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Music Vocabulary
Beat - the steady rhythmic pattern of a piece of music or a dance.
Composer - a person who writes a piece of music.
Duration - the length of time that a note is sounded.
Dynamics - an element of music - the loudness or softness of a piece of music
(piano, mezzo piano, mezzo forte, forte)
Elements of Music- melody, rhythm, tempo, dynamics, timbre (tone color) and
Form - the way the song is put together or organized (AB, ABA, ABC, etc.) THINK
Forte – (four-tay)- loud
Harmony - the simultaneous sounding of pitches that result in a pleasing musical
sound - more than one note played at a time.
Measure - a unit of notes and rests in a piece of music, marked by a bar line on
either side.
Melody - the movement of pitches (high and low notes) in a piece of music; also a
tune or a song.
Meter - the rhythmic pattern made by grouping together strong and weak beats.
(used a LOT in poetry, as well as music)
Mezzo forte – (met-zoh four-tay) - medium loud
Mezzo piano – (met-zoh) - medium soft
Piano - soft (the piano is also a musical instrument)
Pitch - the measure of how high or low a sound is; pitch is determined by the
frequency of vibrations per second (SCIENCE!).
Rhythm - long and short sounds or silences used in music (eighth notes, quarter
notes, half notes, dotted-half notes, whole notes or rests) Rests represent silence.
Notes represent sound.
Style - a particular type of music or dance (examples: blues, rock, pop, folk,
spirituals, etc.)
Tempo - the speed of a piece of music
Timbre - the way a particular instrument or voice sounds; also called tone color
Time Signature - sign (usually two numbers) at the beginning of a musical work
indicating how beats are grouped in a measure; sometimes called meter signature
Unison - when people say, sing or do something at the same time.
Instrument families:
Woodwind family - examples: flute, oboe, saxophone, clarinet, bassoon, piccolo,
recorder. On the flute, piccolo and the recorder, the sound is produced by
blowing air into the blowhole. The air enters the column and vibrates on the
inside, thus producing the sound. On the clarinet and the saxophone, a single
reed is used. When air is blown into the instrument, the reed vibrates and
produces the sound. On the oboe and bassoon, a double reed is needed. When
the player blows into the double reed, the sound is produced.
Brass Family - example: trumpet, French horn, tuba, trombone, baritone. The
sound is produced by the "buzzing" or vibrating or the players lips as he/she
blows into the instrument. Without this "vibration", the sound will not be
String Family - examples: violin, viola, cello, double bass, harp, dulcimer,
autoharp, banjo, guitar, mandolin, etc. Sound is produced on these instruments
by making the strings vibrate by strumming, bowing, and plucking.
Percussion Family - examples: snare drum, timpani, triangle, cymbals, xylophone,
bass drum, chimes, piano, vibraphone, metallophone, etc. The percussion family
is divided into two types: pitched and unpitched. Pitched instruments can play a
melody (or a song). Examples of pitched percussion instruments are the piano,
xylophone, and vibraphone. Unpitched percussion instruments can only play a
rhythm such as the bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, etc. Sound is produced by
shaking, striking, tapping, scraping the instruments.