accidental - an alteration of the pitch
by the addition of a symbol before the notehead
to indicate the raising or lowering of the pitch by
a prescribed number of half-steps (as indicated by the type of symbol used).
The following are examples of accidentals: sharps,
flats, double sharps, double
flats or naturals .
anacrusis - an incomplete measure
at the beginning of a metered section of music. The
total duration of the anacrusis (also commonly refered to as "pick-ups")
is deducted from the final measure of music.
asymmetrical - consisting of an odd
number higher than three. Often used to refer to meters
with an odd number (greater than three) of beats or subdivided beats, resulting
in an uneven subdivision of the measure.
Baroque - a period of time from approximately 1600 - 1750 C.E. Music of this period developed the principles and style of the common practice period. Prominent composers of this period included Bach, Handel, Schultz, and Telemann.
bass line - the lowest sounding note(s) of a series of chords, often heard along with the melody as most important. The bass note may or may not be the root of a chord and is used to determine the inversion of a chord.
beams - lines connecting notes with a duration
of an eighth note or less, that occur within
the time of one beat. The number of beams is equal
to the number of flags normally found on the note, so a group of eighth
notes has a single beam, a grouping of sixteenth notes has two beams, etc.
cadenza - a free, solo passage that may or may not conform to the meter.
chorale - a composition, usually four-voiced, that proceeds in a primarily homophonic texture with both harmonic progression and individual voice-leading having equal importance. For this reason, they are often used as theory examples.
clef - a clef is a symbol that is placed on a five line staff to indicate what pitches are associated with each line and space of the staff. (See also Treble Clef, Alto Clef, Tenor Clef, and Bass Clef)
close spacing- 4-voiced, SATB (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) chords in which the Soprano and/or Tenor voices are less than an octave apart. Also often called "Keyboard Style" because of the ability to easly play the upper three voices in the right hand and the bass line in the left hand.
common practice period - a historical period of aproximately 1650-1900. Music of this period and style functions in certain ways that best define our concept of tonal harmony. Although music written outside this period (and some of the music written during this period) may not function completely according to the harmonic "rules" of tonal theory, it may have similar traits. We study "common practice period" music because in it we find the principles of tonal harmony most clearly presented.
consonance - a relative term that refers to how well two or more pitches "fit together". Consonant pitches have frequencies that are related to one another. Pitches that are not consonant are refered to as dissonant. Consonant intervals are found at the bottom of the overtone series, while moredissonant intervals exist between the fundimental and pitches higher up along the overtone series. See also the section on the overtone series for more details.
diatonic - music that remains within the confines of a single key.
dissonant - a relative term that means that the frequencies of two or more pitches do not "fit together".
dominant - the fifth scale degree. Also refers to the triad built on the fifth scale degree (V). In minor keys, the dominant triad has a raised third (from the harmonic minor form of the scale). This chord most often resloves to the tonic in tonal harmony. See the section on Basic Harmonic Function for more details.
dot - a dot following a notehead (or dotted note value) increases the note's duration by 50%. So a dotted quarter note is 1 + 1/2 quarter notes, or three eighth notes, in length. (See also the section on rhythm for more details).
enharmonic - the relationship between two pitch classes that represent the same note: i.e. G# and Ab. It may also help to think of it as two different letter names that represent the same key on the piano.
figured bass - a common notation in baroque music where only the bassline and inversion symbols and chromatic alterations are listed. Keyboard players would then realize, or improvise an accompaniment, in a live performance, similar to the process that pop/jazz musicians use today. numbers specify the interval above the bass, omitting the common intervals of 5 and 3 unless altered. A slash indicated that the pitch that interval above the bass should be raises a half-step. Accidentals before numbers indicate the addition of that accidental to the pitch sounding that interval above the bass.
frequency - the measure of how many pulses of air per second are occuring. It is expressed in hertz (hz). Higher frequencies are heard as a higher pitch, and lower are perceived as a lower pitch. The range of human hearing is approximately 20 hz (lowest pitch) to 20,000 hz (very highest pitch). The frequency of Middle C is 261.6 hz.
