An Extensive Encyclopedic Music Dictionary

An Extensive
Traditional and Folk Music
Encyclopedic Dictionary

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(Section R1)

R&B rhythm and blues - a style based on country blues that evolved in the 40s and 50s, particularly in Chicago. Characteristics are the electric guitar, a rhythm section with a backbeat approach, much verve in the performances, and often, a sax. Founders of the electric sound would be Walker, T-Bone, who is said to be the first blues guitarist to go electric, and Waters, Muddy, who went with electric guitar, electric bass, microphones, etc.

race records 78s turned out in the 30s and 40s for black people of the US rural south and industrial north. Typical labels were Arhoolie, Adelphi, Brunswick, Biograph, Okeh, Paramount, Vocalion, and Yazoo. Columbia had a division called "Columbia Race". It’s through these records that many famous blues and folk musicians were discovered (for instance, see Johnson, Robert and Hurt, John). Some of the labels are still in business today, without the racist attachments. According to Arnold Shaw, author of "Black Popular Music in America" (1986), a PR agent for Okeh and Paramount used to hire barnstormer pilots to drop leaflets about new record releases onto baseball games. This would indicate that race records were somewhat successful outside the black community.

rag a ragtime musical selection, popular with folk guitarists, especially those who play finger-style.

ragtime a cheerful variant of the blues, based on piano and jazz band music of the 1920s and 30s. A typical chord progression in the key of C would be C-F-C-F-C-F-E-F-A-D-G-C. Many of the chords would be played as sevenths. The beat is usually two or four to the bar with a fairly fast, tight tempo, and a syncopation that gave it its name ("ragged rhythm"). Many songs thought of as blues or called blues are actually ragtime. "San Francisco Bay Blues" by Fuller, Jesse is an example (the above chord progression is from it). In the 60s and 70s, there was a craze among musicians for adapting ragtime piano pieces to the guitar using intricate fingerpicking. A typical example (at least to guitarists) would be the arrangement of "St Louis Tickle" by Van Ronk, Dave.

Ragtime Jug Stompers a jug band formed in the 60s, with (among others), Van Ronk, Dave, Kalb, Danny and Charters, Sam. They recorded an album on the Mercury label, featuring jug band standards like "Stealin’", "Sister Kate", and "Take It Slow and Easy", the last being by Fuller, Jesse.

Rainbow Quest Pete Seeger’s TV program of folk musicians that appeared on the PBS non-commercial network in the 60s, featuring guests such as Collins, Judy, the Stanley Brothers, Hurt, John and many others. There were also shows on Guthrie, Woody, Leadbelly, etc. As of 1994, the shows were available on video cassettes. Contact Central Sun Video, Box 3135, Reston, VA 22090.

Rainey, Ma (1886-1939) (Gertrude Pridgett) a blues singer who worked with and influenced Smith, Bessie, she recorded for Biograph and Milestone in the 20s with such musicians as Louis Armstrong and Thomas Dorsey. She started in the minstrel and vaudeville tradition and recorded about 100 titles during her career, including "See See Rider", "Oh My Babe Blues", and "Deep Moanin’ Blues".

rainstick a length of hollow tubing about 2" in diameter and three or four feet long, containing a small amount of fine gravel or other dried material. When inverted, it produces the sound of heavy falling rain, and can also be shaken for rhythmic effects.

Raitt, Bonnie (1946- ) an LA singer and bottleneck style guitarist who began in blues in the 60s, with her first album in 1971. She played with blues greats like McDowell, Fred, Wells, Junior, Howlin’ Wolf, and others. She continues to perform and record, and has been called "one of the best female singers of the 70s and 80s" by country music writers.

Rallentando-Rallentando (Italian: becoming slower) is a direction to a performer to play gradually slower.

Raney, Wayne see Delmore Brothers.

range 1. The range of notes that an instrument or singer is capable of, from lowest to highest. See also vocal ranges. 2. Sometimes used as a synonym for register, as in "Play it in the high range of your whistle."

rant a dance step apparently originating in northern England.

ranting (Scot.) revelling, roistering.

rapper see sword dances.

rasgueado (also "rasgado") from Spanish guitar playing, especially flamenco, a style of rapid guitar strumming. The righthand fingers are curled like a fist, and then unrolled rapidly one at a time across the strings. The extended fingers can then pluck upward as the hand is re-curled for the next one.

Ready when you are, C.B. curiously for such an obscurity, this turns up fairly often. It is used by a singer, instrumentalist or sideman to indicate mock inattention, usually when money is at stake, as in a recording studio. The origin is an old Hollywood joke: Cecil B. DeMille is filming a complex and expensive location shot for an epic. After the extras go through the scene, he asks the cameramen on the intercom how it went. #1 says "My camera jammed!" and #2 says "Someone forgot to put film in my camera!" #3 says "Ready when you are, C.B.!"

