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Glossary of Musical Terms
Terms in this set (86)
An ornament printed as a small note
A natural minor scale:
One or more weak-beat notes before the first strong beat of a phrase, which is often called a 'pick up' in pop music (plural: anacruses).
Antecedent and consequent phrases
Used to describe a pairing of phrases. typically found in periodic phrasing. Alternatively, the second phrase may be called an answering phrase. The two phrases will match in length, usually in rhythm, and sometimes in contour.
A musical texture where two groups of musicians take it in turns to play; can also refer to sections of alternating registers.
A melodic ornament where a neighbouring note (that sounds dissonant) is sounded for a measured period of time before the main note of the melody. In the Romantic era appoggiaturas are also found in the accompanying harmonic texture.
An extended vocal solo in an opera, oratorio or cantata.
The notes of a standard triad played one after another, in ascending or descending order, that is, the 1st. 3rd, 5th and 8th notes of a scale.
Literally means 'expanded'. The opposite of diminution. It can refer to various features:Interval: an augmented interval is a semitone wider than a major or perfect interval, e.g . C-D#, C-F#. Chord: a triad made up of two major 3rds, e.g. C-E-G#. Rhythm: a proportionate increase in the note lengths of a melody, for example, when two quavers and a crotchet are augmented they become two crotchets and a minim.
A melodic decoration and non-harmony note one step away from the chord
The fundamental basis of most orchestral and ensemble music in the Baroque period, represented in the score by the bass line that includes figured bass notation. This is played by a bass instrument (typically a cello, possibly a bassoon or other options) and a harmony instrument (harpsichord, organ or lute).
A musical structure of two sections each of which is repeated to give II: A :ll: B :II. The A section usually modulates to the dominant (or relative major): the B section starts in the dominant (or relative major) and returns to the tonic. Sometimes the B section refers to the opening tune of the A section to mark the return to the tonic key; this is known as rounded binary form.
A contrasting section in a pop song which usually joins the verse to the chorus. or is heard after twice through the verse and chorus.
A pair of chords which mark the end of a musical statement. Perfect. imperfect, plagal and interrupted cadences: Half-close A type of imperfect cadence, lc-V. Phrygian ivb-V in a minor key, where the bass line moves down a semitone and the top line moves up a tone; common in Baroque music, and another type of imperfect cadence. Cadential 6/4 A second inversion chord
A style of melodic writing in which each note is a step away from the previous one.
The simultaneous combination of two or more melodies with independent rhythms. There may be some imitation between parts,but counterpoint can also be non-imitative. A whole movement may be contrapuntal, or the music may alternate between contrapuntal and other textures. This term is often used interchangeably with polyphony, but is more commonly used for instrumental music.
A pattern in which the rhythmic detail of the music is out of phase with the underlying pulse (as in a hemiola). or where different subdivisions of the beat are used simultaneously (as in duple and triplet quavers).
A combination of notes providing a pleasing sound when played together, the opposite of dissonant. This is generally achieved by avoiding notes that are a semitone. tone or tritone apart.
A pair of chords which mark the end of a musical statement. Perfect. imperfect, plagal and interrupted cadences: Half-close A type of imperfect cadence, lc-V. Phrygian ivb-V in a minor key, where the bass line moves down a semitone and the top line moves up a tone; common in Baroque music, and another type of imperfect cadence. Cadential 6/4 A second inversion chord resolving to the dominant so lc-V, another type of imperfect cadence.
Notes that don't belong to the current key; the opposite of diatonic.
Circle of Sths progression
A series of chords whose roots are each a perfect 5th lower than the previous chord.
A modal scale with a minor 3rd and a minor 7th
More than one part playing the same line. either in unison or an octave apart. Doubling of a melody can also occur at other intervals, e.g. at a 3rd for a consonant effect, or at a 4th for a more spikey, aggressive effect.
An unaccented, dissonant melodic decoration note. that is one step higher or lower than the essential note, and then resolves by a leap back to the harmony note.
A solo passage occurring in a ritornello movement
In pop music, a mini instrumental solo between the phrases of a song; the term is usually used with the name of the instrument playing, e.g. drum fill.
A term sometimes used to describe standard tonal harmony in which primary and secondary triads are used with a sense of hierarchy and direction, and chromatic inflexions are understood in terms conventions such as secondary dominant 7ths.
The process of changing key midway through a piece.
Music consisting of a single unaccompanied melody line.
A short, distinctive musical idea:
Major chord based on the lowered supertonic (second note) of the scale. Most commonly it appears in a minor key and in first inversion, when it becomes a Neapolitan 6th, so in the key of E minor, this is a chord of F major in first inversion. Romantic period composers first began to use it in root position, then preface it with its own secondary dominant 7th, and then explore using it in a major key. The chord usually resolves to the dominant.
A note outside of the harmony with which it is sounding, so usually dissonant.
Note of anticipation
A non-harmony note which is approached by step from the note before. And then stays the same as the harmony changes for the following melodic note: essentially it is a note from the next chord played early.
A texture where a melodic line is simultaneously played (doubled) a 3rd higher or lower, thus creating a consonant richness.
The parallel movement of two or more lines often producing chords with an identical intervallic structure.
A non-harmony note placed between and connecting two harmony notes, each of which are usually a 3rd apart. Passing notes are usually unaccented (on the half beat, or second and fourth quarter beats), but can be accented on the beat, with no accent symbol required).
The rate at which the harmony changes in a piece of music.
A rhythmic device in which two groups of three beats (strong -weak-weak. strong-weak-weak) are performed as three groups of two (strong-weak, strong-weak, strong-weak).
A musical texture in which all parts (melody and accompaniment) move in similar rhythm creating a chordal effect.