grand staff - a combination of a treble
clef staff and a bass clef staff to form a two-staff set covering the most
common range of pitches. This is used for keyboard music. middle
c (C4) occupies the single ledger line between
the staves: right in the middle.
half step - the smallest change of pitch in tonal music. There are 12 equal half step divisions of the octave, forming a chromatic scale. The keys on a piano keyboard (both black and white) are each a half step apart, so C to C#/Db is a half step, and so is E to F.
harmonic progression - a series of chords that follows principles and guidelines defined by the overtone series and tradions of the common practice period, generally within a tonal framework. This also is refered to as harmonic function. In the tonal systm, progressions occur when root movements are the following general intervals:
See also the section on Basic Harmonic Function for more details.
harmonic regression - when a sequence of chords functions in opposition to the principles that govern conventional harmonic progressions. Regressions are rarely used in music of the common practice period.
harmony - a general term refering to the simultaniously sounding pitches (chords) that are used in a work. In the most general sense, harmony refers to the types of chords used predominantly in a work, or the harmonic system (i.e. tonal or otherwise) that is used in a composition. Harmony is also used to refer to a specific chord or series of chords.
interval - the distance between two pitches.
General intervals are measured according to the number of scale
degrees between the pitches (beginning with 1=unison).
Specific intervals add a modifier (Major, minor, augmented, diminished) to the general interval, and specify the exact size of the interval in half-steps. See also the section on intervals for more information.
inversion (of chords) - the term used to specify which chord tone is the lowest (in the bass). Derived from figured bass, inversions are shown by numbers listing the intervals of pitch classes above the bass (not including any additional octaves that may be present). The following chart lists all standard inversions of triads and seventh chords:
ionian (major scale) - a seven-note scale
consisting of the pattern indicated below. This scale is also refered to
as the major scale.
key - refers to the tonic
center of musical passage that adhears to a single mode.
A key signature is a set of accidentals
at the beginning of each staff that apply to that
pitch class throughout the staff. See the section
on keys for more information.
ledger lines - short lines used to extend
the range of a staff beyond its normal five lines. Ledger lines are added
according to the same spacing that the staff used. Several may be added
according to the needs of the music, but if more than 3 ledger lines are
consistantly used, a change of clef is generally employed.
measure - a division of notated music according
to the number of beats or subdivisions of the beat,
as indicated by the time signature is generally
employed. Measures are seperated by a line through the staff called a barline
meter - an organization of beats into groupings of two or three subdivisions and indicated by a time signature. The meter indicates the number of beats or subdivisions of a beat in each measure and also indicates which beats receive a slight emphasis. See also the section on meter for a more complete treatment of this topic.
middle C - the pitch C4, frequency=261.6 hz, which is roughly in the middle of a piano keyboard and occupies the ledger line in the middle of a grand staff.
mode - a seven-note scale spanning an octave. There are seven common modes which are each formed by beginning on a different line of the staff and using no accidentals. See also the section on scales for a complete list.
music - Music has been defined as generally as "organized sound" and specifically so as to require an entire book to define. A general definition may best be defined as "sounds and pitches organized in time to create a chosen artistic or aestetic statement." Music is both an art and a craft, based on acoustic principles, yet subject to various interpretations, hence its artistic merit. Because of this, we study the craft so that we might better appreciate the art expressed in music.
musical notation - a system graphically representing organized sound. Common Practice music uses noteheads placed on a traditional five line staff to convey pitch information. A system of stems and beams is used to designate rhythm. Additional symbols exist for indicating dynamics, articulations and other expressions needed for the composer to convey to the performer all of the information needed to realize the music.
octave - The relationship between two pitches
where one has a frequency of 2 times the other. Pitches in an octave equivelance
have the same pitch class name, and when sounded together are perceived
as the same pitch class.
Frequency C5 = C4 x 2
C4 = 261.6 HZ
C5 = 523.2 HZ
open spacing- 4-voiced, SATB (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) chords in which the Soprano and/or Tenor voices are an octave or more apart.
overtone - a multiple of a primary pitch
called the fundimental. The series of overtones
(multiples) of a pitch are refered to as the overtone series and form the
basis of tonal music. See also the section
on the overtone series for more details.
pitch - a term used to describe what we perceive the frequency of a sound to be. For instance, the first pitch below, A3, has a frequency of 440 HZ (cycles per second. The second pitch, E5, has a higher frequency (660 HZ), and so we say it sounds "higher." The third pitch, A1, sounds "lower" because the frequency (55 HZ) is much lower than the first pitch.
