Questions tagged [terminology]

For questions about the terms used to describe music or the language used within the musical field. Questions about symbols should use the "notation" tag.

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71 votes
6 answers
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What is the relationship between "do re mi" and note letter names?

When people sing the song, they use do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, (si), etc, but sometimes I hear that the music people say A, B, C, D flat, etc. Is there a relationship or are they two different ...
Ted Wong's user avatar
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70 votes
22 answers
152k views

What is the difference between a mode and a scale?

I can't seem to find a straight definition for both.
crimson_sprite's user avatar
60 votes
4 answers
17k 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 ...
Dom's user avatar
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52 votes
11 answers
83k 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 ...
jaffa's user avatar
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52 votes
3 answers
197k views

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

I was wondering what the differences are between "tone", "note", and "pitch"?
Tim's user avatar
  • 897
51 votes
7 answers
141k 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"?
Alejandro García Iglesias's user avatar
50 votes
3 answers
27k views

In live performance, what is a "monitor"

In discussions about live amplified performance, I have heard the term "monitor" or "monitor speaker" - what does this mean?
slim's user avatar
  • 36.1k
41 votes
5 answers
128k views

What is the difference between a riff and a lick?

That's it. I was wondering what is the difference between a riff and a lick. The Wikipedia page for lick is somewhat confusing-- what do you think?
F.C.'s user avatar
  • 593
39 votes
14 answers
35k views

What makes an interval "Perfect"?

I've been trying to find an answer, but to no avail. Is what we call a perfect interval somewhat arbitrary? It seems as if the modern definition is "perfect under inversion". I know the other thing ...
user avatar
39 votes
12 answers
119k 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, ...
Tim's user avatar
  • 193k
39 votes
6 answers
77k 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.
Anish Ramaswamy's user avatar
38 votes
8 answers
5k views

Is there a broader term for instruments, like the gong, whose volume briefly increases after being sounded instead of immediately decaying?

For most instruments, their sound immediately begins to decay after they first sound. When you strike a piano key, for instance, the loudest sound is at the very beginning, after which the sound ...
Richard's user avatar
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37 votes
12 answers
28k views

How can I learn to compose?

I am aware that Stack Exchange questions should be on-point, and not too broad, but I really would appreciate a response from people who know what they are talking about: I recently saw Boublil and ...
cmp's user avatar
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35 votes
12 answers
24k 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?
user avatar
35 votes
7 answers
54k 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 ...
InternalConspiracy's user avatar
34 votes
4 answers
43k views

What is the difference between 'chorus' and 'refrain'?

I'm trying to learn something about song structure. Reading the Wikipedia article about the subject I came across two terms that looked somewhat similar: chorus and refrain. There seemed to be a ...
Charlie's user avatar
  • 569
30 votes
6 answers
70k 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 ...
Digital Trauma's user avatar
28 votes
14 answers
6k views

To what extent is music theory just giving us a language to describe/break down music, or does it really have significant "scientific content"?

For instance, you can always chop up notes into chord tones vs non-chord tones; and then separate non-chord tones into passing tones and neighbor tones. These are very much just classifications. Thus, ...
J Li's user avatar
  • 453
27 votes
1 answer
64k 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 ?
Julien N's user avatar
  • 1,978
25 votes
3 answers
223k 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?
Pacerier's user avatar
  • 1,109
25 votes
12 answers
6k 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 ...
duncanm's user avatar
  • 361
25 votes
4 answers
10k views

What's the short and accented note at the very end of a song called?

In some songs, there is a short and accented note at the very end, usually as the last note. Is there a special term for this note besides calling it the "last note"? Examples: "Hamilton" from ...
huanglx's user avatar
  • 353
24 votes
6 answers
10k views

Why do some pianists occasionally play their hands at different times?

Piano is not my main instrument, but I have always been taught that the same rhythms should always sound together. In other words, if both hands play on the downbeat of the measure, both hands should ...
Richard's user avatar
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24 votes
5 answers
6k views

Why is a doubling of frequency called an octave?

