Definition and background:
A composition designed to enhance a performer's musical talents as well as to give pleasure to the listener. See etude.is a piece of music originally designed primarily for the technical development of the player. Studies came, however, to be compositions of considerable musical distinction, as in the case of the etudes of Chopin or of Debussy
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary