An Extensive Encyclopedic Music Dictionary

An Extensive
Traditional and Folk Music
Encyclopedic Dictionary

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(Section T1)

tablature a system of music notation originally designed centuries ago for players of the lute and other instruments, popular today among folkies for notating music for fretted instruments. It uses as many lines as there are strings (six for the guitar, for instance) and numbers instead of notes to indicate the fret to be used; in early-music lute tablature, letters of the alphabet are used instead of numbers. While it’s a workable system, it applies only to the particular instrument for which it’s written, and has even more limitations than formal notation. However, it does simplify the complexities of writing for fretted instruments and can be of great benefit, especially if combined with real notation.

tabor (pron. "tay-bore") a small drum worn suspended from the waist. Often played with one hand while the other fingers a three-hole whistle, which is called pipe-and-tabor playing.

tacet (music notation, fr. It. "tacere", "to be silent"; also "tace", "tacciono", "tacit") an instruction calling for an instrument or instruments or voices to be silent during a particular passage.

Tacet-used to indicate to the musician not to play this piece or section.

tack piano a piano with steel tacks or similar inserted into the hammers to give a bright, percussive, metallic sound. Sometimes called honkytonk piano.

Tafelmusik-Tafelmusik (German: table-music; = French: musique de table), indicates music used to accompany banquets. Telemann provides a well known example in three sets of Musique de Table, more commonly seen now under the German title, Tafelmusik.

tag (also "tagline") a bit of melody and/or lyric used to end a selection. It can be one of many standard endings (such as the "shave-and-a-haircut" tag), or a repeated line from the verse or chorus, or something created for the occasion. See also coda.

tailpiece a fan-shaped device on the bodies of some stringed instruments (such as the violin and certain guitars) for anchoring the strings.

Taj Mahal (1942- ) (Henry Fredericks) a singer, guitarist, and sometimes banjo player who varies from country blues to rock and reggae music. He has been around since the folk revival in the 60s, playing clubs and festivals, and has a number of albums on Columbia, on which are favorites like "Celebrated Walking Blues" and "Statesboro Blues" (which is by Blind Willie McTell). He teamed briefly with Cooder, Ry and Jesse Davis in the 60s in a group called "Rising Sons", and appeared in and did the soundtrack for the 1972 film "Sounder". He recorded for a few other labels after 1976, but records only occasionally now.

talkin’ blues a recited poem, comic or polemic in nature, and driven along by a simple rhythmic run or chording on guitar or banjo. There are usually asides between verses. This is from the "Original Talkin’ Blues" (the title may or may not be accurate): "Wanna get to heaven, lemme tell ya how to do it,Gotta grease your feet in a little mutton suet.Slide on outa the devil’s hand,Ooze over to the Promised Land.Take it easy.Go greasy." The talkin’ blues were popular among protest writers in the 60s and 70s, although few remain today, usually because the topical subject has faded away. The songs (which you might call folk rap) have little or nothing to do with the actual blues.

talking blues see talkin’ blues.

tall tales always a good subject for folk songs. A list would go on and on. Clever exaggeration gives us "The Ram of Derby", "The Crocodile", "Martin Said to his Man", "The Frozen Logger", and dozens of others. See also nonsense songs.

tambour (Fr.) a drum or drummer.

tambourin (Fr.) a tabor.

tambourine a hoop about 12" in diameter or more, with tiny cymbals loosely fastened in slots. There may or may not be a drum head stretched over the hoop. When struck with the hand or against the body, it produces a sharp, loud, jangling noise. A great favorite with bands of all types. "Timbrel" is an old word for the tambourine. 2. The tambourine is a small single-headed hand-drum with jingles in its wooden frame. It is an instrument of some antiquity, but first found an occasional place in the symphony orchestra only in the 19th century, when it came to be used for exotic effects, as in the Capriccio espagnol and Sheherazade of Rimsky-Korsakov, where it gives a touch of the Spanish and the Middle Eastern respectively.

