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American musical terminology


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Certain divergences between Amer. and Brit. mus. terminology sometimes cause confusion: (1) note and tone. Such expressions as ‘3 tones lower’, or ‘the scale of 5 tones’ have different meanings to the Amer. and the Brit. reader. A Brit. reader, finding these expressions in an Amer. book or journal, must be careful to understand by them ‘3 notes lower’ and ‘scale of 5 notes’, while an Amer. reader finding such expressions in a Brit. book must interpret them as ‘3 whole‐steps lower’ or ‘a scale of 5 whole‐steps’.(2) Eng. bar = Amer. measure, the former term being often reserved in Amer. for the actual bar‐line.(3) Eng. semibreve, minim, etc.= Amer. whole‐note, half‐note, etc.(4) Eng. naturals, e.g. the white keys of a pf., etc. = Amer. long‐keys.(5) Eng. natural notes (of brass instr.) = Amer. primary tones.(6) Eng. to flatten and to sharpen = Amer. to flat and to sharp.(7) Eng. organ (generally) = Amer. pipe organ (to distinguish from the various reed organs).(8) Eng. gramophone = Amer. phonograph.(9) Eng. concert‐giving = Amer. concertizing.(10) Amer. applied music means perf. mus.; hence univ. courses in Applied Music are courses in instr. or vocal technique and interpretation.(11) The Eng. term folk song is often used in the USA in a loose way, covering not only trad. peasant songs but also any songs which have become widely known by people in general.(12) Eng. first violin or leader (of orch.) = Amer. concert master.(13) Eng. conductor (of orch.) = (often) Amer. leader (and Eng. to conduct = Amer. to lead).(14) Eng. part‐writing = Amer. voice‐leading.(15) Eng. record sleeve (container) = Amer. disc (disk) liner.

(1) note and tone. Such expressions as ‘3 tones lower’, or ‘the scale of 5 tones’ have different meanings to the Amer. and the Brit. reader. A Brit. reader, finding these expressions in an Amer. book or journal, must be careful to understand by them ‘3 notes lower’ and ‘scale of 5 notes’, while an Amer. reader finding such expressions in a Brit. book must interpret them as ‘3 whole‐steps lower’ or ‘a scale of 5 whole‐steps’.

(2) Eng. bar = Amer. measure, the former term being often reserved in Amer. for the actual bar‐line.

(3) Eng. semibreve, minim, etc.= Amer. whole‐note, half‐note, etc.

(4) Eng. naturals, e.g. the white keys of a pf., etc. = Amer. long‐keys.

(5) Eng. natural notes (of brass instr.) = Amer. primary tones.

(6) Eng. to flatten and to sharpen = Amer. to flat and to sharp.

(7) Eng. organ (generally) = Amer. pipe organ (to distinguish from the various reed organs).

(8) Eng. gramophone = Amer. phonograph.

(9) Eng. concert‐giving = Amer. concertizing.

(10) Amer. applied music means perf. mus.; hence univ. courses in Applied Music are courses in instr. or vocal technique and interpretation.

(11) The Eng. term folk song is often used in the USA in a loose way, covering not only trad. peasant songs but also any songs which have become widely known by people in general.

(12) Eng. first violin or leader (of orch.) = Amer. concert master.

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Subjects: Music.


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