Alfred’s Essential Dictionary of Music Book Review

Not sure about the Alfred’s Essential Dictionary of Music book? Read this review before you buy.

Decide if it’s right for you.

Let’s start with a brief overview and then go into more details on what you’ll find inside the book.

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Brief Overview

The Essential Dictionary of Music book written by Lindsey C. Harnsberger and published by Alfred Music (printed in USA) is a great resource for musicians, students, teachers, and anyone else interested in learning more about music. It includes a wide variety of topics, including definitions, composers, theory, and pronunciation of foreign terms.

This handy little volume covers every major aspect related to music, from basic principles of music theory to detailed descriptions of musical instruments and ranges of voices. You’ll find comprehensive coverage of every major instrument, including guitar, piano, violin, flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, tuba, drums, percussion, bass, and others.

You’ll also find thorough coverage of vocal techniques, ranging from classical singing to jazz, blues, country, rock, pop, gospel, opera, and more. There’s even a section dedicated to the world of film scores and soundtracks.

Whether you’re a composer, arranger, songwriter, or simply curious about music, this essential dictionary of music book will provide you with a wealth of knowledge!

Now, let’s take a peek inside.

What’s Inside the Alfred Essential Dictionary of Music Book

This Essential Dictionary of Music book has the most important things you need to know about music theory, musical terms, and history, including definitions, composers, and pronunciation. This is especially true for beginners. But, you’ll find a wide range of topics covered from the basics to advanced concepts.

This convenient little book is compact enough to fit in your pocket or keep in your instrument case, making it ideal for musicians who travel frequently. Whether you’re learning music theory or simply trying to figure out how to pronounce a foreign term correctly, this music dictionary has you covered.

You’ll find over 330 pages of information, covering every major aspect of music in alphabetical order. From basic principles of music theory to concise biographies of composers, this handy reference book is a must-have for anyone interested in music.

Quick ReferencePage 4One-Page GuideLanguage abbreviations and vowel/consonant pronunciations
Section 1Page 5DefinitionsDefinitions of music terms listed in alphabetical order
Section 2Page 151ComposersBrief composer biographies listed in alphabetical order
Section 3Page 277Music TheoryMusic theory diagrams, notation, and symbols
Section 4Page 317Instrument and Vocal RangesPitch range of all instruments and the voice

Abbreviations and Pronunciations

A brief list of language abbreviations and pronunciations is found on page 4. For example, Eng. is the abbreviation used for English and Fr. is the abbreviation used for French. If you are unsure what some abbreviations mean, this is the page to turn to.

The pronunciations list shows you how to pronounce long vowels and short vowels typically found in music terms. While most musical terms are in the Italian language, they can also be found written in many other languages such as French, German, Latin, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Section 1 – Music Definitions

Definitions of common musical terms, music symbols, music notes and rests, genres, styles, and instruments are listed alphabetically in the first section, pages 7-148.

For example, a whole note is defined as “A note equal to the length of two half notes. See p. 277.” When you turn to page 277 in the theory section of the book, you will see a diagram of notes and note relationships. This helps visualize the given definition.

Section 2 – Composers

The most popular major and minor composers are listed alphabetically on pages 149-274 in the second section of the book. Included with each composer are the dates of birth and death, historical time period, compositional media (music styles and genres), and other important items such as notable works.

For example, Stephen Collins Foster was born on July 4, 1826, in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania. He died on January 13, 1864, in New York. He wrote songs mostly during the Romantic period of music history. One of his most notable songs is “Camptown Races.”

Section 3 – Music Theory

The third section of the book lists music theory organized by topics, pages 277-314. Here is a list of the topics:

  • Notes and Note Relationships
  • Rests and Rest Relationships
  • Scale Types
  • Major Scales
  • Natural Minor Scales
  • Harmonic Minor Scales
  • Melodic Minor Scales
  • Modes
  • Circle of Fifths
  • Key Signatures
  • Intervals
  • Chord Types
  • Chord Chart
  • Ornaments
  • Dynamic Marks
  • Music Symbols
  • Tempo Marks
  • Repeat Signs
  • Guitar Tablature and Notation

Section 4 – Instrument and Vocal Ranges

The fourth and final section includes the pitch ranges of instruments and voice, pages 317-336. Music notes on a staff with the appropriate clef sign are used to show the note range visually.

It also indicates if the notes will sound higher, lower, or as written. How much higher or lower the pitch will sound from the written note is indicated specifically with an interval.

For example, the soprano record note range is from middle C to ledger line D above the staff. The notes sound one octave higher than written.

This is a very important section for anyone writing, transposing, or arranging music. You need to know the correct written pitch range and what it actually sounds like.

Who This Pocket-Sized Reference Book is Best For

All musicians will find the collections of definitions and principles of theory listed in this book useful. But, some will find it even more helpful when reading standard music notation. 

1. Music Students

Students will find the numerous music examples in this pocket guide useful. Impress your teacher by looking up all terms and definitions before class or your lesson.

In addition, the many musical examples throughout the book are perfect for practicing sight singing, ear training, and learning how to read music.

2. Music Teachers

Teachers can quickly check terminology while teaching and never guess again. Keep it next to your teaching materials to make it less of a hassle to find what you need.

By the way, if you are looking for an excellent gift for your students, this affordable book is a great idea.

3. Music Enthusiasts

Anyone who loves listening to music or playing it once in a while will also find this a useful tool. Use it to quickly look up talking points at a pre-concert lecture, presentation, or when reading your concert programs or books about music.

4. Musicians

Musicians will enjoy using this handy reference book to learn new vocabulary and concepts. It’s a quick way to brush up on your knowledge and remember how to play ornaments.

5. Composers

Composers will love having access to a comprehensive dictionary of music. They’ll be able to use it to write their own compositions faster and easier.

6. Conductors

Conductors will appreciate being able to refer to a complete list of intervals and chords. They’ll have a better understanding of what they’re conducting.

7. Arrangers

Arrangers will benefit from knowing the full written and sounding pitch range of the most common instruments. They’ll also be able to identify the key signature of any song they hear.

8. Songwriters

Songwriters will find that this book has everything they need to write songs. It contains a complete list of chords and scales, plus a listing of common key signatures.

Final Thoughts on the Essential Dictionary of Music Book

This pocket-sized dictionary by L. C. Harnsberger is meant to be a quick reference tool and not all encompassing. You will not find every composer, musical term, and music theory definition listed here. What you will find are the most important areas that you will need to look up often. It’s a beneficial source to keep in your locker, bag, purse, or instrument case when you encounter a music term that you can’t remember.

Overall, this is a good choice for anyone interested in music. Whether you want to know the difference between major and minor keys, or just want to know what a chord is, this is the book for you!

Here’s where you can find this pocket music dictionary.

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