Reagon, Bernice a singer from Atlanta, Georgia, active in the civil rights movement of the early 60s and a member of the Freedom Singers. She began to produce festivals and school programs in the mid-60s. A songwriter and musical director for the group "Sweet Honey in the Rock", she has recorded several albums.

real ale more and more small breweries and brewpubs in Canada are making beers and ales using old-fashioned recipes, without the addition of preservatives and other chemicals. This is a great favorite of folkies, who tend to shun the thinner, mass-produced bubbly. Festivals with a licensed area will usually have the beer supplied by a microbrewery whenever possible. There is also a high percentage of good amateur brewers among folkies.

real-imitation. imitation where the intervals are exactly the same as in the statement.

rebec a medieval bowed instrument with a sort of teardrop shape - the ancestor of the violin.

recapitulation. a return of a section of music, especially in the sonata-form.

recessional aka "morris off". The morris dancers’ traditional farewell dance after performing for a crowd. The usual tune is "Bonny Green Garters". The opposite is the processional.

Recitative-Recitative is used in vocal works, particularly opera and oratorio, usually for a solo voice, in relatively free rhythm. In this respect recitative is distinct from the formal aria. Recitative might be accompanied by basso continuo, harpsichord or other chordal instruments and a bass instrument (recitativo secco or dry recitative), or accompanied by a larger number of instruments (recitativo accompagnato, accompanied recitative). Recitative is often used for narrative or for the forwarding of the plot in opera.

Recorder-The recorder (= German: Blockflšte; French: fléte á bec; Italian: flauto dolce), the straight flute, exists in a variety of sizes, the principal of which are the descant or soprano, the treble or alto, the tenor and the bass, the first and third of which have a range upwards from C and the second and fourth of which have a range upwards from F, with similar fingering. Other sizes of recorder include the smallest, the sopranino, an octave higher than the treble and the great bass, an octave lower than the tenor. An even larger family of recorders existed in the later 16th century. The earlier recorder was used in consort music, while it was used rather as a solo instrument in music in the later 17th and early 18th centuries, with sonatas for the instrument by Handel and solo parts in the second and fourth of the Brandenburg Concertos of Johann Sebastian Bach. The revival of the instrument in the 20th century has led to a number of new solo works for recorder. 2 a wooden or plastic whistle. It has a mellower sound than a metal whistle, and is available in a wide selection of sizes and keys. A big advantage over the usual whistle is the thumbhole on the back, which allows jumping octaves without forceful blowing.

recordings it would take an encyclopedia to detail all the recordings available. Many of the best recordings from the 50s to the 70s are now out of print, although some companies have been reissuing collections of songs on CDs. If you find a record store that stocks the old vinyl recordings, labels to look for include Folkways, Topic, Vanguard, Stinson, Elektra, Leader/Trailer, Prestige/Folklore, Mercury, and Folk/Legacy. Many of the major labels also carried folk musicians during their heyday. Today’s recording releases are impossible to keep up with; each issue of Sing Out! lists page after page. If you could have only one record that summed up folk music, what would it be? That should cause endless hot debates. Folkie instrumentalists must mourn the passing of the 16RPM setting on turntables. It could be used to slow down an instrumental passage on a 33RPM disk so you could figure it out - and now even the turntable itself is headed to museums...

Redpath, Jean (1937- ) born in Scotland and living in the US, singer Jean has contributed an enormous amount to the popularizing of Scottish traditional music. Her deeply personal arrangements have always seemed to capture the spirit of the song perfectly. She has many albums on Elektra, Philo, Folk-Legacy, etc. Those looking for an introduction to Scottish songs, whether a tiny love song or an epic ballad, need look no further than Jean.

reduction. (Schoenberg) a distillation of a Grundgestalt (basic-shape) to a smaller, more concentrated figure. See also fragmentation.

Reece, Florence author of "Which Side Are You On?" See also Appalachia, union songs.

reed a small strip of metal, plastic, cane, etc., that vibrates to produce the sound in instruments such as the clarinet, oboe, harmonica, bagpipes, reed organ, concertina and many others. If the reed is free to vibrate rather than hitting on the edge of the air slot or another reed, it’s called a "free reed" instrument, which is also the name of a folk record company and the name of a British magazine for concertina players.


reed organ a small organ that uses reeds instead of pipes; a foot pedal operates a bellows for the air flow. These were very popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries for the parlor or small churches, and were often marketed as "melodeons" or "harmoniums". (Today, the term melodeon refers to a portable, accordion-like instrument.)

reed pipe a whistle cut from a reed (or a tube of tree bark, etc.); it is unrelated to instruments that produce their sound with an actual reed.

