Basic Music Terms
This is a brief listing of some music terms you should know.
For more complete information you should see a music dictionary or textbook.
- Adagio - Slow or extremely slow; not as slow as largo.
- Allegro - Quick, lively, or bright.
- Andante - Moving along, flowing; slowish but not to slow.
- Bar line - A vertical line drawn through the staff to mark off measures.
- Crescendo - Gradually getting louder.
- Da capo - Go back to the beginning and continue until you come to
the word Fine (end).
- Dal segno - Return to the sign and
repeat to the word Fine.
- Decrescendo - Gradually getting softer.
- Diatonic - Notes of the key.
- Diminuendo - Gradually getting softer.
- Do - First note of the scale using solmization syllables.
- Dolce - Sweet.
- Dominant - Fifth degree of the major or minor scale.
- Double Bar - Double perpendicular line marking the end of a composition
- Esercizio, esercizi - Exercise or Exercises.
- Fa or Fah - The fourth degree of the major scale using vocal
- F Clef - The bass clef.
- Fine - End.
- Flat - The sign "b" before a note which lowers its pitch by a
- Forte - Loud or strong; the symbol " f ".
- Fortissimo - Very loud or strong; the symbol "ff ".
- Larghetto - Slow and dignified but less so than Largo.
- Largo - Very slow and dignified.
- Lento - Slow.
- Measure - Time-content of the notated space which lies between one
bar line and the next.
- Mezzo - Medium; neither loud nor soft; the symbol " m ".
- Mezzo-forte - Medium loud; the symbol "mf ".
- Mi - The third degree of the major scale.
- Moderato - A moderate tempo.
- Natural - A note that is neither raised ("sharped") or lowered ("flatted").
- Note - A written sign representing the pitch and duration of a single
- Opus - Work; A word used by composers to number compositions.
- Overture - Introduction to an opera.
- Pause - Fermatta; the sign .
- Piano - Soft; the symbol " p ".
- Pianissimo - Very soft; the symbol " pp ".
- Presto - Quick.
- Prestissimo - Very quick.
- Ritardando (Rit.)- Gradually slowing down.
- Scale - A stepwise arrangement of all the chief notes in a musical
- Semitone - The smallest interval in traditional Western music. One-half of a whole tone.
- Sharp - The sign "#" before a note which raises its pitch by a
- Sforzando - Strongly accenting a note or chord; the symbol
"sfz " or "Sff ".
- Sol - The fifth degree of the major scale.
- Vivace - Rather vivacious; quick.