Words for Music

"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture."

                                                                            - Attributed to Martin Mull

Perhaps, but...

I use words for music all of the time when I am learning and performing. I got the idea from a Jane Magrath workshop.  One of her handouts was a list of 68 words that Czerny had written to describe the range of effects that Beethoven conveyed when playing his own music at the piano.

Since this list inspired me so much in my own playing I decided to add to it and ask my students to contribute as well and here is our word list - the ones in italics are Czerny's original:

Agitated, Alarming, Angry

Bewitching, Bittersweet

Calm, Capricious, Carefree, Careful, Charming, Child-like, Chill, Chorale-like, Clownish, Complaining, Confident, Crazy

Dancing, Dangerous, Dark, Dejected, Delicate, Determined, Dramatic, Dreamy, Drowsy

Elegant, Empty, Energetic, Exalted, Excited, Expressive

Fantastic, Fierce, Firm, Flattering, Fleeting, Foreign, Funny

Galloping, Gentle, Gloomy, Glowing, Good-natured, Graceful, Grand, Great, Gripping

Happy, Haunting, Heroic, Humourous, Hypnotic

Intense, Intimate

Jazzy, Jocose, Joyous, Jumpy


Light, Lively, Lofty, Lulling

Mad, Marked, Mechanical, Melancholic,  Mellow, Melodic, Merry, Metallic, Mischievous, Missing, Moody, Mournful, Murmuring, Mysterious

Naive, Noisy

Odd, Old, Old-fashioned

Pathetic, Peaceful, Pious, Playful, Pleading, Pleasant, Powerful, Profound, Proud


Regal, Relaxing, Religious, Remembering, Resolute, RoaringRough, Royal

Sad, Scary, Secretive, Sensitive, Serene, Serious, Shimmering, Simple, Singing, 
Sleepy, Sneaky, Soft, Solemn, Sombre, Sparkling, Speaking, Spicy, Stormy, Strong,Surreal, Sweet

Teasing, Tender, Thoughtful, Touching, Tragic, Tricky, Twinkling

Unaffected, Unruly, Uplifting


Warm, Weighty, Weird, Witty