1815-1904) (Daniel Decatur Emmett) Ohio-born fiddler, banjo-player, and songwriter. Although he was white, he was a major figure in the blackface minstrel tradition, and belonged to a number of minstrel troupes, such as the Virginia Minstrels. His name was spelled in a number of different ways, such as Emit and Emmitt. Despite his 19th-century fame as a performer, he’s best known for his songwriting, with his most famous work being "Dixie", which was originally called "I Wish I was in Dixie’s Land", or "Dixie’s Land", or other similar titles. Other songs he wrote or made famous include "Turkey in the Straw" (which is based on an older minstrel song called "Zip Coon"), "Old Dan Tucker", "Jordan is a Hard Road to Travel", and "Boatman’s Dance". He is also said to be the author of Bluetail Fly, though it might also be a song he learned from others in the tradition.

empty-set. see null-set.

end-blown a wind instrument, such as a flute or whistle, that’s played by blowing into the end with the instrument held out ahead. Opposite transverse.



English horn-The English horn is more generally known in England as the cor anglais. It is the tenor oboe.

English, Logan a Kentucky singer who performed in NYC bars and clubs in the 50s, doing mostly traditional ballads and songs. In the 60s folk revival, he continued in the traditional vein, despite the fact that there was a swing to singer/songwriters. He travelled to various venues around the country well into the 70s, and recorded for Folkways and Riverside, among others.

enharmonic If you raise C by one semitone, you get C#. If you lower D by one semitone, you get Db. Because of the structure of the equal-tempered scale, C# and Db are exactly the same note (this is not true in the natural scale). Notes that coincide like this are said to be enharmonic. Singers, and players of fretless instruments, tend to distinguish sharps and flats that would be otherwise considered enharmonic. There’s a tendency, particularly with fiddlers, to make a sharp a little extra sharp and a flat a little extra flat. The degree of change is up to the performer.


enharmonic. different notations of the same sound; e.g. F# and G-flat.

Ensemble-The word ensemble is used in three senses. It may refer to the togetherness of a group of performers: if ensemble is poor, the players are not together. It may indicate part of an opera that involves a group of singers. It can also mean a group of performers.

Entr'acte-As the word suggests, an entr'acte (= German: Zwischenspiel) is music between the acts of a play or opera.

envelope. the shape of a loudness curve in time; normally this includes an attack, a sustain, and a decay time.

envoi an ending stanza for a ballade or other lyric. It’s usually distinct in rhyme scheme or meter to produce a dramatic finish.

epic a long narrative poem, usually on a great scale, about heroes and exploits. They often contain the history and legends of a culture, and can be either from oral tradition or composed in a literary style. Even the orally-transmitted versions were often written down for the use of bards.

episode. in a fugue, a section that has no subject.

EQ (pron. "eek-yew") the techie’s term for equalisation, the tone controls on a sound board. Since the sound board has more comprehensive tone controls than the home stereo’s bass and treble, it’s very versatile. It also has a lot more to go wrong, which is a major cause of feedback.

equaliser a name for a tone control in a PA or amp. It can be a simple bass and treble similar to a home stereo, or a comprehensive multi-control unit with sliders to show the shape of the PA response. There are tiny battery-powered equalisers available in acoustic guitars or other instruments for use with an amp or DI.

equal-temperament. the most pervasive contemporary tuning system, in which the octave is divided into twelve equal intervals, called semitones; each semitone is mathematically tuned to the twelfth root of 2.

