Common Music Terms/Jargon/Slang In Japanese

Hey guys, I’m next to the WaniKani community, but I’ve been learning Japanese for about three years. My life goal up to now is to become a professional musician within the Japanese music industry, and as such I nned to know the various words used to talk about, and that are commonly used in, the Japanese music industry haha. Are there any other musicians or musically inclined people that can help me expand my vocabulary?


I’m a musician here! And I currently live in Japan. I’ve only had a few experiences performing with Japanese professional musicians here, but my understanding is that they are pretty flexible. I’m not sure where you are from, but they typically don’t refer to pitches by letters, but instead a fixed solfege system. If you do jazz, I’ve heard people use chord numbers to define progressions, but I don’t think scale degree numbers are a widely known concept as that I haven’t found vocabulary to express this (not to mention I haven’t worked closely with pro-musicians too often).

Here’s some basic vocabulary I’ve compiled. I cannot guarantee if it’s used widespread or if those I spoke with just tried to understand what I was trying to say. This is pretty much a hodgepodge of terms that I’ve picked up. I’m sure if you katakanaize words you know, it’ll be understood as well.

from the top - 頭から(あたまから)
rhythm - リズム
accompaniment - 伴奏(ばんそう)
concerto - 協奏曲(きょうそうきょく)
etude - エチュード
nocturne - ノクターン
keyboard - 鍵盤(けんばん)
keyboard instruments - 鍵盤楽器(けんばんがっき)
unison (homophony) - 同音(どうおん)
chord - 和音(わおん)
musical time - 拍子
time signature - 拍子記号(ひょうしきごう)
count of beats - 拍数(はくすう)
sheet music/score - 楽譜(がくふ)
performance - 演奏(えんそう)
concert - 演奏会(えんそうかい)、コンサート
musical rehearsal - 演奏練習(えんそうれんしゅう)
white keys (piano) - 白鍵(はっけん)
black keys (piano) - 黒鍵(こっけん)
perfect pitch - 絶対音感(ぜったいおんかん)
key - 調子(ちょうし)
off key/out of tune - 調子っぱずれ(ちょうしっぱずれ)、調子はずれ(ちょうしはずれ)
to harmonize with, to stay in tune - 調子を合わせる(ちょうしをあわせる)
tuning - 調整(ちょうせい)、チューニング
written music - 譜面(ふめん)
key change - 転調(てんちょう)
patch/voice - 音声(おんせい)
sense of pitch - 音感(音感)
tone color/timbre - 音色(ねいろ)
volume - 音量(おんりょう)
musical scale - 音階(おんかい)

That’s just a start, but perhaps others can add to this list to make it more useful!


That’s a really good list :scream: Just a few random things that I can add from my time participating in various music clubs while studying abroad:

measure/bar - 小節(しょうせつ)
harmony - 和音(わおん)
conducting / conductor - 指揮(しき)/ 指揮者(しきしゃ)
major key - 長調(ちょうちょう)
minor key - 単調(たんちょう)

(musical) note - 音符(おんぷ)
quarter note - 四分音符(しぶおんぷ)
eighth note - 八分音符(はちぶおんぷ)
whole note - 全音符(ぜんおんぷ)
half step - 半音(はんおん)
whole step - 全音(ぜんおん)
a third - 3度(さんど)

instrument - 楽器(がっき)
wind music/concert band 吹奏楽(すいそうがく)
wind instruments - 吹奏楽器(すいそうがっき)
percussion - 打楽器(だがっき)
woodwinds - 木管楽器(もっかんがっき)
brass - 金管楽器(きんかんがっき)
bassoon - ファゴット (prob good to be aware of this one so you’re not surprised :cold_sweat: )
movable do (solfege) - 移動ド(いどうド)
fixed do (solfege) - 固定ド(こていド)

An interesting thing to note is that it seems pretty normal in Japan to learn solfège (do, re, mi) as the names of the notes rather than C, D, E, etc., so people there are more familiar with fixed do. Sat in a choir practice once where the conductor was trying to explain ‘movable do’ to his club members and they were completely baffled by it :joy:


oh my God…:astonished: @LucasDesu, @Snowflying どうもありがとうございます!!! Also thanks for the thread, @dreidguitars
This will come extremely handy. Bookmarked!

btw, bassoon in Finnish is fagotti - almost the same as in Japanese.


Dude, thanks! I would love for us to talk about your experience in working in Japan!!!

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Think I’ve just found my new favourite thread!

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By no means was it a big deal, although I’m a musician, I’m not one who currently plays or tours anywhere. Many of the “gigs” I do are usually favors for friends.

The one of the experiences I referred to in my first post had to do with a gig where the other people in the make-shift combo I was in were professional musicians. We worked together for about 3-4 months, which consisted of weekly rehearsals and end with two public performances.

What was it for? How did it come about? :slight_smile:

Although I would love to go into detail about the particulars, this thread can be viewed publicly directly via a Google search. So I don’t wish to put anymore details than what I’ve shared already.

How mysterious! Though fair enough.

Since the last time I’ve posted here, I’ve come across some more music terminology. This time around it is more technical (closely related to music theory and such). So I cannot guarantee if it’s generally applicable to people who haven’t gone through formal musical education.

