An Extensive Encyclopedic Music Dictionary

An Extensive
Traditional and Folk Music
Encyclopedic Dictionary

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(Section K)

Kalb, Danny superb finger-style guitarist. In the 60s, he backed people like Ochs, Phil, Collins, Judy, and Van Ronk, Dave. He played some of the tracks on an Elektra compendium called "The Blues Project" and later joined an electric group that took its name from this album.

kalimba see thumb piano.

Kapelle-Chapel (= German: Kapelle; Italian: cappella; French: chapelle) is a musical establishment, generally of a king, prince or other ruler.

Kapellmeister-The Kapellmeister is the director of music (= Italian: maestro di cappella; French: maître de chapelle) of a musical establishment, either of a king or prince, or of an opera-house or municipality. The term Kapellmeistermusik has a pejorative implication, suggesting music that is correct but uninspired, a criticism widely if inaccurately applied to a number of 19th century composers now subject to re-evaluation.

Karpeles, Maud (?-1976) assistant to Sharp, Cecil. Together they collected thousands of songs in England and Appalachia. She published "Cecil Sharp: His Life and Work" (1967) and "An Introduction to English Folk Song" (1973). After Sharp’s death, she travelled to Newfoundland, and in 1934, published a volume of traditional songs she collected there.

Kashtin a present-day (1994) group from Canada’s northeast. They write and perform songs in the Innu language, set to tunes based on folk and pop traditions and arranged for acoustic and electric instruments. An example of electric folk at its best.

Kazee, Buell (1900-1976) Kentucky minister and banjo picker. He made a number of recordings in the late 20s. His wide repertoire of mountain songs, British ballads, spirituals, etc., made him widely influential on the musicians of the folk revival.

kazoo a metal or plastic horn a few inches long, with a small fibre diaphragm attached. The player hums into it and the diaphragm follows along with a loud buzzing noise, much like the tissue-paper-and-comb. It belongs in the same category as the slide whistle.

keekit (Scot., also "keeked") to peep in.

kemp (UK, also "kempe", "kempy") 1. (n) A champion, a fighting man. 2. (v.) To fight, do battle.

Kemp, William (?-~1603) an actor and dancer, and a colleague of Shakespeare. He performed a morris dance from London to Norwich in nine days in about 1599, and so became known as the "Nine Days Wonder"; a plaque on a Norwich church records the spot where he arrived. He wrote an account of the journey and published it in London in 1600. His feat is also commemorated in a dance tune, "Kemp’s Jig". Though the morris usually means a team dance, there are solo jigs (see Fool’s Jig).

Kennedy, Norman (1933- ) Scottish balladeer who began singing in folk clubs in the early 60s, establishing himself as an expert on folklore. He performed at every Newport Folk Festival from 1965 to its end in 1969. He now lives in the US, and has recorded for Folk-Legacy.

Kennedy, Peter nephew of Karpeles, Maud and a well-known British folk song collector. His "Folksongs of Britain And Ireland" is a standard resource book for traddies (see books).

Kent, Enoch A Scottish singer now living in Toronto, Enoch has a captivating way with traditional songs, which he’s been doing since the 50s, either unaccompanied or with instrumentation. His voice is a wonderful sort of fog, and he’s a great favorite at festivals everywhere. He’s particularly good with the songs of Burns, Robert.

Kershaw, Doug (1936- ) see Cajun.

key 1. When you sing the do-re-mis, the note you choose for do determines the key. The do-re-mi sequence is the major scale. You can set it as high or as low as you like by choosing do, but it’s still the same major scale. Only the key is changing. For a non-key, see atonal. 2. Levers and valves, used to add sharps and flats to flutes, etc. 3. A wrench used for tuning pianos, autoharps, etc. Aka wrest.

key signature since there are 12 major and 12 minor keys (and even more if you allow for the enharmonic possibilities), music notation would get even more complicated than it is without a shorthand system. The way it works: the music is written as though there were no sharps or flats. The required number of sharps or flats is then written at the beginning, using the "#" and "b" symbols on the appropriate lines and spaces. These are called the key signature. It’s left to the musician to remember where to insert them as required. It’s a crock, but we’re stuck with it. Here are the key signatures, with their major and minor keys. 




