Glossary of Musical Terms

Free Online Piano Lessons & Resources Table of Contents – 50 Free Piano Lessons

A B C D E F
G H I J K L
M N O P Q R
S T V W


A

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A Tempo
Returning to the original speed

Accent Sign (>)
Playing the note(s) louder.


Accidental –
The marking for a pitch, to be lowered (b or flat), or raised (# or sharp) by a half step.

Accompaniment
Instrumental or vocal parts that accompany a melody.


Adagio
Playing the music moderately slow

Allegretto
Playing the music moderately fast


Allegro
Playing the music fast

Andante
Playing the music slowly (at a walking pace).


Arpeggio –
Chords where the notes are played in succession instead of together.


B

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Scales, Chords, Arpeggios and Cadences
A Complete Book – Learn the Fundamentals
Explanation of Scale Degrees



Bar
Organized chunk of time in music that contains a particular number of beats, usually two, three, or four beats. Another word for bar is measure.

Bar Line
Line used to separate bars/ measures of music.


Bass Clef
Musical symbol that is placed at the left side of a staff that makes a note placed on the second line from the top of the staff the F below Middle C. For this reason, it is also called the F clef.

C

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Chord
Three or four notes play simultaneously. Learn chords for beginners.

Clef
Musical symbol that is located at the far left side of a staff. In piano music, two clef signs are used – the Treble (G clef), and the Bass (F clef).


Crescendo –
Playing the song while gradually getting louder.

D

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Dampers
Small, felt-covered pieces of wood that rest against the piano strings inside the piano. They lift when the key is struck so that when the damper returns to the string, it causes the string to cease vibrating.

Diminuendo
Playing the song while gradually getting softer


Dotted Note –
A note with a dot to the left of it. The dot next to a note adds 1/2 of that note’s time duration onto itself. For example, if a half note gets 2 beats, then a dotted half note gets 3 beats.

Dynamics
Refers to the loudness or softness of the sounds in music.



E

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Eighth Note –
Note that gets an eighth of the beats of a whole note. In other words, eight eighth notes fit into one whole note.


F


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Flat
Musical symbol indicating that a note should be lowered one half step or semitone.


Forte
Playing the notes loudly or strongly


G


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Grand Staff –
Two staves that are joined together by a brace. The top staff uses the treble clef, and the bottom staff uses the bass clef. By using the grand staff, one can easily see four octaves of the music notation at a glance.



H

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Half note
Note that gets half the beats of a whole note. In 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 time, the half note gets two beats.

Harmony
Harmony is the part of a song that accompanies the main tune, e.g. two or more musical notes can be played at the same time in the background musical tones to create a harmony to the main tune or theme. When listening to popular music, the strumming of a guitar or the piano parts that you hear playing alongside the singing part is harmony.



K

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Key
This term can be used in many ways when talking about music. Key could refer to the actual physical key of the piano keyboard; a full sized piano keyboard contains 88 black and white keys. Key could also refer to the home base of a song. For example, if a song is in the key of C major, then the song’s home base or tonal center is the C key.

Key Signature –
A series of sharp and flat signs that appear after the clef sign that indicates which notes are to be played sharpened or flatted.



L

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Largo –
Playing very slowly.

Ledger Line –
A line that is used to extend the music staff so that notes above and below the staff can be written.



M

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free-music-tools

Measure
Organized chunk of time in music that contains a particular number of beats, usually two, three, or four beats. Another word for measure is “bar”.


Melody
A part of a song that you would sing or hum to the tune of a song by making a succession of single musical tones of pitch and duration variations.

Mezzo Forte (mf) –
Playing the notes moderately loud.



N

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Note
This term is used loosely when talking about music. Note can refer to an actual musical pitch, as in “I am going to sing the first two notes of Jingle Bells”. Note can also refer to music notation, where a note is an oval musical symbol used to represent a musical tone and it’s time duration.


O

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Octave
An interval in music where one note is either half or double in frequency as the other note. On the piano, take any note and add or subtract 12 half steps or semitones, and you have an interval of an octave. An example of an octave would be to playing a C note, and then playing the C note that is directly to the right or the left of that C.


P

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Piano (p) –
Playing the notes softly.

Pitch
Refers to the highness or lowness of a particular sound or musical tone. Pitch can be measured exactly by its frequency. On the piano keyboard, which consists of 88 black and white keys, each key pressed will sound a unique pitch.



Q

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Quarter note
Note that gets a quarter of the beats of a whole note. In 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 time, the quarter note gets one beat.


R

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Rest
A musical symbol that represents time duration where no note is played. Rest come in different time durations like notes. There are whole rest, half rest, quarter rest, etc.

Rhythm
The time duration variations of a succession of sounds. Rhythm in music exists on many levels. The melody, harmony, and if there are percussion instruments like drums, all contribute to the rhythm of a piece of music.



S

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Music Notation

C Major Scale



Scale
Group of notes that provide the material for songs. Western music is based on the 12 tone chromatic scale. Learn how to play C major scale.

Sharp
Musical symbol indicating that a note should be raised one half step or semitone.


Sixteenth Note
A note that gets a sixteenth of the beat of a whole note. In other words, 16 sixteenth notes fit into a duration of one whole note.

Staccato –
Playing the notes very short as if the keys were hot to the touch. Notes played with staccato have a dot below or above it.


Staff –
Five lines and four spaces that are used as the framework on which musical notation is written.


T

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The Complete Book of Scales, Chords
Arpeggios and Cadences – Major and Minor Scales
Includes guide to fingering the scales and arpeggios



Tempo
The rate and speed of the of musical composition.

Time Signature
A number (3/4, or 4/4, etc.) that immediately follows the clef sign and key signature. This number indicates the timing for a song. The top number indicates how many beats are in each measure, and the bottom number indicates what note gets one beat.
For example, if a music is written in 4/4 time – it has four counts per measure. If it is written in 3/4 time – it has three counts per measure. In both cases, the bottom “4” indicates that a quarter note gets a beat.


Tone –
A sound with a particular pitch. Tone is often used interchangeably with note.

Treble Clef –
Musical symbol that is placed at the left side of a staff that makes a note placed on the second line from the bottom of the staff the G above Middle C. For this reason, it is also called the G clef.



V

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Voicing –
Refers to the way notes that are played together are arranged and placed. For example, if you play C, E, and G of the C major chord, you could play C, E, and G close together, or space them out on the piano keyboard.


W

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Whole Note
Note that gets four beats in 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 time.

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Piano Basics


Lesson 2 Names of White Piano Keys

White Key Names

Lesson 3 Names of Black Piano Keys

Black Key Names

Lesson 4 Piano Grand Staff

Lesson 5 Note Durations

free-sheet-music-zebrakeys Music Tools - Virtual Piano

Beginner Piano

Lesson 7
How to Play London Bridge Is Falling Down.3
Lesson 6
Brother John
Lesson 8
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Lesson 11
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Lesson 9
Major Chords
Lesson 10
Three Primary Chords
Lesson 14
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Lesson 12
12_Keys_In_Music_200
Lesson 13
Major_Scales_200
Lesson 16
circle-of-fifths
Lesson 17
Chord_Inversions_500
Lesson 15
Chords_of_Major_Scale_20
Lesson 18
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Lesson 20
Arpeggio_Chord_Pattern_20
Lesson 19
Broken Chords Pattern
Lesson 21
Whole Tone Scales
Lesson 22
pentatonic-scale
Lesson 23
Arpeggios



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