Dictionary of Music Terms

Introduction

Among all the Music Schools in Amsterdam, Damvibes, takes music theory learning very seriously. That's the reason why we invite you learn the following music terms in our online music dictionary, so you can start learning an instrument as soon as possible!.

Table of Contents

Music terms dictionary

Music glossary

Accelerando

Increase tempo(speed) gradually

Accent

Emphasize certain note

Accent (natural)

The first beat of a measure is naturally accented

Adagio

Slow

Agitato

Agitated

Allegro

Moderately fast

Andante

In italian it would mean “walking”

Apoggiatura

Note that doesn’t belong to the chord it is sounding in the background. An apoggiatura tends to “resolve” in a note that belongs to the chord it is sounding

Arpeggio

A chord in which its notes are played one after the other

Articulation

Everything related to the length of the notes. For example, staccato, legato or portato

Bar

Fragment of music that coincides with the time signature

Beat

Music has “heart beats”. What you normally do when you want to accompany a music with clapping

Cadence

Sequence of chords that sounds at the end of a musical phrase

Cadenza

Fragment that is played freely

Canon

Formed by 2 or more melodies. A melody is accompanied by that same melody starting a bit later

Chord

Three or more notes played at the same time

Chromatic

Certain number of notes that have one half-tone distance to each other

Clef

Sign that indicates the register (number of notes that fragment or piece will cover) 

Coda

Conclusive part of a fragment or piece

Crescendo

Play louder gradually

Da capo

Start playing from the beginning

Dominant

Chord that is formed over the fifth note of the scale

Diminuendo

Play softer gradually

Dynamics

Everything related to the intensity of the sound

Fermata

The duration of the note/chord in which this sign is played is longer

Flat

Play that note half a tone lower

Forte

Loud

Fortepiano

Play loud and right after play soft

Glissando

A continuous sliding from one pitch to another

Key

Pieces are theoretically written using only 7 notes. Each combination has different key name. In practice, you can change the key momentaneously or even change radically the key in the middle of the piece.

Largo

Very slow

Leggiero

Light, as the opposite of heavy

Legato

Notes played without any sound gap. This is to say, link the notes as much as you can. 

Major

Major refers to a chord that has certain pattern: From the fundamental note to the second note there is a major third (4 half tones) and from the second note to the third note there is a minor third (3 half tones)

Minor

Minor refers to a chord that has certain pattern: From the fundamental note to the second note there is a minor third (3 half tones) and from the second note to the third note there is a major third (4 half tones)

Motif

Sequence of notes that has certain sense and repeats several or many times in the piece

Natural

A note that has no sharps or flats

Octave

Distance of 12 half tones. For example, a note that is in the center of a piano (for example C) is one octave distance to the next C of the piano

Ostinato

Fragment of sequence of notes that repeats several or many times

Pianissimo

Very soft

Ritardando

Play slower gradually

Scale

Determined number of notes that generally defines the key of a piece

Sharp

Symbol that is used to indicate that that particular note needs to be played 1 half tone higher. 

Staccato

Make the sound shorter (respecting the tempo). 

Tempo

Speed of the music

Time signature

Symbol composed by two numbers. It indicated the organization of the rhythm. For example 4/4 time signature means that every bar has 4 quarter notes 

Trill

Embellishment of a note. You should play one note and the note above or below, consecutively and fast for 2 or more rows.

Triplet

Three notes played in the time of two of the same kind. For example, where you play two eighth notes, play three equal notes.

Tonic

Chord that is formed from the first note of the scale. 

Unison

Two melodies that play exactly the same notes

Vibrato

Emebellishment added to one note. Technically a vibrato can be performed through small regular changes of the pitch, but also through regular changes of the intensity of the sound. 

Vivace

Lively

Are these all terms in music theory?

Music is so wide that we will never cover everything. If you want to go deeper in this topic you can check most-used music terms.

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