Musical Terms & Signs

Image Value
 Semibreve (or whole note) - a note worth 4 crotchet beats.
 Minim (or half note) - a note worth 2 crotchet beats.
 Crotchet (or quarter note) - a note usually worth 1 beat.
 Quaver (or eighth note) - a note worth a half a crotchet beat.
 A pair of quavers: The notes are joined together by a beam. Together they equal one crotchet beat.
 Semiquavers (or sixteenth note): The notes are joined together by a double beam. Together they equal one crotchet beat.
 Dotted minim: A note worth 3 crotchet beats. The dot extends the value by half as much again, i.e. 2+1=3.
 Triplet: Each note is worth a third of a beat. The crotchet beat is divided into 3 instead of the usual 2.
 Staccato: A dot under or over the note means that it is short and detached.
 Accent: This sign means that the note is accented or emphasized.
 Minim rest: A rest (silence) worth 2 crotchet beats.
 Crotchet rest: A rest (silence) worth 1 crotchet beat.
 Quaver rest: A rest (silence) worth a half a crotchet beat.
 Semiquaver rest: A rest (silence) worth one quarter of a crotchet beat.
 Staff or stave: The lines and spaces on which musical notes are written.
 Bars with bar lines: Each bar (or measure) contains a certain number of beats.
 Treble clef: The sign indicating that the range of notes is high pitched.
 Bass clef: The sign indicating that the range of notes is low pitched.
 Alto or tenor clef: The sign indicating that the range of notes is pitched across the treble and bass clef range.
 Repeat sign: This sign indicates that the music between the double bar lines with the dots is to be repeated.
 Piano - (soft).
 Forte - (loud).
 Pianissimo - (very soft).
 Fortissimo - (very loud).
 Mezzo piano - (medium soft, or moderately soft).
 Mezzo forte - (medium loud, or moderately loud).
 Crescendo - gradually getting louder.
 Diminuendo (or decrescendo) - gradually getting softer
 Time signature: In simple time, the top number indicates the number of beats in each bar, whilst the bottom number indicates the type of beat e.g. a value of 4 means quarter notes (crotchets).
 Key signature: The sign at the beginning of each staff which indicates the key (main tonal centre) of the piece. It consists of one or more sharps or flats.
 Tie: The curved line above or below two notes at the same pitch which joins their time values together. For example, two minims joined by a tie becomes one note held for 4 crotchet beats.
 Slur: The curved line above or below two notes at different pitches, which indicates that the notes are joined together smoothly e.g. no break in between.
 Chord (triad): Three notes sounded simultaneously, usually making a pleasant, harmonious sound.
 Broken chord: Notes of a chord played in succession in any order
 Repetition: Where musical patterns are repeated.
 Sequence: A musical pattern which is repeated immediately at a higher or lower pitch. (The same tune follows straight after at a different pitch).
 Syncopation: A syncopated rhythm is one where the notes occur off the normal beat, or a normally accented note is missing.
 First and second time bar endings: The first playing will finish at the first time ending, repeating back to the start repeat sign. On the second playing, omit the first time bar and jump to the second ending before continuing.
 Double bar line: Indicates the end of a section or the end of the piece.
 Rallentando and ritardando: Both mean slow down gradually.
 A pause sign (sometimes called a fermata) means to hold the note/rest/chord at the performer's/conductor's will.
 Go back to the original tempo (literally - "in time").
 A metronome speed indication. In this case, there are around 60 minim beats every minute (or one per second). The "c." or sometimes "ca." means "circa - (around)"
 The sign. Used as a marking point where the music returns to the sign.
 D.S. (dal segno) means back to the sign - see above. N.B. "segno" is pronounced "senyo" in Italian.
 The Coda sign. Often used as D.C. al  The D.C. refers to "Da capo" which means back to the head (the beginning) then to the Coda.
 A coda is the end section of a piece of music. The word literally means "tail"
 Gradually getting a little louder. The word "poco" means little.
 The term "rubato" refers to an elasticity or flexibility in tempo and rhythm. Therefore, a bar of crotchets could have different lengths for each note. Not mechanical.
 This abbreviation is short for diminuendo which means gradually getting softer (diminishing in volume).
 Means slow.
 Means fairly slow - at a leisurely pace.
 At a moderate tempo.
 Grandiose, pompous, or majestic.
 With spirit.
 Much. Therefore, "allegro molto" means "very fast".
 With movement or motion - i.e. quickly. N.B. "Con" means "with".
 Short for accelerando, which means gradually get faster.
 Short for "divisi" which means divide the part.
 The "et" means "and" - therefore this term means gradually get slower and softer.
 Means common time  time. This is the most common time signature of all.
 This time signature means cut common time, i.e.  or two minim beats per bar rather than 4 crotchet beats.
 The comma means take a breath.
 The spectacles mean WATCH THE CONDUCTOR!
 This time signature is in compound time. That means that the beat (indicated by the bottom number), is a compound beat i.e. made up of a dotted note value, such as a crotchet plus a quaver, or a minim plus a crotchet. These beats divide equally into threes. The top number must be divisible by 3 (but not 3 itself), to give us the number of dotted beats. The bottom number divides by 2, to give us the value of the dotted beat. In this example the top number divides by 3 to give us two dotted minim beats. For example:-
6 - top number means 6 /3 = 2 dotted beats
4 - bottom number means 4 / 2 = 2 dotted half beats or dotted minims.
 Literally means "under the voice" which translates as "very softly".
 "More movement" - meaning faster.
 "Less movement" - meaning slower.
 This sign indicates that the minim beats in the previous bar(s) are the same speed as the crotchet beat in the following bar(s). The pulse does not change.
 Means "ALL" in the sense that all performers now take part.
 Means "silence". Do not play or sing these bars.
 Literally means "dying". Getting softer and softer.
 Animated. Sounding alive.
 "Forte piano" means start the note loud, and then get immediately soft.
 "In a singing style" with the melody brought out well and performed smoothly.
 At the original tempo (speed).
 March time. At the speed of a march.
 Sub. = "subito" which means suddenly. Hence "sub. mp" means suddenly change the dynamic to mp.
 Means agitated.
 Singing in the "head"voice for an adult. The un-naturally high range in the male voice.
 A "tenuto" sign which means held for its full value, and often a little more.
 Double dot. Adds ¾ of the value to the note it follows. In this case the double dotted minim = 2+1+½ = 3 ½ beats. (Note that any dot equals half of what it follows).
 Marked each note emphasized.
 Getting slower and fuller in tone.

Copyright Notice

These linked exercises were developed by Hedley Harwood for the Buderim Male Choir. Licence is granted to other Choirs to use this information for private study purposes, provided the Buderim Male Choir and Hedley Harwood are acknowledged as the source of this material and as copyright owners. This information is not to be used for commercial purposes.