Sharp or Flat Notes

































Note in reading down the major or minor keys that the circle of fifths has been generated. There are also keys such as 5 flats, or Db, which is the same as C#; or 6 flats, which is Gb, or the same as F#; or 7 flats, which is Cb, the same as B. These keys, which are different names for exactly the same thing, are called enharmonic. Note also that some sharp keys call for B and E to be sharped; B# and E# are really C and F, so you’ll just have to consider the oddball sharps as enharmonic notes. Here’s a trick for finding the key from the signature if you don’t have a chart. The flat closest to the music (ie, the rightmost) is "fa", or the fourth note of the scale. For instance, in Eb (3 flats) the rightmost flat is the note Ab. Count down four notes inclusively, and you’ll have the key. The sharp closest to the music is "ti" or the seventh note. For instance, in the key of A (3 sharps), the rightmost sharp is the note G#. Count up one note and you’ll have the key. 2. The key signature is the sharps or flats, or absence of either, at the beginning of a piece of music, indicating the sharps, flats and naturals belonging to the key of the music. Since a major or minor scale, the two now in common use, has a fixed order of tones and semitones (whole steps and half steps), these can only be preserved when there is a change of key note by the addition of sharps or flats. In the major scale, for example, there are semitones or half steps between the third and fourth degrees and seventh and eighth degrees of the scale. In the scale of C major, played on the white notes of the piano, these semitones fall between E and F and between B and C, a fact apparent from the piano keyboard, where there is no black key between the notes that form these pairs. To keep the same pattern in the scale of G, the note F must be raised to F sharp, so that there is still a semitone between the seventh and eighth notes of the scale. Major key signatures can be calculated on the same system. Each key with an extra sharp starts on a key note a fifth higher, while the keys with flats are in a descending order of fifths. C major itself has no sharps or flats, G has one sharp, D two, A three, E four, B five, F sharp six and C sharp major seven, each new sharp the seventh note of the scale. Descending in fifths, F has one flat, B flat two flats, E flat, three, A flat four, D flat five, G flat six and C flat seven, each new flat the fourth note of the scale.

Key-(1) Keys on a musical instrument are the levers which when depressed produce a particular pitch of note. The word may be applied to keyboard instruments such as the piano, the organ and the harpsichord, or to the metal keys on woodwind instruments such as the flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon. (2) The key in which a piece of music is written indicates the scale used and the key note or home note, on the chord of which it must end. Not all music is in a key, since attempts have been made in the 20th century to extend music beyond the supposed limitations of key or tonality. It is, in any case, only the very simplest music that remains in one key throughout. Contrast is usually sought by changes of key during a composition, which will end in the key in which it began, although mode may change from major to minor (that is, a symphony in C minor may end with a movement in C major, after intervening movements in other keys). The Fifth Symphony of Beethoven, for example, is in C minor and opens with a movement in that key, followed by a slow movement in A flat major, a C minor third movement with a Trio section in C major and a last movement in C major.

key. a combination of a tonic and a mode. E.g. a piece that is in the key of G major has G as tonic and major as the mode.

keynote aka tonic note; the note in a tune that’s the same as the key, or the note do. Almost all songs end on the keynote. If you’re trying to find the key of a song by experimenting on an instrument, listen to the last note and find that one on the instrument. In general, that’s the keynote. (Some songs end on the second, third or fifth note. You’ll soon recognize these - they have an unfinished, hanging-in-the-air sound.)

key-signature. sharps or flats that are placed at the beginning of a staff to indicate the pitch-classes that are to be so altered on that staff. Notice that, contrary to common thought, a key signature (sic) does not specify key.

kick drum the bass drum in a drum kit, operated by a foot pedal.

Kidson, Frank (1855-1926) self-taught English folksong collector. He was an expert on all aspects of traditional music and is widely quoted as an authority by other collectors. Child, F.J. mentioned his work in his "English and Scottish Popular Ballads".


Killen, Louis (1934- ) a singer, whistle and concertina player born in Durham, England. During the British folksong revival, Louis opened the Folk Song and Ballad club in Newcastle in 1958. He performed in a number of other clubs until the 60s, when he left for the US in 1967. His playing the festivals there has done much to popularize the concertina with US audiences. He toured with the Clancy Brothers in the 70s and continues to perform; his playing is on a large number of albums, including his own solo recordings.

Kimber, William (1872-1961) concertina player for the Headington Quarry morris team. Through his HMV recordings, 1935-46, we have some idea of the structure of morris dances in the past. The recordings were reissued on an album by Topic. He was buried with his cap and bells - a fact that turns up in a song about the morris.

