First Semester Music Theory Terms

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Accidental
A sharp (or double sharp), flat (or double flat), or natural
Alto Clef
A C clef placed on the middle staff line
Bar
A number of beats separated by a bar line, used to organize a piece of music rhythmically; synonymous with measure
Bar line
A vertical line separating one bar (measure) from the next
Bass clef
An F clef placed on the second staff line from the top
Beam
A solid line that connects two or more eighth notes or sixteenth notes, replacing their flags
Beat 1
the strong pulse of a piece of music where we naturally tap our feet or snap our fingers; a unit of time
C clef
A clef that defines a staff line as middle C
C major scale
The white keys of the piano, played from C to the next higher or lower C
Chord
Three or more notes played simultaneously
Chromatic
Using accidentals to alter the normal notes of the scale
Chromatic Scale
A scale compromised of all the white and black keys of the piano in order
Circle of fifths
The perfect fifth relationships between key signatures that differ by only one accidental
Clef
A figure that defines one staff line as a certain pitch
Common Time
Another term for the time signature, abbreviated
Compound interval
An interval larger than an octave
Compound meter
A time signature that divides each beat in three
Consonance
Two notes that sound pleasing when played together, traditionally thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths, and octaves
Cut time
Another term for the time signature, abbreviated
Diatonic
Using only the normal notes of the scale, without accidentals
Dissonance
Two notes that clash when played together, traditionally seconds, tritons, sevenths and ninths
Dot
Notation that increases the length of a note by one-half it's original value
Downbeat
The first beat of a measure
Dynamics
Markings that change the volume of a phrase or section
Enharmonic Equivalent
Two notes that are spelled differently but are the same key on the piano
F clef
A clef that defines a staff line as F
Feel
The general sense of motion and resulting emotion of a piece of music
First inversion
The inversion of a chord with the root on top
Flag
The curved line attached to eighth or sixteenth note's stem
Flat
A symbol that lowers a note by a half step
G clef
A clef that defines a staff line as G
Grace note
A quick note, written in a smaller size, inserted before a regular note as an ornament
Grand staff
Two connected staves, the top with a treble clef and the bottom with a bass clef, used for writing piano, organ, and harp music
Half step
The distance between two notes on the piano keyboard that have no notes in between
Instrumentation
The instruments or voices that are to perform a piece of music
Interval
The distance between two notes
Inversion
The different forms of a chord formed by rearranging the notes
Key signature
The unique set of accidentals needed to create the major or minor scale in a certain key
Key
The name of a scale a song is based around
Leading tone
Scale degree 7 when a half step below 1, as in the major and harmonic minor scales
Leap
An interval larger than a step
Ledger line
A small line used to continue the pattern of lines and spaces above or below the staff
Measure
A number of beats separated by a bar line, used to organize a piece of music rhythmically; synonymous with bar
Metronome
A mechanical or electronic device that creates a steady beat at an adjustable tempo
Middle C
The C in the middle of the piano keyboard, and between the two stages of the grand staff
Natural
A symbol that returns a note to its white key state
Note head
The round part of a written note
Octave
The interval between a note and the next higher or lower note with the same name
Perfect pitch
The ability to find pitches relative to each other
Rest
A rhythmic moment of silence
Rhythm
The relative lengths of a set of notes
Root
The bottom note of a triad when built with stacked thirds
Root position
The inversion of a chord built with stacked thirds
Scale
A series of stepwise notes in a certain relationship of whole Steps and half steps
Second
The interval name for a whole step or a half step
Second inversion
The inversion of a chord with a third on top
Sequence
A musical phrase that is moved up or down the scale and then repeated
Sharp
A symbol that raises a note by a half step
Simple meter
A time signature that divides each beat in two
Slur
A curved line that connects two or more different notes sung on the same syllable
Staff
The five horizontal line on which pitches are written
Stem
The vertical line attached to the note head of all notes except whole notes
Step
Two notes directly adjacent on the staff; also called a second
Swing
A musical theatre and jazz feel that slightly elongates the first eighth of each quarter, resulting in approximately a triplet quarter-eighth rhythm
Syncopation
A rhythm featuring accented notes that fall between beats
System
Several staves joined together
Tempo
The speed of a piece of music is played or sung
Tenor clef
A C clef placed on the second staff line from the top
Tie
A short, curved line that connects and combines two or more notes of the same pitch
Time signature
Two numbers, written at the beginning of a piece of Music (and sometimes in the middle) to tell you how many beats are in each measure and what kind of note is defined as one beat
Tonic
Scale degree 1, the note a key is based on
Transposition
Moving a song from one key to another
Treble clef
A G clef placed on the second staff line from the bottom
Triad
A three note chord made of two stacked thirds
Triplet
A tuplet that fits three notes of a given value into a space where there would normally be only two
Tritone
Common name for the augmented fourth or diminished fifth
Tuplet
A group of notes that evenly subdivide a beat or a measure into a number of notes not usually permitted by the time signature; "X notes where there usually are Y"
Whole step
The distance between two notes on the piano keyboard that have one note in between
Major Second
On keyboard, one whole step away
Minor Second
On keyboard, one half step away
Major Third
3 keys between notes
Minor Third
2 keys between notes
Fourths and Fifths
Perfect if they have matching accidentals
Augmented Fourth and Fifth
One half step bigger than a perfect
Diminished Fourth and Fifth
One half step smaller than a perfect
Major Sixth
Whole step bigger than a perfect fifth
Minor Sixth
Half step bigger than a perfect fifth
Major Seventh
Half step smaller than the octave
Minor Seventh
Whole step smaller than the octave
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