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An introduction to music theory

Chords, scales, harmony, melody, etc.

Moderator: Moderators (Main)

JumpingJackFlash
KVRian
 
1147 posts since 10 Oct, 2004

Postby JumpingJackFlash; Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:21 pm

JumpingJackFlash wrote:This is intended as a simple guide for the beginner, covering the basics of music theory. It also overlaps to cover areas of notation and harmony. If the mods find it worthy, maybe they could make it a sticky?


My original post is now 5 years old, and hopefully worthy of a bump.

I would also like to take the opportunity to recommend a book on Four Part Harmony to anyone interested and who wants to learn more about that sort of thing. Published by Classroom Resources, it is a comprehensive yet concise guide to everything you could want to know about harmony. It starts with the basics and gradually goes up through more complicated concepts. It also includes material on understanding intervals and key signatures.

It is available from the publisher:
http://www.classroom-resources.co.uk/ac ... _2866.html


You can get it half-price if you agree not to photocopy any of it.



.
Unfamiliar words can be looked up in my Glossary of musical terms.
Also check out my Introduction to Music Theory.
User avatar
dalor
KVRAF
 
2508 posts since 1 Dec, 2004, from Sydney, Australia

Postby dalor; Wed Jul 04, 2012 4:04 pm

Hey just wanted to say a hughe thank you for this, very informative and useful :tu:
Cowbells!
anxiousmofo
KVRist
 
128 posts since 1 Apr, 2012

Postby anxiousmofo; Fri Aug 03, 2012 11:46 am

I appreciate the thread. Thank you!
JumpingJackFlash
KVRian
 
1147 posts since 10 Oct, 2004

Postby JumpingJackFlash; Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:22 pm

dalor wrote:Hey just wanted to say a hughe thank you for this, very informative and useful :tu:

anxiousmofo wrote:I appreciate the thread. Thank you!


You're both welcome (and very nice of you to say).

I've been thinking about updating the original post; editing, modernising, improving, perhaps adding examples and so on... is there a demand for that? If so, I am open for suggestions as to the kind of thing to include; what would be most useful? (Bearing in mind this would only ever be an introduction to the broadly "classical" sort of music theory, as there are other people on here who handle the jazz specifics better than me).
Unfamiliar words can be looked up in my Glossary of musical terms.
Also check out my Introduction to Music Theory.
User avatar
Jace-BeOS
KVRAF
 
1897 posts since 7 Jan, 2005, from Corporate States of America

Postby Jace-BeOS; Fri Aug 03, 2012 1:48 pm

Regarding sharps and flats, are they context sensitive (depending on a prior note) to determine whether you're calling it the sharp of one note or the flat of another? I never understood that. It just seems so arbitrary. So much in music theory seems arbitrary to me the way it's taught. I rarely find anything that offers explanation, instead of just description or definition (which don't go nearly far enough for me). I know it's all based on numbers and math, which I suck at (and cannot help that fact), but the language and teaching never seems to go beyond "vocabulary: definition."
- dysamoria.com
my music @ SoundCloud
JumpingJackFlash
KVRian
 
1147 posts since 10 Oct, 2004

Postby JumpingJackFlash; Fri Aug 03, 2012 2:36 pm

Jace-BeOS wrote:Regarding sharps and flats, are they context sensitive (depending on a prior note) to determine whether you're calling it the sharp of one note or the flat of another? I never understood that. It just seems so arbitrary.


I'm not sure I entirely understand your question.
A# is always the same note regardless of what has come before it.

However, not all notes which should be A# have the # in-front of them; if for example there is an A# in the key signature, then that means all A's in that piece are supposed to be A# unless they are countered by a natural sign (or a new key signature).

Also, an accidental (that is, a flat, sharp or natural) lasts until the end of each bar (measure). So, if you have two A's in one bar and the first is A#, the second one would normally be A# too (again, unless countered with a natural sign).

If you mean, when do we call the note A# and when do we call it Bb, that does depend on context.
Every major key for example has seven different note; one version of each letter A,B,C,D,E,F,G.
So, every major key has some form of A - that could be A natural, A# or Ab, but it can only have one. It cannot have both A# and Ab for example, one of the others would have to be spelt differently (Bb or G# for example).

Chords are generally constructed in thirds; so you have one version of a letter, you miss then next letter out, then you have a version of the next letter and so on - in other words, there can never be two consecutive letters. So, for example, the chord of D major is D,F#,A. - The letters E and G are missed out. It couldn't be D,Gb,A for example because you have two consecutive letters (G and A).

So, keeping things as simply as possible, every key contains either sharps or flats, never both (but occasionally neither). So, if you have a piece with 4 sharps in already for example, then you wold be much more likely to encounter an A# than a Bb.

However, minor keys are slightly tricky. Often the sixth and/or seventh notes in the minor key are raised by one semitone. So, that usually means they are sharpened (although, if they were a flat to begin with, they become a natural). So, D minor for example has the key signature of Bb. You might expect to see more flats rather than sharps, however you would almost certainly see a C# at some point as the raised seventh (which could never be a flat because that would be a lowering, not a raising).

