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Humanities LibreTexts

1.12: Glossary

  • Page ID
    54868
  • Accidentals – notes that are not normally found in a given key

    Acoustics – the study of how sound behaves in physical spaces

    Acoustical Engineer – a person who works in the area of acoustic technology

    Acoustician – a person who studies the theory and science of acoustics

    Amplitude – refers to how high the waveform appears to vibrate above zero when seen on an oscilloscope; louder sounds create higher oscilloscope amplitude readings

    Bar – see measure

    Beat – the basic unit of time in music

    Brass – instruments traditionally made of brass or another metal (and thus often producing a “bright” or “brassy” tone) whose sound is generated by blowing into a mouthpiece that is attached to a coiled tube

    Chord – the simultaneous sounding of three or more pitches; like intervals, chords can be consonant or dissonant

    Chord Progression – a series of chords

    Chromatic – musical pitches which move up or down by successive half-steps

    Composition – the process whereby a musician notates musical ideas using a system of symbols or using some other form of recording

    Conjunct – a melody that moves mostly by step, in a smooth manner

    Consonant – (adjective) term used to describe intervals and chords that tend to sound sweet and pleasing to our ears; consonance (noun), as opposed to dissonance, is stable and needs no resolution.

    Cycles per Second (cps) – a definition of frequency of vibration; replaced by Hertz in 1960

    Disjunct – a melody with wide leaps and rapid changes in direction

    Dissonant – (adjective) intervals and chords that tend to sound harsh to our ears; dissonance (noun) is often used to create tension and instability, and the interplay between dissonance and consonance provides a sense of harmonic and melodic motion in music

    Dynamic – the variation in the volume of musical sound (the amplitude of the sound waves)

    Equalization (EQ) – the process of raising or lowering different frequencies of sound, either in a recording, or within a tone (overtones)

    Form – the structure of the phrases and sections within a musical composition (Does it repeat?)

    Frequency – how quickly or slowly a medium (solid, liquid, gas) vibrates and produces a sound

    Fundamental Pitch – the lowest pitch in the harmonic series

    Guido of Arezzo – a medieval music theorist who developed a system of lines and spaces that enabled musicians to notate the specific notes in a melody

    Improvisation – the process whereby musicians create music spontaneously using the elements of music as building blocks

    Instrumentation – the instruments comprising a musical group (including the human voice)

    Interval – the distance in pitch between any two notes

    Harmony – any simultaneous combination of tones and the rules governing those combinations (the way a melody is accompanied is also another way to define harmony)

    Hertz (Hz) – the unit of frequency defined as one cycle per second and named after Heinrich Hertz (1957-1894) in 1960

    Homophonic – musical texture comprised of one melodic line accompanied by chords

    Key – the set of pitches on which a composition is based

    Keyboard – instruments that are characterized by keyboards, such as the piano, organ, vibraphone, and accordion

    Measure – a unit of time that contains a specific number of beats defined by the meter/ time signature

    Melody – a succession of single tones in musical compositions Meter – the way in which the beats are grouped together in a piece

    Monophonic – musical texture comprised of one melodic line; a melodic line may be sung by one person or 100 people

    Motive – the smallest musical unit of a melody, generally a single rhythm of two or three pitches

    Music – sound and silence organized in time

    Noise – a disorganized sound with no discernable pitch

    Octave – the distance between two musical pitches where the higher pitch vibrates exactly twice as many times per second as the lower

    Oscilloscope - an electronic device that displays a visual representation of the different types of sound waves

    Overtones (also known as harmonics) – a musical tone heard above a fundamental pitch

    Partials – the sounds of different frequency that naturally occur above a fundamental (primary) tone

    Percussion – instruments that are typically hit or struck by the hand, with sticks, or with hammers or that are shaken or rubbed by hand

    Performing Forces – see instrumentation

    Phrase – smaller sub-sections of a melody

    Pitch – a tone that is composed of an organized sound wave

    Polyphony – musical texture that simultaneously features two or more relatively independent and important melodic lines

    Polyrhythm – two or more different rhythms played at the same time

    Range – the number of pitches, expressed as an intervallic distance

    Register – the low, medium, and high sections of an instrument or vocal range

    Rhythm – the way the music is organized with respect to time

    Scale – a series of pitches, ordered by the interval between its notes

    Sequence – a repetition of a motive or phrase at a different pitch level Seventh

    Chord – a chord that has four pitches stacked in intervals of thirds

    Sine Wave – the simplest sound wave that occurs in nature. A pure sine wave contains no partials and is perfectly smooth and rounded in appearance on an oscilloscope.

    Sound – the mechanical movement of an audible pressure wave through a solid, liquid, or gas

    Sound Waves – longitudinal waves (compression and rarefaction waves) that travel through a solid, liquid, or gas

    Step – the distance between adjacent notes in a musical scale

    Strings – instruments whose sound is produced by setting strings in motion

    Syncopation – the act of shifting the normal accent, usually by stressing the normally unaccented weak beats or placing the accent between the beats themselves

    Synthesizers – electronic instruments (often in keyboard form) that create sounds using basic wave forms in different combinations

    Tempo –the speed at which the beat is played Texture – the ways in which musical lines of a musical piece interact

    Timbre – the tone color or tone quality of a sound

    Time signature – the numeric notation at the beginning of a line of music where the top number indicates how many beats are in each measure and the bottom number indicates which type of note will represent that beat

    Tonic – the most important pitch of a key; the note from which the other pitches are derived

    Triad – a chord that has three pitches stacked in intervals of thirds

    Twelve-Bar Blues – a twelve-bar musical form commonly found in American music

    Vocal – having to do with the human voice

    Woodwinds – instruments traditionally made of wood whose sound is generated by forcing air through a tube, thus creating a vibrating air column

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