Glossary of Music Terms

Common and not so common music terms.

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A

AAB Form
A song form another binary form showing an alternate sequence of two themes.
AABA Form
A thirty-two-bar form, often called AABA from the musical form or order in which its melodies occur, also ballad form, is common in Tin Pan Alley songs and later popular music including rock, pop and jazz. Famous examples include: Satin Doll, Misty, The Girl from Ipanema, I Got Rhythm, Great Balls of Fire, Surfer Girl, and countless other.
AABAC
A common three theme sequence.
AABBC
An alternate sequence of three themes.
AABC
A second form of the three theme sequence.
ABAB
A third binary form using alternating themes.
ABABC
A third form of Tertiary structure.
Active Chords
Chords that create harmonic tension Typically, the V, IV, II and VII chords of a diatonic key.
Add 2
Any triad that has a second added to it.
Add 9
Any triad that has a ninth added to it. There is no distinction between add 2 and add 9 on ukulele.
Aeolian scale
A modal scale whose step pattern is 1, 1/2, 1,1,1/2. Based on a major scale it's the scale degrees are: 1 b2 3 4 5 b6 b7 8. Contains the same notes as the Natural Minor with the same root.
Alterations
The raising or lowering of the fifth, ninth, eleventh and thirteenth degrees of a chord.
Arrangement
The intro, ending, interlude, order of themes, instruments, parts, solos, backup harmony. It includes all elements that help transform a song from a song to a performance.
Ascending
A rising direction. The term may apply to a scale, melody, arpeggio, sequence, root movement, bass line or a physical direction on an instrument especially a string instrument.
Augmented 7 (+7)
A 4 part chord consisting of 1 3#5 b7.
Augmented Chord (+)
A triad consisting of 1 3 #5.
Augmented Large 7 (+L7)
A 4 part chord consisting of 1 3 #5 7.

B

Beat
A single pulse of rhythm.
Binary Form
A song writing form using two themes.
Blues Structure
The blues form is a musical form in which repeating progression of chords mirrors the call and response scheme commonly found in African and African-American music. A famous song writing form using a 12 bar pattern, featuring the I, IV and V chord of any major or minor key. It typically has a single musical theme.

C

Chord Root
The individual note used as the foundation of the chord, the alphabetical component of the chord name. Roots may be naturals, sharps or flats, using one of the seven letters of the musical alphabet: A B C D E F G.
Chord Species
Identifies one chord from another, its unique internal construction examples are major, minor, diminished, augmented, 7th etc.
Chord Spelling
The ability to identifying all notes that theoretically belong in a chord. This capability can enhance your ability to craft melodic or improvisations.
Chromatic Passing Tone (cpt)
A passing tone outside the current scale. It will connect scale tomes by half step.
Coda
cs.ls.coda Coda (Italian for "tail", plural code) is a term used in music in a number of different senses, primarily to designate a passage that brings a piece (or a movement) to an end. Technically, it is an expanded cadence. It may be as simple as a few measures, or as complex as an entire section.
Color Chords
Chords which are extensions or variations of functional chords.
Composition
Multiple melodies creating chord harmony at points of intersection.
Craft
Any specific set of tools and building blocks used to compose, arrange, accompany or improvise.
Curt Sheller
avatar-meUkulele guru and jazz guitarist. Keeper of this amazing, treasure trove of goodies on this site.
Cycle
A keyless principle characterized by three conditions. 1) a minimum of three consecutive chords 2) the same chord type for each chord 3) equidistant roots from chord to chord.

D

D. S.
cs.ls.D.S In music notation, Dal segno (Italian pronunciation: [dal ˈseɲɲo], English: /ˌdæl ˈseɪnjoʊ/ or /ˈsɛɡnoʊ/) (often abbreviated D.S.) is used as a navigation marker. From Italian for "from the sign," D.S. appears in sheet music and instructs a musician to repeat a passage starting from the sign shown at right, sometimes called the "segno" in English
Diatonic Passing Tone (dpt)
A passing tone within the current scale. It may connect scale tones by half or whole step.
Diatonic Substitution
The use of the III or VI chord for the I chord and the use of the V, IV, II or VII chord for the V chord.
Diminished 7 (°7)
A 4 part chord consisting of 1 b3 b5 bb7 of a major scale.
Diminished Chord (°)
A triad consisting of 1 b3 b5 of a major scale.
Diminished Large 7, major 7 (°L7)
A 4 part chord consisting of 1 b3 b5 7 of a major scale.
Direct Substitution
The use of one chord for another chord which shares the root and harmonic function of the original chord.
Dorian scale
A modal scale whose step pattern is 1,1/2,1,1,1, 1/2. Based on a major scale it's the scale degrees are: 1 b2 3 4 b5 6 b7 8. Sometimes referred to as the Minor scale.
Dynamics
The soft and loud of music along with their gradations.

