accelerando: when the tempo speeds up, or accelerates

alto: in operatic or Western choral singing, the lowest common female voice

aria: a solo song in an opera

banjo: a 5-stringed instrument played by plucking the strings

baritone: in operatic or Western choral singing, the second-highest male voice 

bass: in operatic or Western choral singing, the lowest male voice

bluegrass: a genre of American music, originating in the mid-20th century, influenced by jazz, traditional Irish and Scottish music, and traditional music of Appalachia

break: in bluegrass, the part of the song where the instrumentalists play while the singer takes a break

breathing: the specific way in which singers use, control, and support their air

cantastoria: literally “sing history;” in Sicilian tradition, a musical storyteller who travels from town to town presenting a solo theatrical production

chant: a song or portion of song that is repeated rhythmically

Chén: Vietnamese instrument consisting of two handle-less porcelain teacups held together between the fingers of the player and rattled quickly together to make a percussion-like sound

chorus: a musical section in a song with the same lyrics and melody that repeats after each verse 

đàn Bầu: a one string instrument, unique to Vietnam, originally made of animal gut strings and bamboo trunk and sounds like the human voice

đàn Tranh: Vietnamese “zither” consisting of a flat sounding box with numerous strings placed on a horizontal surface, played with a plectrum or with fingertips

dynamics: how loud or soft a song/music is

fiddle: a bowed stringed instrument common in American folk, bluegrass and Celtic music, known as violin in Western classical music

gourd: large fruit with a hard shell, sometimes hollowed out to hold things (such as water)

gospel music: a genre of American music with influences from African-American spirituals and other folk music; unlike spirituals, gospel music often includes instruments such as drums, bass, and the organ

guitar: a stringed instrument that is played by strumming or picking the strings. A guitar has a long fretted neck and six or twelve strings.

introduction: in a musical form, the part that introduces musical ideas and begins a piece of music

jam: in Bluegrass, a session of the song where musicians take turns playing and improvising 

lead: the singer or performer with a main part that others follow

legato: playing or singing without breaks between the notes; smooth and connected

mandolin: a bluegrass instrument with four sets of two strings; the strings are plucked with a pick

melodic contour: the “shape” of a melody; the direction that a melody moves

meter: how beats are organized or grouped in music, commonly in groups of 2, 3, 4, or 6

mezzo-soprano: in operatic or Western choral singing, the second-highest female voice

minor: in music, a key or scale constructed as whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step

opera: a theatrical art form where everything is sung and set to music

pitch: a musical note or tone

posture: the way a person holds their back and body, especially important in musical performance 

projection: how the voice carries over distance when speaking or singing

refrain: line or lines that is repeated in a song  

repertoire: a list of songs that belong to a particular style of music

repetition: a section of music that is sung or played over again

ritornello: part of a song that returns throughout the song

sanh tiền: Vietnamese instrument (“coin clapper”) made from three pieces of wood with old coins attached to create a tambourine-like rattling sound

soprano: in operatic or Western choral singing, the highest female voice

spirituals: music originally sung by African American enslaved people as a way to express their emotions during times of difficulty. Spirituals often contained coded messages.

staccato: playing or singing with short, disconnected notes

tanbou: the national instrument of Haiti; a type of drum with a body made of wood and a single cowskin head

tempo: the speed of music

tenor: in operatic or Western choral singing, the highest common male voice

​​Tết: Vietnamese Lunar New Year

trống: Vietnamese musical instrument (“double-headed cow drum”) made from a double-head barrel made of cow skin and jackfruit tree wood, and is usually played with sticks or hands

t’rưng: a musical instrument made of bamboo similar to the xylophone but vertical, and consists of a set of bamboo bars of increasing length that rest on a resonator

Underground Railroad: a network of secret routes and safe houses that helped enslaved people escape to free states and Canada in the 19th century 

upright bass: the double bass, the largest and lowest-pitched string instrument which may be played bowed or plucked

variation: slight change to a song, usually in melody or lyrics

verse: a musical section in a song where the melody stays the same but the lyrics change

vibrato: the waves or movement you hear in some singing

vocal warm-ups: musical exercises singers do to prepare their voice and body for singing

waltz: a dance in ¾ meter, where beat 1 is the strong pulse and beats 2 and 3 are weaker