An Extensive Encyclopedic Music Dictionary

An Extensive
Traditional and Folk Music
Encyclopedic Dictionary

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(Section F1)

faa (Scot.) who.

Fagott-FFagott (German) or fagotto (Italian) is the bassoon, the bass of the woodwind section in the orchestra (see Bassoon).

Fahey, John (1939- ) an acoustic guitar player who travelled in the US south doing research on the blues; during this time he found such performers as White, Bukka and James, Skip, and received a degree in folklore that was based on the music of Patton, Charlie. He founded the Takoma record label, recording such musicians as Kottke, Leo. His own guitar playing (on Vanguard and Reprise as well as Takoma) favors an impressionistic rather than melodic style.

Faier, Billy (1930- ) recorded the 5-string banjo in the late 50s, and included traditional banjo and fiddle tunes, lute arrangements, etc. He’s considered one of the foremost innovators in banjo playing, although commercial success eluded him.

fain (UK) glad, pleased, eager, as in "fain would lie doon".

fainting lest you consider the inclusion of this topic a legpull, have a look through any book of traditional ballads. People who receive bad news or a sudden shock faint dead away all the time. "Annachie Gordon" is a good example - so many people keel over in that ballad, the room seems to contain poison gas. Since people don’t do this any more, either a peculiar and secret health problem has been clandestinely solved, or else fainting serves as a convenient dramatic device.

Fairport Convention an English group with success at electric folk. They formed in 1967 and lately, just call themselves Fairport. Although many of their performances tended to sound like self-parody, they produced a memorable body of work. Many of their songs owed success to the late Sandy Denny (d. 1978) (vocals and songwriting), including the powerful traditional song "Matty Groves", although they unnecessarily tacked on a version of "Orange Blossom Special" at the end, which was typical of their irreverent style. Much of Fairport’s sound is due to their incredible fiddler, Dave Swarbrick, who also plays backup for Carthy, Martin. Ashley Hutchings and Richard Thompson were founding members, and the group has performed several Thompson songs (he left in 1971 for a solo career). See also electric folk.

Fairport see Fairport Convention.

fake aside from the obvious mainstream uses of the word, there really is such a thing as "Hum it and I’ll fake it." A good musician can quickly work out the chord progression (if it isn’t too complex) and come pretty close to a rendition of the tune, assuming someone else is singing or otherwise filling in the gaps.

fake book a collection of songs that people are likely to ask for. The book gives lyrics, chords and the bare-bones melody. A good musician can flesh it all out. The songs are generally well-known, so even the non-readers can do it by playing by ear if the tune is familiar.

faker a musician who really is more flash than substance in the lead bits and solos. It’s one thing to burst into a loud solo and quite another to take it anywhere and end it gracefully on the beat, all this without disturbing the context of the performance.

false fifth (archaic) the tritone.

Falsetto-a male singing above his natural vocal range, usually into the soprano. The effect is often comic, but with some practice, it’s possible to sing smoothly in this range.

fancy any tune, usually a dance or fiddle tune, that suits the composer, so there’s no specific structure. The tune name is usually of the type "McDonnell’s Fancy". Generally synonymous with air or maggot. See also fiddle tunes.

Fanfare-A fanfare is a flourish of trumpets or other similar instruments, used for military or ceremonial purposes, or music that conveys this impression.

Fantasy-Fantasy (= French: fantaisie; Italian: fantasia; German: Fantasie) is a relatively free form in the 16th and 17th centuries, in which a composer may exercise his fancy, usually in contrapuntal form. In later periods the word was used to describe a much freer form, as in the written improvisations for piano of this title by Mozart, or Beethoven's so-called Moonlight Sonata, described by the composer as Sonata quasi una fantasia, Sonata like a Fantasia.

Farina, Richard (1937-1966) singer, songwriter, writer, and dulcimer player. He was married to Hester, Carolyn in the late 50s; they separated in 1962. With his second wife Mimi (sister of Joan Baez), he recorded enough material for three albums on Vanguard. Their albums "Celebrations for a Grey Day" (1965) and "Reflections in a Crystal Wind" (1966) were landmarks of innovative writing while staying within the folk tradition. They released a single in 1965, "Reno Nevada". His best-known songs are "Pack Up Your Sorrows" and "Birmingham Sunday" (which was set to the tune of "The Trees They Do Grow High"), and his up-tempo and inventive dulcimer playing set new standards for the instrument. He also made a 1963 LP in England with von Schmidt, Eric and Blind Boy Grunt ("Dick Farina and Ric von Schmidt"). He was killed in a motorcycle accident after leaving a party celebrating the publication of his first book, "Been Down So Long, It Looks Like Up to Me".

fasola see hexachord.

fause (UK) false.

feast in morris dancing, the annual formal dinner, usually paid for by the bag. It may be at a restaurant or pub, or it may be catered by folkie cooks.

fecht (Scot.) fight.

