of Musical Terms - Commonly Used Vocabulary, Terminology & Language
as every major industry, the music industry too, has its own special
lingo and terminology which is commonly used by people who understand
you want to increase your general knowledge by reading up on some technical
and common music terms, have a look at the list below -
Definitions of Musical Terms - Commonly used Terminology in
- A cappella - Singing
or performing without any instrumental accompaniment.
- Accelerando - Increase
the tempo gradually.
- Accent - Changing
the volume or length of a note as compared to the others
in an attempt to give more prominence to that note.
- Adagio - Slow moving
- Allegro - Fast and
- Alla Breve - 2 half
note beats (2 minim). Alla breve is also known as cut time.
(The capital C for “common” with a vertical line through
- Alto - range of voice
lying above the tenor.
- A Due - meant for
a Duet - 2 voices or 2 instruments played together.
- Arpeggio - Playing
a chord’s notes one at a time instead of together.
- Atonal - a particular
key is not kept in focus when writing or performing such
- Avant Garde - artists
who are experimental
Bass - The lower parts of music,
lowest male voice.
Ballad - Narrative folk song
Beat - refers to the
rhythm of the music piece.
Bitonal - music that uses 2
different tonalities at the same time.
Bow - usually a wooden flexible
stick that produces music when drawn across strings of a musical
- Cadence - Cadences
mark the end of phrases, the end of a section, or the end
of a piece. Cadences
may be improvised only when the whole piece is being improvised.
- Carol - Hymn or song
that celebrates Christmas - Carol Singing.
- Chant - singing and
repeating texts or words - continuing in a fixed rhythm,
pattern or tune. Chants are believed to have a calming effect
on the listener.
- Choir - group singing
(in a Chorus) Choir Singing.
- Chord - refers to
3-4 notes which are played together (simultaneously).
- Chord Progression
- playing a group of chords one after the other.
- Chorus - choir (group
of singers); section of a song / composition which is repeated
after every verse.
- Chromatic Scale -
A scale that contains all 12 notes of an octave.
It is a wood wind instrument with a single reed.
- Clef - It is a symbol
which is used in Sheet Music and defines the pitch of notes
in that particular staff.
- Conductor - is one
who conducts or supervises a group of performers.
- Diatonic - music
is created by dividing the octave into 7 notes - with intervals
of 5 whole and 2 half notes.
- Drone - is a boring
or monotonous tone. It is not really a musical term except
in the case of bagpipes!
- Duet - sung or performed
by two - vocalists or instrumentalists.
- Duo - refers to 2
Encore - means again
- usually performed once again due to popular demand or audience
Ensemble - a group of performers
(singers or instrumentalists) or
how they perform together.
Espirando - reducing
or dying away
- In music, a flat may
look like the letter b, but it isn’t. It lowers the pitch
by a semi-tone. Flat may also mean music that does not maintain
its tune, too low in pitch and hence out of tune.
- Fret - commonly refers
to the metal strip which runs across the fingerboard of
a stringed instrument.
Grave - A composition which is
played slowly and in a serious manner.
one of the most popular and commonly recognised musical instrument. It
is a string instrument which is plucked and usually has 6 strings.
- Half Note - Minim
in western notation.
- Harmonium - refers
to a musical keyboard instrument which typically produces
sound when air passes through the reeds and metal parts.
- Harmony- refers to
a mix or combination of two or three tones which are played
together in the background while a melody is being played.
- Harpsichord - It
is a keyboard instrument. The Harpsichord produces music
when the player presses its keys and the strings are plucked
by the instrument.
- Hymn - A devotional
song which praises and honours God.
Impromptu - means improvised and
Interlude - Refers to a piece of
instrumental music which is played in between the scenes of a play
in music terms an interval is the distance in pitch between two notes.
Leading Note - is the seventh note
in a scale.
- Maestro - is a great
performer of music - he can be a composer, conductor or
teacher of music.
- Major - refers to
a form of scale with specific intervals. Music based on
the Major keys have a positive and refreshing sound. In
the major or diatonic scale, the pattern or steps followed
are - whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half - is
: eg C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C -
- Mandolin - It is
a plucked string musical instrument with fixed metal frets
and metal strings in pairs.
- Melodrama - refers
to a drama that has musical accompaniment and interludes.
More Musical Terms
from Beverly A. Stagg, Piano
and voice teacher, singer, choir director
Note: We do not guarantee that this list is free from errors, typos
etc. If you have spotted an error, please write to us and help us to
correct it. Want
to add to this list? Spotted an error? Email us at