An emphasis placed on a particular note or series of notes. Indicated by a symbol above or below the note   or an abbreviation such as sf, which stands for sforzando, and indicates to play the note in a sudden strong and forceful manner.


A symbol placed before a note to indicate an alteration of its pitch. A sharp ( ) raises a note one semitone, a flat ( ) lowers a note one semitone and a natural ( ) restores a note to its original pitch.


A part in a composition that usually provides harmonic support and rhythmic structure for the main melody or lead. It also describes the composed music, arrangement, or improvised performance that accompanies and supports the soloist or main melodic part. The accompaniment can be provided by a single instrument or part, or an entire ensemble.


In Music, involves the subjective responses by which music is perceived and judged, which can be relevant to genre/style/time/place. Aesthetics relates to the principles and science of what engages our sensory attention and leads us to respond in particular ways.


An incomplete bar at the beginning of a musical work or phrase. The remaining value of this incomplete bar is accounted in the final bar. Also referred to as 'upbeat' or 'pick up'.


An adaptation of a musical composition that is different from the original version. It could be arranged for and performed by a different combination of voices or instruments, or arranged or performed in a different musical style.


The way a note is sung or played. See accent, legato and staccato.


Term used to define a musical work that has no clear tonic or tonal centre.


Individuals or groups of people who experience music in a range of settings (formal, informal, virtual or interactive) through intellectual, emotional and social engagement.

audience behaviour

The expectations or conventions which determine the appropriate way for an audience to experience and respond to a musical performance.


Lengthening the durations of all the notes in a melody by the same factor (e.g. doubling).


May refer to:
  • interval: a major or perfect interval that is increased by one semitone (e.g. C-E ),
  • triad: a major chord with the fifth degree increased by one semitone (e.g. C-E-G ).

aural skills

Hearing and listening skills that students develop to identify and discriminate sounds in Music.


The consideration of the volume of voices and/or instruments in a musical work or ensemble to achieve an overall sound that is clear. For example, accompanying parts may be softened to ensure a lead part can be clearly heard.


The pitches, rhythms and rests occurring between two bar lines on a musical staff.

bar line

Vertical lines that divide the musical staff into bars of certain length, usually in accordance with a time signature.

bass clef

The clef used by lower instruments/parts, also called the F clef (  ) as it indicates the location of the F note on the staff.


The unit of measurement of rhythmic pulse in music. Beats are organised and emphasised according to time signature and tempo.


Organisation of a musical work into two contrasting sections (AB), both of which are usually repeated. The sections can be the same length (simple binary: AB) or different lengths (extended binary: AB/AB). A small part of the A section may return (rounded binary:  ).


The adjustment of timbre of different voices/instruments within an ensemble, in order to achieve a group sound in which no one part dominates the others.

blues scale

A six-note scale, comprising a minor 3rd, perfect 4th, augmented 4th/diminished 5th, perfect 5th and minor 7th (e.g. C EF G G B). This scale is prevalent in Jazz and Contemporary music.


A section that links two or more sections of a musical work, also called a transition passage, in which new musical material is usually introduced.


A progression of chords (usually two) that is used to end a phrase, section or musical work. Typical cadences include: perfect (V-I), plagal (IV-I), interrupted (V-vi) and imperfect (I-V, ii-V or IV-V).

call and response

A melodic or rhythmic pattern consisting of alternating sections of calls, or questions, (usually improvised by a leader) and responses which are sung or played by an individual or group. The response, or answer, is different from the improvised call and is usually not an echo.


A compositional technique where a melody is exactly imitated by one or more voices/instruments after a specified duration (e.g. after two beats, or a whole bar).


The repetitive rhythmic speaking or singing of words or sounds, using a limited pitch set.


A collection of two or more notes played simultaneously. Root position refers to the standard organisation of the tonic note with two notes stacked above (usually a third and fifth above the tonic). A first inversion chord contains the same notes but starts on the third and a second inversion chord starts on the fifth. Chords can have added notes, such as a seventh, and can be identified and described using Roman numerals (e.g. V, I) or chord names (e.g. C Major).

chord/harmonic progression

A sequence of chords that are the basis for a musical work.


May refer to:
  • musical form: section of a song which is usually repeated after each verse. The chorus usually remains unchanged, alternating with verses which often feature different lyrics. In Jazz, a chorus is usually a single statement of the harmonic/melodic pattern that repeats throughout with some variation,
  • group of musicians: a large group of singers, such as an opera or orchestral chorus.

chromatic scale

A twelve-note scale with all notes a semitone apart.