There are other reasons as well why you would use one and not the other; in chromatic chords for example which by their definition specify which notes to raise by a semitone and which to lower (which generally means which notes to sharpen and which to flatten). An augmented sixth chord for example starts on flattened note (or, if it was sharp before then it becomes natural) - it can never start on a sharp.

A good rule of thumb is that sharps tend to resolve upwards, whereas flats tend to resolve downwards.

If you want to know more, I recommend you start a new topic about it.
(Otherwise all and sundry will come on here trying to confuse you!)
Last edited by JumpingJackFlash on Sat Aug 04, 2012 4:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
Unfamiliar words can be looked up in my Glossary of musical terms.
Also check out my Introduction to Music Theory.
User avatar
Jace-BeOS
KVRAF
 
1897 posts since 7 Jan, 2005, from Corporate States of America

Postby Jace-BeOS; Fri Aug 03, 2012 2:41 pm

Yes A# vs Gb was what I had in mind.

I have to say none of it ever works for me. Sorry to have bothered you with the question. I'll just never be able to handle music theory and I have to leave it at that instead of bugging every theory-referencing poster I find at kvr hoping someone has a special methodology to teach the content.
- dysamoria.com
my music @ SoundCloud
User avatar
fmr
KVRAF
 
3039 posts since 16 Mar, 2003, from Porto - Portugal

Postby fmr; Fri Aug 03, 2012 2:51 pm

Jace-BeOS wrote:Yes A# vs Gb was what I had in mind.

I have to say none of it ever works for me. Sorry to have bothered you with the question. I'll just never be able to handle music theory and I have to leave it at that instead of bugging every theory-referencing poster I find at kvr hoping someone has a special methodology to teach the content.

It's a good question, but as JumpingJack told, it's better to open a new thread specifically for it. Don't expect absolute answers, though, since there are hardly absolute answers in music. But you can perhaps get some pocket rules to help you (I was about to suggest some, but better leave it for the suggested new thread)
Fernando (FMR)
VitaminD
Pick Me Pick me!
 
7865 posts since 11 Mar, 2002, from a state of confusion

Postby VitaminD; Tue Jan 22, 2013 5:44 pm

JumpingJackFlash wrote:T

Natural minor scales all have the pattern:
Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone.
(Eg. A,B,C,D,E,F,G,A).

Note though, that the minor scale comes in different forms. In the harmonic minor (which is perhaps most common), the 7th of the scale is raised by one semitone. Thus the pattern becomes: Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone+Semitone, Semitone. (Eg. A,B,C,D,E,F,G#,A).

The melodic minor is more tricky. When going up, the 6th and 7th of the scale are both raised by one semitone. (Thus, the pattern becomes Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone). When going down however, the 6th and 7th are lowered back to normal, and you play it exactly the same as the natural minor.

The chief difference between major and minor is the third of the scale. In a major key the third is 4 semitones above the root, in a minor key the third is 3 semitones above the root.



There is a wealth of knowledge in this thread. VERY large THANK YOU for taking the time to share what you have in an easy to digest manner. I'm a little confused on how I missed this thread for 6 years now?? Glad I found it though!

However, one thing on which I'm a little confused is in the minors explanation.

...............................................The natural minor is T, S, T, T, S, T, T.
Then it is explained that a melodic minor (upwards) is T, S, T, T, T, T, S.

I'm confused on the explanation of the 6th and 7th of the scale are raised by one semitone.

I'm seeing the 5th and the 7th in the example having a change (from S->T on 5th, T->S on 7th)

Surely I'm reading this incorrectly, but could you please explain a little further?
"Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except the best." - Henry Van Dyke
JumpingJackFlash
KVRian
 
1147 posts since 10 Oct, 2004

Postby JumpingJackFlash; Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:57 am

VitaminD wrote:There is a wealth of knowledge in this thread. VERY large THANK YOU for taking the time to share what you have in an easy to digest manner.



Thanks!

VitaminD wrote:However, one thing on which I'm a little confused is in the minors explanation.

...............................................The natural minor is T, S, T, T, S, T, T.
Then it is explained that a melodic minor (upwards) is T, S, T, T, T, T, S.

I'm confused on the explanation of the 6th and 7th of the scale are raised by one semitone.

I'm seeing the 5th and the 7th in the example having a change (from S->T on 5th, T->S on 7th)

Surely I'm reading this incorrectly, but could you please explain a little further?


The T and S refer to the gap between notes, not the notes themselves. They stand for Tone and Semitone; a semitone is 2 tones.

So, comparing the ascending melodic minor to the natural minor, you'll notice that the gap between the 5th and 6th notes has increased from a Semitone to a Tone; this is because the 6th note has been raised by one semitone so the gap is bigger.