Reed-Reeds, made either from traditional material or from plastic or metal, are used to produce a musical sound from their vibration by means of an air column. The clarinet uses a single reed, fastened to a hollow mouthpiece, while the oboe and bassoon use a double reed, one side vibrating against the other. The reed-pipes of the organ are generally made of metal, with a thin vibrating tongue to produce the sound. Similar laminae are used in the mouth-organ and harmonica. Some instruments, like the bagpipes or the crumhorn, use covered double reeds, set inside an air chamber.

reekit (Scot.) smoky.

reel a tune, generally used for dancing and generally played on the fiddle. Most are in 2/4 time, although the rhythmic grouping is what defines it. The rhythm goes "da-diddle-da-diddle-da-diddle". See also strathspey, hornpipe and jig. The word is also occasionally used in a general sense to mean any type of cheerful group dance.

reflective-chord. a mirror-chord.

refrain 1. Synonymous with chorus and often burden. See also nonsense syllables. 2. A general term for any melody. 3. The main or "A" part of a rondo.

region. (Schoenberg) a tonal area in music as it relates to the initial key; thus, modulation is superfluous. Everything is considered as related to the initial key.

register in popular usage, whether the range of pitch is high or low. If you play a tune on the guitar while staying up the neck, you’re said to be in a high register. Some instruments, such as the whistle or recorder, have distinct low and high registers. The upper register is obtained by forceful blowing in the case of the whistle and a thumbhole in the case of the recorder. In pipe or electronic organs, the registers are groups of pipes (or the electronic equivalent) that can be assigned to notes with the organ controls (stops). 2. The register of a voice or instrument is a distinct part of its range. The clarinet, for example, has a distinctive lower register known, from the origin of the instrument, as the chalumeau register, and an upper register of more flute-like timbre.

register-transfer. the transfer of a melodic line from one register to another within the midst of its statement. See also coupling.

Registration-Registration is the choice of stops used by an organist or harpsichordist, a much more elaborate matter for the former.

relative minor 1. A minor key based on the sixth note of a major scale. For instance, the sixth note of C major is A, and A minor is the relative minor key. The word "relative" arises because the two keys share the same key signature - in this case, no sharps or flats. See also parallel. 2. A minor chord based on the sixth note of a major scale. The relative minor chord to C major is A minor. See also parallel.

relative-keys. keys having the same key-signature (but not the same tonic).


Renaissance the flowering of the arts in Europe is usually dated from about the 14th century to the 17th, depending on what book you use. In music, the careless occasionally confuse it with medieval. Sometimes synonymous, at least in general usage, with Elizabethan. See also Society for Creative Anachronism. Internet folk lists Web sites related to medieval/Renaissance history.

Renbourn, John British guitarist who worked with Pentangle in the late 60s, and also made many solo recordings. He’s noted for bringing complex classical techniques to folk guitar playing, and his intricate folk instrumentals are second to none.

reprise a repetition of a composition’s opening theme or stanzas at the end to give a nice tidy ending. The reprise is one of the methods of writing a coda.

Requiem Mass-The Catholic Mass for the Dead opens with the words Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine (Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord), leading to the use of the word Requiem for the Mass for the Dead. Important settings of the Requiem include that by Mozart and the large scale settings of the Requiem by Berlioz and by Verdi. Brahams set a collection of Lutheran texts to form his German Requiem, while Fauré set a liturgical text that used parts of the burial service.

residents also "resident singers" or "resident performers", and occasionally, "house singers" or "house band". Many folk clubs have the same performers open each night with a set perhaps thirty minutes long. In general, residents tend to be amateurs or semi-professionals who do performances of high quality. The word seems to have been borrowed from British folk clubs.

resin see rosin.

resolution to get the melody and the harmony back to the keynote. Any straying from the keynote creates musical interest, which is what it’s all about, but we have an innate urge to want the tune to end satisfactorily, and to bring it home with a nice splashy end on the tonic chord is the way to do it. There are subdivisions of the resolution. For instance, in the key of C, a chord change to the F chord might urge a resolution to the G, or the composer might surprise you with a change to some other chord. This is not to say that all tunes must end on the tonic. Some songs end on the dominant note (see progression) or the third of the scale, or others.

resolve (v.) see resolution.

resonator 1. The tops of guitars, the heads of banjos, and the steel cone in a Dobro are all resonators. In general, they amplify the sound in instruments by providing a method of transfering the energy of the strings to the air. They also affect the tone of the sound by adding some sound of their own, plus altering the loudness of harmonics - see formant. 2. An enclosed volume of air with a opening to the outside - the familiar Helmholtz resonator of highschool physics texts. The body and sound hole of a guitar is a Helmholtz resonator; the effect is to boost the loudness of the lower frequencies, usually the bottom octave.