A repeated, catchy motif in jazz and pop music.
Inversion (of a chord)
A chord is inverted when a note other than the root is in the bass (e.g. chord V). In first inversion the 3rd is in the bass (Vb); in second inversion the 5th is in the bass (Vc). The chord of the dominant 7th can be written in third inversion (V7d).
Inversion (of a melody)
When the intervals in a melody stay the same, but the pitch moves in the opposite direction, e.g. ascends instead of descending. The result is akin to a mirror image of the melodic contour.
See the explanation for Pedal note: an inverted pedal note sounds higher than the harmonies beneath it. instead of lower.
The standard major scale
A major scale with an augmented 4th:
A series of melodic notes sung to the same syllable.
The central, contrasting section of a song, in pop and jazz music. also called the bridge, or B section in an AABA song form. Often, but not always, 8 bars long.
Major scale with a flattened 7th
A sustained or regularly repeated note, usually heard in the bass, while the harmony above changes between various chords. Usually the pedal note is the tonic or dominant.
A scale of only five notes. The most well-known is formed by the black notes of the piano (C#, Eb , F#, G#. Bb) and is anhemitonic. meaning that there are no semitones included (only tones and minor 3rds); alternatively, the pentatonic scale of C. E. F, G, B is hemitonic, as it has a semitone between E and F.
Music. typically of the Classical period, in which the melodic phrase is structured in pairs of 2-bar mini-phrases making pairs of 4-bar phrases, making pairs of longer 8-bar phrases, and then 16-bar phrases, and so on.
Minor key with a flattened second note. a scale with a dark character
Texture common in Baroque music where high-pitched instruments are accompanied by a bass continuo, without instruments included in the middle range. More recently, polarised texture is often used in film music as it portrays an expansiveness (e.g. for a landscape scene) and allows dialogue to be clearly heard spoken in mid-register.
A musical texture where two or more parts move independently of one another.
Popular Song Form
A common structure in songs in music theatre and popular music, in which there are four phrases where the first. Second and fourth are related to give a pattern of AABA.
In pop and rock music, a chord that consists of the root and the 5th. especially on electric guitars and often used with distortion.
Chords I, IV and V in any key. So called because they are of a primary importance in establishing the tonality of a composition.
A type of vocal music where the words are the important element, and are usually sung in free time and in normal speech rhythm. Common in opera, it allows the singers to tell the story between the main arias, with minimal accompaniment.
A pair of keys which share the same key signature. one major and one minor: for example. the relative minor of F major is D minor, and the relative major of D minor is F major.
The release of tension in music as the harmony moves from a discord to a concord, or point of tonal stability.
In jazz, pop and rock. a short, catchy melodic or rhythmic idea repeated throughout a song.
Immediately slowing down.
The main structural form for concerto movements in the late Baroque era. The term is also used to name the orchestral section heard at the opening and returns in various keys throughout a movement, punctuated by vocal solos (episodes). The ritornello may be repeated whole, or in part, or with variations.
A musical structure popular in the Classical period in which a main melody alternates with a contrasting section (ABACA).
A triad with its fundamental note in the bass line.
An interpretative performance technique, often associated with Romantic music, where some nuanced flexibility of rhythm is used (both holding back and pushing on) to create expressive affect.
Taking an extract from a pre-existing piece and reusing it in another composition.
Eight notes, making up all the notes in a key. The degrees of the scale have the following names: I Tonic II Supertonic (i.e. above the tonic) III Mediant (i.e. halfway to the dominant) IV Subdominant (i.e. the 5th below the tonic) V Dominant (i .e. the most dominant overtone to the tonic) VI Submediant (i.e. halfway to the subdominant when descending) VII Leading note (i.e. leading to the tonic) VIII Tonic
Secondary dominant 7th
A dominant triad which resolves to a chord that is not the tonic, often the dominant of the dominant. V7 of V.
Chords ii, iii, vi and sometimes vii in any key, i.e. excluding those which are primary chords.
(in melody) The immediate repetition of a motif or phrase in the same instrumental or vocal part but at a different pitch.
A metre in which the main beat can be subdivided into two. The opposite of Compound time.
The most common structure for the first movement (and sometimes other movements) of compositions in the Classical style, comprising exposition, development and recapitulation.
Major or minor chord where the 3rd is omitted and replaced with a 4th, creating an open sound without the 3rd and a dissonance between the 4th and 5th.
A note from a previous chord is carried over to the following chord, creating dissonance. before resolving . There are tour categories: three are understood in terms of the interval above the bass (4-3. 7-6, 9-8), and the fourth is where the suspended note is in the bass.
Vocal music in which each syllable of the lyrics is sung to a single note: see also melisma.
The effect created when accented notes are sounded off the beat or on weak beats.
A musical structure of three sections with similar outer sections and a contrasting central one (ABA). Usually the B section is in a contrasting key to the A sections. Can also be described as arch form.
The average range of an instrumental, or more usually a vocal, piece. It is worthy of remark if a piece is written high or low in the range of the instrument or voice performing it.
Tierce de Picardie
A major tonic chord used to end a piece of music in a minor key.
A melody based on the notes of the triad: the root, 3rd and 5th above it. A triad can be major, minor. diminished or augmented.
An ornament: a fast oscillation with the note above or below the given note.
An interval of an augmented 4th (or diminished 5th). so called because an alternative way of counting it is as an interval of three tones. It so happens that this is exactly half an octave.
Two or more people performing the same note or melody; in a choir when everyone is singing the same melody, even though the men are singing an octave lower than the women.
A scale where there is a whole tone between all the notes. with no semitones as there would be in a conventional scale.
Music written to reflect the meaning of the words, e.g. ascending when the words mention climbing a mountain.
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