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Useful French music terms to know

french music terms

Do you have trouble remembering the entire musical dictionary? Here is a comprehensive guide to French music terms and symbols.

French music terms

Learning a new language is hard. And listening to music in French? It’s almost impossible. That’s why it’s vital to learn some useful French music terms.

You’ll be able to understand what the song means and how it should be sung without needing any visuals or notes.

In this article, we explain everything you need to know about French music terminology: from common terms like “chanson” and “aria” to obscure ones like “banchicotée” and “toccata en trompette.” Read on to learn more!


A song is a piece of music created to be performed. There are different types of songs, such as instrumental, vocal ballads, or traditional folk songs.

The French word chanson refers to any song. There are three main categories of chanson in French: chanson pop, chanson électro, and chanson rock. So, let’s find out more about them.

The air of the genre

If the artist of a particular song performs the whole song in the style of the genre, it is called the air of the genre. If the artist only performs part of the song in the style of the genre, it is called the style of the genre.

For example, the Air du filmVertigo” is the air of the film genre Vertigo, and Les années 60’s is the style of the decade 1960s. French people are big fans of music genres, and there are many subcategories of them.

For example, you might hear the air of the genre pop or the style of the genre rock. Each genre is associated with a certain type of music, instrumentation, and vocal style.

Toccata en trompette

A toccata is a fast, jazz-inspired piece typically played on the piano. There’s also a trompette toccata, a toccata for the trumpet. Toccata comes from the Italian word “toccare,” which means “to touch.”

The toccata is a short classical music composition that features fast and rapid notes.


A banana is a type of music associated with the Caribbean, African, and Latin music genres. French people usually call a genre of music with a strong tropical flavor a banana.

Banana music is a genre that’s composed of reggae and dance music. Banana music is often heard in French-speaking countries in Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean.


A chant-marinière is a type of song typically associated with Mediterranean music. French people usually call a genre of music with a strong Mediterranean flavor a chant-marinière.

The word “chante” in this context means melody. And “marinière” means “sailor’s song.” So, the genre is called a “sailor’s song.”

Singing Sailor

A singing sailor is a type of song typically associated with French Mediterranean music. The word “singe” in this context means “sailor” and “singer” refers to the singer of the song, who sings about the life of a sailor.

For example, Sam la vie en mer is a singing sailor song.

Toccata in canon

A canon is a musical composition that combines two or more melodies. And a toccata is a fast, jazz-inspired music piece typically played on the piano.

So, a toccata in the canon is a toccata played in canon or the style of a canon. And the word “canon” refers to a type of composition using two or more melodies.

So, a toccata in the canon is a toccata composed using canon as a source of inspiration.

Brassy style barrel

A brassy-style barrel is a style of playing brass music. The word “brosse,” which means “barrel,” refers to brass instruments. And “style” refers to how the music is played, which is called a brassy style barrel.

In subtitle or voice subtitle

A voice subtitle is a type of song associated with a voice-over. It’s also called a voice-over song.

The word “subtitulé,” which means “subtitled,” refers to the voice-over. And “sang” refers to the song itself, so a voice-over song is a type of song with a voice-over.

French music is a rich blend of different styles and genres. Whether you’re into pop, rock, or classical, you can usually find something to your liking.

And when you’re looking for French music, remember to check the French music chart. This site tracks the most popular songs and albums to find something that suits your taste.

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