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

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15
votes
4answers
3k 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?
28
votes
4answers
40k views

What's the difference between “modal music” and “tonal music”?

As the title says, what's the difference between "modal music" and "tonal music"? Is there also any other classification besides "modal music" and "tonal music"?
44
votes
4answers
6k 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 ...
16
votes
3answers
3k 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 ...
14
votes
3answers
10k 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 ...
36
votes
19answers
35k views

What is the difference between a mode and a scale?

I can't seem to find a straight definition for both.
14
votes
1answer
714 views

What is a Neapolitan 6th?

In studying music theory I have heard the term Neapolitan 6th quite a few times, but I'm not quite sure what it is. What is a Neapolitan 6th and how is it used in a composition?
15
votes
6answers
1k 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 ...
35
votes
3answers
67k views

What are the differences between tone, note, and pitch?

I was wondering what the differences are between "tone", "note", and "pitch"?
9
votes
2answers
856 views

Common names for sections of a piece of music

Generally, what is is the name for the non-vocal parts of a song that are not interludes or preludes and not a guitar solo or instrumental verse/chorus? For example, right after the acapella vocal ...
10
votes
3answers
9k views

What is a ghost note ?

What is a ghost note and how is it different than holding the previous note ?
5
votes
4answers
285 views

Difference between keys and scales?

I am a Tabla (a North Indian percussion instrument) player and I am trying to learn the western music theory. My study was going well until I stumbled upon keys and scales. Now though I know what ...
11
votes
4answers
2k views

What are some interesting ways notes and chords are spelled in cultures outside of the U.S.?

I've heard that German musicians spell the seventh note of the C major scale with an "H" where an American musician would use a "B". And, for the fourth note of the F major scale, where an American ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

What is the proper name of the dash symbol over a note and how to play it

Can anyone specify the name of the particular symbol above the crotchet? According to Wikipedia it's called a Tenuto but my teacher said it's called a "dash". Which one is correct? Or are both names ...
2
votes
2answers
516 views

Naming Scale Degrees

As I understand the minor pentatonic degrees are 1 b3 4 5 7b It says b3 & 7b, does it matter which side the b is on and do they both mean flat? Scale degrees are almost always based off the ...
1
vote
2answers
429 views

Tonality and Modality together

Tonality and modality form a unit in most music, right? You are in F Major or in D minor etc... Is there a name for the two entities together seen as a unity? I'm working on some musical software ...
9
votes
3answers
3k views

What should I look for in a recording microphone for personal use?

I was browsing through mics on Amazon and quickly realized I was out of my depth. There are a couple closely related questions I am wondering about: Are there different types of mics for (1) ...
17
votes
2answers
5k 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?
6
votes
5answers
16k views

What is the difference between swing and shuffle?

I am learning piano from a book and I can't understand the difference between swing and shuffle. I have searched, but I still can't understand the difference. Could someone please iterate the ...
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
7answers
18k 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.
9
votes
3answers
9k views

Are there any classification systems that categorize music by mood?

Recently I had the idea to categorize my digital music library with mood tags. Thinking about these moods, I figured that it's not so easy to come up with a complete list that covers all possible ...
8
votes
1answer
757 views

What is this called? Why is it allowed?

"Golden Train" by Justin Nozuka (YouTube link below) is in the key of Ab major. However he uses a Cb major chord throughout the song, which is not in the key of Ab major. It sounds good and works ...
5
votes
3answers
176 views

Is there a term for the practice of “breaking symmetry” in a composition?

Sorry in advance for my incredibly amateur attempt to explain this. I have absolutely no music experience but I have noticed that one of the key to a catchy song seems to be this practice. More ...
2
votes
2answers
163 views

Can Appoggiaturas be doubled or tripled?

I know the basic definition of the nonharmonic tone an appoggiatura is a nonharmonic tone that is approached by skip/leap and then resolves by step in the opposite direction. I've recently heard the ...
17
votes
3answers
88k 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?
13
votes
4answers
681 views

What is this type of shift called?

