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habanera  Moderate duple meter dance of Cuban origin, popular in the nineteenth century; based on characteristic rhythmic figure.

half step  Smallest interval used in the Western system, the octave divides into twelve such intervals; on the piano, the distance between any two adjacent keys, whether black or white. Also semitone.

harmonica  Mouth organ; a small metal box on which free reeds are mounted, played by moving back and forth across the mouth while breathing into it.

harmonics  Individual pure sounds that are part of any musical tone; in string instruments, crystalline tones in the very high register, produced by lightly touching a vibrating string at a certain point.

harmonium  Organ-like instrument with free metal reeds set in vibration by a bellows; popular in late nineteenth century America.

harmony The simultaneous combination of notes and the ensuing relationships of intervals and chords. Not all musics of the world rely on harmony for interest, but it is central to most Western music.

harp The harp's strings are plucked, and its pitches are changed by means of pedals. Its ethereal tone is easily recognizable. The harp frequently plays broken chords called arpeggios.

harpsichord Early Baroque keyboard instrument in which the strings are plucked by quills instead of being struck with hammers like the piano. Also clavecin.

haunt  Medieval category of loud instruments, used mainly for outdoor occasions, as distinct from bas, or soft, instruments.

heavy metal  Rock style that gained popularity in the 1970s, characterized by simple, repetitive ideas and loud, distorted instrumental solos.

heptatonic scale  Seven-note scale; in non-Western musics, often fashioned from a different combination of intervals than major and minor scales.

heterophonic  Texture in which two or more voices (or parts) elaborate the same melody simultaneously, often the result of improvisation.

homophonic  Texture with principal melody and accompanying harmony, as distinct from polyphony.

horn  See French horn.

hornpipe  Country dance of British Isles, often in a lively triple meter; optional dance movement of solo and orchestral Baroque suite; a type of duple meter hornpipe remains popular in Irish traditional dance music.

hymn  Song in praise of God; often involves congregational participation.