Symbol usually placed at the beginning of each musical staff to indicate the location of a particular note. See bass clef and treble clef.


A section that occurs in addition to the defined form to finish a musical work.

compositional devices

Techniques that composers use to create, develop, manipulate and enhance their musical ideas. See: augmentation, diminution, imitation, inversion, ostinato, pedal-note and sequence.

compound time

Compound time ( ) is organised into dotted beats which subdivide evenly into three or six ( , ).


The effect of stability and agreement made by certain combinations of musical sounds. The concept is subjective, relative to the musical context and changes over time. The opposite of dissonance.


The setting and circumstances (e.g. time period, purpose, place/culture and style) in which music has been composed and performed.


Gradually getting louder, usually indicated by the abbreviation cresc. or the symbol


Quarter note ( ) basic unit of duration in simple time. Equivalent rest ( ) indicating one beat of silence.


The values, attitudes, customs, practices, language and conventions commonly shared by a particular group that forms a part of their group identity and contributes towards a sense of shared understanding.


Gradually getting softer, usually indicated by the abbreviation decresc. or the symbol


May refer to:

  • Interval: a minor interval that is decreased by one semitone (e.g. A-C)
  • Triad: a minor chord with the fifth degree decreased by one semitone (e.g. C-E-G)


Shortening the durations of all the notes in a melody by the same factor (e.g. halving).


The effect of tension or disturbance made by certain combinations of musical sounds. The concept is subjective, relative to the musical context and changes over time. The opposite of consonance.

dotted note

A dot after a note or rest extends the note or rest by half its original value. For example, a dotted minim (  ) has a value of three beats and a dotted crotchet ( ) has a value of one and a half beats.


A note or chord sustained throughout all, or most, of a musical work. Also, the part of a musical instrument that is used to produce a drone (e.g. in bagpipes).


The relative volume (loudness) of sound. Usually indicated by terminology or symbols, including; pianissimo/very soft (), piano/soft (), mezzo piano/moderately soft (), mezzo forte/moderately loud (), forte/loud () , fortissimo/very loud ().

elements of music

The most important components or building blocks of music. See dynamics, expression, form/structure, key, key signature, pitch, rhythm, texture, timbre and tonality.


May refer to:
  • groups: a group of musicians or instruments (e.g. orchestra, choir, concert band, rock band or jazz band),
  • musicianship: the degree to which a group of musicians plays with appropriate balance, blend and co-ordination of articulation and expression.


The aspects of musical performance associated with the personal response or interpretation of the performer. In musical works, expression is specified in varying degrees by the composer. See expressive devices.

expressive devices

Particular kinds of emphasis or colour applied to notes that alter or enhance the overall sound and interpretation of music. See articulation, dynamics, tempo and timbre.


The plan or design of a musical work. Often defined by identifying sections of the work and describing the similarities and differences between sections. See binary, rondo, ternary and theme and variations.

found sound sources

Natural and manufactured objects that can be used to create sound.


The simultaneous sounding of two or more notes or pitches and the resulting relationship between them.


Musical texture describing a single melodic layer supported by accompaniment.


A memorable melodic or rhythmic pattern or idea that is repeated several times throughout a song, common in Jazz and Contemporary music.


The repetition of a melody, phrase or idea by a different voice or instrument.


Spontaneously extending and varying music ideas in response to initial material or responses invented by other performers in an ensemble.


The distance between two pitches (e.g. minor 2nd, semitone or half-step).


The accuracy of pitch when playing or singing, or the pitch accuracy of a musical instrument.


The beginning of a musical work. May be related to the musical material of the following sections but not necessarily. Also referred to as 'intro.' Not all musical works include an introduction.


Refers to intervals, chords and melodic patterns that can be turned and played upside down. For example, an inverted interval is when the lower note is moved to become the top note, and an inversion in a chord is when the positioning of the notes changes so that the bottom note becomes the top note.

irregular metre

Irregular metre (e.g.) is any organisation of beats into bars that do not divide into either two or three.


The set of pitches and the tonic/home note (or scale) that are the basis of a musical work, or part of a work.

key signature

The pattern of sharps and flats in a certain order that are placed next to the clef at the beginning of a musical work to indicate the key or scale on which the work is based.


Playing or singing smoothly and well connected. Often indicated in musical notation with a slur.

leger lines

Additional short lines that are added above and below the staff to notate the pitches that fall outside the range of the five-lined staff.


