Music Vocabulary Words


Beat - the regular rhythmic pattern of a piece of music or a dance.

Chord - a combination of three or more tones played together at the same time.

Composer - a person who writes a piece of music.

Contour - the melody of apiece of music as it turns upward or downward.

Duration - the length of time that a note is sounded.

Dynamics - an element of music - the loudness or softness of a piece of music (piano, mezzo piano, mezzo forte, forte)

Elements - one of the simple, basic parts of something.

form - an element of music - the way the song is put together (AB, ABA, ABC, etc.)

forte - loud

harmony - an element of music - the simultaneous sounds or notes that result in a pleasing musical sound - more than one note played at a time.

measure - a unit of notes and rests in a piece of music, marked by a bar line on either side.

melody - an element of music - the shape, direction, and pitch (high vs. low notes) of a piece of music; also a tune or a song.

meter - the rhythmic pattern made by grouping together strong and weak beats.

mezzo forte - medium loud

mezzo piano - medium soft

notation - visual symbols for sound such as the treble and bass clefs

piano - soft (the piano is also a musical instrument)

pitch - the measure of how high or low a note, is, relative to other notes; pitch is determined by the frequency of vibrations per second.

rhythm - an element of music - the meter, time signature, and rhythmic duration in a piec of music; also the regular beat in music, poetry, or dance.  (eighth notes, quarter notes, half notes, dotted-half notes, whole notes)

rote - a method of teaching by imitation

signature - signs at the beginning of a musical work indicating its key and tempo (key signature and time signature)

style - a particular type of music or dance (examples: blues, rock, pop, folk, spirituals, etc.)

tempo - an element of music - the speed of a piece of music.

timbre - an element of music - the way a particular instrument sounds.

unison - when people say, sing or do something at the same time.


Instrument families:

Woodwind family - examples:  flute, oboe, saxophone, clarinet, bassoon, piccolo, recorder.  On the flute, piccolo and the recorder, the sound is produced by blowing air into the blowhole.  The air enters the column and vibrates on the inside, thus producing the sound.  On the clarinet and the saxophone, a single reed is used.  When air is blown into the instrument, the reed vibrates and produces the sound.  On the oboe and bassoon, a double reed is needed.  When the player blows into the double reed, the sound is produced.

Brass Family - example:  trumpet, french horn, tuba, trombone, baritone.  The sound is produced by the "buzzing" or vibrating or the players lips as he/she blows into the instrument.  Without this "vibration", the sound will not be produced.

String Family - examples:  violin, viola, cello, double bass, harp, dulcimer, autoharp, banjo, guitar, mandolin, etc.  Sound is produced on these instruments by making the strings vibrate by strumming, bowing, and plucking.

Percussion Family - examples:  snare drum, timpani, triangle, cymbols, xylophone, bass drum, chimes, piano, vibraphone, metallophone, etc.  The percussion family is divided into two types:  pitched and unpitched.  Pitched instruments can play a melody (or a song).  Examples of pitched percussion instruments are the piano, xylophone, vibraphone.  Unpitched percussion instruments can only play a rhythm such as the bass drum, snare drum, cymbols, etc.  Sound is produced by shaking, striking, tapping, scraping the instruments.