Italian Musical Terms: A matter of Style

Italian musical terms that describe a playing style or mood can be used at the beginning or throughout a piece of music. A piece might have only one mood described for its entire duration, or sections might have different moods that change regularly back and forth. These musical terms help to create a mental picture for the player, cultivating other aspects of playing such as the appropriate flute tone, tempo and articulation that should be used.

Some commonly used Italian musical terms that you may come across in your early years of playing are listed below. Of course there are many more!

These style and mood words can be used on their own, or in combination with other musical terms such as tempo (for example allegro con brio – fast with vigour) or other words that subtly clarify their meaning (for example accelerando poco a poco – to become faster little by little). See the table below for some extra words that you’ll find useful. Now those terms are really starting to make sense, right?

To compliment your Italian musical terms vocabulary, LISTEN to as much flute music as you can. Listen to music by multiple composers spanning different musical periods. How does the flute player use flute tone colour, dynamics, tempo, articulation or vibrato to convey a sense of sweetness, or of sadness? If you can begin to hear the use of these musical languages, you’ll be able to mimic them in your own playing.

 

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