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Musical Terms and Expressions Definitions


* Accelerando - tempo gradually gets faster

* Accidental - symbols such as sharps or flats and naturals that raise or lower a pitch.

* Adagio - slow speed (not too slow)

* Allegro - fast tempo / speed

* Andante - play the music at a moderately slow speed.

* Bar Line - a vertical line on the staff to separate measures in a composition.
bar line

* Beam - a straight line connecting two or more notes such as eighth and sixteenth notes.
eighth notes with beam

* Beat - a musical pulse or unit of time / the steady pulse of music.

* Chord - a combination of three or more notes sounding at the same time / multiple notes sounding simultaneously (Ex. A C Major chord may consist of the notes C-E-G.)

* Clef - a symbol placed at the beginning of the staff to indicate names of lines and spaces.
treble clef

* Conductor - the director of a group of musicians.

* Crescendo - gradually get louder

* Decrescendo - gradually get softer

* Dot - a small symbol placed to the right of a note that increases the duration of the note by one half.
dotted note

* Dynamics - symbols that indicate a change in volume of a song. (The students played the music louder and softer, as indicated by the dynamics written on the music.)

* Enharmonic - Two notes that sound the same but are spelled differently.

* Fermata - a pause in the music, indicated by a curved arc and a dot (see below).

* Flat - a symbol written to the left of a note that lowers the pitch by a half step.
flat sign

* Forte - loud. (The percussion section saw the forte mark on their music and played the music with a booming sound.)

* Half Step - the distance between one key and the next adjacent white or black key on a keyboard.

Interval - the difference in pitch between two notes.
interval of a 3rd

* Largo - slow and stately

* Ledger Line - a small line written above or below the staff to extend the range of notation.
ledger lines, low to high

* Legato - playing notes in a smooth, connected manner.

* Measure - the space between one bar line and the next.

* Moderato - medium tempo / speed

* Octave - the interval between two adjacent notes of the same name.
octave, high to low

* Orchestra - a large group of instrumentalists consisting of woodwind, brass, string and percussion sections.

* Pentatonic - a scale having five tones to the octave, usually avoiding half steps.
(The students played a song on the xylophone using the notes C,D,E,G, and A from the pentatonic scale.)

* Phrase - a complete musical thought.

* Piano - soft
piano sign, soft

* Pizzicato - pluck strings instead of bowing

* Presto - very fast tempo or speed

* Recorder - an end-blown flute-like instrument that has a whistle mouthpiece, available in soprano, alto, tenor and bass. (The teacher told the students to play the recorder by blowing more softly.)

* Refrain - the melody of a song that is repeated after each verse. (After singing the second verse of the song, the chorus sang the refrain.)

* Repeat Sign - a sign that indicates a section of music to be played again. (The clarinet players had to go back and play measures 5-13 again when they got to the repeat sign.)
dotted repeat sign

* Rest - a symbol used to indicate silence in music.
Rest, quarter and half

* Sharp - a symbol written to the left of a note that raises the pitch by a half step.
sharp sign

* Slur - a curved line connecting two or more different notes, indicating to play the music smoothly.
Slur, 4 notes connected

* Staccato - a dot over or under notes that indicate playing the music short and detached. (The students were told to play the notes with a more staccato sound because they were making each note sound too long.) 
staccato, 2 notes

* Staff - horizontal lines on which notes are written. The musical staff has five lines and four spaces.

* Syncopation - a rhythm accented on notes that are not usually stressed.

* Tempo - the speed of a composition. (The director told the students to play the song at a faster tempo.)

* Tie - a curved line connecting two notes indicated to play them as a single note.
Tie, 2 notes connected

* Vivace - lively and quick tempo

* Whole Step - A whole step is equal to two half steps. (Examples - C to D is a whole step. E to F Sharp is a whole step.)