Mid Term Definitions

Chapter 1

Beat: the regular pulse in music, like a ticking clock or a heart beat. Beats are considered as being divisible and subdivisible.

Rhythm: the element of time in music, measured in beats or their fractional parts.

Tempo: the speed of the beat, how fast or slow music is to be performed.

Chapter 2

Pitch: a term used to describe how we hear sound based on frequency; the psychological perception that sounds are relatively higher or lower.

Interval: the distance between two pitches

Clef: a symbol that is placed on a five line staff to indicate what pitches are associated with each line and space of the staff.

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 consistently used, a change of clef is generally employed.

Loco: a term meaning “in place,” used at the end of an ottava passage.

Octave: The relationship between two pitches where one has a frequency of 2 times the other. A common element in musical cultures throughout the world.

Octave Sign: a symbol used to avoid excessive ledger lines in a passage of music where the parts are especially high or low. Represented by the symbols 8va (sounding an octave higher) or 8vb (an octave lower)

Ottava passage: a passage of music employing an octave sign.

Chapter 3

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.

Enharmonic: equivalent pitches which sound the same, but which are notated differently. ie. F sharp and G flat; B and C flat; A double flat and G; etc.

Half Step: the smallest change of pitch in tonal music. There are 12 equal half step divisions of the octave. 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.

Whole Step: an interval equal to two half steps.

Chapter 4

Accent: a musical stress, which helps emphasize certain beats in the measure.

Alla Breve: a term meaning “cut time” or a time signature of 2/2.

Anacrusis: an incomplete measure at the beginning of a metered section of music. The total duration of the anacrusis (also commonly referred to as "pick-ups") is deducted from the final measure of music.

Beat Division: a division of the beat into two parts (simple meter) or three parts (compound meter)

Beat Subdivision: a division of the division of the beat into equal parts.

Simple Meter: a meter in which the beat divides by two. The note representing one beat is always a simple note.

Duple Meter: a meter in which each measure receives one accented and one unaccented beat.

Triple Meter: a meter in which each measure is divided into three beats, (strong – weak – weak)

Quadruple Meter: a meter in which each measure is divided into four beats (strong – weak – less strong – weak)

Syncopation: the intentional misplacements of accents; an accent pattern which strays from the natural accent pattern circumscribed by the meter.

Chapter 5

Compound Meter: a meter in which the beat is divisible by three. The note representing one beat is always a dotted note.

Natural Division: the beat division native to the meter; i.e. 3 in compound meter, 2 in simple meter.

Borrowed Division: the beat division which is borrowed from another meter; i.e. In simple meter, dividing the beat into three or in compound meter, dividing the beat into two.

Triplet: a figure in which three notes are played in the space of two; a borrowed division from compound meter.

Duplet: a figure in which two notes are played in the space of three; a borrowed division from simple meter.

Chapter 6

Key: along with tonality, the psychological perception that the tonic pitch of a scale is more important than any of the others.

Key Signature: a list of accidentals associated with a given key, located at the beginning of a composition between the clef and time signature and appearing on each subsequent staff.

Scale: a series of pitches that represents not only the inherent organization of a composition but also its melodic inventory.


Scale Degree: refers to the relative position of a pitch in a scale. It may be thought of either numerically (represented by a number with a caret above it), or by the following nomenclature: tonic, supertonic, mediant, subdominant, dominant, submediant, leading tone.

Transposition: the process of moving a series of pitches, so that although it centres on another tonic, the original pattern of intervals among pitches is maintained.



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