Music Terminology 101

Music Terminology 101

When you begin taking music lessons, you start hearing words that sound like they may as well be in a different language — and some actually may be! You don’t want or need the confusion of unfamiliar terms on top of the initial confusion you’ll have when first learning how your instrument works. That’s why we’ve laid out this lovely list to give you a crash course in music terminology 101.

  • Harmony: a nice-sounding composition of two or three tones played together simultaneously while a melody is being played.
      • Ex: Skip to 3:36. That, my friends, is some great harmony. 
  • A capella: The act of singing a song without instrumental accompaniment.
    • Ex: Anything in Pitch Perfect.
  • Falsetto: A style of singing in which the male vocalist is able to reach to pitch typical of a female vocalist.
    • Ex: Frankie Valli from The Four Seasons
  • Canon: A musical form in which the melody or tune is copied by individual parts at separate intervals. The parts may enter at different measures or pitches and could be played at different speeds, backward, or inverted.
    • Ex: Pachelbel’s Canon
  • Dynamics: The symbols used to indicate the loudness or softness of a piece of music.
    • Ex: pp meaning almost as soft as a whisper.
  • Chord: Three or four notes played in succession.
    • Ex: A/C/E chords
  • Beat: a unit of musical rhythm
    • Ex: Try tapping your foot. That’s a beat.
  • Duet: A piece of music written for and performed by two instrumentalists or vocalists.
    • Ex: “Endless Love” by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie
  • Scale: Successive notes of key ascending or descending
    • Ex: C major scale: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C

As time goes on, music terminology will become more familiar to you, as will your instrument or vocal pieces. At Grace Music School, we help our students understand their instruments and the terms used to describe techniques in fun and innovative ways. For more information or to schedule a lesson, give us a call at 631-239-6169 (Fort Salonga) or 631-470-9705 (Melville).


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