Japanese vocabulary list: violin and music terms

By | October 28, 2019

As if I didn’t have enough hobbies, recently I started learning to play the violin. Knowing me, you might not be surprised to find that I’m doing it self-taught, at least for the time being.

While I have had basic conversations about violin and music related topics, I realized that there are some terms I should learn so I can speak properly. So I thought I would make a list of music and violin-related words in Japanese.

In past vocabulary lists I have added “する” for nouns that can become verbs, but as that is pretty common I will omit that info this time (ex: 編曲する, 練習する). Ask me if you have any questions though.

First I’ll put a list of more general music terms, followed by a few violin-specific words.

  • 音楽 (ongaku): music
  • 楽器 (gakki): musical instrument
  • 楽器店 (gakkiten): musical instrument store
  • 音色 (neiro): tone or tone color of a musical instrument (violin, etc.)
  • 音符 (onpu): note (♪)
  • 暗譜 (anpu): memorize or play a song from memory
  • 曲 (kyoku): song (often without words)
  • 歌 (uta): song (often with words)
  • 歌う (utau): to sing
  • 編曲 (henkyoku): arrangement
  • 転調 (tenchou): modulation (change of keys)
  • 作曲 (sakkyoku): compose
  • 即興 (sokkyou): improvise (change or make up a song on the spot)
  • 長調 (chouchou): major key
  • 短調 (tanchou): minor key
  • 音階 (onkai): musical scale
  • 調律 (chouritsu): tuning (fixing the pitch of an instrument)
  • 調律師 (chouritsushi): tuner (a person whose job is to tune instruments)
  • 音程 (ontei): interval
  • 調子 (choushi): pitch, tone, rhythm
  • 調子外れ (choushihazure): playing/singing out of tune
  • リズム (rizumu): rhythm
  • テンポ (tenpo): tempo
  • 音 (oto or ne): sound
  • 音を出す (oto wo dasu): to produce a sound
  • 音が出る (oto ga deru): a sound is produced
  • 響く (hibiku): to ring, to resonate
  • 合う (au): to be in sync (ex: 楽器が合ってない => the instruments are not in sync)
  • ズレる (zureru): to be off, to deviate (sound, pitch, etc.)
  • ピッチ (picchi): pitch
  • 大きい (ookii): loud (literally “large”)
  • 小さい (chiisai): soft (literally “small”)
  • 演奏 (ensou): performance (also 演奏会)
  • 発表会 (happyoukai): recital
  • 練習 (renshuu): practice
  • レッスン (ressun): practice, lesson
  • 楽譜 (gakufu): sheet music
  • ビブラート (biburaato): vibrato (for violin, singing, etc.) [also ヴィブラート]
  • 奏法 (souhou): way of playing an instrument
  • 奏でる (kanaderu): to play an instrument (but each category of instrument has a special verb, see below)
    • 弾く (to hiku): play a stringed instrument (including piano, organ, etc.)
    • 吹く (fuku): to play a wind instrument (flute, recorder, etc.)
    • 叩く (tataku): to play a percussion instrument (drum, xylophone, etc.)

Violin words

  • バイオリン (baiorin): violin
  • 弦 (gen): string(s)
  • 線 (sen): string(s)
    • エー線 (ee sen): E string
    • アー線 (aa sen): A string
    • デー線 (dee sen): D string
    • ゲー線 (gee sen): G string
  • 緩める (yurumeru): to loosen (strings, etc.)
  • 締める (shimeru): to tighten (strings, etc.)
  • 弦楽器 (gengakki): stringed instrument
  • 駒 (koma): bridge (also ブリッジ)
  • 指板 (shiban): finger board
  • 弓 (yumi): bow
  • 毛 (ke): hair (hair on the bow, but also used in words like 髪の毛 for human hair)
  • 棒 (bou): stick (hard part of the bow, but word card also be used for a tree stick, etc.)
  • 細い (hosoi): narrow (string, etc.)
  • 太い (futoi): thick
  • 初心者 (shoshinsha): beginner, amateur
  • 調弦 (chougen): tuning the strings (also チューニング)
  • 張力 (chouryoku): string tension
  • 糸巻き (itomaki): peg(s) (also ペグ)
  • 調節 (chousetsu): adjustment
  • 松脂 (matsuyani): rosin
  • 肩当て (kataate): shoulder pad
  • 取り付ける (toritsukeru): to attach (a shoulder pad, etc.)
  • 交換 (koukan): change, exchange (strings, etc.)
  • 顎あて (agoate): chin rest
  • スクロール (sukurooru): scroll (top part of the violin near the pegs)
  • 構え方 (kamaekata): posture and stance (can be used to refer to holding a violin or other things like martial arts)
  • 重音 (juuon): playing multiple strings at once (not to be confused with じゅおん [呪怨])

You can see some of the above terms used in this video. It’s a little old but the narration is easy to understand, so you can use it to hear the proper pronunciations and get some listening practice:

I’ve written a few other vocabulary lists on other topics. You can see those here.

By the way, the other day I translated a fairy tale about a magic musical instrument. You can see the full English text here, including a link to the original Japanese for comparison.

(Note: featured image of violin from Pexels.com)

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