I understand that when two frequencies have a ratio of 2^n:1 for any natural number n, they are said to be n octaves apart. Moreover, they sound "essentially the same" to our ear. However, why do we ...
user1936752's user avatar
24 votes
1 answer
4k views

"inuendo" in a piano score

I have a question about music notation: - - - in - - - u - - - - en - - - - - do - - It appears in a music book edited by Willard A. Palmer, Bach, Prelude in C Minor, BWV 999, measure 26 to 29. Can ...
jsmath's user avatar
  • 343
24 votes
6 answers
51k 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 ...
radiantshaw's user avatar
23 votes
6 answers
71k views

What is a secondary dominant chord?

What is a secondary dominant chord? What's the theory behind them? How are they used in composition?
TaylorSwiftFan5932's user avatar
23 votes
6 answers
54k 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 ...
arman_aegit's user avatar
23 votes
4 answers
14k 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 ...
Joe Z.'s user avatar
  • 635
23 votes
6 answers
6k views

Why is it called the chromatic scale?

The definition of chromatic as given by Google: adjective: chromatic MUSIC: relating to or using notes not belonging to the diatonic scale of the key in which a passage is written. (of a scale) ...
thndrwrks's user avatar
  • 333
22 votes
9 answers
11k views

Exactly what does "diatonic" mean?

Is the meaning very context dependent, or can it be defined in general terms? Does the meaning change by author or period? Sometimes it's used to refer to anything that stays within a specific tonal ...
TaylorSwiftFan5932's user avatar
21 votes
9 answers
19k 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 ...
Rei Miyasaka's user avatar
  • 1,766
21 votes
5 answers
10k 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 ...
MattCamp's user avatar
  • 1,105
21 votes
2 answers
15k 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?
balentaw's user avatar
  • 1,332
20 votes
4 answers
5k views

Is it spelled "violincello" or "violoncello"?

I’m trying to understand the proper spelling of the full name of the cello. I’ve seen it both of these ways, violincello and violoncello. I thought since the cello is part of the violin family it ...
Benjamin Hale's user avatar
20 votes
5 answers
10k views

How should I play two notes together on lines below the staff?

How should I play two notes together on lines below the staff?
Chadee's user avatar
  • 309
20 votes
2 answers
3k 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?
Dom's user avatar
  • 47.7k
20 votes
3 answers
2k 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 ...
Peter Bloomfield's user avatar
19 votes
12 answers
53k views

What is a perfect fifth?

I have gone through many documents, but don't understand what a perfect fifth is. Can somebody please explain with an example? (An example is important!) I have already found these explanations, but ...
Manoj Singh's user avatar
19 votes
4 answers
12k 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?
junil's user avatar
  • 199
19 votes
6 answers
45k views

What is the difference between portamento and glissando?

What is the difference between portamento and glissando while singing?
Dave's user avatar
  • 17.8k
19 votes
2 answers
8k views

What is double about the double bass?

One of the most common (English) names for the contrabass, is 'Double Bass'. I can understand the other names for it, like 'Upright bass', 'Acoustic String Bass' etc, but what is double about it and ...
Shevliaskovic's user avatar
19 votes
4 answers
33k 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 ...
gilly3's user avatar
  • 458
18 votes
3 answers
13k 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?
seseorang's user avatar
  • 4,137
18 votes
4 answers
15k views

How do you refer to a note that is more than one octave above or below middle C?

I know you say the A above Middle C when refering to the A that is in the same Octave as Middle C in the Treble Staff, or you say the A below Middle C when referring to the A in the previous Octave on ...
user49324's user avatar
  • 181
18 votes
3 answers
2k 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 ...
tarun's user avatar
  • 2,259
18 votes
4 answers
14k views

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

Sample score with this symbol: Can anyone specify the name of the particular symbol above the crotchet in the top image and everything marked in red in the sample piece of music? According to ...
Sazid Ahmad's user avatar
  • 1,407
18 votes
2 answers
22k views

What is an "open tuning"?

I know that Keith Richards has been known to use open tunings on some songs, but what is an open tuning exactly and when/why would you use it?
user avatar
18 votes
4 answers
2k 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 ...
crf's user avatar
  • 283
18 votes
2 answers
6k views

What are "horn 5ths"?

I encountered the term "horn 5th" in a book on orchestration. I have difficulty understanding the exact meaning of the term. Unfortunately, couldn't find anything about this term by googling, except ...
Milad Alizade's user avatar

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