Here's an example:

Code: Select all
                         A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G# A
Natural Minor:           A    B C    D    E F    G    A
Harmonic Minor:          A    B C    D    E F      G# A
Ascending Melodic Minor: A    B C    D    E   F#   G# A

Each note on the top line is a semitone apart from the next.

So, if we count the number of semitones between each note (S=1 and T=2):
Natural Minor = 2122122
Harmonic Minor =2122131
Ascending Melodic Minor = 2122221
Unfamiliar words can be looked up in my Glossary of musical terms.
Also check out my Introduction to Music Theory.
sinject
KVRer
 
16 posts since 30 Dec, 2012

Postby sinject; Wed Feb 20, 2013 5:17 am

this should be stickied. just a suggestion from someone who benefited from this quite a bit.

also i don't know how "related" this is but for those who can't read music yet (or don't want to) like myself; for drums I recommend you check out drum tablature. It's a pretty useful alternative that's easy to understand:
Amen Break:
Code: Select all
C |----------------|
R |x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-|
S |----o--o-o--o--o|
B |o-o-------oo----|
  |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |

more:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drum_Tablature
jayjay112
KVRer
 
19 posts since 4 Feb, 2013, from London, England

Postby jayjay112; Sat Mar 16, 2013 8:08 am

Really great post!

Thanks for putting in the effort!

:)
renatovms
KVRer
 
6 posts since 9 Apr, 2005, from Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

Postby renatovms; Wed Apr 03, 2013 11:40 am

JumpingJackFlash wrote:Glossary of musical terms (theory, harmony and notation) (part 1)

Have I ever mentioned a musical term that you didn't fully understand? If so, you will be pleased to know that I have compiled this glossary of musical terms, to provide simple definitions of some words which keep cropping up in this forum which might not be immediately obvious to someone with limited knowledge of music theory.

Words and terms are listed in alphabetical order and cross-referenced. - Any words in bold contain their own entry, and you can look them up separately (in fact, you should do so if you don't understand them). Although useful for a variety of purposes, this in primarily intended as a quick reference point for musical terms which I use in my posts. Therefore, the definitions listed provide the meaning and sense in which I generally use the words. In some cases, alternative definitions are possible, but these are usually irrelevant in the intended context. Also, I have avoided cluttering things up with extended explanations, examples or exceptions. - For all that stuff you should buy a proper book!

NOTE: This post only contains terms from A to T. The remaining terms (T to Z), can be found here, in the next post below.

More detailed information can usually be found in my other posts, the most relevant of which are:
An Introduction to Music Theory
Scales, Modes and Chords
An introduction to cadences
An introduction to modulation (changing key)
Sharps, Flats and how to work out Keys
An intro to ornamental, unessential, and non-harmony notes
Melody Construction and Voice Leading / Part Writing
Introduction to Chromatic Harmony
An introduction to music notation -How to read & write music

Accented: This is where a note or chord has more emphasis than other notes (or chords). This occurs naturally on the strong beats of the bar, but can also be indicated by symbols in music notation. Not unaccented.

Accidental: Sharp, flat, natural, double-sharp or double-flat signs in music. These are chromatic notes; modifications to the normal notes of the key-signature. See here for more details.

Aeolian Mode: This is the mode on the sixth note of the major scale. It is therefore identical to the ordinary natural minor.

Alto: A high male voice, or a low female voice. In four-part harmony, this refers to the second-highest voice, between the soprano and tenor, with a rough range from the G below middle-C to the C an octave above it.

Anacrusis: Where a musical piece or phrase starts with one or more unaccented notes. Usually this occurs just before the barline, as an 'upbeat'. The music effectively starts before the first bar, and the initial notes do not form a complete bar (this is made up at the end, as the phrase also generally finishes before the normal end of the last bar - the phrasing therefore overlaps the barlines).

Appoggiatura: An accented non-harmony note, resolving by step to a consonance. (Basically, an unprepared suspension or retardation). See here for more details.

Arpeggio: Similar to a chord, only with the notes played in succession rather than simultaneously (usually starting at the bottom and ascending). See here for examples.

Articulation: Markings indicating how to play notes or chords. Including the amount of attack, emphasis, and/or sustain, and the transition between consecutive notes. See here for more details.

Atonal: Music where no single prevailing key can be identified. Not tonal.

Augmented: This term can refer to a scale, chord, arpeggio or interval. Augmented triads have a major 3rd and an augmented 5th above the root. Augmented intervals are one semitone larger than perfect or major intervals.

Bar: The distance from one barline to the next. The duration of the bars is given by the Time Signature. Also called a measure.

Baroque: The period of musical history between 1600 and 1750, including music by J.S. Bach and Handel.

Bass: The lowest voice, below tenor, with a rough range from middle-C down to the F a 12th below this.

Bass Clef: The symbol at the start of the music which indicates the pitch range of the stave, and thus tells you which notes go where. From bottom to top, the notes on the lines are G, B, D, F, A, and the notes in the spaces are A, C, E, G. Also called 'F clef'. See here for more details.

