Music Glossary: click here for a printable PDF version
Accompaniment - Vocal or instrumental parts that accompany a melody.
Aerophone - A musical instrument (as a trumpet or flute) in which sound is generated by a vibrating column of air.
Articulation - The manner in which notes are performed, such as staccato or legato.
Atonal - A type of music in which tones and chords are not related to a central keynote.
Augmented Interval - A major or perfect interval raised by a half step.
Beat - Unit of measure of rhythmic time.
Canon - A musical form in which a melody is imitated exactly in one or more parts. Similar to a round.
Chord - Three or more tones sounded simultaneously.
Chordaphone - An instrument the sound of which is created by means of strings stretched between two points.
Clef, Bass, or Treble - A symbol written at the beginning of a musical staff indicating which notes are represented by which lines and spaces.
Composition - Creation of original music by organizing sound. Usually written for others to perform.
Compound Meter - A type of meter in which the beat is divided into threes or sixes.
Concerto - A composition for orchestra and soloist.
Descant - A melodic line or counterpoint accompanying an existing melody.
Diatonic Scale - The notes found within a major or minor scale.
Diminished Interval - A minor or perfect interval lowered by a half step.
Duple Meter - A time signature with groups of two beats to the measure.
Dynamics - Varying degrees of volume in the performance of music.
Dynamic Markings - The symbols indicating the varying degrees of volume: pp pianissimo, very soft; p piano, soft; mp mezzo piano, medium soft; mf mezzo forte, medium loud; f forte, loud; and ff fortissimo, very loud.
Elements of Music - Melody, harmony, rhythm, and form and the expressive elements of dynamics, tempo, and timbre (tone color).
Embellishments: Melodic and Rhythmic - Notes added to ornament a melody or rhythmic pattern.
Form - The organization and structure of a composition and the interrelationships of musical events within the overall structure.
Fugue - A composition in which three or more voices enter one after the other and imitate the main melody in various ways according to a set pattern.
Genre - Type or kind of musical work (e.g., opera, jazz, mariachi).
Harmonic Progression - A succession of individual chords or harmonies that form larger units of phrases, sections, or compositions.
Harmony - The simultaneous sounding of two or more tones.
Idiophone - A musical instrument, the sound of which is produced by shaking or scraping.
Improvisation - Spontaneous creation of music.
Interval - The distance in pitch between two tones.
Levels of Difficulty - The levels of difficulty for the musical content standards are as follows:
Major Key - Tonally, a key based on a major scale; a scale that contains the following step pattern: whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half; or uses the sol-fa tones of do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do.
Melody - An organized sequence of single notes.
Membranophone - An instrument that produces sound through the vibrations of a membrane.
Meter - The grouping of beats by which a piece of music is measured.
Minor Key - Tonally, a key based on a minor scale; a scale that contains the following step pattern: whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole, whole; or uses the sol-fa tones of la, ti, do, re, me, fa, so, la.
Mixed Meter - A mixture of duple and triple meters.
Mode - A type of scale with a specific arrangement of intervals (e.g., Aeolian, Dorian, Ionian, Locrian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Phrygian).
Notation - Written music indicating pitch and rhythm for performance.
Opera - A drama set to music for voices and orchestra and presented with costumes and sets.
Oratorio - A dramatic musical composition usually set to a religious text and performed by solo voices, chorus, and orchestra without action, special costumes, or scenery.
Ostinato - A rhythmic or melodic accompaniment figure repeated continuously.
Pentatonic Scale - A scale having five tones to the octave and containing no half steps: do, re, mi, so, la .
Phrase - A musical idea comparable to a sentence or a clause in language.
Pitch - The location of a note related to its highness or lowness.
Rhythm - The combinations of long and short, even or uneven sounds that convey a sense of movement in time.
Rondo Form - A musical form in which a section is repeated, with contrasting sections in between, such as ABACA.
Scale - The arrangement of notes in a specific order of whole and half steps.
Score - The organized notation of all of the instrumental and/ or vocal parts of a composition.
Serial Music - A type of composition based on a technique involving a twelve-tone scale. See also twelve-tone scale.
Solfege - A system of designating verbal syllables for the degrees of the scale.
Sonata-Allegro Form - A musical form that uses the overall design of exposition, development, and recapitulation.
Song Forms - The organization of sections of a song, represented by letters that depict similar and contrasting sections: AB, ABA, AABA, ABC, verse/ refrain, and so forth.
Staff (Staves) - The horizontal lines on and between which notes are written.
Suite - A musical composition consisting of a succession of short pieces.
Symphony - A long orchestral work divided into three to five movements.
Syncopation - The placement of rhythmic accents on weak beats or weak portions of beats.
Tempo - The pace at which music moves according to the speed of the underlying beat.
Texture - The character of the different layers of horizontal and vertical sounds.
Theme and Variation - A compositional form in which a theme is clearly stated and is followed by a number of variations
Timbre - Tone color or quality of sound heard.
Tonality (Key) - The tonal center of a composition.
Tone Poem - An orchestral composition based on an extramusical idea; a tone picture (e.g., The Pines of Rome, by Ottorino Respighi).
Triad - A three-note chord consisting of root, third, and fifth.
Triple Meter - Beats grouped into a set of three.
Twelve-Bar Blues - A chord pattern often used in blues music based on the I, IV, and V chords and the blues scale in specific order within 12 bars.
Twelve-Tone Scale - A scale constructed of all twelve half steps within an octave and organized in a specific order called a tone row.