Episode 4 – The Language of Music

In this episode I talk about Italian, and specifically about the Italian words used in Western classical music. I investigate why Italian is used, look at some of the words, and find out what they mean and how they are used in Italian.

Here are the words featured:

Words for musical compositions and parts of them

Word Musical meaning Other meanings
opera a drama set to music with singing and orchestral accompaniment work, action, deed, piece of work
concerto a work for one or more solo instruments accompanied by an orchestra concert, performance, gig, show
cadenza a florid solo at the end of a performance cadence, rhythm, intonation, frequency
aria an accompanied, elaborate melody sung by a single voice air, look, manner

Words for tempo (time)

Word Musical meaning Other meanings
adagio slow slowly, with care, gently; adage, saying; easy does it
largo slow and dignified wide, broad, loose, big, large, open sea
andante moderately slow, flowing along current, cheap, second-rate
allegro moderately fast cheerful, bright, lively; merry, tipsy
presto very fast soon, quickly, fast, early

Words for dynamics (volume)

Word Musical meaning Other meanings
piano soft flat, level, smooth; straightforward, simple, clear, plain; slowly, carefully, softly, quietly; plane, top, surface
forte loud strong, bright, heavy, hard, large, big, considerable; amazing, great; fast
crescendo becoming louder growing up, raising
diminuendo becoming softer decreasing, falling


Word Musical meaning Other meanings
mezzo moderately means, way, half, middle
molto very a lot, much, many, a great deal, very
meno less less, least, minus, except
più more more, plus, several
ma non troppo but not too much but not too much

More details of Italian musical terms


The other meanings come from Reverso.

Information about Italian

A discussion on why opera singers tend to be quite stout:

Tunes featured in this episode

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