Glossary of Musical Terms

Glossary of Musical Instrument Terminology

Adjustable Thumb Lever: The lever of a valve can be adjusted to fit the hands of different sized players.

Adjustable Thumb Rest: The thumb rest may be positioned for maximum player comfort.

Annealing: Heat treatment of metal for a warmer, more colorful tone.

Attack: The percussive beginning of a note.

Black Lacquer: While similar to clear or gold lacquer, black lacquer is 3 times as thick as the other types for a darker sound with less fringe harmonics. Also see Lacquer.

Bocal: The "neck" of a bassoon, a metal tube with a tapered bore between the reed and the tenor joint of the bassoon body.

Bore Shape: Many of the woodwind instruments have either continuously flaring (conical) bores, or an inner bore size which fluctuates to improve intonation and response of certain notes.

Bore Size: The inside diameter size of tubing. On trumpets, the bore size is determined by the size of the tubing between the valves.

Brass: A metal compound of zinc and copper which is most commonly used material for instruments of the brass family. The "brass family" refers to the group of instruments whose sound is produced by a vibrating column of air created by air pushed through a player’s vibrating lips and into a cup or funnel shaped mouthpiece.

Chimney: The corridor of tubing between the flute’s lip plate and the body of the headjoint.

Clear Lacquer: An epoxy (resin) finish to protect and beautify the exterior of metal instruments. Also see Lacquer.

Cocus Wood: A wood used for high-quality oboes.

Compensating System: A system to improve the intonation of certain low brass instruments, especially in the lower registers.

Composite Metal: Yamaha offers a special material of approximately 10% gold and 90% silver for handmade flutes.

Computer-Hammering: An innovative Yamaha bell hammering technique which equals the superior response and projection usually only achieved in hand hammered bells, but with a consistency only possible by computer control.

Concert Pitch: "C" Instruments which are pitched in C, such as the flute or oboe, are said to be in concert pitch. Conductors often discuss notes in concert pitch to avoid confusion with the many transposing instruments.

Conical Bore: The inner diameter of the tubing gradually widens (flares). Cornets, horns, piccolos, oboes and bassoons are conical bore instruments. Also see Bore Shape.

Convertible Leadpipe: Some low brass instruments have a leadpipe which permits either upright concert positioning (like a tuba) or a marching configuration (similar to a trumpet). Also see Leadpipe.

Cylindrical Bore: The inner diameter of the tubing remains constant for most of its length. Trumpets, trombones, clarinets and flutes are cylindrical bore instruments. Also see Bore Shape.

Descant Horn: A smaller horn usually in high-F to facilitate control and security in the upper registers.

Detachable Bell: Also called a "screw-on" bell. A detachable horn bell is removable for convenient transport of the instrument.

Detachable Neck: Yamaha soprano saxes offer a removable neck which allows for easier storage of the instrument, the option of changing neck types and facilitates repair.

Double Bladder Pads: Yamaha flute pads have a double layer of skin across the felt for improved seating and durability.

Double Taper: The flare of some headjoint types widens in two sections. Also see Headjoint.

Drawn Toneholes: The walls of the toneholes are drawn from the material of the instrument body. Also see Tone Holes.

Electrostatic Lacquering: Lacquer is coated by applying a voltage to the instrument and slowly passing it though a mist of lacquer. This method ensures that lacquer is evenly applied to all surfaces. Also see Lacquer.

Embouchure Hole Cut: Refers to the shape of the hole, and the degree of roundness of the edges of the chimney between the lip plate and the body of a flute headjoint.

Footjoint: The lower section of the flute. With three tone holes it pitches the flute in C; with four tone holes it extends the range of the flute ½ step down to B.

Front Action Valves: Valve caps face towards the front of the instrument.

FRP: "Fiber-Reinforced Plastic," a durable maintenance free material which is ideal for sturdy, light-weight sousaphones.

Gentleman System: The compact or "Gentleman" system bassoon has an extra joint which allows the use of a smaller case.

Gold: Yamaha flutes offer a choice of 9k or 14k gold.

