Learn Piano Glossary

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Chordhouse piano


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Other Resources


This is a website for school children, but it has a lot of useful and interactive resources and good explanations of musical concepts to help people of all ages.




Glossary of Terms


Accent: Put stress on, mark.

Accidentals: Sharps, flats, or naturals that indicate notes other than those indicated by the key signature

Adagio: Leisurely and gracefully

Allegro: Fast.

Alla breve: Indicating 2/2 time or "cut time".

Andante Cantabile: Moderately, in a singing style.

Arabesque: A fanciful, decorative piano piece

Arpeggio: The playing of the tones of a chord separately, rather than simultaneously.

Bach: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). A prolific composer of sacred and secular music during the Baroque period.

Baroque: Music from the period between the early 1600s to the mid 1700s.

Bass Clef: This is the lowest clef, also known as the F clef because the inner curl and dots are around the line representing F. This clef is used for the left hand of piano music and other instruments with a low pitch range, e.g. the double bass.

Ballad: A slow tune, usually with lyrics that tell a story.

Blues: A vocal and instrumental musical form which evolved from African American spirituals, work songs, shouts and chants and has its earliest stylistic roots in West Africa. Blues has been a major influence on later American and Western popular music, finding expression in ragtime, jazz, big bands, rhythm and blues, rock and roll and country music, as well as conventional pop songs and even modern classical music.

Broken Chords: Notes of a chord played in succession rather than simultaneously.

C Scale: The easiest scale on the piano, it only contains white notes. It covers the 8 white notes from C to C.

Chords: A combination of three or more notes that blend harmoniously when sounded together.

Choirmaster: The musical director of a choir.

Contrapuntal: A combination of two or more independent parts in one composition.

Composer: A person who creates music.

Crescendo: Gradually getting louder.

Crotchets: A crotchet is a note that is played for one quarter of the duration of a whole note. Quarter notes are represented by a filled-in oval note head and a straight, flagless stem. The stem is usually pointing upwards if it is below the middle line, or downwards if it is on or above the middle line.

Diminuendo: Gradually getting softer.

Discordant: A sound that is not in agreement or harmony

Dominant: In music, the dominant is the fifth degree of the scale.

Doo-wop: A genre (usually a cappella) of Black vocal-harmony music of the 1950s that evolved in New York City from gospel singing. Doo-wop is characterized by close four-part harmonies, while the name is derived from some of the nonsense syllables sung by the backup.

Dotted rhythm: An uneven rhythm (usually ‘long-short’) produced when a note with a dot is followed by another of one third the value of the first note.

Dynamics: Volume of sound: the loudness or softness of a passage of music.

Ecclesiastical chant: the rhythmic speaking or singing of words or sounds with a religious theme, either on a single pitch or with a simple melody involving a limited set of notes and often including a great deal of repetition.

Feroce: Forceful.

Form: a generic type of composition such as the symphony or concerto or the structure of a particular piece, how its parts are put together to make the whole.

Gershwin, George: ( September 26, 1898 – July 11, 1937) an American composer born in New York to Russian Jewish immigrant parents. Gershwin wrote most of his works together with his elder brother lyricist Ira Gershwin. He composed both for Broadway and for the classical concert hall and also wrote popular songs with success. Many of his compositions have been used in cinema and many are recognized jazz standards.

Harmony: Two or more notes played at the same time; in other words, harmony deals with chords and simultaneous sounds.

Hymn: A song specifically written as a song of praise, adoration or prayer, typically addressed to a god.

Indian raga: A series of five or more notes upon which a melody is based. Ragas evoke particular moods in the listener and are often performed to resonate with a season or time of day.

Intervals: Distance between notes that make steps or skips in music.

Inversion: A chord with a note other than the tonic in the bass.

Japanese Noh Plays: A major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century.

Jig: A folk dance and accompanying dance tune type, popular in Ireland and Scotland. It is transcribed in a time which is a multiple of three, 12/8 time for a 'single jig' or 'slide', 6/8 time for a 'double jig', and 9/8 time for a 'slip jig'.

