Brussels : Bibliothèque du Conservatoir Royal de Musique Ms.S.5615


Alphabetical index of the names of the airs and the terms of music. In order to complete this work, I give here this summary in which I explain the names of the airs and the terms which are used in music, (Note 1) or at least those which are the most in use in the pieces for the guitar. This knowledge is very necessary in order to give them the shape, the movement, the cadence, the modulation and the sweet harmony which is so proper and essential in short to be able to play this melodious instrument with art and facility.


Adagio, or as abbreviated, Adag.o or Ad.o simply means, at its ease, without being hurried, comfortably. Consequently the measure is almost always slowed down and drawn out a little.

Adagio adagio means very slowly.

Air or Chanson, in Italian, Aria is a song where the movements are regular and equal, and the beats, above all, the first of each measure, well marked and this [the beat/tempo] is almost always rather fast and lively, provided that there is no other term like Aria larga or affettuosa which demands something different.

Allegro, or as abbreviated Alle. always indicates liveliness and much animation: very often fast and light; but also sometimes of a moderate tempo, although lively and animated.

Allegro Allegro, indicates a doubling of the livliness and animation.

Allemande, a serious symphonie, usually with two beats, often with four slow [beats] which is played by instruments and especially the lute, guitar, theorbo, organ and harpsichord. It has two sections, each of which is played twice. One will find amongst the allemandes of Mr. Le Cocq those which change their metre, like that on p. 55, which seems to be a novelty. (Note 2)

Andante from the verb andare to go, to walk with equal steps, which means that it is necessary to make all the notes equal and to separate the sounds well.

Ariette Arietta diminutive of Aria, which means a little air or chansonette. It usually has two sections, unless it repeats itself da capo, like a rondeau.


Ballet is a kind of dance where the air begins with a rising quaver; it has two sections of four or eight bars each and is beaten either with two slow beats or four fast beats. In France it also indicates a suite of several airs in all kinds of metres, where the dances compose and represent some subject.

Bourée is a dance in two beats, beginning with a rising crotchet. It is in two sections.

Burlesque This word indicates amusing, vigourous, inclining to the ridiculous.


Caprice The pieces which bear this name are those where the composer, without submitting to a particular time signature [nombre=number], or a certain kind of measure or to any predetermined design gives flight to his genius. This is also called Phantasia, Preludio or Ricercata in Italian.

Chacone This is a song or dance composed over an obligato bass of four measures, usually in triple time with three crotchets [to a bar]. This is repeated as many times that the chacone has couplets or variations, that is, different melodies composed on the notes of this bass. In this kind of piece one often passes from the major mode to the minor mode, and it tolerates these things well because of this constraint [i.e. the obligato bass line], which is not regularly permitted in a freer composition.

Chanson see Air

Chansonette see Ariette

Courante A kind of dance where the music is usually notated in triple time with [three] minims [to a bar] with two sections, each of which one plays twice. It begins and finishes when he who beats the measure lowers the hand, contrary to the sarabande which usually finishes when it is raised [i.e. on a downbeat rather than an upbeat].


Da capo indicates that it is necessary to repeat whatever one sings or plays from the beginning of the piece.


Echo These are the repetitions of many of the notes which one is going to sing or play at another level of dynamics [sur un autre ton]. On the guitar one repeats the same chords, softening them and diminishing them, so that they sound like an echo. From this it follows that when one wishes to indicate sweetness/smoothness one sometimes places the word ecco instead of piano. It is necessary from the beginning to avoid touching the guitar with roughness in order to have the habit of giving to the pieces à ecco the sweetness which they need.


Fanstasie A kind of composition which is entirely the result of genius, without the composer being subjugated by a fixed time signature [nombre=number], or to a certain kind of measure, being served of all kinds of modes etc. This is rather like caprice.

Forte means loudly, with emphasis but in a natural manner, and without too much force. This is placed in order to indicate that it is necessary to push the voice or the sound of the instrument, especially after the word piano which is the opposite of forte, where one is obliged to soften it or to render it less loud. This word is often indicated by a single upper case F or by a lower case f. FF or ff means very loud, more loudly. Fortissimo, FFF or fff means very loudly with a lot of emphasis in order to express exagerated passion.


Gaillarde a kind of dance which is almost always in triple time. It is also sometimes called Romanesque because it came to us from Rome, or from Italy.