Gold Brass: Gold brass has a higher copper content than standard (yellow) brass. Yamaha uses approximately 15% zinc and 85% copper. Also see Brass.

Gold Lacquer: On some models, Yamaha uses a special tinted lacquer which gives an appearance similar to gold plating. Also see Lacquer.

Gold Plate: Yamaha first plates with copper and then silver before applying a final gold plate finish.

GP Mouthpieces: The GP mouthpiece was primarily developed for players who prefer heavyweight brass instruments. They feature a gold-plated rim and inner bore.

Grenadilla: A very dense, heavy wood which can be accurately machined to a fine degree. Used for clarinet, piccolo and oboe bodies.

Hand-Lapping: Adjusting the tolerance and fit between valve casing and piston or between slide and receiver, by a skilled craftsman.

Hard-Soldered: Hard soldering, or brazing, is used in areas which may be exposed to stress and is much stronger than ordinary resoldering. Compare Soft-Soldered.

Headjoint: The upper joint of the flute and piccolo, the section which has the embouchure hole and lip-plate.

Headjoint Taper: The shape and length of the flare in the flute and piccolo headjoint. Also see Headjoint.

Hollow Rotors: The valve rotors are hollow for lighter action and improved response.

In-line Keys: This is traditional configuration in which the keys on flutes are aligned in a straight line.

In-line Valve System: For bass trombone, the valves are in a row which allows independent operation of either or both valves, permitting a wider selection of valve/slide combinations.

Kings Rosewood: A special type of rosewood noted for its beautiful appearance and soft, warm tone. Especially suited for recorders and oboes.

Lacquer: Yamaha uses an epoxy finish to protect the finish of brass instruments.

Leadpipe: The leadpipe (or mouthpipe) of the brass instrument is the tapering tubing which interfaces between the mouthpiece and the instruments normal bore tubing—a crucial factor in determining the intonation and other characteristics of the instrument.

Lightweight Slide: Some trombone models feature a lightweight slide for a quick, agile response.

Lip Plate: The rounded plate surrounding the embouchure hole on a flute headjoint. Also see Headjoint.

Long vs. Short Model Cornet: Cornets are available in two different types: the short (Shepherd’s Crook) model has an extra crook in the bell near the valves; the long model has a more trumpet-like bell.

Monel Metal: A trademark name for an alloy consisting primarily of nickel and copper. Very resistant to corrosion.

Mouthpiece Backbore: The bore inside the brass mouthpiece shank which flares open from the throat to the mouthpiece receiver.

Mouthpiece Cup: The cup or funnel shaped inner chamber of the brass instrument.

Mouthpiece Receiver: The tube on an instrument into which the mouthpiece shank is inserted.

Mouthpiece Rim: The rounded part of the mouthpiece which is in contact with the player’s lips.

Mouthpiece Shank: The outer sides of the mouthpiece which are inserted into the instrument’s mouthpiece receiver.

Mouthpiece Throat: The narrowest part of the inner passage of a mouthpiece between the cup and the backbore.

Neck: The upper section of the saxophone to which the mouthpiece is attached.

Nickel Silver (Coin Silver): An alloy comprised of approximately 70% copper, 20% zinc and 10% nickel. Used to make some flutes, horns and certain parts of other instruments.

Offset G System: A key system for the flute in which some keys are positioned off the central key line for easier access. Compare In-line Keys.

Offset Valves: The second valve on the bass trombone is located on the tubing of the first valve making its operation dependant upon the first valve. Though this limits the possible valve combinations, it gives a better open and single valve response to the instrument. Compare In-line Valve System.

One-Piece Bell: The bell of an instrument made from a single sheet of material with an axial seam for improved resonance and projection.

Open Wrap System: The F section tubing of the trombone has as few bends as possible for an open response and clear sound.

Piccolo Flute: The smallest member of the flute family, pitched one octave above the standard flute.

Piccolo Trumpet: The piccolo trumpet is used to perform difficult Baroque solos with clarity and security. It is usually pitched in high Bb with adapters to convert it to A.