Beam: A line connecting the stems of a group of quavers or smaller notes. This joins together (and replaces) the individual tails of the relevant notes. See here for more details.

Beat: The basic rhythmic pulse or metre of the music, given by the Time Signature.

Cadence: A progression of chords at the end of a musical phrase or section. See here for more details.

Cadential 6/4: A second-inversion chord used in a cadence. Typically this refers to the tonic chord, Ic, which is followed by V, to create an imperfect cadence, or a perfect cadence (if V is followed by I). Can also (less often) refer to IVc, forming a plagal cadence.

Chord: A group of (typically 3 or more) notes sounded together. All triads are chords, but not all chords are triads. See here for examples.

Chord Progression: A series of chords, one after the other.

Chromatic: Notes which are not contained within the key, the opposite of diatonic. The chromatic scale consists of every single note, moving up entirely in semitones.

Classical: The period of musical history from 1750 to around 1820 (historians argue as to the exact date the period ends), including works by Mozart and Haydn. The term 'classical' is also used more generally to refer to any (generally highbrow) music which is not in modern popular styles (thus encompassing other music periods too, such as the Baroque and Romantic).

Clef: The symbol at the start of the music which indicates the pitch range of the stave, and thus tells you which notes go where. The two most common clefs are Treble Clef and Bass Clef, although there are others.

Coda: Extra music (usually a short section), written after the normal end of the piece, to round-off and conclude the music.

Compound: Indicates something (usually an interval) larger than one octave.

Compound Time: Where the basic beat (a dotted note) is divisible by 3. See here for more details.

Conjunct: Notes move by step. The opposite of disjunct.

Consecutives: This refers to parallel fifths and/or parallel octaves.

Consonance: A consonant interval or a note forming a consonant interval with another. Also called a concord.

Consonant: A settled and stable interval or chord which is not unpleasant to the ear. The opposite of dissonant. What exactly constitutes a consonance varies considerably between different styles, cultures and time periods. Generally however, perfect fifths and octaves are the most consonant ('perfect concords'), while major and minor thirds and sixths are also usually consonant ('imperfect concords').

Contrapuntal: Two or more independent parts, moving in different rhythms with each other, sometimes inter-playing. Often these parts are of equal importance, - they all sound good in their own right. The harmony is generally a by-product of the part-writing. Also called polyphonic.

Contrary Motion: Where two or more parts move in opposite directions. - One goes up while the other goes down.

Counterpoint: The relationship between (or the art of combining) two or more independent melodic lines. Music written in this way is said to be contrapuntal, or polyphonic.

Crotchet: A filled-in note with a stem, lasting for two quavers or half a minim. Also called a Quarter Note.

Diatonic: Using only notes which are contained within the key. The opposite of chromatic.

Diminished: This term can refer to a scale, chord, arpeggio or interval. Diminished triads have a minor 3rd and a diminished 5th above the root. The diminished scale is made up of alternate tones and semitones (usually in that order, but occasionally semitone-tone is used) Every other note forms the notes of a diminished seventh chord. Diminished intervals are one semitone smaller than perfect or minor intervals. See here for more details.

Diminished Seventh: This is a four-note chord, with a minor third (3 semitones) between each note. (So, a diminished triad with an added diminished seventh above the root).

Disjunct: Notes move by leap. The opposite of conjunct.

Dissonance: A dissonant interval or a note forming a dissonant interval with another. Also called a discord.

Dissonant: An unsettled tension or clash resulting from two or more notes that, by themselves, are not generally pleasing to the ear. This is the opposite of consonant, and can refer to an interval or chord, or even the general characteristics of a particular melodic line. What exactly constitutes a dissonance varies considerably between different styles, cultures and time periods. The term is often used in diatonic tonal music to refer to notes which are not contained within the basic prevailing harmony at any given point. In classical music, dissonant notes were required to be prepared and/or resolve correctly. Generally, seconds and sevenths are usually dissonant, fourths are also considered dissonant in some styles of music.

Dominant: The fifth note of the scale, or a triad built using this note as the root.

Dominant Seventh: The fifth chord in a key (always a major triad), with an added minor seventh above the root (V7).

Dorian Mode: This is the mode on the second note of the major scale. It is therefore the natural minor scale with sharpened sixth.

Dot: A dot adds half the value to the thing immediately before it (to its left). A note or rest with a dot is said to be 'dotted'. Properly called an Augmentation Dot. This is not the same thing as staccato. See here for more details.

Dynamics: The volume of the music; how loud it is, and if there is any change to this. See here for more details.

Enharmonic: A note, chord or key which can be interpreted in different chromatic spellings, but sounds the same. Two notes are 'enharmonically equivalent' if they sound the same in equal temperament but are notated differently (they may be related to two keys or chords in different ways).

Equal Temperament: A tuning system whereby the octave is divided into twelve semitones, each of which are exactly equal. This contradicts natural physical laws to basically make life easier.