Gavotte This is a kind of dance where the air has two sections, the first of four and the second usually of eight measures, in two beats, sometimes lively and sometimes grave. Each section is played twice. The first begins on the upbeat with a minim, two crotchets or the equivalent notes and finishes on a downbeat, falling on the dominant, or the mediant of the key [mode] and never on the final unless it is in the [form of] a rondo. The second section also begins on the upbeat and finishes on a downbeat falling, on the final of the key.

Gigue is an air usually for instruments, almost always in triple time, which is full of dotted notes and syncopation which render the song lively and for this reason one says that it skips. This is why the Italians call it saltarella, or saltarello and indicate the metre most often as six eight - 6/8 or twelve eight 12/8.

Gratioso means in an agreable manner, graciously, capable of giving pleasure.

Grave means that it is necessary to beat the measure and to sing or play gravely, staidly, with majesty and consequently almost always slowly.


Harpegé or Harpegement, in Italian Harpeggiato. It is when one makes all the sounds in a chord to be heard not all at the same time, or simultaneously, but one after the other, beginning with the lowest, but nevertheless always sustaining the sound.

Musical example

On seeing this One does this

where Harpegé is a delicate manner of touching such instruments as the organ, the harpsichord, the lute, the guitar and others. It is achieved when, touching a chord with three fingers, they are applied successively to the frets or to the strings with such promptness that it is not apparent at any time or within any sensible interval that the measure varies.

Many harpegemens are found in the airs of Monsr. Le Cocq which singles them out so strongly from all those [of others] which have appeared and renders them so agreable. He indicates them rarely in order to conceal according to all appearances this manner of playing them and in order to preserve them for himself alone. It is necessary to discover them by trying [them out] whenever one finds in the pieces chords of three letter, such as on page 7 of this book. In this beautiful and inventive Air, which he called his favourite air, the fifth line is a continuous harpegement from the reprise sign [S] as far as the [chord with] three fs [on the first, second and third lines of the tablature] marked vibrato.

As he did me the pleasure of playing this piece himself I have seen that he likewise arpeggiated the batteries which are indicated above the fifth line with a dot. (Note 3) He played one downward stroke and filled out the duration of the note with harpegemens. He did the same thing in other airs where the batteries were upwards. The mark or sign for these harpegemens seems to me to be a dot above the chords of fifth line. I have marked these dots where I have found them, and not otherwise, in order not to risk adding or subtracting the least thing from all the pieces originally copied and signed in his hand; this collection being a faithful copy.

See also the allemande on page 23 (Note 4) and on page 90, the fifth and sixth measure of the second couplet of a march by Monsr. N. Derosier where he likewise marks the harpegemens with dots after and adjoining the letters , which ought to be arpeggiated (Note 5); which the same Nicolas Derosier never explains in his "Principes" (Note 6) which he has given to the public; and as I approve of this manner [of indicating them] which is very little encumbering, I have followed it in all the other copies, and I have marked them where I judge that harpegemens are intended by the composer, and where they seemed to me to be good.


Largo means very slowly

Lento means slowly, in a manner which is never fast or animated.


Marche is an air the meaning of which is self evident. Each nation has its particular [one] and few masters at present fail to include one of their own composition amongst their pieces and concertos.

Menuet is a very lively dance which came to us orignally from Poitou. In imitation of the Italians, it is supplied with the [time] signature 3/8 or 6/8 in order to indicate a movement which is always very lively and very fast. But the custom of indicating it with a simple 3 or three crotchets has prevailed. The air of this dance usually has two sections which are each played twice, The first has four or not more than eight measures, of which the last ought to fall on the dominant, or at least on the mediant of the key [mode] and never on its final, unless it is in rondo form. The second section is usually of eight measures, of which the last ought to fall on the final of the key [mode] and is a dotted minim, or an entire measure.

Mesure is the space of time which the master employs to raise and lower the hand in order to conduct the movement of the melody, sometimes very fast, and sometimes very slow, according to the kind of music or the subject about which one sings or plays.

It usually lasts for about a second, or the sixtieth of an hour, which is about the rate at which the pulse or the heart beats, so that the systole or contraction of the heart corresponds to the raising of the hand and its diastole, or dilation to the lowering [of the hand]. It lasts about as much as time as a pendulum two and a half feet [deux pieds et demi] in length takes to swing back and forth.

