Music terminology is diverse and seemingly never ending, but on these pages, there are some commonly used schore markings that may be of assistance.

Col, coll’, colla, colle – Means ‘with the’ e.g. col basso ‘with the bass’, col piano ‘with the piano’ (indication to instruments with this sign to be subservient, i.e. as to time details).

Col legno– ‘with the wood’.Bouncing on their strings with the stick of the bow.

Collapunta dell’ arco– with the point of the bow.

Sulponticello– play near the bridge.  When used “forte”, the effect is rather harsh and metallic.  It is usually used in conjunction with ‘piano’ or ‘pianissimo’ tremolo, which produces a very eerie and mysterious sound.  It appears frequently in modern scores.

Sul Taste or Sur la Touche– indicates the opposite of ponticello i.e. the bow is drawn across the string further away from the bridge than normal.  Literally, it means “on the fingerboard”.  This effect, like the ponticello, is usually found in conjunction with sul tremolo and produces a very light, whispering sound.   It also occurs quite frequently in modern scores.

Expressive Techniques

Devices and directions (scored) which promote the individuality and interpretation of the performance.

→         Expressive techniques can apply to timing e.g.

  • Rubato
  • Rall.
  • Presto.

Change in speed to hasten or calm the piece.

→         Expressive techniques can apply to dynamics/volume.  For example:

  • Mf
  • Mp
  • Crescendo
  • Dimuendo
  • Accents
  • Consider word painting

→         Expressive techniques apply to tone:

  • Accents
  • Staccato
  • Legato
  • Phrasing
  • Ulbrato
  • Tremolo
  • Use of sustain pedal
  • Pizzicato
  • Slur
  • Sulponticello (play on bridge uln)


Compositional Techniques

Devices used within the scoring that are usually characteristic of the period.

They are not markings, but ideas incorporated within the score itself.  For example


Pedal point Sequence Ornaments e.g. grace notes and arpogiatura
Melisma Alberti bass Cadenza
Glissando Figured bass Imitation
Doubling of parts Dissonance Ostinato
2 part writing Terraced dynamics Modulation
Tone clusters Random pitches Question/answer


Diminution involves the reduction or “shrinking” of a musical concept or statement.

Augmentation means the expansion of the material or statement by using notes of longer values, increased bars and time. Reducing the idea may involve less bars, smaller and shorter rhythmic values.

Both are frequently used compositional techniques in a variety of musical forms.



Harmonic Devices

Compositional devices that specifically affect the tonality of a piece, influence key, tonal or atonal ‘moments’ within a piece, endings.  They are specifically linked with melodic and bass parts.  For example:

Cadences – perfect, imperfect, interrupted, plagal, cadential Modal
Inversions of chords Modulation
Major/minor chords in different positions, e.g. 7th Tonality/key
Root note, dominant, subdominant of the key Passing notes
Atonal key



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