This is the letter page O of the Musical Dictionary from Classical and Jazz


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Musical Dictionary: O



O: The symbol for diminished.

Ober: (Ger.) Upper, higher

Oblique Motion: Two melodic lines, where one voice remains stationary, while the other moves.

Obbligato: (also obligato) (It.) An instrumental part, typically distinctive in effect, that is integral to a piece of music and should not be omitted in performance.

Oboe: Originating from the Shawn, it is a woodwind, having a conical bore and double reed. It has a long history of refinements since the shawn of the Renaissance period. As music developed in the Baroque period, the oboe was of integral importance. Its initial harsh tones and six finger holes were changed and refined by Jean Hotteterre in the mid 1600's. Theobald Boehm later refined the oboe we know today with its complex finger pattern. The treble or soprano oboe is pitched in C and can cover three octaves.

Oboe D'Amore: This member of the oboe family is pitched in A and can play alto parts. It is thought to have a warm and intimate sound. The oboe d'amore is prominently heard in Ravel's Bolero.

Oboe da Caccia: Italian for hunting. In the Baroque period, having evolved from the shawn, it was the alto pommer that became the alto oboe. It is tuned a 5th below the oboe.

O Carina: A type of whistle sometimes called the sweet potato whistle. It can be made of plastic, clay or porcelain. Bulbous in shape with eight finger holes and two thumb holes.

Octave: An interval eight diatonic scale degrees above it. Two notes an octave apart have the same letter name, and form the most consonant interval possible. Or to put it another way the eighth tone above a given pitch, with twice as many vibrations per second, or below a given pitch, with half as many vibrations.

Octet: A piece written for eight instruments or voices, or the group that performs such a piece.

Octobasse: A huge double bass 12 feet high. Its three strings were stopped with levers that were manipulated by pedals. The bow needed oarlocks for support. It is played one octave below the cello.

Oeuvre: (Fr.) Opus.

Offertory     1. A part of the Roman Catholic Mass proper, following the Credo and sung during the offering.
                   2. In Protestant church services, any music sung or played during offering.

Ondes Martenot: Invented by Maurice Martenot in 1928, this is his electronic keyboard. The player can control its tone either by the keyboard or by sliding metallic ribbons that vary the pitch.

Open Fifth: A triad that does not contain a third, consisting only of a root and a fifth.

Open strings: Strings are not stopped, fingered, or fretted.

Opera: A musical play, usually entirely sung, making use of costumes, staging, props, sets, and dramatic elements. Operas usually consist of two types of musical elements, the aria, which primarily expresses a single idea or theme, and the recitative which advances the story.

Opera Comique: French Comic Opera that may not be entirely sung or for that matter comic as in Bizet's Carmen. The Italians call this genre Opera Buffa.

Operetta: A light opera.

Ophicleide: Invented in Paris in 1817, the ophicleide's parts are now played by the Tuba. Initial intentions were to play the lower members of the keyed bugles brass family. It was made in bass and alto: very tall and narrow with a U-shaped conical tube, flared bell, and cup mouthpiece.

Opus, Op: "Work". With a number, used to show the order in which the works by a given composer were written or published. Opus numbers are most often used for composers who catalogued their own works. e.g. Op. 1, Op. 2.

Oratorio: An operatic work without staging, sets, or elaborate costumes. Usually performed in a more relaxed setting than a formal opera, and usually having a religious theme.

Orchestration: The art of arranging, writing or scoring music for an orchestra.

Ordinary: In the Mass, the parts that are used every day, as distinct from the proper. The ordinary consists of the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.

Organ: A keyboard instrument dating back to 200 AD. To generate the large volumes of air it requires, the organ was first powered by foot pedals, gravity and water. More recently organs have been powered by steam, hydraulics, gas and electricity. The essential components of the traditional organ are pipes, wind supply and wind chest, key and stop actions, and case. The many sounds of the organ are manipulated when the keyboard controlling the flow of air changes the air supply to the pipes. Organs can be very complicated ranging broadly in musical dynamics and size.

Organetto: Also referred to as the street organ, it is portable and its player can hold it on the knee while the other hand operates the bellows. Used in the Renaissance period.

Organistrum: The Hurdy-Gurdy like instrument from medieval times. It is shaped like a Violin but with only three strings.

Ornamentation: Note or notes added to the original melodic line for embellishment and added interest.

Ornament: A melodic embellishment, either written or improvised. Types of ornaments included trills, turns, mordents, and grace notes.

Ossia: "Or." Indicating an alternative passage or version.

Ostinato: A repeated melodic or rhythmic pattern, frequently appearing in the bass line.

Ottava: Octave.

Ottava alta: (8va) An octave higher.

Ottave bassa: (8va or 8vb) An octave lower.

Overtone: The almost inaudible higher tones which occur with the fundamental tone. They are the result of the vibration of small sections of a string (instrument) or a column of air. Other general terms for overtones are partials and harmonics.

Overture: The introductory music for an opera, ballet, or oratorio. A concert overture is an independent work.

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