Tampa Red (1904-1981) (Hudson Woodbridge or Whittaker) a guitarist in the early Chicago blues style. He used a rhythm section, and made recordings for Blues Classics (1935-1953) and used bottleneck style for Yazoo (1928-1937). He also accompanied Rainey, Ma and Spivey, Victoria, and had a group doing hokum blues called "Hokum Jug Band".

Tam-tam- The tam-tam is a gong, an instrument of Chinese origin in its Western orchestral form. It is first found in this context towards the end of the 18th century, when it is used for dramatic effect. Gustav Holst makes use of the tam-tam in Mars, from The Planets, and sets of gongs of a more obviously oriental kind are used by Puccini in his operas Madama Butterfly and Turandot.

Tanner, Gid see Skillet Lickers.

Tanto-Tanto (Italian: so much) is occasionally found in tempo indications, as in allegro ma non tanto, similar in meaning, if slightly weaker than allegro ma non troppo, allegro but not too much.

Tarantella-The tarantella is a folk-dance from the Southern Italian town of Taranto. A 6/8 metredance of some rapidity, it has been connected, by a process of false etymology, with the tarantula spider and either the effects of its bite or a means of its cure. There are well known examples in piano pieces by Chopin and by Liszt. 2.tarantella 1. A rapid, energetic dance in triple time originating in Italy. 2. The music for this dance.

taropatch an instrument like a ukelele, but larger and with four steel-string double courses. Like the uke, it seems to have Hawaiian connections through European ancestry; the name refers to the edible taro vegetable of the Hawaiian islands. The taropatch was made by the Martin company from 1916 to 1931. It was an attempt to increase the volume of the uke, but didn’t sell well because of the playing difficulty of the double courses. Martin replaced it with the concert uke, which had the larger taropatch body but the normal four strings. See tiple for another relative of the uke.

Tarriers formed in 1956, the Tarriers consisted of Darling, Erik, Arkin, Alan and Bob Carey. They had a hit in 1957 with "The Banana Boat Song", which came after the similar "Day-O" by Belafonte, Harry. The group continued performing into the 60s, with various changes of personnel, including Brickman, Marshall.

tatie (Scot., also "tattie", "tottie") potato.

tatters a morris kit made up from hundreds of small strips of cloth of various colours sewn onto a shirt and trousers.

Tawney, Cyril British sailor, folksong collector and songwriter. He is one of the few authors who can make a song sound absolutely traditional. Some of his output includes "Gray Funnel Line", "Sammy’s Bar", "Sally Free and Easy", "Chicken on a Raft", and "On a Monday Morning".

Taylor, James a singer/songwriter who has been popular from the late 60s to the present. Although he’s a pop musician, he’s welcomed by folkies because he writes charming melodies. Unfortunately, some of his early songs contained much about personal troubles, so much so that his commercial success spawned ranks of emulative young followers belonging to what you might call the Can’t Cope Cult (see navelgazers). Folk clubs in the 70s were overrun with Taylor wannabes who were somewhat lacking in musical and lyrical talent.

Te Deum-The Te Deum (Latin: We praise Thee, O Lord) is a canticle sung in thanksgiving and forming a part of the Divine Office, where it appears after Matins on Sundays and major feast days. It later formed part of the Church of England morning service. Well known examples are found in two settings by Handel, the Utrecht Te Deum and the Dettingen Te Deum , with more elaborate settings in the 19th century from Berlioz and Bruckner.

technician 1. A singer or instrumentalist who has mastered musical techniques is said to be a good technician. It might also be used to indicate that the performer has great technique and nothing else: "He’s a good technician, but mechanical." 2. The gnomes who appear between sets at festivals and begin adjusting lights and microphones. They may be paid technicians, or they may be weekend volunteers.