The characteristic of an interval, chord or musical work when based on the notes of the major scale.

major scale

A seven-note scale with a particular ordering of pitches and intervals: d r m f s l t dl, T T S T T T S, (C Major: C D E F G A B C).


An organised succession of sounds and silences that relate together to create a distinct musical phrase or idea.


Half note (  ) worth two crotchet beats. Equivalent rest ( ) indicating two beats of silence.


The characteristic of an interval, chord or musical work when based on the notes of a minor scale.

minor scale

A group of seven-note scales. The three most common types of minor scale are:
  • natural minor or aeolian mode: l t d r m f s lI or T S T T S T T (e.g. E natural minor/aeolian: E F G A B C D E),
  • harmonic minor, which contains a raised 7th: l t d r m f si lI or T S T T S T+½ S (e.g. E harmonic minor: E F G A B C D E), and
  • melodic minor, containing a raised 6th and 7th in the ascending octave, which are lowered in the descending octave: l t d r m fi si lI s f m r d t l or T S T T T T S  | T T S T T S T (e.g. E melodic minor: E F G A B C D E D C B A G F E).


A group of scales which use the same set of notes as the major scale, in the same order, starting from one of its seven degrees. 1. ionian (d-d'), 2. dorian (r-r'), 3. phrygian (m-m'), 4. lydian (f-f'), 5. mixolydian (s-s'), 6. aeolian (l-l'), 7. locrian (t-t'). The ionian mode is the same as the major scale and the aeolian mode is the same as the natural minor scale.


Musical texture describing a single melodic layer, or several parts playing in unison or octaves.


A short musical idea. A phrase or melody will usually contain several motifs. Most commonly associated with melody but can also be a rhythmic or harmonic idea. Similar to riff.


Written symbols that represent and communicate sound. Notation can be invented, graphic, conventional, recognisable to a traditional style, time or culture, or digitally created.


A repeating pattern, either rhythmic, melodic or a combination of both, that usually has an accompanying role.


A section that occurs in addition to the defined form to finish a musical work. Similar to coda, referred to most often in Contemporary Music and Jazz.

pedal/pedal-note/ pedal-point

A note repeated or sustained (usually in the bass part) while the harmony in the other parts changes. When pedal-point appears in a voice other than the bass, it is usually referred to as an 'inverted pedal'.

pentatonic scale

A five-note scale with a particular combination of intervals. The major pentatonic scale can be derived from the major scale by omitting the fourth and seventh notes/degrees. The minor pentatonic scale can be derived from same set of notes, commencing on the sixth note/degree. For example, C major pentatonic: d r m s l d', C D E G A C. A minor pentatonic: l d r m s l', A C D E G A.


A musical sentence or thought. An inexact term, phrases can vary greatly in length. In traditional notation, usually indicated by a slur.


The highness or lowness of sound. Pitch occurs horizontally (as in a melody) and vertically (as in harmony). May also be used to refer to a single musical sound or note.


Musical texture describing two or more rhythmically- and melodically-independent layers combined together in equal importance.


The application of music skills and knowledge to create, represent, communicate and respond (noun).


Regularly revising, developing and consolidating skills, techniques and repertoire as a class, an ensemble or an individual (verb).

primary triads

Triads built on the first (tonic), fourth (subdominant) and fifth (dominant) notes/scale degrees in any major or minor key. Major: I, IV, V and minor: i, iv, V.


Eighth note (  ) grouped according to time signature (e.g. simple time  , or compound time  ). Equivalent rest ( ) indicating a period of silence that lasts half of one crotchet beat.


The collection of pieces, songs or musical works that a musician or group of musicians are able to perform.


A measured period of silence. See crotchet, minim, quaver, semibreve and semiquaver.


Organisation of sound and silence using beat, note values/durations and tempo.


Short, repeated musical idea which can be rhythmic, melodic or harmonic. Term most often used in Jazz and Contemporary music. Similar to motif.


Organisation of a musical work into sections with one section repeating and alternating with contrasting sections (ABACA, etc.).


A musical work for three or more voices/parts. Consisting of a repeating canon in which all voices are musically identical.


An ordered series of pitches with a particular combination of intervals, based around a tonic or key note. See blues, chromatic, major, minor, mode and pentatonic.


The notated form of a musical work. Scores can be hand-written, printed or digital. Sometimes referred to as 'sheet music'.