The measure is regulated according to the different quality or value of the notes of music, by means of which the time which it is necessary to give to each note is indicated. For example, the semi-breve lasts during an upbeat and a downbeat, and is a full measure. The minim, which one [also] calls blanche [white] lasts either a downbeat or an upbeat. And the crotchet lasts half of an upbeat or downbeat, because there are always four in a measure.

Binary or duple measure is that where the raising and lowering of the hand are equal. Ternary or triple measure is that where the downbeat is double or twice as long as the upbeat, during which one sings two minims on the downbeat and one on the upbeat: and for this reason one puts the number three at the beginning of the stave, and a C with a slash through it, C, when it is binary or equal.

The full measure is that during which one sings four notes, like Allemandes or Gigues etc and one says that a man plays to the beat or dances to the beat when he observes these measures and beats. See the articles of the signs and of measure in the "Principes de la Guitarre" placed and explained at the beginning of this book".

Mode refers to the different manners of singing or composing pieces of music. The mode is the place in the system where each species of octave begins; or the sequence and the progression of its seven intervals; because the modes change according to the various places where the two semitones of the octave [diapason] are found.

There are many modes : the principal ones are the Dorian, which is a mixture of gravity and cheerfulness invented by Thamiyras of Thrace (Note 7): the Phrygian, which is appropriate for rousing anger, invented by Marsyas the Phrygian (Note 8) and the Lydian appropriate for funeral songs invented by Amphion (Note 9) as Pliny says.

One can consult the authors who discuss them specifically. It is noted here that in plainchant one calls tones those which sometimes are called modes, of which one can see an example in the different tones of the Magnificat. (Note 10)


Passacaille is properly a chacone. The only difference is that the movement is usually graver than that of the chaconne, the song more tender and the expressions less lively. This is because passacailles are nearly always worked in minor modes, that is to say where the mediant is not more than a minor third above the final.

Passepied This is minuet where the movement is very fast and very lively.

Pavane a slow and serious piece, which is beaten usually in two beats.

Piano abbreviated to Pian, or sometimes Pia or simply P or p means the same as that which in French is expressed by the word doux [= soft]. That is to say it is necessary to soften or diminish somewhat the volume of the voice or the instrument so that it is made like an echo. One also finds the word echo in the place of piano. See echo.

Piu Piano or P.P or pp means more softly, or like a second echo, less strongly, or seeming more diminshed than the first.

Pianissimo, or PPP or ppp means very softly, like a third echo and as if the voice or sound of the instrument was lost in the air.

Piano, Piano, or Pian. Piano This is like piu piano, or Pianissimo.

Prelude This is a symphonie which serves as an introduction or preparation to that which follows. Thus the overtures of operas are a kind of prelude. Often one makes all the instruments of an orchestra perform a prelude, in order to give the tone [key]. See also Caprice.

Presto means fast. That is to say that it is necessary to push the measure or to render the beats very short. This is usually an indication of livliness, hot-headedness, furiousness, rapidity etc.

Presto, Presto or Prestissimo means very fast; sometimes it is combined with the adverbs Men and Piu. Men Presto less fast, piu presto, faster.


Recherche or Ricercate This is a kind of prelude or fantasie which is played on some instruments where it seems that the composer is searching for the traces of the harmony which he wishes to employ in the measured pieces which he must play in the suite. This is usually improvised and played without preparation, and therefore demands much skill. See also Symphonie. One finds a ricercata in the "Livre de Guitarre" of Jean Baptiste Granata on page 44. (Note 11)

Rigodon Dance which comes from Provence. It is lively.

Romanesque See Gaillarde

Rondeau is, in musical terms, a kind of refrain, when at the end of a couplet one repeats the [section at the] beginning.


Sarabande is to be understood as nothing more than a minuet [n'est a la bien prendre qu'un minuet] where the movement is grave, slow, serious etc.

Sonate is the prerogative of all sorts of instruments in the same way that the cantata is the prerogative of the voice. It consists usually of a suite of four, five or six movements, most often in the same key, although one finds some which change the key in one or two of the movements of the piece but return to the first key, in which at least one movement is composed before it is finished.