Exposed Fifths: Where the soprano and bass approach a perfect 5th (or 12th) in similar motion, and the soprano does not move by step.

Exposed Octaves: Where the soprano and bass approach a perfect octave (or 15th) in similar motion, and the soprano does not move by step.

False Relation: When two different chromatic spellings of a note occur in different parts. These can be either simultaneous or successive. Also called 'cross-relation'.

Figured Bass: A notation system whereby numbers represent intervals over a particular bass note. All notes belong to the key unless otherwise specified. The third of chords can generally be assumed even when not specifically figured. 5/3 represents a root position chord (although when no figure is given, a root position chord is automatically assumed), 6/3 represents a first inversion chord, 6/4 represents a second inversion chord, etc.

First Inversion: A chord in which the third (not root or fifth) is the lowest note. The other notes are therefore a 3rd and 6th above this, hence the alternative name; 6/3 chord. (Except the first inversion of a seventh chord, which is figured 6/5).

Flat: A b sign. Indicates you lower the note by one semitone.

Flatten(ed): Lower(ed) by one semitone.

French Sixth: A four-note chord consisting of a root, and a major third, augmented fourth, and augmented sixth above that. See here for more details.

German Sixth: A four-note chord consisting of a root, and a major third, perfect fifth, and augmented sixth above that (enharmonic notes may be used). See here for more details.

Harmonic Minor: The minor scale according to key-signature, but with the seventh note raised by one semitone. From the bottom upwards, the pattern of intervals goes: Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone+Semitone, Semitone.

Harmony: A group of notes sounding at the same time which are musically significant. This leads to chords, and chord progressions. Harmony can also be implied from a single line.

Homophonic: Where a melody is harmonised with chords, and all parts generally move together in the same rhythm (or only one part moves while the rest play chords). Generally, the other parts are purely accompanimental, and support the melody rather than provide any interest in themselves. Any counterpoint grows out of the harmony as a by-product. Not monophonic or polyphonic.

Imperfect Cadence: The progression of any chord to V at the end of a phrase. See here for more details.

Interrupted Cadence: The progression of V to any chord except I (usually VI or IVb) at the end of a phrase. Also known as a 'deceptive cadence'. See here for more details.

Interval: The distance between any two notes, whether the notes are horizontal, as part of a melodic line (successive), or vertical as part of a chord (simultaneous). Intervals can be major, minor, perfect, diminished or augmented. See here for more details.

Inversion: In relation to chords, this indicates which note of the chord is the lowest. If the root is the lowest note, the chord is said to be in root position. If the third is the lowest note, the chord is said to be in first inversion. If the fifth is the lowest note, the chord is said to be in second inversion (and so on).

Ionian Mode: This is the mode on the first note of the major scale. It is identical to the ordinary major scale.

Italian Sixth: A three-note chord consisting of a root, and a major third and augmented sixth above that. See here for more details.

Key: This indicates the scale (either major or minor) around which the music is written. This in turn dictates which chords are available (basically diatonic triads formed on each note of the scale). If no one key can be established, the music may be Atonal.

Key-Signature: Normally written at the start of every line of music, this indicates what sharps or flats there are in the prevailing key. Every key signature has one major key and one minor key associated with it. With minor keys, the key signature gives you the natural minor. See here for more details.

Leading Note: The seventh note of the scale, or a triad built using this note as the root.

Leap: Any horizontal interval of a third or more. Not a step.

Ledger Line: A small horizontal line added above or below the stave in music notation, on which notes that sound above or below the normal range of the stave can be placed. Sometimes spelt 'Leger Line'.

Locrian Mode: This is the mode on the seventh note of the major scale. It is therefore the natural minor scale with flattened second and flattened fifth.

Lydian Mode: This is the mode on the fourth note of the major scale. It is therefore the major scale with sharpened fourth.

Major: This term can refer to a scale, chord, arpeggio, key, or interval. Major triads have a major 3rd, and a perfect 5th above the root. The major scale consists of the intervals: Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone. Major intervals relate to intervals of seconds, thirds, sixths or sevenths. These intervals are major if the higher note is normally contained within the diatonic major scale built from the lower note (using the lower note as the tonic). Major intervals are one semitone larger than minor intervals, and one semitone smaller than augmented intervals.

Mediant: The third note of the scale, or a triad built using this note as the root.

Medieval: The period of musical history before around 1430 (historians argue over the exact date).

Melodic Minor: The minor scale according to key-signature, but with the sixth and seventh notes raised by one semitone when ascending. (Descending it is purely according to key-signature). From the bottom upwards, the pattern of intervals when ascending goes: Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone.

Metre: The basic pulse or beat of the music. This is the relationship between accented and unaccented notes, given by the Time Signature. Also spelt 'meter'.

Middle-C: This is the note that falls on the first ledger line below the Treble-clef stave, and the first ledger line above the Bass-clef stave. It has the frequency of 261.626 Hz and generally lies around the centre of a standard piano keyboard.

