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Musical Dictionary: V



Variation: The manipulation of a theme by the use of melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic changes.

Venetian School: Late-Renaissance group of composers in Venice whose style included polychoral textures and the foundations of orchestration.

Vibraphone/Vibraharp: A percussive instrument that looks similar to the Marimba or Xylophone. It is made of two rows of metal bars fashioned similar to a keyboard. The player strikes the bars with dampened sticks. Below the bars hang vertical tubes with resonators containing electrically driven metal discs. The prolonged vibration creates the vibrato quality of its sounds, thus the name.

Vibrato: Repeated fluctuation of pitch.

Vielle: A bowed chordophone, equivalent to the fiddle. The Vielle is from France and is now obsolete.

Vihuela: The three members of this family:

  • vihuela de arco -bowed.
  • vihuela de penola -played with a quill.
  • vihuela de mano -plucked with fingers.

By the 16th century, Italians called it viola de mano. This instrument was most popular in the Renaissance period. Its appearance is similar to a large Guitar. It sported an elaborate rosette. Its peghead is bent back and the pegs are inserted from the back. It has six courses of double strings.

Viola: In the Violin family, the alto instrument, played under the chin.

Viola Alta: Four string Violin tuned a fifth lower than the Violin and with the exact proportions of the Violin.

Viola Bastarda: Viola de gamba sized as large as the bass and tenor viola. It had five playing strings and two drone strings.

Viola da Gamba: Often called bass viol, it is a large, stringed cello like instrument and is held between the legs.

Viola da Braccio: The Viola played on the arm thus refers to several members of the Violin family.

Viola D' Amore: The size of the Viola, it is played on the arm or shoulder but has sympathetic strings.

Violin: The master of the orchestra. Its impressive versatility and wide expressive range make it an integral role in orchestral music. It is made from European softwood spruce with its fine, even grain. Its four strings are stretched across the hollow resonating wooden body. An extended, fretless fingerboard over the neck is used to stop the strings. It is played with a bow of horsehair and occasionally plucked as well. In the violin family, the treble instrument played under the chin.

Violin Family: A family of four-string instruments originating during the 17th century, tuned in fifths, and characterized by rounded backs and shoulders, f-shaped sound holes, and deep middle bouts. See Violin, Viola, Cello, and Bass.

Violino Piccolo: A small Violin carrying the higher sounds than the regular Violin. It has a clear, bright sound.

Violincino: Tuned an octave below the Viola, it carries the bass of the Violin family. It stands up on the floor via an endpin and is supported by its player between the legs.

Violone: This is the largest of the violin de gambas, having five or six strings. It had the lowest pitch and eventually was called the double bass viol.

Virginal: Similar to the Harpsichord, its shape is rectangular with metal strings transversing the length of the box. It was ornate with a small keyboard and was set upon a tabletop for play. By 17th century Italy, it was replaced with the wing shaped spinet.

Virtuoso: A brilliant, skilful performer.

Vivace:  (Ita) Lively, brisk, quick, and bright tempo.

Vivo:  (Ita) Lively, bright.

Voice: The production of sound from the vocal chords.

Voice Flute: See Recorder.

Volti subito: Turn [the page] quickly.

Votive: A chant or hymn honouring a particular saint, or the Virgin Mary.

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