fee (Eng.) an inheritance, payment; (Scot.) to employ. Scottish songs occasionally mention a "feeing", which was a hiring fair, usually for seasonal farm workers.

feedback the familiar squeal from a club or festival sound system. It’s caused by excessive volume or EQ settings - the sound from the speakers is picked up by a microphone and goes around again for more amplification. The cycle continues until the squeal results. Another cause is a reflective surface in front of a mike - a guitar, a face, etc., in which case a temporary cure is for the performer to step back until things are fixed. A feedback tone that occurs only when the performer is making a sound is called ringing. It has the same flinch value as a dripping tap.

feere (Scot., also "fiere", "fere") mate, friend, fellow.

fell (UK) an upland pasture or highland moor.

female sailor there is a whole class of songs about women who disguise themselves as men and join the military, either to get away from the stereotypical woman’s role or to be with a loved one. There is evidence that this actually happened, although it’s puzzling how they could get away with it for so long. One of the best (and most tuneful) is "Female Rambling Sailor". Another is "Willie Taylor". There is a hilarious sendup of the latter called "Willie-O" by Canadian Steve Sellors ( Sing Out!, Winter 1987) in which the woman disguised as a man discovers that the captain and crew are as well, and all of them "on a quest for their Willie-O". There are also songs such as "Banks of the Nile" in which the woman plans to accompany her lover to the wars, but he talks her out of it (usually with a verse beginning "Your waist it is too slender, love, your fingers are too small"). See also female triumphs.

female triumphs women are not always treated in the best possible way in traditional lyrics; in some cases, they suffer the worst of sexism by anybody’s standards (keeping in mind that many of the songs are centuries old). However, there are many songs in which the woman triumphs over a lover or an enemy. In "Bonnie Lass of Anglesey", the woman out-dances all the king’s best dancers to win their riches. In one of the versions of the song "Geordie", the heroine races (successfully) to free Geordie from the enemy that has captured him. "The Famous Flower of Serving Men" tells the story of a woman who disguises herself as a man to get a serving position in the king’s household (see also female sailor). After her identity is finally revealed, the king is so impressed with her that he offers to marry her; she accepts and becomes queen. In "The Outlandish Knight" and "Banks of Sweet Dundee", the woman triumphs over a murderer and a cruel squire, respectively. There are other songs in which a woman bamboozles a man intent on seducing her (see night visiting song) and songs that mock virility or lack of it, such as "My Husband’s Got No Courage in Him". This is not to say that there isn’t discrimination against women in folksong, only that the balladmakers and ballad-transmitters were not entirely one-sided.


fen (UK) low land, a marsh.

fermata a symbol placed just above the staff in notation to indicate that the note or chord underneath is to be held for a time value longer than written. It’s usually left to the player’s discretion how long to hold it; if creativity fails, twice as long as written is the default. A fermata over a bar line means to pause between the measures. Traditional singers don’t need fermata signs; they’re usually very free with time values and use rubato where and when it suits them. The symbol looks like a semicircle (an inverted cup, say) with a dot in it. It often appears on the final note or chord of a work, which no doubt accounts for the word’s meaning of "close".

fey (UK) strange, unreal. Also, doomed.

f-hole 1. The openings in the top of instruments in the violin family. 2. An acoustic or semi-acoustic guitar with f-holes instead of a round sound hole and with an arched top (and aka "archtop") - common in jazz playing.

Fibonacci series. a sequence of integers in which each is the sum of the previous two integers, e.g. 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, etc.

fiddle a fiddle and a violin are the same thing, though some folk fiddles had an oval shape with no cutouts for the bow movement, which simplified the construction (and limited the playing - see also rebec). Which term you use depends on the music being played, and what level of respect you want to confer on the musician. Folk fiddling includes a huge number of styles. Prominent among these are Cape Breton, Ottawa Valley, Appalachian, Kentucky, and so on. Scottish and Irish styles ( Celtic) have contributed greatly to North American playing, particularly Canadian, both English and French. For a superb discourse on the Canadian fiddle from its beginning to the present, see Anne Lederman’s entry, "fiddling", in "The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada", second edition, University of Toronto Press, 1992. The fiddle is tuned GDAE, with the G being the one below middle C, although folk fiddlers might use special tunings for different effects. See also bow, pizzicato.

fiddle pun all-time-best, world-class: "She fiddled with her handkerchief while waiting for her beau."