Kincaid, Bradley (1895-?) a Kentucky singer/guitarist who began on Chicago radio in 1925. He sang mostly folk songs, accompanying himself on guitar and banjo; a collector as well, he published books of traditional music. He worked with Grandpa Jones in the 30s and is largely responsible for the Grandpa persona. Though he recorded from 1928 until the 60s, he isn’t well known today, despite the fact that he recorded 162 selections (many unpublished) in 1963. His vocal style is reminiscent of Puckett, Riley.

King Arthur despite the fact that Arthur’s story is equal to the Robin Hood legend for enduring popularity, he doesn’t score as well in numbers of songs. Child lists only one, and the only modern one that comes to mind is "Arthur" by Mallett, David. Perhaps the songs have yet to surface, or perhaps the story is too big and varied, being better suited to books or narrative stories. Odd.

King, Albert (1923-1992) (Albert Nelson) a Mississippi guitarist and blues singer, who was either a half-brother to King, B.B. or took his name from him (neither of the Kings would confirm or deny it). He began as a bottleneck style Delta bluesman. He said that he was greatly influenced by White, Bukka, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Walker, T-Bone (who probably inspired him to go electric). He had a great effect on the development of R&B.

King, B.B. (1925-?) (Riley B. King) a bluesman from the Memphis and Mississippi tradition who was a cousin of White, Bukka. He said that he was inspired to go electric by Walker, T-Bone and was a big influence on the development of the city blues and R&B. He won several awards for his playing, published a music instruction book in 1970, and has a number of albums on various labels. Some blues books say that he was a half-brother to King, Albert, but neither King would confirm or deny it.

Kingston Trio a folk group formed in 1957 and consisting of Dave Guard, Nick Reynolds, and Bob Shane; they were popular in the late 50s and early 60s. Together with groups like the Weavers they helped stimulate the folk revival. Their big hit was "Tom Dooley" (1958) (see also Warner, Frank), and others included "Where Have All the Flowers Gone", "Worried Man" and "The MTA Song" (see also folk process). Dave Guard (1934-1991) left in 1961 to pursue his own career with the Whiskeyhill Singers and was replaced by John Stewart. The trio has undergone various changes of personnel and still performs. In the 50s and early 60s, traddies saw them as something of commercial upstarts (from a review of the 1959 Newport Folk Festival: "...other performers, good or bad, had a right to be there. The Kingston Trio did not. Their offerings were slick and distorted."). However, there’s no doubt that they widely influenced many performers and introduced folk music to a bigger audience.

Kipling, Rudyard his colourful poems about life in the Victorian and Edwardian British Empire have entered folk music to some extent, largely through the settings of Bellamy, Peter. "On the Road to Mandalay" is a favorite. The version sung in folk music is Peter Bellamy’s, not the pop version (though Peter was obviously influenced by it). Peter’s "The Barrack-room Ballads of Rudyard Kipling", Free Reed, contains his settings. Incidentally, the "Whiffenpoof Song" ("We are poor little lambs who have lost our way...") is a rewrite of Kipling’s "Gentlemen Rankers".

Kipper Family see Copper Family.

kipple (UK) a rafter. This is in because of the old joke, "What do you think of Kipling?" "I don’t know, I’ve never kippled." In the true spirit of the folk process, it should be reported that the original of this joke is said to be, "Do you prefer Browning to Kipling?" "I don’t know, I’ve never kippled."

kirtle (UK) an item of clothing for either men or women, given variously as a waistcoat, jacket, upper petticoat, tunic, etc.

kist (Scot.) chest.

kit the outfit worn by a morris dancer. In general, the kit will be whites with a baldrick or vest, or tatters. There are variations, but these are the most-often used. See also Fool for the Fool’s get-up.

kitchen music a jam session in someone’s home, so called because people always gravitate to the kitchen. It can be any type of music; the term is very popular in folk. See also house concert.

kittle (Scot.) unsteady, hard to manage.

kittle hoosie (Scot.) brothel.

klang. (Schenker: primordial sonority) a chord that functions as a generating cell, usually the lower part of an overtone series coinciding with the major tonic triad, the fundamental sonority.

klangfarbenmelodie. a melody whose tone colour is changing, i.e., distributing successive notes of a melody among different instruments; e.g. Webern's orchestration of a Ricercar from Bach's A Musical Offering.

klezmer music and songs of the eastern European Jewish culture. It’s usually instrumental, but if there are lyrics they’re in Yiddish or Hebrew. The music is generally played on festive occasions, but in folk clubs and at festivals it achieves concert status. It’s fast and agile music, rather difficult to play if only because of the speed required.

knife guitar see bottleneck style.

knowe (Scot., also "knoe") hill. Rhyming with "now", its most famous appearance is the lovely song " Broom of the Cowdenknowes".

