Use this tag for questions about musical terms. Questions about symbols should use the "notation" tag.

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34
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4answers
4k views

(1/√π)/√⅔ as a time signature?

I recently found this article on wikipedia about lists of musical works in unusual time signatures and the first unusual time signature is (1/√π)/√⅔. I looked up the piece that was listed as having ...
30
votes
3answers
36k views

What are the differences between tone, note and pitch?

I was wondering what differences are between "tone", "note", and "pitch"?
23
votes
9answers
5k views

What is the difference between a “riff” and a “melody”?

How do I tell when a riff becomes a melody, or is it even important to know? Can you construct a song around a riff - what are some suggestions on how to construct a song in that manner?
20
votes
4answers
12k views

What is the difference between a “band” and an “orchestra”

Growing up, my father listened to big band music. These bands are usually referred to as "Glenn Miller and his orchestra" Or "Paul Schaeffer and the CBS Orchestra". Is it that an orchestra has ...
18
votes
4answers
2k views

What is “Tempo 1”?

I've seen adagio, and other names, but I see in classical score that indicates "Tempo 1" in section C. What does it mean?
17
votes
4answers
1k views

What does it mean for a sound to be “dirty”?

An effect that many electronic music creators go for is a "dirty bass synth" or something similar. What exactly does this term mean, if it has a precise definition at all? What qualities of a synth ...
17
votes
2answers
559 views

What is the term for a song without a tempo?

I have a song that is just acoustic guitar/vocals/and cello and I don't want to give it a tempo because I enjoy the way it sounds just played at the tempo of whatever emotion I have or venue I'm ...
16
votes
2answers
3k views

Is there any real difference between Counterpoint and Polyphony?

From what I understand, they both kind of refer to the same thing. Why the need for 2 terms?
15
votes
3answers
1k views

What is a session musician?

I've heard the term "session musician" in a few books I've read or videos I've seen, in context like, "You probably wouldn't need to really learn B major deeply unless you're a session musician." It ...
15
votes
3answers
2k views

Name for descending semitones under a repeating musical phrase?

In much contemporary music, especially instrumental guitar music, there is a particular device employed. It involves a musical phrase in which usually one note, often a bass note, descends in one ...
15
votes
7answers
12k views

Why is a C7 chord named a dominant seventh chord?

I understand that a C7 chord contains a flattened 7th note in the C major scale, but what specifically makes this a dominant 7th chord? To me there is nothing 'dominant' about taking a note out of ...
14
votes
1answer
762 views

What does “silonveut” mean?

I am typesetting a Cambini Quartet. In the score for the cello part I see the following phrase: What does it mean? It appears to say "silonveut". This is the context (I don't think the piece is ...
14
votes
1answer
549 views

What is a Neapolitan 6th?

In studying music theory I have hear the term Neapolitan 6th a quite few times, but I'm not quite sure what it is. What is a Neapolitan 6th and how is it used in a composition?
13
votes
3answers
2k views

Why are notes named the way they are?

In 12 tone equal temperament, why are the notes named: C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B instead of, for example, A, A#, B, B#, C, C#, D, D#, E, E#, F, F# or any other thing?
13
votes
3answers
1k views

Able to recall music in its correct key, but don't have perfect pitch — what is it called?

I don't have perfect pitch, but there are certain things I can do that I've been wondering if there's a name for. Given the name of a piece I've heard reasonably recently, I can sing it in my head in ...
13
votes
1answer
10k views

What does “NC” mean?

On some tabs, I sometimes see a "NC" text on top of the tab. What does it mean ? How should it be played or interpreted ?
13
votes
5answers
545 views

What is the definition of 'playing in the pocket'?

The phrase 'playing in the pocket' is used sometimes, in jazz, hip hop, funk etc. It sometimes refers to the way a drummer plays, sometimes to how an ensemble works together. I've Googled the term, ...
13
votes
4answers
3k views

Is there any difference between a soprano trombone and a slide trumpet?

Occasionally, I will see people arguing about whether an instrument should be called a "soprano trombone" or a "slide trumpet" yet I have never seen any instrument designated as one as being any ...
12
votes
5answers
6k views

What is “Phrasing” in the context of playing a Solo?

What is meant when a listener says"His phrasing was spot on"- specifically when talking about solo's but sometimes when referring to a pianist "comping". What does it mean when referring to a ...
12
votes
3answers
5k views

Difference between “Bar” and “Measure”

I was taught musical theory in the UK where I grew up. I was taught what a bar is. In my experience, the terminology "measure" is not used in a musical sense in the UK. Since living in the US, I ...
12
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the device used to draw 5-line staff (empty) with a pencil/pen?

I remember seeing something like that long ago but can't remember what it was called. It is basically a metal gadget that holds 5 pencils or only pencil led and you can draw by hand your own empty ...
12
votes
3answers
309 views

Is there a name for this sort of ambiguity with respect to the rhythm of a piece, and/or is this a recognized technique in composition?

If you listen to the first 40 seconds or so of Veridis Quo by Daft Punk, you'll probably feel like you have a pretty good idea of the beat of the song, each of the chords starting on the first beat of ...
12
votes
5answers
891 views

Collective word for sharps and flats in the key signature

On a mailing list I'm subscribed to, someone recently asked what the collective name was in English for the sharps and flats you find in the key signature. Apparently, the closest translation from ...
11
votes
4answers
2k views

Why is the melody sometimes played a half tone higher a few last times?

For example, in this song: Letter to the lord by Irma, a melody can be heard around 0:50 Then, at the end of the song, it is played something like a half tone higher around 2:33 Did I hear ...
11
votes
3answers
889 views

What does Grt. and Sw. mean in this organ score?