Minim: A hollow note with a stem, lasting for two crotchets or half a semibreve. Also called a Half Note.

Minor: This term can refer to a scale, chord, arpeggio, key, or interval. Minor triads have a minor 3rd and a perfect 5th above the root. There are different forms of the minor scale; Natural Minor, Harmonic Minor and Melodic Minor. Minor intervals relate to intervals of seconds, thirds, sixths or sevenths. Minor intervals are one semitone larger than diminished intervals, and one semitone smaller than major intervals.

Mixolydian Mode: This is the mode on the fifth note of the major scale. It is therefore the major scale with flattened seventh.

Mode: Where the major (or natural minor) scale is started with (and ended on) a note other than the normal tonic. This then produces a new scale which is neither major nor minor, and in which the usual tonal relationships may not apply. In modern times there are seven different modes, each of which has its own unique pattern of intervals. These are Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian. See here for more details.

Modern: The period of musical history from around 1900. Some people end this period at 1970, then start with the Post Modern period, others refer to it all under the same name, also calling it '20th Century'.

Modulation: The movement or transition from one key to another. This may involve a pivot chord, and can last varying amounts of time. See here for more details.

Monophonic: A single self-sufficient melodic line, completely alone, or accompanied by a simple drone or percussion. Sometimes the melody may be doubled exactly in octaves (or in unison). Not polyphonic or homophonic.

Natural: An accidental sign which cancels out a sharp or a flat.

Natural Minor: The minor scale purely according to key-signature, with no accidentals. From the bottom upwards, the pattern of intervals goes: Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone.

Neapolitan Sixth: A major chord in first inversion, using the the flattened supertonic as the root. See here for more details.

Non-harmony Note: A note which is not part of the harmony (chord) at any given point. Examples include Passing Notes, Suspensions, and Appoggiaturas. These may be diatonic or chromatic, and either accented or unaccented. See here for more details.

Octave: Twelve semitones or 8 steps. An octave is the distance between two notes of the same name, so the note an octave above C is also C (the distance between the two C's is one octave).

Off-beat: Notes, rests or chords that start either after or before the beat (as given by the time-signature). These are generally unaccented, but can be accented in some cases, producing syncopation.

Ornament: One or more notes which decorate or embellish a musical line. These may or may not involve non-harmony notes. See here for more details.

Parallel Fifths: When two parts move in similar motion or contrary motion, and the interval between each part is a perfect fifth (or 12th) in each case. Can also refer even to non-perfect fifths between the bass and any other voice. Also called 'consecutive fifths'. See here for examples.

Parallel Octaves: When two parts move in similar motion or contrary motion, and the interval between each part is a perfect octave (or 15th) in each case. Also called 'consecutive octaves'. See here for examples.

Part-Writing: The relationship between consecutive notes in the individual parts (or 'voices'). Also called voice leading. See here for more details.

Passing Modulation: A type of modulation where a new key is approached and left quickly, without being firmly established as a definite key change. See here for more details.

Passing Note: A non-harmony note, filling in the gap between two notes. They can be ascending or descending, diatonic or chromatic, accented or unaccented. See here for more details.

Perfect: This related to intervals of unisons, fourths, fifths and octaves. These intervals are perfect if the higher note is normally contained within the diatonic major scale built from the lower note (using the lower note as the tonic). Perfect intervals are one semitone larger than diminished intervals, and one semitone smaller than augmented intervals.

Perfect Cadence: The progression V-I (or V7-I) at the end of a musical phrase or section. See here for more details.

Perfect Pitch: The ability to recognise and name or sing a note based solely on hearing it in isolation, without any prior reference point. (i.e., not relative to anything else). Also called 'Absolute Pitch'.

Phrase: A section or natural division of a melody forming a recognised structural unit, usually complete in itself. Phrases often end with a cadence and/or a long note, and a phrase generally corresponds to the notes that a singer or wind-instrumentalist would play before taking a breath. A common phrase length is four or eight bars, and a common device is to have a 'question' phrase followed by an 'answer' phrase.

Phrygian Mode: This is the mode on the third note of the major scale. It is therefore the natural minor scale with flattened second.

Pitch: How high or low notes are (in relation to each other). This is determined by the frequency of the notes.

Pivot Chord: Used in a modulation to a new key, a pivot is a chord which belongs to both the original key and the new key. Sometimes the pivot is chromatic to one or both keys, but is still related to the overall tonal hierarchy. See here for more details.

Plagal Cadence: The progression IV-I at the end of a musical phrase or section, producing an 'Amen' feel. See here for more details.

Polyphonic: Two or more independent parts, moving in different rhythms with each other, sometimes inter-playing. Often these parts are of equal importance, - they all sound good in their own right. The harmony is generally a by-product of the part-writing. Also called contrapuntal. Not monophonic or homophonic.

Post Modern: The period of musical history from around 1970 to the present day. Also called 'Contemporary Music', or even lumped in with Modern Music under the coverall title of '20th Century'.