E

Effects
Electronic processing gear used to shape the sound of recorded music Examples are reverb, chorus, distortion, echo, flange etc. For guitar players it's those array pf little pedas at their feet.
Engineering
The actual recording, mixing and mastering skills used in transforming a performance into a finished recording.
Expansion Substitution
The use of a different chord in addition to the original chord.
Equal Temperament
An equal temperament is a musical temperament, or a system of tuning, in which every pair of adjacent notes has an identical frequency ratio. As pitch is perceived roughly as the logarithm of frequency, this means that the perceived "distance" from every note to its nearest neighbor is the same for every note in the system.

F

Feel
An identifiable pulse and motion usually created by the drummer and bass player Examples are 2 feel, swing, rock, jazz waltz, bossa, samba, ska etc.
First Ending
cs.ls.1_Ending A transitional part of a song that typically connects the first A Theme to its repeat.
Functional Chords
Chords of three or four part harmony that form the basis of standard and contemporary song writing.

G

Groove
A synonym for feel.

H

Half Diminished 7 (Ø7)
A 4 part chord consisting of 1 b3 b5 b7.

I

II-V-I
The most common resolving chord module in standards and jazz.
Imagination
The abstract source of musical ideas.
Internal Modulation
A term from used in harmonic analysis. It refers to a temporary key change without a key signature change. It implies the eventual return of the original key.
Ionian scale
A modal scale whose step pattern is 1, 1, 1/2, 1, 1, 1, 1/2. This is the Major scale starting on the same root. By numbering each note of the scale 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 you can use the major scale for comparison and deriving other scales.

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L

Leading Tone
The seventh note of a scale or the chord built on that note.
Leap Recovery
A melodic device which suggests that a melody reverses its direction after a leap.
Leap
A melodic device in which the distance between two consecutive notes is 2 and 1/2 steps or more. Usually followed by a Leap Recovery
Legato
In musical notation the Italian word legato (literally meaning "tied together") indicates that musical notes are played or sung smoothly and connected. That is, in transitioning from note to note, there should be no intervening silence. Legato technique is required for slurred performance, but unlike slurring (as that term is interpreted for some instruments), legato does not forbid re articulation. In standard notation legato is indicated either with the word legato itself, or by a slur (a curved line) under the notes that are to be joined in one legato group. Legato, like staccato, is a kind of articulation. There is an intermediate articulation called either mezzo staccato or non-legato.
Locrian scale
A modal scale whose step pattern is 1/2, 1, 1, 1/2, 1, 1. Based on a major scale it's the scale degrees are: 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 8. This is a diminished type scale.
Lydian scale
A modal scale whose step pattern is 1, 1, 1, 1/2, 1, 1. Based on a major scale it's the scale degrees are: 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 8.

M

Major 7 (maj7)
A 4 part chord consisting of 1 3 5 7.
Major Chord
A triad consisting of 1 3 5.
Mediant
The third note of a scale or the chord built on that note.
Melodic Contour
A graphic representation of a melody created by connecting the successive notes of a melody with a line.
Melodic Minor Scale
The melodic minor scale is the same as the natural minor with the exception that the sixth and seventh tones are raised by a semitone (half step) when the scale is ascending. While some composers, notably Mozart, have used this interval to advantage in melodic composition, other composers, having felt it to be an awkward leap, particularly in vocal music, considered a whole step between these two scale degrees more conducive to smooth melody writing, so either the sixth scale degree was raised or the seventh flattened.
Minor 6 (m6)
A 4 part chord consisting of 1 b3 5 6.
Minor 7 (m7)
A 4 part chord consisting of 1 b3 5 b7.
Minor Chord
A triad consisting of 1 b3 5.
Minor Large 7 (mL&)
A 4 part chord consisting of 1 b3 5 7.
Mixolydian scale
A modal scale whose step pattern is 1, 1, 1/2, 1,1,1/2. Based on a major scale it's the scale degrees: 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 8.
Modular
Any concept that can be broken down into small units.
Modulation
A key change.
Mono Form
A song writing form with one musical theme. It usually has multiple verses of lyrics. The 12 bar blues is the most famous mono theme form.

N

Non Chord Tone
A melodic note not contained within the current chord.
Notation
Any written language used to communicate musical concepts. TAB or tablature is a form of music notation typically used by guitar players.

O

Octave
The eighth note of a scale or the chord built on that note.