Key Signature: The key signature is made up of sharps or flats and is usually found at the beginning of a musical composition, indicating the key of the piece.

Largo: Slow.

Legato: In a smooth and gliding style.

March: Instrumental music with a repeated and regular rhythm that could appropriately accompany a marching group.

Melody: The ‘tune’ of music.

Metronome: A mechanical device invented early in the 19th century to help musicians keep strict time when playing. The number of "clicks" per minute can be varied from 40 to 208 on the most commonly used models.

Mezzo forte: Moderately loud.

Minor Seventh: The first note (the root or tonic) and the seventh in a minor scale. It is abbreviated as m7.

Minuet: An elegant ballroom dance common in the 18th century, characterized by small, dainty steps danced in leisurely, triple meter.

Moderato: Medium tempo or speed.

Monk: A male religious living in a cloister and devoting himself to contemplation, prayer, and work.

Notation: Written music showing musical notes on staves.

Pas de deux: A dance for two people.

Percussive: A strong beat.

Phrases: A phrase is a section of music that is relatively self contained and coherent over a medium time scale. In common practice, phrases are often four to eight bars long.

Pitch: In music, pitch is the perception of the frequency of a note.

Playing by ear: Hearing a tune and playing it solely from memory.

Queen: A British rock band popular during the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s.

Ragtime: A late-19 th to early-20th century style of piano music exemplified by its syncopated, ‘ragged’ right-hand melody.

Rap: Rhythmic chanting consisting of improvised rhymes performed to a rhythmic accompaniment.

Refrain: A short phrase or section of music.

Reggae: Form of popular music of Jamaican origin, characterized by syncopated rhythms and influenced by blues and calypso music

Relative minor: A minor key that shares the same key signature with a major key. Found by going down 3 half steps from the major key name.

Rests: Musical notation indicating a silence of a specified duration.

Reverberating: A sound that lingers in an area even after the source is suddenly stopped.

Rock ‘n’ Roll: Rock and roll (also spelled rock 'n' roll, especially in its first decade), also called rock, is a form of popular music, usually featuring vocals (often with vocal harmony), electric guitars and a strong back beat; other instruments, such as the saxophone, are common in some styles. As a cultural phenomenon, Rock’s social impact on the world is unparalleled by any other kind of music.

Runs: A series of consecutive notes played in quick succession

Schubert, Franz Peter: An Austrian composer known for his romantic compositions for voice and piano (1797-1828).

Semitones: The musical interval between adjacent keys on a keyboard instrument.

Seventh: The musical interval between one note and another seven notes away from it.

Sherzo: Sprightly humorous instrumental musical composition or movement commonly in quick triple time

Sight reading: Playing unknown music directly from the score.

Spirituals: Religious folk songs of African Americans, often conveying strong feelings and emotions.

Staccato: Short and detached sounds.

Stave: In musical notation, the staff or stave is a set of five horizontal lines on which note symbols are placed to indicate pitch and rhythm.

Subdominant: The fourth degree of the major or minor scale

Swing: A style of jazz played by big bands popular in the 1930s. Swing has flowing rhythms and is generally less complex than later styles of jazz

Tempo: The speed at which a piece of music is played.

Tie: A tie is a curved line connecting the heads of two notes of the same pitch, indicating that they are to be played as a single note with a duration equal to the sum of the individual notes' note values.

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 compound meters) per measure, and the bottom number refers to which note value gets the beat (or subdivided beat in compound meters).

Tones: An interval of two semitones.

Tonic: The tonic is the first note of a musical scale. The triad formed on the tonic note, the tonic chord is the most important chord.

Treble Clef: This is the highest clef, also known as the G clef because the inner curl of the clef sign is wrapped around the line representing G. This clef is used for the right hand on the piano and high pitched instrument parts.

Triad: A three note chord.

Two-step: American dance style developed in the 1880s.

Vivace: Lively, brisk

Waltz: A dance in 3/4 time. It first became fashionable in Vienna in about the 1780s, then spread to many other countries within the next few years.