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Music Terms

Music and Culture
Course Code
Ken Mc Leod

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Music Terminology
Frequency – rate of sound vibration
Pitch – “high” = rapid frequency/low = slow frequency
Dynamics – amplitude of sound vibrations – loudness/softness of sound
Forte (loud) vs. Piano (soft)
Crescendo – gradually getting louder
Decrescendo – gradually getting softer
Tone Color/Timbre – quality of sound dependent on instrument of production
i.e. Brass, Strings, Woodwinds, Percussion, Piano, Voice etc.
- usually described in terms like “warm woodwindsbright brass,” “dark strings,” etc.
Rhythm – arrangement of duration of sounds – pattern of tension and release over time
Beat – basic unit of musical duration – regular recurring pulse
Accent - emphasizing strong or weak beats
Meter – grouping of beats into recurring patterns
Measure/Bar – a single occurrence of the recurring pattern
Simple Meter: (duple/triple) main beats not subdivided or subdivided into two
i.e. 2/4, 3/4, 4/4
Compound Meter – main beats are subdivided into three i.e. 6/8
Syncopation – accenting a normally unaccented beat or portion of beat (“off beat)
Tempo – how fast or slow the beat is.
Metronome – device used to tick out beats at various tempos
Pitch - notated ABCDEFG (musical alphabet)
Interval – distance between any two pitches (harmonic or melodic)
Half step/Semi-tone – smallest interval (adjacent keys on a piano)
Whole step/Whole tone – 2 half steps or semi tones
Scale – a particular ordering of tones and semi tones used in the composition of
music (often several types of scales used)
Diatonic Scale – 7 pitches within an octave comprised of whole and semi tones
(Major and Minor forms)
Chromatic Scale (semi tones only), Whole Tone Scale (whole tones only)
Octave – interval where one pitch vibrates at half the rate of another
Diatonic Scale – set of original 7 pitches (A-G) used in Western art music
Comprised of whole and half-steps
major and minor arrangements
Chromatic scale – scale consisting entirely of half steps (Chromatic movement)
Sharps (#) raise indicated pitches a half step
Flats (b) lower indicated pitches a half step
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