Respighi, Ottorino (1879-1936) Italian composer who, like Williams, Ralph Vaughan, used many traditional tunes in his peerless arrangements without ever losing their beauty. Try "Ancient Airs and Dances" (all three suites), or "The Birds".

rest a pause in playing, a silence. The time value of a rest is notated in exactly the same way as a note - an eighth, a quarter, etc. If a rest is on its own in a measure, it assumes whatever value is needed to produce a full-measure pause.

resultant tone see beat, sense 4.

retardation. a nonharmonic tone that is repeated or held from a harmonic-tone and then resolves up by step to a harmonic-tone.

Retrograde. [2,4] (set-theory, linear) the reverse order of a tone-row or melody.

Retrograde-inversion. [2,4] (set-theory, linear) the retrograde of the inversion (abbrev. RI) is a retrograde of the interval series of the Prime.

retrogression. a series of chords that weakens a tonality.

reverb (from "reverberation") any emitted sound will bounce off any reflective surfaces, including the ground. This results (especially in a room) with a vast number of reflections, each with its own delay time before it meets the original and mixes with it. The result is usually a fuller, richer sound. Too much of it, however, begins to obscure the original; it all depends on the room. In recordings, the reverb is controlled by using a room with a minimum of reflections (if possible) and adding the multiple path lengths by means of a mechanical or digital delay line that is designed to ensure multiple returns. Occasionally, this is overdone or omitted completely - see wet and dry. In stage work, a room’s path length and subsequent delay might become large enough for the return to be heard as a separate repetition of the original, which is referred to as echo. This can be quite disconcerting, so to speak, and the only cure for long reverb times is to slow the tempo of the performance.

reverb time the time between the creation of a sound and its return to the performer via reflections, either from the room itself or from an artificial delay line. The definition can also mean the time for the sound to die away, in which case it’s usually called decay time. Long reverb times can be confusing, as described in reverb, above. It’s usually measured in milliseconds, though in the case of a complete sound decay, a large, reflective hall can go to two or more seconds.

reverberation. the continuing sound after the sound source has ceased to vibrate. Reverberation is caused by the bouncing of sound waves in a finite space.

revival singers a loose term to describe those who came to folk music through recordings or the folk revival, as opposed to those who grew up with the music. Most folkies are revivalists.

rewrites there are two types of rewrites of older songs, the censorious hacking of a Baring-Gould, Sabine and the careful polishing of someone with some respect for the song and tradition. Many singers (see Carthy, Martin) cobble together verses taken from many older variants, and often set them to a tune taken from another ballad, or dance music. This collating is just part of the folk process. As long as the basic content and meaning are preserved, it’s usually for the better (if the editor is a good one). The real problem is weak-kneed rewrites by the artless, who want to purge folksongs of sexuality, political punch, etc. See also genteel, bowdlerize. See also Scott, Sir Walter for a good example of an excellent rewrite. See also Lass of Roch Royal for a song that probably inspired Burns, Robert in his writing of "My Love is Like a Red, Red, Rose". Burns did a fair amount of borrowing from the folk tradition.

Reynard all foxes in folksong seemed to be named Reynard. This is said to be from a medieval tale "Reynard the Fox". See also foxhunting songs.

Reynolds, Malvina (1901-1978) "Little Boxes", "What Have They Done to the Rain?", and "Turn Around" will probably be around forever, and are just a few of the hundreds of songs written by this amazing songwriter from Berkeley, California. She began writing in the 40s, but first came to the attention of folkies when Pete Seeger had a hit with "Little Boxes". (Incidentally, some people have tacked on extra verses to say that we all end up in little boxes after death. Malvina disagreed with this editing and said that it jarred with the song’s purpose, which was a sendup of populist conformity.) Besides her many songs, she leaves three songbooks and at least seven albums.

rhapsody a composition suggestive of improvisation, impressionism, etc., and generally one that escapes other categories. Originally it referred to part of an epic poem.

Rhapsody-The title rhapsody (= French: rapsodie) came into general use in music of the mid-19th century, notably with the Hungarian Rhapsodies of Liszt. It implies a work free in form and inspiration, often an expression of national temperament, as in the Slavonic Rhapsodies of Dvorák and the Rapsodie espagnole of Ravel.

rhythm and blues see R&B.