fiddle tunes fiddle tunes are categorised into a few main types. These are, generally, hornpipes, strathspeys, reels and jigs (and occasionally, from the Irish tradition, a planxty or humour). An air or fancy or maggot tends to be a tune that doesn’t fit the other categories. The tunes tend to simple in structure, usually with three or four chords for the accompaniment. Tunes are named after anything that comes to mind - a look through a fiddle collection for titles shows some nice examples of creativity. The Scottish tradition includes wonderfully long names like "Neil MacKenzie’s Compliments to Mrs MacPherson of Auchindoon". Fiddle tunes tend to be stylised in a fairly rigid framework, like the blues or pipe tunes. They’re usually in two parts, of the form ABAB, or AABB. People who aren’t fans generally find that all the tunes tend to sound the same. They don’t, of course, but it often takes a bit of listening to hear the subtle variations. There is a sub-subculture of musicians who spend a great deal of time adapting these tunes for other instruments, particularly the guitar. Doc Watson is the acknowledged king of guitar fiddle tunes. There are flatpickers who are faster or more intricate, but no one who plays as cleanly or with such warmth. See Watson, Doc. See also O’Neill, Francis, and Internet folk for related Web pages.

fiere see feere.

fife a small, transverse flute. Compare with whistle. It may or may not have mechanical keys.

fifth 1. The fifth note of the scale, counting inclusively; eg, the note G in the key of C. 2. The interval formed by playing two notes a fifth apart (such as C and G together). Note that intervals are defined by counting upwards; C and the G above form a fifth, but C and the G below it form a fourth because you’re now counting G-A-B-C. This is called an inversion.

fifth 1. The fifth note of the scale, counting inclusively; for instance, G in the key of C. 2. The interval produced when two notes are sounded a fifth apart, such as C and G.

fifth-species. counterpoint that uses a mix of 1:1, 2:1, 3:1, and 4:1 counterpoint.

Figgy Duff Newfoundland folk group using drums, bass, etc., for an up-tempo sound. Formed in 1975 and named after the island’s raisin pudding, they seem to have been influenced by both English folk-rock ( Pentangle, Steeleye Span, Fairport, etc) and modern Irish groups. Their repertoire, while experimenting with pop, remains rooted in the Newfoundland tradition. They have a number of albums and continue to perform today.

figured bass (also "thoroughbass") in past centuries, the player of the continuo accompaniment was expected to know how to play the notes of a chord or its inversions from a simple numbering system that was used to simplify normal notation. The numbers "5" and "3" over a note, for instance, meant to play root - third - fifth. In some cases, the notation showed only the root note, which the player interpreted to mean the same thing. It was quite an involved system, for shorthand, especially when many chord inversions were used. The system has its modern-day counterpart in lead sheets. The chords might be indicated by simple numbers instead of full notation - the number 1/3, for instance, would mean the tonic chord with the third in the lowest note position; see also progression.

figured-bass. a notation for the intervals above the bass. They also indicate the inversion of a chord. For example, the figured bass symbol 6 indicates that there is a sixth and a third above the bass, i.e., the chord is in first inversion.

filk filksongs are folk-type songs or parodies of folk songs, originating with science-fiction fans and sung at SF conventions. The topic can include just about anything. The word is said to be (or not to be) from a typo for "folk", is also said to be (or not to be) a cross between "filch" and "folk", and has been connected in some way with "fan" and "Celtic" (Many SF fans are into folk music and folklore).

fill to insert a musical phrase in a pause between verses or other musical phrases. It can be improvised, or a simple shuffle, or a snippet of the main melody. Usually done by a sideman, although a singer playing an instrument simultaneously can add fills. Compare with run, turnaround.

filler songs used to flesh out the required number of songs on an album. The judgement is subjective - some filler material is later dug out and revitalised, and is often preferred to the original hits.

filter. a device or process in which a band or bands of frequency are passed while other bands are blocked.

final the beginning and ending note of a mode, the equivalent of the usual scale’s tonic or keynote. The final appears in the demonstration of the song "House Carpenter" under pentatonic scale.

fingerboard the part of the neck of a stringed instrument just under the strings. It can be fretless, as in the violin family, or fretted, as in guitars, banjos, etc. (in which case it’s often called the "fretboard"). See also sweep, truss rod.

fingerpick 1. (n.) a metal or plastic loop worn over the fingertips. A small projection catches the strings of guitars, banjos, etc., producing a louder sound. Generally used in conjunction with a thumbpick, which is much the same thing designed for the righthand thumb. 2. (v.) to play an instrument using fingerpicking.

fingerpicking widely used in folk music for guitar playing, and always for the 5-string banjo (see also frailing). The righthand fingers are used to pluck the strings. The classical style uses the thumb and first three fingers; some folkies use the thumb and first two fingers ( clawhammer style). The thumb-and-two-finger style is often called "three-finger" picking. Some guitarists, such as Travis, Merle, use only the thumb and index finger. Some use metal or plastic fingerpicks on the thumb and fingers to increase the volume and eliminate the hazard of broken fingernails. Fingerpicking yields an intricate, rippling sound, often giving the impression of two guitars going at once. It can also become very mechanical and tedious if the player sticks to the beginner’s basics, as many do. An interesting syncopation results from double-thumbing. Fingerpicking’s opposite is flatpicking. See also pattern picking, dead thumb.