equal-tempered scale also known as the scale of equal temperament, and the well-tempered scale (not entirely correctly - see below). It’s our common major or minor scale, derived by dividing the octave into twelve equal semitones, and then arranging seven of these (eight for an octave) into the desired scale. The symmetry of the ETS ensures that sharps and flats are enharmonic where required and that all keys can be used easily. See below for an explanation of the key-change problem. See also twelfth root of two for the arithmetic involved. If the intonation in a natural scale is perfect for one key, it will sound sour in another. The natural scale creates a number of different types of tones and semitones, making key changes difficult without retuning or using extra notes on an instrument. Equal tempering is a solution - although it’s been pointed out that it works by putting all the notes but the octaves somewhat out-of-tune (that is, they don’t agree with notes from the natural harmonic series). Thus the equal-tempered scale is artificial because of the adjustments required to allow key changes, and it doesn’t sound quite as pure as the natural-based scale - only the octaves are the same in both - but convenience has made it the universal standard. Considering that it takes a keen ear to detect the small discrepancies in the equal-tempered scale, it has to be considered a masterpiece of compromise. However, despite the conveniences produced by its symmetry, it took about four centuries for it to become established. There are 15th century paintings of lutes and guitars that show that the principle was understood at least empirically (they would have had trouble extracting that 12th root of 2), and it was well-understood by the early 1600s, but as late as the mid-19th century there were still piano and organ manufacturers who had not adapted the ETS. The often-repeated story that Bach’s 1722/1742 "Well Tempered Clavier", in which he used all 12 major and all 12 minor keys, was boosterism for the ETS is not true. He would have used one of several variations on the Pythagorean scale. "Well tempered" includes all scales in which all keys are usable, including Pythagorean variants and equal-tempered (depending on your musical dictionary). See also temperament, comma of Pythagoras, just intonation, meantone scale. These are the frequencies of the notes from A below (middle C) to one octave above middle C, based on A = 440 Hz. For other octaves, multiply or divide by two as required.

A 220, A#/Bb 233.082, B 246.942, C 261.626 - middle C

C#/Db 277.183 , D 293.665 , D#/Eb 311.127 , E 329.628 ,

F 349.228, F#/Gb 369.994 , G 391.995, G#/Ab 15.305,

A 440, A#/Bb 466.164 , B 493.883, C 523.251

ergodic. (Tenney) a form that is static or statistically homogeneous, as in minimalism.

escape-tone. a nonharmonic-tone that is approached by step-motion and resolved to a harmonic-tone by the leap of a third.



Estes, Sleepy John (1899-1977) country blues singer and guitarist. He made a number of recordings in the 30s for labels like Decca, Victor, Adelphi, and Bluebird, but lived in relative obscurity until the folk revival of the 60s when he played many of the folk festivals in the US and Europe. He made a number of albums in the 60s and 70s for labels like Folkways and was a great influence on blues pickers and singers. A much-recorded song of his is "Drop Down Mama".

ethnic during the 60s, the word had a different meaning - it was used to gauge the authenticity of a traditional song. The more "ethnic", the closer to its roots. It vaguely implied some sort of purist approach.

etiquette, folk newcomers to clubs and festivals can be spotted by such blunders as talking loudly during quiet songs, or not waiting until a song is finished before leaving (particularly annoying at a folk club, where more noise is caused by this than at an open festival). Some old pros do the above, which results in much resigned headshaking and you’d-think-they’d-know-betters.

etude. an instrumental exercise. Etudes are used to build up techniques on an instrument.

Etude-An étude is a study, intended originally for the technical practice of the player. Chopin, Liszt and later composers elevated the étude into a significant piece of music, no mere exercise.

euphony a musical dictionary from 1538 pretty well captured the meaning: "It is a good sounde."

Eve of All Hallows (UK, also "All Hallows Eve") the evening of October 31, known these days as Hallowe’en, or just Halloween.

Even Dozen Jug Band formed during the folk revival by Grossman, Stefan and old-timey player Peter Siegel. While they made a few TV and concert appearances, they’re perhaps best known for producing people who later went on to fame in other groups or as solo performers: Maria Muldaur (see Kweskin, Jim), Josh Rifkin (see Collins, Judy), John Sebastian ( Lovin’ Spoonful), Steve Katz (Blood, Sweat & Tears), and others.

Everly Brothers Don (1937- ) and Phil (1939- ) had a solid string of hits in the 50s and 60s ("Bye, Bye, Love", "Dream", "Wake Up, Little Susie", and many others). Their sound (somewhat like the Delmore Brothers or the Blue Sky Boys) was based on country music learned from their father, Ike, a guitarist who had influenced Travis, Merle. They acknowledged their roots in a 50s album called "Songs Our Daddy Taught Us".

exposition. 1. the first section of a sonata-form, in which two contrasting themes are introduced, the first in the tonic key and the second in the dominant (or relative major key if the first theme is in a minor key), 2. the first section of a fugue where a subject is stated and followed by an answer on the dominant. 3.The exposition in sonata-allegro form is the first section of the movement, in which the principal thematic material is announced. In the exposition of a fugue (a fugal exposition) the voices (= parts) enter one by one with the same subject: the exposition ends when all the voices have entered.


ey (UK, also "ay") egg. The plural is often "eyn". See kye for comments on the "n" pluralisation.