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Musical Nouns

At Yabla Italian, there's been plenty of talk lately about nouns. Daniela has been talking about indefinite articles for both masculine and feminine nouns (see Corso di italiano con Daniela - l'articolo indeterminativo - Part 1 of 3 and Corso di italiano con Daniela - l'articolo indeterminativo - Part 2 of 3). Marika has talked about nouns that remain the same in singular and plural, and nouns that have two different plurals: one masculine and one feminine (see Marika spiega - Il plurale - Part 1 and Marika spiega - Il plurale - Part 2 of 2). It can be quite daunting! And to add to this, Alessio comes along with his rigo musicale, among other musical nouns!


Si tratta ora di fissarle sul rigo musicale,

Now we're concerned with placing them on the staff,

il pentagramma, formato da cinque linee.

the staff, made up of five lines.

Caption 2, A scuola di musica - con Alessio

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If you're already familiar with the noun riga (line), you might be wondering if Alessio got his gender wrong. As a matter of fact, the feminine form, la riga (the line), is the word you'll use most of the time. But in music, il rigo is used to refer to a staff made up of five linee (lines), also called il pentagrammaand can also refer to each individual line within the staff.  For a detailed explanation of rigo versus riga, see this articleRigarigo and linea are only a few of the Italian words that can translate as "line." See this link for many more!


There are other words that have special meanings when it comes to music:


In ordinary usage, la chiave means "the key," but in music, it means "the clef," a special symbol (actually a stylized letter C, G, or F) placed on a staff line in such a way as to indicate what note and pitch the line refers to. From that departure point, all the other notes can be recognized. A proposito, "clef" comes from the French word for key (clef or clé)!


In addition to being the name of a famous opera theater in Milan (La Scala)scala has several meanings, and they mostly have to do with going up and down: a staircase, a ladder, a level, and also a scale in music (a succession of musical notes at fixed degrees).


Di più, questa successione così omogenea,

In addition, this succession, homogeneous as it is,

forma una scala discendente

forms a descending scale

che poi, sempre in scala, risale.

which then goes back up, still as a scale [stepwise].

Captions 9-10, A scuola di musica - con Alessio

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Uno scalino or un gradino can be a step in a musical scale, a rung on a ladder, a step up from the street to the curb, or a single step of many scalini, like the ones Marika talks about at the beginning of her latest newscast. 


Per arrivare nella scuola più piccola d' Europa

To get to the smallest school in Europe,

bisogna fare trecentocinquanta scalini.

you have to go up three hundred fifty steps.

Caption 3, Anna e Marika - in TG Yabla Italia e Meteo

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Learning suggestion:

Become more familiar with the different meanings of some of the above-mentioned nouns by looking them up in the dictionary of your choice, and then, learn their plurals! Daniela's recent classes on definite and indefinite articles and Marika's lessons on plurals will be of help in classifying them, as well as for finding the right indefinite article for each.



Here's a list to help you.

  • • la chiave (the key, the clef) le chiavi (the keys, the clefs)
  • • la riga (the line) le righe (the lines)
  • • la linea (the line) le linee (the lines)
  • • il rigo (the staff, the staff line) i righi (the staves)
  • • il pentagramma (the staff) i pentagrammi (the staves)
  • • la scala (the stairway, the ladder, the musical scale) le scale (the stairs, the musical scales, the ladders)
  • • lo scalino (the step) gli scalini (the steps)
  • • il gradino (the step) i gradini (the steps)


A key to learning these words might be to draw picture flashcards. There may be more than one valid answer for some of them.

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