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The Complete Glossary of Singing Terms: 50 Words Singers Should Know

December 2, 2021

The Complete Glossary of Singing Terms: 50 Words Singers Should Know

girl singing - singing terms and definitionsIf you’ve ever felt confused by unfamiliar singing terms, you’re not alone. As with every specialized field, vocal professionals tend to throw around a lot of jargon or terminology that many people aren’t familiar with.

If you’re interested in expanding your musical skills, this singing glossary will help you better understand music instructions and words used within singing communities. Let’s get started!

50 Singing Terms and Definitions

You’ll find some of the most common singing vocabulary terms in this alphabetized list, including choir-related words and their definitions.

1. A Cappella: The meaning “of choir” in Italian. This term has been adopted to refer to singing without accompaniment.

2. Alto: A lower female voice within the choral setting.

3. Articulators: The body parts used to form words; usually refers to the lips, teeth, and tip of the tongue.

4. Aspirate: A diction term referring to a sound that produces an audible puff of air, such as the letter P in English.

5. Baritone: A male voice type between tenor and bass.

6. Bass: The lowest male voice type.

7. Breathy: A vocal sound that is not clear, while instead sounding airy and fuzzy. A breathy sound can be caused by many factors, including inadequate breath support.

8. Chest voice: The lower vocal register in which most people talk; resonates in the chest.

9. Contralto: The lowest female voice type.

10. Coloratura: Fast-moving notes.

11. Countertenor: A male voice type that sings primarily in head voice; common in baroque music.

12. Covering: A vocal technique wherein the singer rounds the lips slightly when singing high notes to achieve a specific sound.

13. Dental: A diction technique referring to sounds that occur when the tongue is right behind the top front teeth. The Italian or Spanish D sound is a good example.

14. Diaphragm: The large muscle of respiration that lies beneath the lungs, which flattens and lowers during inhalation. This is one of the most common singing terms used in lessons or classes when discussing proper breathing techniques.

15. Diction: The way components of words, including consonants and vowels, are formed and pronounced. For classical singers, this generally includes the study of foreign language diction.

If you’re interested in diction exercises, then check out this video (and you may hear some other singing vocabulary terms that are on this list!):

16. Diphthong: A diction term referring to the phenomenon of one vowel gradually changing into another vowel, creating two vowels within a syllable. This happens a lot in English (e.g. in the word “ray”) but happens less in other languages.

17. Dramatic: In voice classification, this refers to a large, robust voice e.g. “dramatic soprano.”

18. Extended technique: Any vocal technique outside of what is normally and classically taught; this includes whistle tone, inhaled phonation, throat singing, and many other techniques.

19. Fach: Voice type or vocal classification; also means “subject” in German.

20. Flat: When a pitch is slightly lower than desired.

21. Falsetto: A thin head voice sound produced by men.

22. Gl