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

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26
votes
2answers
19k views

What are the differences between tone, note and pitch?

I was wondering what differences are between "tone", "note", and "pitch"?
22
votes
9answers
3k 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
7k 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 ...
17
votes
4answers
1k 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
2answers
316 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 ...
14
votes
1answer
731 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 ...
13
votes
3answers
833 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
2answers
2k 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?
13
votes
4answers
2k 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
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
4answers
749 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 ...
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
240 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
2answers
105 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
4answers
739 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
18k views

What exactly does “feat.” means?

Does anyone know what does the "feat." means exactly? Some song titles have the word "feat" in it, for example "I wanna love you clean Akon feat. Snoop dog". What does "feat." means?
10
votes
5answers
544 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
104 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 ...
9
votes
4answers
682 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
339 views

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

Do they mean how loud it will go without getting distortion?
9
votes
4answers
469 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
6answers
6k 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 ...
9
votes
3answers
4k 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 ...
9
votes
4answers
588 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
5answers
798 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
1answer
168 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
4answers
4k 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
2answers
207 views

Where did the British names for different note lengths come from?

I was always taught to use a certain set of names for the length of a note, such as crotchet, minim, quaver, and so on. I'm aware though that those terms aren't used as much outside the UK, and that ...
9
votes
1answer
69 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 ...
8
votes
6answers
336 views

English translation for “rubato”

Most italian musical indications and concepts are easy to translate in one or two words (largo, presto, crescendo, ...) but it is difficult to find even an approximation to rubato. Any suggestions?
8
votes
2answers
246 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
3k views

What is a ghost note ?

What is a ghost note and how is it different than holding the previous note ?
8
votes
1answer
161 views

The meaning of the word “inversion”

I'm looking for clarity over how to best describe two different meanings of the word "inversion" I have come across. The two different aspects I see are: I have three notes C-E-G. The intervals ...
7
votes
3answers
1k 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) ...
7
votes
3answers
4k 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
279 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
4k views

Why are instrumental tracks also called “minus one tracks”?

Why are instrumental (non-vocal) tracks also called "minus one tracks"? What does it mean and how did this term come about?
7
votes
3answers
148 views

Term for a note in a chord, versus a note in a key scale?

Let's say we're talking about a song in C, and at some point in that particular song, we happen to be playing an E minor chord. In this case, Em is known as the iii chord in the key C major, because ...
7
votes
1answer
188 views

What is the word for the panel on a piano that is in front of the keyboard?

Not the part of the piano that typically has the brand name on it, but the piece of wood that is under the keyboard and is in full view of the pianist.
7
votes
2answers
1k views

Is Beethoven's title “Sonata quasi una Fantasia” an oxymoron, and does the title instruct how to perform it?

Beethoven's so-called "Moonlight" Sonata is fully titled "Sonata quasi una Fantasia". Google translates this literally to "Sonata almost a Fantasy", but I'll assume it means more like "Sonata in the ...
7
votes
3answers
159 views

Is there a formal term for a recording's pitch being “in the cracks”?

Lots of recordings were (sometimes intentionally) speed up/slowed down before final mastering, so that, even if the band was tuned to concert pitch, it isn't in the released version. If you have a ...
6
votes
3answers
304 views

'Fine' at the end of the song

In a lot of music sheets, I've seen that they mark the end of the song with 'Fine' (example: http://www.jazzpla.net/H/Hassansdream.jpg) What does 'Fine' mean? And why is it used to mark the end of a ...
6
votes
3answers
486 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 ...
6
votes
4answers
186 views

Is there a term for non-natural notes?

Is there a term for the group of non-natural notes, i.e. notes altered with sharps or flats?
6
votes
3answers
396 views

Are there names for referring to the top or bottom numbers in a time signature?

In a time signature of 3/4 (three by four), what is the name given to the 3 and the 4? I know it in my own language, but can't find the answer for the English equivalent.
6
votes
1answer
152 views

Should barré chords have an acute accent on the E?

I was always taught that it should, but the Wikipedia article doesn't use the accent at all. I'm British — is it an American thing to ignore the accent? I am preparing some content for an ...
6
votes
3answers
1k views

What is the meaning of “playing off the beat” and “playing on the beat”?

I am learning piano from a book and I can't understand the meaning of the phrases "playing on the beat" and "playing off the beat" and the difference between them. Can anyone explain them to me?
6
votes
2answers
445 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
3k views

What is meant by “Top-End” and “Bottom-End”?

When guitarists describe the sound of their guitars, a lot of terms are used. What does a guitarist mean when they talk about top and bottom end?
6
votes
5answers
463 views

Is there a general term for a single note or a chord?

Take a passage like this: Fill in the blank: Each of these boxes denote a ______ Is there a single general term for these that's better than note or chord? Or maybe there's a term for "anything ...