P

Passing Tone
An unstressed note that connects two notes by a second.
Passive Chords
Chords that resolve harmonic tension Typically, the I, II and VI chords of a diatonic key.
Phyrgian scale
A modal scale whose step pattern is 1/2, 1,1,1, 1/2, 1. Based on a major scale it's the scale degrees are: 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8.
Pivot Chord
A single chord which is the final chord of one harmonic principle and is simultaneously the first chord of another harmonic principle. Serves a double function connecting two harmonic principles.
Power 5
A chord consisting of only roots and perfect fifths. Technically not a chord by the standard chord definition.
Production
All related activities of coordinating the process of recording music, video or putting on a concert or show.
Picardy Third
A Picardy third (also known as Tierce de Picardie) is a harmonic device. It refers to the use of a major chord of the tonic at the end of a musical section which is either modal or in a minor key. Basically the expected minor resolution is major instead.

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R

Range
The high and low note of a piece of music. The high and low notes of a melody or a melodic phrase.
Reentrant tuning
kala-soprano-sm A reentrant tuning is a tuning of a stringed instrument where the strings (or more properly the courses on coursed instruments) are not ordered from the lowest pitch to the highest pitch (or vice versa). A break in an otherwise ascending (or descending) order of string pitches is known as a reentry. Most common reentrant tunings have only one reentry; In the case of the soprano ukulele, for example, the reentry is between the third and fourth strings, while in the case of the Venezuelan cuatro it is between the first and second strings.
Reharmonization
A musical effect created by retaining the original melody while rewriting the original chord progression.
Relative Minor
The minor key, chord or scale based on the sixth degree of any major scale.
Repetition
The reuse of an identical melody, phrase, chord progression or rhythm.
Replacement Substitution
The use of a different chord instead of the original chord.

S

Scale
As a sequence of musical notes in ascending and descending order. Most commonly, the notes of a scale will belong to a single key, used to conveniently represent part or all of a musical work including melody and/or harmony.
Second Ending
cs.ls.2_EndingA transitional part of a song that typically connects the second theme to the first Theme.
Semitone
A semitone, also called a half step or a half tone, is the smallest musical interval commonly used in Western tonal music, and it is considered the most dissonant when sounded harmonically. Think Jaws, Twilight Zone or any secret agent inspired theme.
Sequence
A melodic device that uses parallel melodies starting on consecutive scale degrees.
Seventh (7)
A chord designation for a 4 part chord consisting of 1 3 5 b7.
Sixth (6)
A chord designation for a 4 part chord consisting of 1 3 5 6.
Solfege
A system of melodic organization that uses syllables (DO RE MI FA SOL LA TI DO) to designate pitches. Two common systems are Moveable-DO Solfege and Fixed-DO Solfege.
Song
A single melody on a chord progression with lyrics, if vocal.
Song
The basic product of the music industry. A song consists of four elements: 1) title 2) melody 3) chords 4) lyrics (if vocal).
Staccato
Staccato (Italian for detached) is a form of musical articulation. In modern notation it signifies a note of shortened duration, separated from the note that may follow by silence.
Stress Tone
A series of techniques used to bring attention to a specific . Stress can be applied to a note in the following ways: begin on it, end on it, sustain it, accent it, overplay it, place it on a down beat, embellish it.
Subdominant
The fourth note of a scale or the chord built on that note.
Submediant
The sixth note of a scale or the chord built on that note.
Supertonic
The second note of a scale or the chord built on that note.
Sustain
To let a note ring out.
Symmetry
Balance in music.

T

Tension/Resolution
Tension is created melodically, harmonically or rhythmically. Each element seeks a resting point. That resting point is the resolution.
Tertiary Form
A song writing form using three themes.
Tetrachord
Traditionally, a tetrachord (Greek: τετράχορδo) is a series of three smaller intervals filling in the interval of a perfect fourth, a 4:3 frequency proportion. In modern usage a tetrachord is any four-note segment of a scale or tone row. ( more info on Wikipedia )
Tonic Minor
The minor key, chord or scale based on the root of any major scale.

U

Unresolved
A harmonic principle using a temporary implied key change with an eventual return the the original key. The unresolved progression uses active chords only.

V

V-I
The strongest resolving progression in western, tonic-dominant music.

W

Whole Tone
A major second. This is a musical interval spanning two semitones, and encompassing two adjacent staff positions. For example, the interval from C to D is a major second or whole tone apart, as the note D lies two semitones above C, and the two notes are notated on adjacent staff positions.
Whole Tone Scale
A symmetrical scale with each interval a major second apart. There are only two whole tone scales. The scale step pattern is 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1

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