I've come across a piece of sheet music for an organ and I was just curious what the Grt. marking above measure 1 and 17 means and what the Sw. marking above measure 9 means. I've seen it before in a ...
11
votes
3answers
274 views

Why are two pitches considered a chord?

According to Wikipedia, a chord is any harmonic set of two or more notes that is heard as if sounding simultaneously. But I always thought that two notes aren't a chord, they are an interval. ...
11
votes
1answer
113 views

What is a “Naturstimme?”

At a recent audition, the conductor of the choral ensemble said that my voice had a Naturstimme-like quality. (The conductor is, of course, German.) However, I can't seem to find a good definition of ...
11
votes
2answers
537 views

What is the difference between a musical and a rock opera?

I've seen multiple works from Andrew Lloyd Webber referred to as "musicals" in some sources, and "rock operas" in others. For most people it seems the two terms are completely interchangeable. Is ...
11
votes
5answers
8k views

Polymeter vs Polyrhythm

What is the difference between a polymeter and a polyrhythm? Do these words mean anything different for different instruments? PS: I'm a drummer.
11
votes
1answer
140 views

What does “al primo” mean?

I' m currently playing a sonata from late baroque, which ends with two menuets, minuetto primo and minuetto secondo. Now under the closing repeat mark of menuet two "al primo" is notated. I assume, ...
11
votes
4answers
976 views

Lead sheets / fake sheets without score

Several of the groups of people I play music with use song sheets that are similar to lead sheets, but without the stave showing the melody line: Note that unlike many chord sheets you can find ...
10
votes
4answers
39k views

What exactly does “feat.” mean?

Does anyone know what does the "feat." mean exactly? Some song titles have the word "feat" in it, for example "I wanna love you clean Akon feat. Snoop dog". What does "feat." mean?
10
votes
4answers
813 views

Identify this chord: F# (bass) + C + E + A

Would someone be able to identify this chord for me? A E C F# - bass I'm sure it's obvious but I can't seem to figure it out. It's a song in the key of C major. A C major chord precedes it and ...
10
votes
2answers
464 views

What do they mean by 'This amp has a lot of headroom'?

Do they mean how loud it will go without getting distortion?
10
votes
2answers
534 views

What does “gajo” mean as a musical directive on sheet music

One of the pieces in the current ABRSM Grade 7 violin pieces is Moritz Moszkowski's Spanischer Tanz No. 2 from his Spanische Tänze Op. 12. At the start of bar 49 is the marking "gajo". According to ...
10
votes
3answers
5k views

What tempo is Agitato?

I'm looking at Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C# minor and notice that the tempo changes from Lento to Agitato. I'm familiar with the former tempo marking, but not the latter. At what tempo should Agitato ...
10
votes
4answers
508 views

What's this rhythm called?

I often hear this rhythm in accompaniments in contemporary music: |x---x---x---x---| Beat |--x--x--x--x--x-| Lead 1.:.2.:.3.:.4.:. That is, it's a 4:3 polyrhythm but with a single quarter note ...
10
votes
1answer
111 views

Where did the term backbeat come from?

In most modern music in 4/4 beats 2 and 4 are where the snare hits are and are usually referred to as the backbeat. Normally in 4/4 the 2 and 4 beat would not be accented, but the snare hits do just ...
9
votes
4answers
818 views

Does the line between the time signature have a name?

In a time signature (4/4 for example), does the / have a term or a name?
9
votes
2answers
687 views

Is there a name for the screeching sound made when changing chords on a guitar?

When listing to the song "The Only Exception" by Paramore (see YouTube), there's a screeching sound when changing chords, which I find quite unpleasant. Question: Is there a name for the ...
9
votes
4answers
761 views

How to technically differentiate between wind instrument types (definition)

What is the official way to differentiate between a woodwind and a brass instrument? I know it's not about the material that they are made of, but how the sound is produced.
9
votes
4answers
4k views

What's the difference between genre and style?

Is there anybody in world who know what's the difference between genre and style in music? In wikipedia there are articles: list of music genres and list of music styles, but when we will go to ...
9
votes
4answers
1k views

What would you call all-drum instrumental music?

I'm trying to find the title for music containing all percussion instruments (pianos/xylophones not included) such as drum corps and marching band drum breakdowns. I'd basically like to listen to ...
9
votes
4answers
687 views

What is it called when a music has two concurrent tempos

I've recently watched a BBC documentary about the history of music and recall an episode where they talk about music that has two distinct tempos (and possibly time signatures) at the same time for ...
9
votes
2answers
556 views

Does each note have a more specific name depending on its pitch?

Other than the symbolic identifier for the pitch of the note in sheet music, is there a way to specify the pitch of a note in some other notation or call it by any other name? This would be very handy ...
9
votes
4answers
2k views

What is it called when a song starts with few instruments, and gradually adds one at a time?

Many songs will start with only a few number of instruments, and after a specified amount of time has passed a new instrument is added, and this is repeated until all instruments for the song are ...
9
votes
1answer
179 views

Is it a coincidence that “blue” notes are “chromatic”?

According to the OED: The word "chromatic" has been applied to music with lots of accidentals since at least the 17th century. In the 19th century, a "blue note" was one that was incorrect; starting ...
9
votes
2answers
346 views

Correct terminology for chord inversions

I am confused with what I've read in various sources concerning chord notations. Is there a standard notation for chord inversions? As far as I understand, a chord inversion is determined from the ...
9
votes
2answers
421 views

Is there a term for a chord progression that chromatically ascends or descends an octave?

I've noticed a pattern in music that is very interesting where a progression will start with one chord and chromatically ascend or descend until the starting chord is reached again. For example: a ...
9
votes
3answers
4k views

What is a ghost note ?

What is a ghost note and how is it different than holding the previous note ?