Do you relax with blues or classical music? Maybe you revel in jazz or reggae. Sometimes folk or rock tunes help us reminisce. Whatever the style of music, characteristics such as tempo, volume, rhythm and pitch are expressed through certain terms. These guide the musicians to best portray the music as it is meant to be.

Where pace is concerned, largo instructs the musician to proceed at a slow, stately rate.

Andante suggests a moderate tempo.

Though appropriate for any rate, pizzicato is often used for a quick pace; its actual meaning is to pluck the instrument’s strings.

If volume is in question, a very soft sound is requested with pianissimo. The instrument we know as a piano was actually named for the Italian word piano, which means soft. Those black and white keys were originally called a pianoforte, a blend of soft and loud.

And since music is never still, volume that gets ever softer is directed by diminuendo. One is told to increase volume with the term crescendo.

If a musician sees dulcet on his music, he knows the focus is on it being sweet-sounding, gentle to the ears.

One special technique might be obbligato, which adds an accompaniment. It is an essential element of the piece, because the word in Italian means obligatory or indispensable.

An oratorio is a formal musical composition for chorus and orchestra, usually treating a sacred subject. The word comes from the Latin “orare” to pray.

Though paeans in Greece were originally hymns of praise to Apollo, the word has come to mean any exultant shout or song of joy.

A musical sound has a distinct peculiarity that differentiates it from other sounds with the same pitch and volume. This is its timbre, and it may also refer to the human voice. That is what helps us distinguish a friend’s voice on the telephone.

A musician uses an arpeggio for extra personality; this means that the notes of a chord are to be played in rapid succession, rather than simultaneously.

A soloist can add elaborate ornamental flourishes to an aria or concerto by embellishing it with cadenzas.

Where the word cavort may not initially be affiliated with classic ballet, bounding about in a carefree manner might well be part of a madcap musical comedy.

I wish you a song in your heart and a joyous dance in your step!

— Sandi Ekberg taught high school English in Medford for 30 years. If you have grammar questions, email her at ifixgrammar@charter.net