ごせんふ 五線譜 staff notation; musical staff
せんりつ 旋律 melody
わせい 和声 harmony
りつどう 律動 rhythm
こえぶ 声部 part
へんきょく 編曲 arrangement
たいいほう 対位法 counterpoint

こえぶのはいぶん 声部の配分 voicing
ちゅうしんちょう 中心調 tonal center
ちょうせい 調性 tonality
むちょう 無調 atonality
じゅうにおんぎほう 十二音技法 twelve-tone music
へいきんりつ 平均律 temperament; equal (or even) temperament
じゅんせいりつ 純正律 just temperament; pure temperament
ウェル・テンペラメント well temperament

ぶんさんわおん 分散和音 1. broken chord 2. arpeggio
こんおん 根音 1. root (of a musical chord)
さんどわおん 三度の和音 1. common chord; triad
よんわおん 四和音 1. tetrad
ダイアトニック・コード diatonic chord
ふきょうわおん 不協和音 1. discord; dissonance
きょうわおん 協和音 1. consonance
いめいどうおん 異名同音 1. enharmonic
てんかいけい 転回形 1. inversion
コード進行 1. chord progression
つうそうていおん 通奏低音 1. Figured bass
じぞくていおん 持続低音 1. Pedal point
おんこう 音高 pitch
じょうおん 上音 1. Overtone

ぜんおんかい 全音階 1. diatonic scale
ちょうおんかい 長音階 1. major scale
たんおんかい 短音階 1. minor scale
ぜんおんおんかい 全音音階 1. whole-tone scale
ごいん 五音 1. pentatonic scale
はんおんかい 半音階 1. chromatic scale
きょうかいせんぽう 教会旋法 1. church modes
かぞくおん 下属音 1. subdominant
ぞくおん 属音 1. dominant
しちのわおん 七の和音 1. seventh chord
ぞくしちのわおん 属七の和音 1. Dominant seventh chord
げんしちのわおん 減七の和音 1. diminished seventh chord
はんげんしちのわおん 半減七の和音 1. half-diminished seventh chord
たんしちのわおん 短七の和音 1. minor seventh chord
ちょうしちのわおん 長七の和音 1. major seventh chord
たんさんちょうしちのわおん 短三長七の和音 1. major-minor seventh chord
きゅうのわおん 九のわおん 1. ninth chord
じゅういちのわおん 十一の和音 1. eleventh chord
じゅうさんのわおん 十三の和音 1. thirteenth chord
ろくのわおん 六の和音 1. Sixth chord
ぞうさんわおん 増三和音 1. augmented chord; augmented triad
げんさんわおん 減三和音 1. diminished chord; diminished triad
ちょうさんわおん 長三和音 1. major chord; major triad

モルデント 1. mordent
がくおん 楽音 1. musical note
ていおん 停音 1. rest
れんおんぷ 連音符 1. group of notes (whose stems are joined together)
おんめい 音名 1. names of musical notes
かいめい 階名 1. solfa; names of notes of musical scale
ハ C ニ D ホ E ヘ F ト G イ A ロ B
ごどけん 五度圏 1. circle of fifths
へんかきごう 変化記号 accidental
えい 嬰 sharp
じゅうえい 重嬰 double sharp
へん 変 flat
じゅうへん 重変 double flat
おんど 音度 1. scale degree
i度音 しゅおん 主音(トニック、トニカ) tonic
iv度音 かぞくおん 下属音(サブドミナント) subdominant
v度音 ぞくおん 属音(ドミナント) dominant
vii度音 どうおん 導音(リーディング・トーン) leading tone
ii度音 じょうしゅおん 上主音 supertonic
iii度音 じょうちゅうおん 上中音 mediant
vi度音 かちゅうおん 下中音 submediant
おんてい 音程 interval
~度 xth (e.g., a 2nd, a 3rd) 長~major 短~minor 増~augmented 減~diminished 完全~perfect 同~unison (e.g., perfect 5th - 完全5度, unison - 同度, diminished 2nd - 減2度)

おんこう 音孔 tone holes
げんがっき 弦楽器 stringed instruments
つるおと 弦音 1. sound of vibrating bowstring
せいがく 声楽 vocal music
ソプラノ soprano
メゾソプラノ mezzosoprano
アルトかしゅ アルト歌手 1. Alto
カウンターテナー counter tenor
テノール tenor
バス bass


To expand on this a little bit, the notes, if you start from A, are イロハニホヘト, which is the first line of the Japanese poem Iroha (linky). It’s an old, old poem once used as a mnemonic for “alphabetical” order in Japanese, because it contains every kana exactly once each. (Of course, that’s no longer the standard for alphabetical order, though you can still see it pop up in places. For example, in the musical note names.)


thanks so much!! these help alot

This has blown my mind. Not even “The ABC’s” seem to have as much depth or history to them. Utterly beautiful.

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the hashtag deal on jisho is super handy. check out “#words #music
it brings up every word containing a definition that has the “music term” tag
pretty nifty, looks like there’s almost 400 to sift through :sweat_smile:

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