Prepare: In tonal music, many dissonances are often 'prepared'. Generally, this means the dissonant note should occur as a consonance in the same part in the previous chord. This preparation softens the dissonance to make it sound more acceptable. The dissonance may also need to resolve in a certain way.

Primary Triads: Triads built using the tonic, subdominant or dominant notes of the scale as the root (I, IV or V), in either major or minor keys. In a major key, these are the three major triads (other triads are either minor (called Secondary Triads), or diminished).

Quaver: A filled-in note with a stem and one tail, lasting for two semiquavers or half a crotchet. Also called an Eighth Note.

Real Sequence: A sequence where the intervals between notes are kept exactly the same each time, so that the music usually modulates through different keys. Unlike a Tonal Sequence.

Relative Major: This is the major key a minor-third above the minor key. The two keys share the same key-signature.

Relative Minor: This is the minor key a minor-third below the major key. The two keys share the same key-signature.

Renaissance: The period of musical history from around 1430 to 1600. (Historians argue about the exact date for the start of the period).

Resolve: In tonal music, this is where a dissonant note moves to a note which is consonant. Most often, this involves the dissonant note falling a step to a consonance. Less often, the dissonance may resolve upwards by step, or even remain at the same pitch as a consonance in the next chord. Resolution is often expected, and when it occurs it provides relief and satisfaction.

Rest: A notated period of silence, where a part contain no notes.

Rhythm: The arrangement or pattern derived from the length of different notes (and rests), and which are more accented or unaccented. This is dependant on such factors as metre, articulation and any syncopation. This is completely independent from pitch.

Roman Numerals: A numbering system used to identify diatonic triads (and occasionally other chords). I, II, III, IV, V, VI and VII corresponds to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 respectively. This indicates the root note on which the chord is based, with I meaning a chord formed using the tonic as the root, up to VII meaning a chord formed with the leading note as the root. Sometimes (but not always), upper-case numerals are used to represent major (and augmented) chords, while lower-case numerals are used for minor (and diminished) chords (i, ii, iii, iv, v, vi, and vii). Letters are commonly added just after the numeral to indicate the inversion of the chord, with the letter a referring to a chord in root position, the letter b referring to a chord in first inversion, the letter c referring to a chord in second inversion, and the letter d referring to a chord in third inversion. However, the letter a is normally omitted, so a numeral without any letter after it may also refer to a chord in root position.

Romantic: The period of musical history from around 1820 to around 1900, although historians argue over the exact dates.

Root: The lowest note of a triad (or other chord) when the notes are arranged so there is a third between each one. It is the note that the chord is named after.

Root Position: A chord in which the root (not third or fifth) is the lowest note. The other notes are therefore a 3rd and 5th above this, hence the alternative name; 5/3 chord. (Except the root position of a seventh chord, which is simply figured 7).

Scale: A progressive sequence of notes moving upwards and/or downwards. The most common scales are the major scale, and the minor scale. Each has seven different notes (one chromatic spelling of each) spanning one octave, and is named after the note it starts on. See here for examples.

Second Inversion: A chord in which the fifth (not root or third) is the lowest note. The other notes are therefore a 4th and 6th above this, hence the alternative name; 6/4 chord. (Except the second inversion of a seventh chord, which is figured 4/3).

Secondary Dominant: The fifth chord of a key other than the tonic. So, if any of the diatonic triads were extended into an entire new key, the fifth chord of any of those keys is a secondary dominant in the original key (thus one or more notes in the original key may be chromatically altered). The most common secondary dominant is the fifth chord in the dominant key, in other words, the dominant of the dominant, notated as V of V, or sometimes V/V, which is often used in approaching a cadence. Sometimes the seventh is also added, producing a dominant seventh.

Secondary Seventh: This is a diatonic seventh chord formed on any note of the scale other than the dominant. As the seventh is diatonic, the resultant chord may be a major seventh, minor seventh, or even a half-diminished seventh. Probably the most common in classical harmony is the chord based on the supertonic triad, with an added diatonic seventh above the root. This technically forms a minor seventh chord, but is nevertheless often notated simply as II7 in traditional analysis of tonal classical music (frequently occurring in first inversion preceding a perfect cadence).

Secondary Triads: In a major key, these are triads using the supertonic, mediant or submediant notes of the scale as the root, all of which are minor triads (ii, iii, vi). In a minor key, this refers only to the triad built using the submediant as the root (which, in the harmonic minor, is a major triad, VI). Other triads which do not contain a dissonance are called Primary Triads.

Semibreve: A hollow note without a stem, lasting for two minims or four crotchets. Also called a Whole Note.

Semiquaver: A filled-in note with two tails, lasting for half a quaver. Also called a Sixteenth Note.

Semitone: The smallest distance possible between any two consecutive notes (higher or lower). One twelfth of an octave. Also called a 'half-step'.

Sequence: Where a melodic and/or harmonic section of music is repeated successively at different pitches. There are two types of sequence; a Tonal Sequence (where the music remain in the same key), or a Real Sequence (where the music modulates).

