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Musical Terms
Basic Elements of Music
Basic Structure
More Basic Elements of Music
Derived from sound waves.
• A single tone is a pitch
• The tone falls into some register: high,
middle, or low
• Fast vibrations produce a fast sound, slow
vibrations produce low sounds
• A sequence of pitches in varying lengths
produces a melody.
• Conjunct melody – smooth, lyrical melody
– moves in whole or half steps
• Disjunct melody – many large skips and
may sound “jagged” – moves in more than a
whole step
• System of organizing pitches
• Give cohesion to a piece of music
• Just a few are the major, minor, modal, and
pentatonic scales.
• In non-Western cultures, scales, patterns or
even certain notes may associated with
extra musical ideas from nature or religion.
• In 550 B.C., Pythagoras formally
introduced the octave after discovering the
mathematical nature of music.
• Experimenting with strings, he essentially
realized the most important pitches in
relation to a tonic note were the perfect
fourth and perfect fifth of the notes.
Major Scale
• The Major scale in Western music always
follows a certain pattern.
• W–W–H–W–W–W–H
• W = Whole Step
H = Half Step
• Interval – the distance between pitches
• Octave – eight pitches – the first and last
tone of a major/minor scale.
Minor Scale
• By flatting the 3rd, 6th, and 7th note, we
get a minor scale to emphasize sad,
sorrowful, or scary feelings in music
• W-H-W-W-H-W-W (the white keys
starting at A)
• Pitches organized vertically and heard
simultaneously, produce chords.
• Chords produce harmony.
• A chord is three or more simultaneous
• Movement from one chord to the next
produces a chord progression.
• A major chord is made of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th
note of the scale.
• C=C–E–G
• A minor chord is made by flatting the third
degree of the scale…. So E flat instead of E
• C minor = C – E flat - G
Chord Progression
• The tonic, or (I) chord is the chord of rest,
or home base – Example C, or D
• The dominant, or (V) chord, is the chord of
movement – Example G, or A
• The subdominant, or (IV) chord – F, or G
• So, a I, IV, V chord progression would be
C, F, G or D, A, G.
Duration (Time)
• The length of an entire piece of music
• The length of a section of music, such as
movement in a symphony
• The length of phrase or musical thought
• The length of one note
• Tempo – the rate of speed
• Variety of changes in pitch duration creates
• Tempo – speed of the music.
• Meter – pulses organized into groups of two
or three beats.
• Syncopation – placing accents on weak
beats or parts of beats producing
Loudness, Tone Quality, Timbre
• Loudness – sometimes referred to as
dynamics – combination of loudness and
softness – Beethoven and Nirvana.
• Tone Quality – Timbre – of Various
instruments – learn to listen – woodwinds,
percussion, electric instruments, brass.
Working together
• Highs and lows of pitches
• Durations of pitches and their organization
• Dynamic levels of different instruments and
• Tone Qualities
• Pulse, meter
• Tempo
• Dissonance – sounds that require resolution.
• Consonance – sounds that create resolution.
• Texture – whether music is thick and full, or
thin and light.
• Layering – single melody, melody with
accompaniment, two or more melodies,
layering of different rhythms, nonmelodic
Genres and Forms
• Form is the structure and shape of a piece of
• 32 Bar song form - Tin Pan Alley
• Verse/Chorus, Verse/Chorus, Bridge,
Verse/Chorus, End
• 12 Bar Blues
• Sonata