Musical Terms


Musical terms to know for GCSE Music
Abby B
Flashcards by Abby B, updated more than 1 year ago
Abby B
Created by Abby B over 7 years ago

Resource summary

Question Answer
Musical Terms Good luck!
Metre Time signature
Tonality Major or Minor
Texture The layers of music and how they are related
Timbre The use and combination of instruments/voices
Dynamics Louds and softs
Modulation Changing key
Drone Sustained notes, common in Indian music or for bagpipes
Pedal Repeated or sustained note, usually in the bass
Tonic Chord I
Subdominant Chord IV
Dominant Chord V
Diatonic Using notes only from that key
Dissonance/Discords Clashing harmonies
Perfect Cadence V-I Sounds finished
Imperfect Cadence I, II, or IV-V Sounds unfinished
Plagal Cadence IV-I 'Amen' cadence
Interrupted Cadence V-IV The 'surprise cadence'
Pizzicato Plucking a stringed instrument, e.g. violin
Double Stopping Two strings bowed of plucked simultaniously while holding them down
Distortion A change in the sound of usually a guitar making it sound fuzzy, raspy or harsh
String Bending Moving a held-down string, often on a guitar to create a different sound
Power Chords Chords that consist of the root note and the fifth
Vocoder Used for speech synthesis
Delay An audio effect which records an input and then plays it back after a period of time, creating an echo-type effect
Multitracking Separate recorded audio tracks mixed into one single track
Strophic Form Having the same music for each stanza, e.g. Silent Night
Call and Response Aa succession of two phrases usually by different musicians, where the second phrase is heard as a response to the first e.g. Oh Happy Day
Binary Form AB
Ternary Form ABA
Ground Bass A repeated bass line
Antiphonal/Contrapuntal Where a musical phrase is passed from one group of performers to the other
Pitch Bend Sliding between two notes
Canonic Similar to a round, where the imitating part repeats the melody, but comes to an end
Acciaccatura A crushed note
Appoggiatura A grace note that steals half the value from the note it is attached to
Pentatonic A scale including only the notes C,D,F,G and A
Mordent A single rapid alternation between the note and the one above or below it (three notes total)
Trill A rapid alternation between the note and the one above or below it
Octaves Playing together eight notes apart
Scalic Movement by step
Unison Two or more instruments/voices playing the same note at the same time
Single Melody Line One instrument/voice only
Melody with Accompaniment Most pop songs use this (basic song form)
Polyphonic Two or more melodies interweave, commonly in classical music
Sequence Melodic phrase repeated a step higher or lower
Interval The distance between two notes
Homophonic Playing harmonies with the same rhythm
Disjunct Lots of leaps in the melody
Conjunct Movement mainly by step
Diatonic Using notes only from that key
Syncopation Rhythm off the beat, commonly used in pop vocals
Drum fills Short drum solos
Swing Placing unequal emphasis on quavers, used in blues
Dotted Rhythms A rhythm in which the beat is unequally divided into a longer (dotted) note and a shorter note
BPM Beats per minute
Accelerando Gradually getting faster
Adagio/Lento/Largo Slow
Andante At a walking pace
Presto Very fast
Moderato Moderate
Rallentando Gradually getting slower
Allegro Fast
Rubato Literally meaning 'robbed time' - the piece may speed up and slow down at the performer's discretion
Vivace Lively
Triplets A group of three notes having the time value of two notes of the same kind
Dimunution Halving note values
Augmentation Doubling note values
Polyrhythms A rhythm which makes use of two or more different rhythms simultaneously, common in African music
Cross-Rhythms Two notes being played against three (e.g. groups of two quavers in the right hand of a piano and groups of triplets in the left)
Time Signature Examples include 4/4, 3/4, 2/4 and 6/8
Hemiola Typically where two groups of three beats are replaced by three groups of two beats, giving the effect of a shift between triple and duple metre
Chromatic Using notes not belonging to the key in which the piece is written in
Consonance A pleasing, agreeable harmony
Alberti Bass A broken chord pattern of lowest, highest, middle, highest
Triadic/Broken Chords/Arpeggio Playing the notes of a chord separately one after the other
Imitation One instrument/voice plays a melody which is immediately copied by another, though not necessarily at the same pitch
Inversion Where a tune is turned 'upside down' so the intervals between notes which rise in the original now fall (and vice versa)
Slide/Glissando/Portamento Sliding from one note to another, playing all the ones in between
Ostinato/Riff/Loop A short rhythmic or melodic phrase or pattern that is repeated a number of times. Ostinato for classical, riff for pop music, loop for dance tracks
Con arco Playing a string instrument with a bow
Tremolo Literally meaning 'quivering', it is a string effect to add tension or agitation
Falsetto A technique to allow male singers to sing higher than their normal range
Vibrato An effect caused by small and rapid changes to the pitch of a note, used by string players and singers to add warmth
Crescendo Getting louder
Diminuendo Getting quieter
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