In a lot of (usually electronic) music, I notice a section of music that seems to shift up a number of notes and continue with a similar melody in a way that greatly emphasizes the melody. Does this ...
7
votes
2answers
538 views

Why are 1/2 (or 3/4, etc) violins called that way if they are not 1/2 size?

On the question Do 1/2 size violins sound at normal pitch? I found out that 1/2 violins are actually ~86% of a full size violin. What do the fractions 7/8, 3/4, 1/2 etc for violin sizes represent, if ...
5
votes
2answers
505 views

Projecting “Playing ahead/behind/on the beat ” onto tangible concepts

I was trying to tell to my fellow drummer friend, that he should play something behind the beat so that we can experiment some particular song. But then I realized that I have no idea how to translate ...
15
votes
1answer
4k views

What does it mean to play in an 'arpeggiated' style on the guitar?

I sometimes hear a guitar player described as having an 'arpeggiated' style, such as Peter Buck of R.E.M. I know that an arpeggio is the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 8th of a scale, but exactly what does it ...
13
votes
6answers
12k views

What's the difference between genre and style?

Is there anybody in the world who knows 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
225 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
10
votes
2answers
492 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
581 views

What is a “Stable” Chord?

What makes a chord "stable"? What makes a chord "unstable"? Just saw this in my piano book, but it doesn't really explain what it means.
8
votes
3answers
2k views

How does one read very loud or very soft dynamic markings (e.g. ffff, ppp)?

Sometimes, scores contain notations like "fff", which presumably indicates that the section in question should be one dynamic level louder than "ff", or "fortissimo". In my limited musical ...
7
votes
6answers
914 views

What are the various ways of vocalizing rhythmic figures?

I know of the standard western technique where the beats (quarter notes) are numbered and eighths are vocalized as 'and' and sixteenths are vocalized as 'ee' and 'uh' (One-ee-and-uh Two-ee-and-uh). ...
5
votes
2answers
602 views

What is the terminology for how we identify numbered notes like C4, E3, D6, etc?

Does this system - where C3 is middle C - have a standard name? For instance, is there a wikipedia page which explains this system and if so how is it titled? (note: As mentioned middle C is C4, my ...
5
votes
1answer
482 views

What does Opt. S.D. mean?

I was looking at the sheet music for the Star Spangled Banner arranged for the U.S. Marine Band, and I saw that each instrument has an Opt. S.D. in the beginning. What does it mean?
4
votes
2answers
247 views

What's the difference between the tritone and the blue note?

For a while I thought they were one and the same, now I'm confused. This Wiki Article on the subject asserts that the blue note isn't even a real note, i.e. a note that's not part of the standard ...
3
votes
4answers
567 views

Is there a name for this guitar technique for Paganini's Capriccio #6?

I've spent several years working up Paganini's Capriccio #6 for the violin on the guitar and I wonder if the idea already exists and has a name. For the violin, the piece is a coninuous double-stop ...
3
votes
2answers
367 views

How are note durations named in the British system?

This looks like a dupe of Why are notes named the way they are? but it isn't. I want to know about rhythm. I understand that in the international (British) system, a breve is what we Americans call a ...
3
votes
1answer
743 views

Is 'dur' another way of saying flat (b)?

I found this sheet music for a quartet by Haydn: As you can see, on the cover it says B♭ major/ B-Dur / Si♭ majeur. I can understand the first and the third terms, but is B-Dur another way of ...
2
votes
3answers
6k views

What are the parts of a classical composition?

I'd like to learn the names of the different parts of classical musical compositions as compared to the literary work structure that has a beginning, the part where the plot thickens and the ...
1
vote
3answers
249 views

With respect to right hand guitar technique, what does it mean to not scoop?

Scooping comes up in in this answer: Move your hand in parallel with the strings (i.e. don't scoop) What exactly does that mean? I've only seen it in reference to tone.
0
votes
3answers
105 views

What is the proper name for a sequence of durations?

In contrast to pitch, rhythm refers to the length and accentuation of a sequence of notes. If we focus exclusively on the durations, what would be a proper term? Example: 1/4, 1/2, 1/4 no tempo, no ...