The sonata da chiesa (that is to say for the church) is distinguished from that which is called da camera (that is to say for the chamber) in that the movements of the sonata da chiesa are grave and majestic, appropriate to the dignity and sanctity of the place: Adagio, Largo etc. mixed with fugues, which are played Allegro. In place of these, the movements of the sonata da camara comprise, after an adagio, airs in a regular tempo/metre, like an allemande, a courante, a sarabande and a gigue, or, after a prelude, an allemande, an adagio, a gavotte, a bourree or a minuet; sometimes these are followed by a passacaille or a chaconne.

Symphonie Generally they say that when two sounds sound well together, they make a symphonie, and in this sense all music or composition which has a good effect on the ear is a veritable symphony. But usage confines it only to compositions which are made for instruments and more particularly again to those which are free: that is to say where the composer never subjects [the music] either to a certain form or to a certain kind of measure such as are the Preludes, Fantaisies, Ricercates and Toccates.


Tastatura or Tastature - a kind of Prelude or Fantaisie which masters improvise on their instruments, as if touching or testing whether the instrument is in good condition, if it is in tune, or if the strings are true.

Toccata. This is quite close [in meaning] to Ricercata, Fantasie and Tastature etc. Nevertheless, that which distinguishes the Toccata from the other kinds of symphonies is that it is usually played on keyboard instruments, and secondly that it is principally composed for the exercise of the two hands, one after the other, because it is usually assigned to the [pedal] points of the organ, or to long sustained notes, whether in the bass or in the treble, making rapid diminutions, passage work, tirades, and either in the treble or the bass, where the left hand works in its turn. In the "Livre de Guitarre" (Note 12) composed by Jean Baptiste Granata of Turin, printed in Bologna and dedicated to the serene Prince Lorenzo of Tuscany is found a Toccata on page 23 and another on page 48, both worthy of the author, taking into account the music of that time.


Vaudevilles - are a kind of Villanelle. Villanelle from the Italian word Villanello which means rustic, peasant-like etc. is a rustic dance, either an air or a song appropriate for peasants to dance to, or to imitate their grotesque figures in dancing. There are three pretty girls, they are, I do not know what to say, of great liveliness and very joyful. There is usually a first couplet which is played simply at the beginning,. Then in the following [couplets] a quantity of variations or diminutions are made above it etc. On page 22 of this book is found a compostion of Mr. Le Cocq which serves as an example for that which concerns the guitar on this point.

Vivace indicates that one ought to play or sing with fire, with vivacity, with spirit etc. Also to play and sing quickly or with a bold, lively, or animated movement etc. This is a little like Allegro.

Here is all that which I set myself to explain regarding the names of the airs and terms of music used in the tablature for guitar. Understanding of them, together with the principles of the guitar, is entirely necessary in order to perfect onself on this melodious instrument. If one studies them with application, one will learn to give the airs the correct tempo and the cadence which makes the harmony complete; and however little one is advanced in the manner of playing them, one will find the facility for giving to the pieces the ornaments, which cannot be indicated exactly, by means of different variations, such as in practice sometimes, piano, presto, harpegé; in bestowing those little tremblemens, miolemens, chutes and tirades, in repeating with sweetness the first letter [note] of the said chutes and tirades, as many times as the beat of the measure or the note may permit, which greatly enhances this playing and renders the melody so sweet and so agreeable. Being able to equalize and unequalize the beat according to the way in which the notes indicate is also a point of very considerable [importance], as I tried to explain earlier in the "Principles of the guitar".


(1) Many of the definitions have been adapted from Sébastien de Brossard "Dictionnaire de musique".(Paris : Ballard, 1703). Return to text

(2) In this Allemande there are three bars of triplets preceding the closing three bars. Return to text

(3) The dots are actually below chords on the fourth line of the tablature. Return to text

(4) There are dots beneath chords in two phrases of the second section. Return to text

(5) In the two bars before the last two bars of the second section. Return to text

(6) Nicolas Derosier "Les principes de la guitarre". Amsterdam : Pointel [1696]. Return to text

(7) The legendary Thracian poet and musician mentioned in Homer : "Iliad" 2. 594. Return to text

(8) A Satyr who challenged Apollo to a musical contest. He lost and was flayed alive! The river named after him sprung from his blood and the tears of his mourners. Return to text

(9) He who went for a ride on a dolphin playing his harp the while.Return to text

(10) There are eight different chants for the Magnificat, one in each of the eight modes, to match the antiphons which accompany them. Return to text

(11) From "Capricci armonici" (Bologna : Monti, 1646).Return to text

(12) "Capricci armonici" op. cit. Return to text

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