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

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28
votes
2answers
30k views

What are the differences between tone, note and pitch?

I was wondering what differences are between "tone", "note", and "pitch"?
23
votes
9answers
4k 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
10k 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
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
453 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
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?
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 ...
14
votes
1answer
756 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
947 views

What does it mean for a synth 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 ...
13
votes
3answers
990 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
8k 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
281 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
5k 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
4answers
3k 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
7answers
10k 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 ...
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 ...
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
4answers
31k 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?
11
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?
11
votes
3answers
785 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
5answers
657 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
3answers
265 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
112 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
303 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
1answer
124 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
886 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
764 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
410 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
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
1answer
353 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
4answers
470 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
97 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
797 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
4answers
667 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
3answers
2k 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) ...
9
votes
2answers
545 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
1k 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
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
1answer
177 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
312 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
4answers
7k 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
4k views

What is a ghost note ?

What is a ghost note and how is it different than holding the previous note ?
9
votes
2answers
306 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 ...
8
votes
4answers
2k views

What is “groove”?

How's possible to trigger it? Is there a technical reason for the groove to happen? Is it just when you stuble across any kind of rhythm / melodic progression interaction that "moves"? Please do not ...
8
votes
3answers
5k 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
6answers
373 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
4answers
2k 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
5k 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?