Whole note (  ) worth four crotchet beats. Equivalent rest (  ) indicating four beats of silence, or a whole bar rest in any time signature.


Sixteenth note ( ) grouped according to time signature (e.g. simple time  , or compound time ). Equivalent rest (  ) indicating a period of silence that lasts one quarter of one crotchet beat.


An interval of a minor second, or half a tone (e.g. E-F).


A melodic, rhythmic or harmonic pattern. A melodic sequence is a pattern of notes that is repeated at a different pitch. It can also describe the process or product of arranging music digitally using software.

simple time

Simple time (  ) is organised into non-dotted, or simple, beats (e.g. crotchet or minim) which subdivide evenly into groups of two or four (   ).


A curved line connecting two or more notes of different pitch and indicating that they are to be played or sung in a legato manner. For string players, it indicates that all the notes are to be played in the same single bow direction, and for wind and brass players, it indicates that only the first note is to be tongued.


A musical work that depicts a picture or event, or creates a mood or atmosphere through sound. These can be composed using graphic, invented or conventional notation.


Playing or singing notes short and detached, or separated, from each other. Represented in notation by a dot above or below the note head.


The five lines and four spaces on which music is written using notation.


Musical type or category. Style terms (e.g. jazz, be-bop, classical, grunge, rock, flamenco) group music works primarily by the characteristic use of the elements of music. Some style terms are both style and era, for example 'classical' refers to both a time period (era) and characteristics of the music of that time period (style).


In rhythm, the conversion of even subdivisions (usually the quavers) into long-short pairs. The ratio of the two notes may vary but typically the first note is twice the duration of the second, so dividing the beat into thirds. Represented in notation by the symbol . 'Straight' is the opposite of swing, where the quavers are to be performed evenly.


The displacing of beats and irregular accents resulting from weak beats being emphasised rather than strong beats.

technical skills

Proficiencies developed with practise in order to sing or play instruments.


The capacity to control a voice or instrument in order to produce a desired sound.


The tools and equipment that can be materials for making and responding.


The speed or pace at which a musical work is performed. Some common tempo indications are: very slow (largo), slow (adagio), immediately getting slower (ritenuto/rit.), gradually getting slower (rallentando/rall., ritardando/ritard.), moderate (moderato), at an easy walking pace (andante), moderately fast (allegretto), gradually getting faster (accelerando/accel.) fast (allegro, vivace), very fast (presto). Can be indicated as a metronome marking indicating beats per minute (e.g. =144, or 144BPM).


Organisation of a musical work into three sections, with a contrasting section in between two repeated sections (ABA).


The layers of sound in a musical work, and the relationship between them. See homophonic, monophonic and polyphonic.

theme and variations

A musical form where a theme is used as the basis of a set of variations (AA1A2A3, etc.). The theme can be varied in many different ways, for example by augmentation or diminution, or by changing the rhythm, tonality, key or dynamics.

theory skills

Musical concepts surrounding the elements of music in a written context, rather than an aural context.


A curved line that joins two or more notes of the same pitch, indicating that they should be performed as one unbroken note of the combined value.


The particular tone, colour or quality that distinguishes one sound from another (e.g. violin from flute). Includes various instrumental techniques (e.g. muting, picking, flutter-tonguing), vocal techniques (e.g. falsetto, growling) and electronic effects (e.g. reverb, distortion).

time signature/metre

Indicates how many beats occur in a bar of music and how the rhythm is organised or grouped. See compound time, irregular metre and simple time.


The character of a musical work as determined by the key or scale upon which the work is based. See atonal, chromatic, major, minor, mode and pentatonic.


May refer to:
  • interval: the interval of a tone is defined as a major 2nd, or two semitones (e.g. C-D, E-F),
  • pitch: the terms tone, pitch and note are used interchangeably to mean a single musical sound, or
  • timbre: see timbre.

treble clef

The clef used by higher instruments/parts, also called the G clef (  ) as it indicates the location of the G note on the staff.


A chord consisting of three notes: the root note and two notes stacked above (usually a third and a fifth above the root). Triads can have different combinations of major and minor thirds to create different qualities such as major, minor, diminished or augmented.


In simple time, three notes played in the time of two of the same value (e.g. ).


Two or more instruments or voices singing or playing at the same pitch, or the same note at a different octave simultaneously.


See chorus.

12-bar blues

Standard chord progression and musical form used in Jazz and Contemporary Music. In its simplest form (there are many variations) the progression uses the primary triads from the major key in the following pattern: .