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Glossary

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Back Beat
Accenting beats 2 and 4 of a bar (i.e. the 'off' beats). This is the constant of most 20th century popular music as the loud snare drum falls on these beats. Reggae in particular places emphasis on the back beat.

Backing Track
The basic instrumentation of a song to which vocals and overdubs will be added. When artists mime their performances (as in Top of the Pops of yore) or when you get up and embarrass yourself in front of a Karaoke machine, you're doing it to a backing track.

Ballad
From the folk music tradition in particular, a ballad is a song that tells a story (e.g. John Henry). However in most other modern music genres including pop and jazz, ballad refers to any song that is downbeat, slow and emotional (e.g." Misty", "Yesterday", "Crazy For You"). A decent ballad can be hugely emotional, a bad one can just sound naff. Ballads are a strong chart currency at the moment – if you’re a boyband your first (and invariably every other) single will be a ballad.

Bar
A measure of musical time, usually made up of two, three or four beats. Musical phrases and verses, in turn, are often made up of regular numbers of bars - four, eight or twelve, e.g. the four-bar melody which accompanies the phrase: "And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain." In a four-beat bar the first and third beats are normally accented in rock music, or the second and fourth in reggae. Think of dancing and it all makes sense -a waltz has three beats in the bar.

Bass Drum
The largest and lowest-toned drum, which has a cylindrical body and two membrane heads. Think of the drum solo in "The End" by The Beatles.

Bass Guitar
The Bass (pronounced "Base") evolved from the upright Double Bass during the 1950s, when a certain Leo Fender marketed the first solid body electric guitar and named it the Precision Electric Bass Guitar. This revolutionary new sound got its name from its new more precise pitch. The bass line often carries the rhythm of a song on its shoulders.

Beat
The basic unit of musical time. Beats are normally grouped together into regular groups called bars, and depending on how beats are accented different characteristic rhythms will result.

Bluegrass
An early form of country music that combines the gospel-tinged vocals of the Blue Ridge Mountain region with folk melodies. Instrumentation generally includes guitars, banjos, mandolins and fiddles.

Bongo
A pair of small Afro-Cuban drums, conical or cylindrical shaped, which are permanently attached to one another. One of the drums is larger than the other and tuned at a lower pitch than its partner. Bongos are held between the knees and are played by striking the head of the drums with the finger tips, flatted finger, butt of the hand, or palms.

Bouncing
A process that is used in multitrack recording in order to free up tracks. Multitrack recording is the recording onto special tape that has many (4,8, or 16) channels or tracks. When several of these tracks are recorded they can be mixed onto a single track of the same tape thus leaving those tracks free to be recorded over for more layers.

Brass
Brass instruments are made of brass or some other metal and make sound when air is blown inside. The musician's lips must buzz, as though making a "raspberry" noise against the mouthpiece. Air then vibrates inside the instrument, which produces a sound. Brass instruments include trumpet, trombone, tuba, French horn, cornet, and bugle.

Bridge
A bridge is a kind of fresh perspective in the middle of a song, a small part that may consist of only music, or both lyrics and music, usually placed after the second chorus (sometimes referred to as the middle eight). An example is the lines: "And when I touch you I feel happy inside/ It's such a feeling that my love I can't hide" from "I Wanna Hold YourHand". It works like a musical glue between two different sections of a piece of music.





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