Piston Valves: Valves of a brass instrument which move vertically; when pressed the length and therefore natural pitch of the instrument is lowered.

Projection: When referring to musical instruments, projection is used to describe the carrying power of its tone and the ability to be heard clearly in ensemble.

Red Brass: A brass with a very high copper content, approximately 90% copper and 10% zinc. Also see Brass.

Response: A combination of the amount of air resistance, efficiency of sound production, and other aspects of playability and player comfort.

Ribs & Posts: The ribs are plates soldered to the body, and the posts are the protruding braces which hold the key mechanisms on metal woodwinds such as saxophones and flutes.

Rollers: Rollers are sometimes positioned between keys to facilitate finger movement from one key to the other.

Rotary Trumpets: Pitched the same as standard trumpets, the rotary trumpets usually have a shorter leadpipe, smaller bore tubing with a longer flare, and a larger bell size.

Semi-Open Wrap System: Yamaha’s unique F section tubing configuration gives the open free response of an open wrap system, but with a convenient compact size. Also see Open Wrap System.

Shepherd's Crook Bell: This refers to cornets on which the bell has an extra bend as it leaves the valve section giving a darker softer tone and shorter overall length to the cornet.

Silver Plate: Silver plating, when properly cared for, provides a long lasting beautiful finish on metal instruments and the key mechanisms of woodwinds.

Single-Part Valve Casings: The valve casing (the tubing where the valve piston is fitted) is formed from a single piece of brass for a quick light response. Also see Two-Part Valve Casings.

Soft-Soldered: This refers to the standard method of joining metal using lead solder. Compare Hard-Soldered.

Soldered Toneholes: Toneholes on metal body instruments (i.e. flutes and saxes) which are made of separate pieces of metal, joined to the body by soldering. The extra weight of the solder gives the instrument a slightly heavier, more solid sound. Also see Soft-Soldered or Tone Holes.

Solid Rotors: The inner rotors of a rotary valve are made of a solid piece of metal giving a stronger, more focused tone when played loudly.

Split E Mechanism: A system to facilitate playing high A on a flute.

Sterling Silver: 92.5% pure silver. Yamaha uses only sterling silver for its silver flutes and piccolo headjoints.

Tonal Flexibility: The ability to alter and control the tone of the instrument.

Tone Core: The "center" or "body" of the tone. The middle harmonics as perceived by the listener.

Tone Holes: The holes in the body of woodwind instruments which change the acoustic length of the instrument and thereby alters its pitch.

Top Action Valves: Valves located on the top of the body of the instrument and are operated in vertical manner.

Trill Keys: Keys which are designed specifically to facilitate trills between certain notes.

Tuning Bell: On some brass, pitch adjustments are made by moving a detachable bell section rather than by the use of a tuning slide.

Tuning Leadpipe: On some brass instruments, tuning adjustments are accomplished by moving the leadpipe in or out of a sleeve or tubing. Also see Leadpipe.

Tuning Slide Ring: A ring which allows the player's finger to control the length of a valve slide for adjustments in tuning.

Tuning Slide Thumbhook: Similar to the tuning slide ring, the thumbhook is a U shaped device enabling players to adjust the pitch of the 1st valve’s slide.

Tuning Slide Trigger: A spring operated lever which when pressed will increase the length of a valve slide.

Two-Part Valve Casings: Some Custom and Professional model brass instruments feature a valve casing made from two separate pieces of metal. This gives extra body to the tone and helps the tone "hold together" when played loud. Also see Single-Part Valve Casings.

Two-Piece Bell: The bell is formed from two sections of metal with a lateral seam as opposed to the axial seam of the one piece bell.

Wall Thickness: This refers to the overall thickness of the material of the tubing of the body of the instrument.

Water Keys: A convenient outlet for condensation and other moisture which collects in the instrument.

Yellow Brass: The standard alloy of brass used for musical instruments composed of approximately 70% copper and 30% zinc. Also see Brass.

This glossary was created with the help of the Yamaha Wind Instrument Feature Guide