Teiler. (Schenker: see Divider)

temper 1. (v.) To adjust the tuning of the notes in the musical scale in use. See temperament. 2. (n.) The overall adjustment of the tuning of the scale in use.

temperament the adjustment of the relative pitch of notes in the musical scale. There have been various systems, all of them with shortcomings. There is no perfect scale. (A note to the interested who plan on investigating the subject to any extent: there’s a certain amount of conflicting material in music dictionaries, sometimes because the authors have taken one of many variants as a model for a whole system. The figures for temperament entries have been checked, but definitive answers turn out to be wiggly ones because there have been so many attempts to reach the ideal tuning. Onward.) The system in common use is the equal-tempered scale. The octave is divided into 12 equal semitones, which solves the problem of changing keys without tuning clashes. The drawback is that the intervals created are slightly at odds with those arising from the harmonic series - everything is just slightly out of tune except the octaves. Fans of the other scale systems listed below claim to be able to hear a great improvement over the ETS out-of-tuneness, and it’s certainly true that you can hear beats from an ETS piano and that some notes from the harmonic series are missing from the ETS. For information on systems used in the past, see just intonation, meantone scale, Pythagorean scale. The "well-tempered" scale, widely believed to be the equal-tempered scale, is not that alone, but includes several of the variants explained in the Pythagorean scale entry. By Bach’s time, there were a number of systems suitable for all keys ("circulating temperaments"), with fairly good agreement in the more distant keys. For related information, see cent, comma of Pythagoras, diesis, ditone, harmonic series, microtone, natural scale, pitch discrimination, short octave, syntonic comma, twelfth root of two. It’s of interest to note that the various western scales, all of which are based more or less on the simple ratios of the harmonic series, may well be something cultural rather than any absolute musical truth. Other cultures have used scales with complex ratios, and in fact, western listeners in psychoacoustic tests have chosen as favorite intervals those that arenot based on simple integer ratios. Alexander Wood, in his "The Physics of Music" (1944, revised 1975), said that "There is no standard imposed by nature." The interested are referred to an excellent discussion in the book "The Psychology of Music", Diana Deutsch, Academic Press, 1982.

Temperaments-Temperaments are the various alterations of strict tuning necessary for practical purposes. Equal temperament, now in general use, involves the division of the octave into twelve equal semitones, a procedure that necessitates some modification of intervals from their true form, according to the ratios of physics. Equal temperament, exemplified in Johann Sebastian Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues for the Well-Tempered Clavier, won gradual acceptance in the 18th century, replacing earlier systems of tuning. It has been plausibly suggested that the system of equal temperament was borrowed from China, where its mathematical basis was published towards the end of the 16th century.

temperance songs the various temperance movements that came and went over the past centuries in Britain and North America developed a large body of anti-drinking songs. Many survive, but only as songbook curios. There are only a few in the folk tradition, such as "Nancy Whisky", and even that one lacks the fervent moralizing so necessary for a good temperance song. "Here’s to the Grog" is a much more likely sort of song among folkies. There are parodies of temperance songs, though. "Away With Rum" is one of the best (its author seems to be unknown): "We never eat cookies because they have yeast,And one little bite makes a man like a beast.Oh, can you imagine a sadder disgraceThan a man in the gutter with crumbs on his face.Away, away with rum, by gum, with rum by gum, with rum by gum,Away, away with rum, by gum, the song of the Salvation Army."

Tempo Giusto-in exact tempo.

Tempo I-resume opening tempo.

tempo means how fast or how slow you play or sing a piece. The time signature refers to the rhythm and has nothing to do with the speed. Tempo is quantified in beats per minute. A metronome is calibrated in beats per minute, although there has probably never been a folk musician who used one. Music notation will often show a note, an equals sign, and the beats per minute for setting a metronome. 2 Tempo (Italian: time) means the speed at which a piece of music is played. Sometimes the exact tempo is given at the beginning of a piece of music with the number of beats to a minute, as measured by a metronome. More often tempo indications give the performer more latitude, although the Hungarian composer Belá Bartók, for example, gives exact timings, often of each section of a work. In much earlier music the tempo is implicit in the notation or in the type of music 3.the speed of music. Tempo marks are normally indicated in one of two ways: 1. as an Italian word, e.g. allegro=fast, lento=slow, or, 2. as a metronome mark, e.g. quarter note=144, meaning there are to be 144 quarter notes per minute.