Sharp: A # sign, indicating you raise the note by one semitone.

Sharpen(ed): Raise(d) by one semitone.

Similar Motion: Where parts move in the same direction, either both going up, or both going down - the intervals between the parts do not have to remain constant.

Simple Time: Where the basic beat is divisible by two. See here for more details.

Soprano: Generally, the highest voice, above alto, with a rough range from middle-C up to the G a 12th above this.

Staccato: Notes played shorter than their normal value, and detached from the other notes. Indicated by a dot above (or below) the note-head. See here for more details.

Staff: The five horizontal lines on which musical notes are written. Also called the stave.

Stave: The five horizontal lines on which musical notes are written. Also called the staff.

Stem: The vertical line that comes out from the corner of the note-head. When a single part is written on one stave, the stems of every note below the middle line of the stave come from the right-side of the note and go upwards. The stems of every note above the middle line of the stave come from the left-side of the note and hang downwards. The stem of a note on the middle line can go up or down, but going down is usually preferred. The stems should generally all be about the same length (normally about the span of one octave), and should be straight, and exactly perpendicular to the lines of the stave. Where two parts (or voices) are written on the same stave, the stem direction indicates which part the note belongs to; stems going up belong to the upper line, stems going down belong to the lower line (this enables parts to be crossed while still being relatively clear).

Step: The interval of a second; either major, minor, diminished or augmented. Thus it can be either a tone or a semitone (or, rarely, it can even be three semitones, as for example with the 6th to sharpened 7th notes of the harmonic minor). Usually I mean a 'diatonic step', which means it moves to the next adjacent note in the scale/key (either up or down). Not a leap.

Strong Beat: A naturally accented beat in a bar. The first beat of any bar is always strong, the second is usually a weak beat. In 4/4, the strong beats are beats 1 and 3.

Subdominant: The fourth note of the scale, or a triad built using this note as the root.

Submediant: The sixth note of the scale, or a triad built using this note as the root.

Supertonic: The second note of the scale (after the tonic), or a triad built using this note as the root.

Suspension: An accented non-harmony note creating a dissonance which resolves down by step to a consonance. The suspension must be prepared by having the dissonant note in the preceding chord as a consonance in the same part. See here for more details.

Syncopation: Where a note (or chord) which would normally be unaccented becomes accented. This can arise when an accented note falls on a weak beat or off-beat. This relates to rhythm.

Tail: A line or curve added on the right side of the stem of un-beamed quavers and smaller note values, indicating the duration of the note. Quavers have one tail, semiquavers have two tails, one underneath the other. When groups of quavers occur consecutively, the relevant tails may be joined together. This is called beaming, and the beam replaces the tails. See here for more details.

Tempo: The speed of the music; how fast it goes. Usually measured in beats per minute (BPM). See here for more details.

Tenor: The second-lowest voice, between alto and bass, with a rough range from the C an octave below middle-C to the G a 12th above this.

Third Inversion: This occurs in chords with four or more notes, typically seventh chords where the seventh (not root, third or fifth) is the lowest note. The other notes are therefore a 2nd, 4th and 6th above this, hence the figured bass notation 4/2.

Tie: Where two adjacent notes of the same pitch are joined together so that they form one continuous sound. The second note is not played separately, instead the two notes are performed as one unbroken note. See here for more details.

Timbre: The quality or character of musical sounds and tone. Each instrument has a characteristic timbre, determined by the harmonics present in the sound. This is independent from pitch and dynamics, so different instruments playing the same note at the same volume will have different timbre.

Time-Signature: Two numbers (or occasionally a symbol) at the start of the music indicating the metre. Usually consists of two numbers, the top number represents the number of beats in one bar, and the bottom number represents the 'type' of beat, expressed as a fraction of a semibreve. See here for more details.

Tonal: Music which is based in only one identifiable key at any given time, either major or minor. Music may change key any number of times, either directly or by using passing modulations, and still remain tonal. The vast majority of the notes in tonal music are diatonic, but chromatic notes may still be used so long as they do not upset the overall key too much. In strictly tonal music, any chromatic notes should be explainable as modulation, non-harmony notes, or a special type of chord (such as a diminished seventh, or Neapolitan sixth). Generally most chromatic notes only occur fleetingly, and dissonances are usually prepared and resolve correctly. Not Atonal.

Tonal Hierarchy: The relationship and relative importance of different notes, chords or keys to the tonic. In tonal music, the tonic is usually the most important note (and chord), which everything else ultimately gravitates towards (and is explained in relation to). The dominant is the next most important note (and chord), then probably the subdominant. Similarly, notes, chords and keys which are a fourth or fifth apart are generally strongly related, whereas others, particularly chromatic notes, are more distantly related.

CONTINUED IN MY NEXT POST BELOW...
Click here for part 2; T to Z.


Thanks for that Glossary. It's very important. :D
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