Koerner, John (1938- ) see also Koerner, Ray & Glover. "Spider" John, university student in Minneapolis in the late 50s and early 60s, was very much into blues singing and guitar playing, and had legions of guitarists scrambling to figure out how he did his ludicrously complicated but delightful fingerpicking. Part of his unique sound resulted from the 7-string guitar. He has a number of solo albums and continues to play.

Koerner, Ray & Glover a mid-to-late-60s trio specializing in country blues updated for a wider audience and consisting of "Spider" John Koerner, Dave "Snaker" Ray, and Tony "Little Sun" Glover (see ( Glover, Tony). While their up-tempo recordings were well done and very enjoyable, there was some criticism of three middle-class college kids performing in what amounted to blackface, since they even imitated the voices of the older bluesmen who inspired them (they certainly weren’t unique in that respect). Still, they brought a large repertoire of songs to people who might not have heard them otherwise.

Kokomo Arnold (1901-1968) (James Arnold) a blues guitarist and singer who also used bottleneck style. He was born in Georgia, but moved north in 1918. Information is hard to come by because he was a reluctant musician who had to be coerced into recording (he said that when he wasn’t working at a factory, "I just want to make and sell my moonshine"). He wrote "Milk Cow Blues", which was covered by Elvis Presley, Estes, Sleepy John, Eddie Cochran, Rush, Tom, and others. Dylan, Bob revised it into "Quit Your Lowdown Ways". He recorded 97 titles for Decca in the 30s, and never played or recorded after 1941.

Konzertmeister-The leader of an orchestra (that is, the principal first violin) is known in German as a Konzertmeister and in the United States as a concertmaster, the latter term now finding more general favour in other English-speaking countries, apart from Great Britain, where the word leader is still preferred.

Kooper, Al (1944- ) a keyboard player with Columbia records. His organ accompaniments are featured on Dylan, Bob’s "Highway 61", "Blonde on Blonde", and "New Morning" albums. A memorable track is the organ on Dylan’s "Like a Rolling Stone".

Kopfton. (Schenker: initiating tone) a tone of the tonic (3,5, or 8) that initiates a descent in the Urlinie.

Koppelung. (Schenker: coupling) an octave transfer, or coupling, permitting a line to expand its register and prolong motion towards a goal.

Kornfeld, Barry (1937- ) studied music in NYC, including guitar lessons with Davis, Rev. Gary, and became part of the folk revival scene. He wrote widely on folk music (such as articles for Sing Out!) and taught guitar, banjo, etc. He recorded occasionally with others, including the Ragtime Jug Stompers.

Kottke, Leo (1945- ) a guitarist who favors the 12-string, and a vocalist as well, Leo has been commercially successful with both instrumentals and songs since the 70s. His style is based on complex pattern picking. He recorded for Capitol and Takoma, and was influenced by Fahey, John.

Kristofferson, Kris (1936- ) people who know him only as an actor may not realise that he was one of the most prolific songwriters of the mid-70s, with a string of popular songs recorded both by himself and other people: "Me and Bobby McGee", "Casey’s Last Ride", "Sunday Morning Coming Down", "Silver Tongued Devil and I", "Help Me Make It Through the Night", and many more. Although he has turned mainly to acting, he tours occasionally with Cash, Johnny, Willie Nelson, and others as the Highwaymen, no relation to the folk group from the 60s.

krumhorn (occasionally "crumhorn") a large reeded medieval horn with a bassy, raucous tone.

Kweskin, Jim (1940- ) formed the Jim Kweskin Jug Band in 1962, with performers who later went on to some fame in their solo careers: Maria Muldaur, Mel Lyman, Fritz Richmond, Geoff Muldaur, and others (the personnel changed occasionally). They recorded a number of albums, and are noted for their warm, good-time approach to the music, which was a mix of traditional, jug band, old-timey, pop/jazz and other songs.

kye (UK, also "ky",) cow(s). In some regions the singular is "koo" and the plural is "kye". In others the singular is "kye" and the plural is "kyne" (the "n" pluralization is an echo of Old and Middle English and survives today, as in ox/oxen). Often, the plural is "kyes". See also nonsense syllables.