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bagpipe  Wind instrument popular in Eastern and Western Europe that has several tubes, one of which plays the melody while the others sound the drones, or sustained notes; a windbag is filled by either a mouth pipe or a set of bellows (uilleann pipes).

balalaika  Guitar-like instrument of Russia with a triangular body, fretted neck and three strings; often used in traditional music and dance.

ballad opera  English comic opera, usually featuring spoken dialogue alternating with songs set to popular tunes; also called dialogue opera.

ballade  French poetic form and chanson type of the Middle Ages and Renaissance with courtly love texts. Also a Romantic genre, especially a lyric piano piece.

ballet  A dance form featuring a staged presentation of group or solo dancing with music, costumes and scenery.

banjo  Plucked-string instrument with round body in the form of a single-headed drum and a long, fretted neck; brought to the Americas from Africa by early slaves.

baritone  Male voice of moderately low range.

baritone horn  See euphonium.

bas  Medieval category of soft instruments, used principally for indoor occasions, as distinct from haut, or loud, instruments.

bass  Male voice of low range.

bass clarinet  Woodwind instrument of the clarinet family with the lowest range.

bass drum  The bass drum is a large membranophone of indefinite pitch that is played with a soft-headed stick; it produces a low, heavy sound that is heard prominently in this march.

basse danse  Graceful court dance of the early Renaissance; an older version of the pavane.

basso continuo  Italian for "continuous bass". See figured bass. Also refers to performance group with a bass, chordal instrument (harpsichord, organ), and one bass melody instrument (cello, bassoon).

bassoon  The bassoon is a double-reed instrument made of wood. Its relative, the contrabassoon, heard here, is the lowest pitched and weightiest sounding woodwind instrument.

bass viol  See double bass.

beat  Regular pulsation; a basic unit of length in musical time.

bebop  Complex jazz style developed in the 1940s. Also bop.

bel canto  "Beautiful singing"; elegant Italian vocal style characterized by florid melodic lines delivered by voices of great agility, smoothness and purity of tone.

bell tree  Long stick with bells suspended from it, adopted from Janissary music.

bellows  An apparatus for producing air currents in certain wind instruments (accordion, bagpipe).

bent pitch  See blue note.

big band  Large jazz ensemble popular in 1930s and 1940s, featuring sections of trumpets, trombones, saxophones (and other woodwinds), and rhythm instruments (piano, double bass, drums and guitar).

binary form  Two-part (A-B) form is based on statement and departure. Also two-part form.
biwa  A Japanese lute, similar to the Chinese pipa.

blue note  A slight drop of pitch on the third, fifth or seventh tone of the scale, common in blues and jazz. Also bent pitch.

blues  African-American form of secular folk music, related to jazz, that is based on a simple, repetitive poetic-musical structure.

bodhran  Hand-held frame drum with a single goatskin head; used in Irish traditional music.

bongo  A pair of small drums of differing pitches, held between the legs and struck with both hands, of Afro-Cuban origin.

bop  See bebop.

bossa nova  Brazilian dance related to the samba, popular in the 1950s and 1960s.

bourrée  Lively French Baroque dance type in duple meter.

branle  Quick French group dance of the Renaissance, related to the ronde.

brass family  The principal orchestral instruments of the brass family, from highest to lowest, are: trumpet, French horn, trombone and tuba. Other brass instruments commonly used in concert and marching bands include cornet and euphonium. These instruments all have cup-shaped mouthpieces attached to a length of metal tubing that flares into a bell at the end. A column of air is set vibrating by the tightly stretched lips of the player.

break  Jazz term for a short improvised solo without accompaniment that "breaks" an ensemble passage or introduces an extended solo.

bridge  Transitional passage connecting two sections of a composition, also transition. Also the part of a string instrument that holds the strings in place.

bugle  Brass instrument that evolved from the earlier military, or field, trumpet.

Burgundian chanson  Fifteenth century French composition, usually for three voices, some or all of which may be played by instruments. Also chanson.