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Music Terms

Important music terms and their meanings

TermDefinition
A cappella One or more vocalists performing without an accompaniment.
Accelerando gradually quicken tempo
Adagio slow tempo
Allegro lively and fast tempo
Cadence A sequence of chords that brings an end to a phrase
Canon The melody or tune is imitated by individual parts at regular intervals.
Chord 3 or 4 notes played simultaneously in harmony
Chromatic scale Includes all twelve notes of an octave, all half step intervals.
Clef a symbol at the beginning of the staff defining the pitch of the notes found in that particular staff
Coda Closing section of a movement
Consonance Groups of tones that are harmonious when sounded together as in a chord
Dissonance Harsh, discordant, and lack of harmony. Also a chord that sounds incomplete until it resolves itself on a harmonious chord.
Dynamics Pertaining to the loudness or softness of a musical composition. Also the symbols in sheet music indicating volume.
Enharmonic Two notes that differ in name only. The notes occupy the same position. For example: C sharp and D flat.
Falsetto A style of male singing where by partial use of the vocal chords, the voice is able to reach the pitch of a female.
Fermata To hold a tone or rest held beyond the written value at the discretion of the performer.
Flat A symbol indicating that the note is to be diminished by one semitone.
Harmony Pleasing combination of two or three tones played together in the background while a melody is being played. Harmony also refers to the study of chord progressions.
Instrumentation Arrangement of music for a combined number of instruments.
Interval The distance in pitch between two notes.
Key signature The flats and sharps at the beginning of each staff line indicating the key of music the piece is to be played.
Legato smoothly
Major One of the two modes of the tonal system. Music written in major keys have a positive affirming character.
Measure The unit of measure where the beats on the lines of the staff are divided up into two, three, four beats to a measure.
Medley Often used in overtures, a composition that uses passages from other movements of the composition in its entirety.
Minor One of the two modes of the tonal system. The minor mode can be identified by the dark, melancholic mood.
Natural A symbol in sheet music that returns a note to its original pitch after it has been raised or lowered.
Phrase A single line of music played or sung. A musical sentence.
Pitch The frequency of a note determining how high or low it sounds.
Rhythm The element of music pertaining to time, played as a grouping of notes into accented and unaccented beats.
Round A canon where the melody is sung in two or more voices. After the first voice begins, the next voice starts singing after a couple of measures are played in the preceding voice. All parts repeat continuously.
Rubato It is a style where the strict tempo is temporarily abandoned for a more emotional tone.
Scale Successive notes of a key or mode either ascending or descending.
Sharp A symbol indicating the note is to be raised by one semitone.
Staccato Short detached notes, as opposed to legato.
Staff Made up of five horizontal parallel lines and the spaces between them on which musical notation is written.
Tempo Indicating speed.
Timbre Tone color, quality of sound that distinguishes one verse or instrument to another. It is determined by the harmonies of sound.
Time Signature A numeric symbol in sheet music determining the number of beats to a measure.
Tonality The tonal characteristics determined by the relationship of the notes to the tone.
Tonic The first tone of a scale also known as a home note.
Treble The playing or singing the upper half of the vocal range. Also the highest voice in choral singing.
Triad Three note chords consisting of a root, third, and fifth.
Created by: pmbrown001