Three pitches: A3 , E4, A1. click to play
pitch class - a general method of refering
to all pitches which exist in an octave
relationship. (i.e. C2, C4, and C7 are all pitch class "C").
In the following example, all 7 pitches are pitch class "C",
just different octaves:
click to play all of the pitch class C's on the piano.
polyphonic - when each voice of a composition proceeds independantly of the others.
pulse - a regular, reoccuring emphasis of a fixed interval of time. Much like we feel our heart beat in a regular pulse, we often feel a regular beat or pulse in music.
resolution - a note or chord that, according to it's function, is expected to follow the previous chord or note. For example, scale degree seven usually resolves to tonic, and a V chord that proceeds to a I/i chord is said to have resolved.
rhythm - a general term used to refer to
the position of musical events in time. It specifys the beginning of an
event and the duration (how long it lasts). When events occur in alignment
to a regular interval of time, a "pulse" emerges. These pulses
may be grouped into beats and measures, commonly called a meter.
However, rhythms may occur freely in time as well. In the following example,
a longer note is followed by four even notes, then in a familiar pattern.
See also the section on rhythm for common note
click to play rhythm
scale - an ordered set of pitches that cover a range of one octave.
scale degree - refers to the relative position in the scale,, with the first note of the scale being scale degree 1, and is also called the tonic. The second is scale degree 2, the third is scale degree 3, etc. - until we arrive at the tonic again.
seventh chord - a series of stacked
thirds forming a four-note chord.
sharp - a symbol that raises the pitch or
pitch class one half step.
staff - A set of five lines which are used in conjunction with a clef to provide a means of notating pitch. noteheads are placed on the lines or spaces of the staff and to notate music. The following is an example of a Treble Clef staff, listing the pitches associated with each line and space. Ledger lines may be used to extend the range of a staff.
tempo- a term used to describe at what rate the pulse or beat is occuring in a musical passage. Tempo may be indicated by such terms as "Allegro" (fast) or "Adagio" (slow) or more specifically in the number of beats per minute.
tenor clef - a symbol added to a staff
used to indicate the assignment of pitches, with middle
c (C3) occuring on the 4th line of the staff.
tertian - a harmony based on chords that are composed of stacked thirds. Derived from the overtone series, tertian harmony forms the basis for what we commonly call tonal music.
time signature - a symbol usually consisting or two numbers, one above the other, used to indicate the meter. The top number refers to the number of beats (or subdivided beats in coumpound meters) per measure, and the bottom number refers to which note value gets the beat (or subdivided beat in compound meters). See also the section on meter for complete descriptions and examples.
tonal - a hierarchy of pitches which functionally support or reference one pitch as the focal point or primary center, called the tonic. Based on acoustic principles and tradition, tonal harmony and theory has evolved into a structured musical language which was most commonly used during the common practice period.
tonic - the primary pitch which functions as the focal point or primary center of a key in tonal music. This is the pitch class that is specified in the key (i.e. A Major, "A" is the tonic pitch). It also is used to refer to the triad built on the first scale degree. The tonic triad may progress to any other chord within a key.
transpose - the changing of a pitch or set of pitches by raising or lowering it/them by a consistant interval.
treble clef (Also called a "G"
clef) - a symbol added to a staff
used to indicate the assignment of pitches, with with middle
c (C4) located on the first ledger line below the staff. It is commonly
paired with a Bass Clef to form a Grand
triad - a three-note chord composed of pitch
classes that are each a third apart. The lowest
pitch class of a triad is called the root. The names of other notes
of the triad are derived from their interval above the root: the third
and the fifth. refer to the section on chords
for more details on the various types of triads.
tuplet - a non-standard subdivision of a
beat or part of a beat (according to the meter)
indicated by a beam or bracket and a small number indicating
the total number of subdivisions.
whole step - an interval equal to two (2) half-steps.