Tempo Primo-resume opening tempo.

Tempo Rubato-in tempo ad libitum.



tenor banjo a four-string banjo with a shorter neck than the usual 5-string folk banjo. It’s played with a flatpick and is a favorite in traditional jazz and Irish music; tunings include C G D A and G D A E. See also plectrum banjo.

tenor guitar a four-string guitar, smaller than a six-string and much larger than a ukelele and tuned somewhat higher (usually a fourth, to ADGC).

Tenor-The tenor voice is the highest male voice, except for the falsetto or otherwise produced register of the male alto and male soprano. In the Middle Ages the word had a different meaning. The tenor part of a vocal composition was the thematic basis, borrowed often from plainchant. The tenor voice came to assume the principal rôles in opera, largely replacing the castrato by the later 18th century. Various forms of tenor voice are demanded, particularly in opera, where the strong Heldentenor, (heroic tenor), met the requirements of Wagner, while other composers made use of lighter-voiced lyric tenors. The word tenor is also used adjectivally to describe instruments with a pitch lying between bass and alto, as, for example, the tenor trombone or, in earlier times, the tenor violin. The tenor clef, a C clef placed on the second line from the top of the five-line stave, is used for the upper registers of the cello and bassoon and for the tenor trombone. of the ranges of the voice; most men are tenors. The usual specified range is from an octave below middle C to the G above middle C. See also vocal ranges.

tension rod see truss rod.

tent (Scot.) watch.

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

Tenuta-see tenuto.

Tenute-see tenuto.

Tenuto-held on.

Terkel, Studs (1912- ) a Chicago writer and broadcaster best known for his books of modern-day Americana ("Working", "American Dreams: Lost and Found", "Talking to Myself"), Studs was also involved in American folk music. He was a friend of the Almanac Singers, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and many others, and recorded many of them for his radio show. Some of the performances are available on Folkways. He was the MC at the first Newport Folk Festival in 1959. His association with the left-wing folksingers cost him his broadcasting job during the blacklist.

Ternary form- Ternary form is a tripartite musical structure, three-part song-form, in which the third part is an exact or modified repetition of the first. Standard examples of ternary form can be heard in the minuet and trio movements of Haydn and Mozart or in the more expanded scherzo and trio movements of Beethoven.

ternary. A three-part form, A B A. Each section is normally self sufficient, i.e., ends with a cadence on the key of the section. This form is also variously called Da Capo form, song form, and Minuet form. It is used extensively for short works, such as marches, waltzes and songs.

terraced-dynamics. a compositional use of sudden changes from one dynamic level to another, normally to the exclusion of gradual changes.

Terry, Sonny (1911-1986) born Saunders Terrell in Georgia, the blind harmonica player probably did more than anyone else to advance the art of harp accompaniment - his harp could produce an astounding variety of sounds. He worked alone until 1939, when he met guitarist and singer McGhee, Brownie and formed a partnership that would last until the 70s. He recorded with many other people, including Houston, Cisco and Guthrie, Woody in the famous album of traditional American songs made for Asch, Moses in the 1940s.

tertian. anything that can be spelled (or arranged) in thirds. Notice that tertian structures may or may not occur arranged in thirds; i.e., D G F B is tertian since the letters can be rearranged into thirds as G B D F.

tessitura the range of pitch of a passage for vocal or instruments; see also compass. It’s distinct from range or compass in that it implies a certain range within a larger total. For instance, a song might have a range of pitch much less than the singer, or you could be speaking of a section of a song of lesser range than the total.

tessitura. the comfortable range of a voice or instrument.

tetrachord 1. A chord of four notes. The smallest would span a fourth in a diatonic system. In antiquity, larger ones could be created by combining tetrachords. 2. An ancient Greek four-stringed instrument. 3. Any four-note scale. Our familiar diatonic scale is made up of two identical tetrachords, C D E F and G A B C. 4. The interval of a fourth.

tetrachord. a chord consisting of four pitch-classes or four different pitches.