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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
Sample
As part of the ongoing computerisation of music technology and performance, the sampler has become almost an everyday object in music production. Samplers, in essence, are recording devices that are able to record almost any sound digitally and make this recording accessible to a synthesizer or computer. Once a sound has been "sampled" it can be added to the memory/storage bank of a synthesizer. This is how, by the pressing of a musical keyboard, musicians are able to reproduce the sounds of pigs, laughter, handclapping, ducks, frogs, birds, snoring, et cetera or, increasingly and more controversially, lift hooks, riffs, often whole melodies, from earlier songs.

Saxophone
Adolphe Sax invented this mean and moody instrument in 1841, establishing a patent in 1846. The instrument is made from metal with a conical bore. Types of saxophone (listed here from highest register to lowest) include soprano, alto, tenor and baritone. The saxophone has a reed mouthpiece,with sound created by blowing air past the reed, causing it to vibrate. Pitch is adjusted through a complicated series of buttons known as "keys" and the sound is formed by the brass bell shape of the bore. The saxophone was particularly popular in early rock and roll as its raucous sound cut through the band to the dance floor without the need for amplification.

Scale
The collection of notes which composers or singers draw on for the melody of a song, which varies depending on the key. See major, minor.

Score
A written piece of music showing the notes to be played or sung by each instrument or voice is usually referred to as the score. This reference can be afforded any fully written piece of music, no matter how simple or complex.

Semitone
The smallest interval in Western music.

Sequencer
A unit connected to a synthesizer, which is capable of memorizing sequences of notes. This system allows such individual sequences to then be put together in any number of ways to make full song scores.

Ska
The earliest form of reggae. This Jamaican music style was devised in the early sixties and had a simple mm-cha mm-cha feel to it. It was later revived in Britain in the late 70s during the punk movement, by bands such as The Specials and Madness.

Skiffle
This refers to a mixture of jazz and country blues often played on a mixture of basically simple instruments such as the guitar, harmonica, jug, kazoo, and washtub bass. Although the term "skiffle" was originally used in the USA in the 1930s to describe mixtures of blues, boogie-woogie, and other popular black music, the skiffle revival of the 1950s - as typified by Lonnie Donegan's recording of Rock Island Line - was most pronounced in Britain where it remained popular until the style was replaced by rock-and-roll at the end of the decade. Major skiffle artists include Chris Barber and Ken Colyer.

Snare Drum
A cylindrical drum with a skin covering the top and a set of wires or strings strung across the bottom. Drummers normally use the snare to emphasise the second and fourth beats of the bar, or "offbeats". See also backbeat.

Solo
This refers to any instrumental improvisation that takes place when the vocalist is silent.

String Quartet
A group of four string instruments for the performance of chamber music. The string quartet is made up of two violins, a viola and a cello. Only occasionally used in pop music, its most famous entry has to be the backing for Paul McCartney’s "Yesterday."

Strings
Yes, the sounds of string instruments come from their strings. The strings may be plucked, as in a guitar or harp, bowed, as with a cello or a violin, or struck, as with a dulcimer. This creates a vibration that causes a unique sound. Stringed instruments include the violin, viola, cello, double bass, and harp.

Swing
Traditionally in classical and folk music, beats have usually been divided into two, four, eight etc. Swing involves changing the division to a less mathematical one - loosely a division into three (a long note and a shorter one) but in fact denoting a more intuitive, swaying feel which can't be reduced to number. Also used to describe a particular kind of jazz played by big bands in the 30s and 40s.

Synthesizer
A synthesizer is an electronic instrument usually in the form of a keyboard. An electronic signal is triggered by the keyboard and is routed through a series of waveform generators, modulators and oscillators to reshape the signal into an infinite variety of electronic sounds. It was the inventiveness of Robert Moog, who begin to manufacture electronic music synthesizers in 1964, in collaboration with the composers Herbert A. Deutsch, and Walter (later Wendy) Carlos.

Syncopation
Accenting any note that doesn’t fall on one of the main beats in a bar. In fact, accenting beats two and four (see backbeat) is even sometimes considered syncopation. Syncopation is particularly prevalent in jazz when in fast swing numbers the drums or lead instrument like to place a ‘stab’ slightly before a beat, creating excitement or tension.

Sixth
The interval between two notes which are six notes apart on the scale. The notes could either be one after the other in melody or both together in harmony.





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