All Years – Musical Concepts


Here is a list of the musical concepts:

This list is quite detailed. Year 7 and 8 students only need to understand the basic definitions of each, although further study and understanding is encouraged.

Pitch – How high or low a sound is. A series of pitches is known as a melody. All melodies have a contour (shape, eg. ascending, descending, steps, leaps). A scale is a series of pitches (tones and semitones) based upon a main (tonic) note. Every scale has a key signature (Major or minor). When pitches are played at the same time, this is known as harmony. Any two pitches played together or separately are known as an interval. Tonality refers to the tonal centre/s the melodies and harmonies are based around.

Duration – How long or short a sound is. A series of durations is known as a rhythm. Durations follow the beat, which is a constant pulse that the music follows. The speed of the beat is known as tempo. The time signature tells you how many beats (top figure) and what kind of beats (bottom figure) there are in every bar.

Tone Colour – How bright or dark a sound is. Tone colour refers to the quality of the sound. Tone colour is also called timbre (tam-ber). All tone colour words are adjectives that are used to describe (eg. clear, breathy, piercing, haunting). They can be similar to the words used to describe mood and emotion (eg. aggressive, sombre, strong, mellow).

Dynamics – How loud or soft a sound is. Sounds can get loud or soft suddenly (subito) or gradually (crescendo, diminuendo). Texture can also affect the dynamics (due to the number of sounds). This concept is closely related to expressive techniques.

Expressive Techniques – How the performer plays the instrument. Certain techniques are used by the performer to create certain effects. Expressive techniques affect how the notes sound, such as smooth and well connected (legato), short and detached (staccato), stressing or emphasising (accent), shaking the sound (vibrato), quick repetition (tremolo), drawing out the notes (tenuto) and sliding (glissando). This concept is closely related to dynamics.

Texture – How thick or thin the layers of sound are (or how many layers of sound). This can be a single melody (monophonic), a melody line with chordal accompaniment (homophonic) or many melodies playing at once (polyphonic). Texture also refers to how the parts relate to one another, such as using the same notes (unison), using notes an octave apart (doubling), repeating melodies (imitation), using call and response, moving in similar and contrary motion.

Structure – How the sections of music are put together and how they are divided into sections. Structure is also called form. Classical structures include introduction, binary form, ternary form, rondo form, theme and variation, through composed, strophic and coda. There are many more specific classical forms, such as sonata form, toccata and fugue. Popular structures include introduction, verse, chorus (refrain), bridge, instrumental (solo) and outro. The most popular contemporary music structure is the 12 bar blues.

Here are some other important words:

Performing Media – Refers to what instrument, voice or object is making the sound. An instrument’s range is the amount of notes it can play. Within the range of an instrument there are various registers (eg. high, medium and low).

Unity – How similar or together something is.

Contrast – How different or new something is. Contrast is also called variety or variation.

Tension – How opposing musical concepts and elements need to resolve.

Climax – How musical concepts lead to a focal point of great musical interest.

Here are some great words listed in concept areas (originally to help students respond during an Aural question).

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4 Responses to “All Years – Musical Concepts”

  1. Luke Says:

    That was great! And well explained… 🙂

  2. Kerri Lacey Says:

    Great work Mr C. Very pleased to see teachers helping their students with online resources that they have developed.

  3. Giovanna Says:

    This Site was very helpful with my music assignment. Thanks!

  4. Giovanna Says:

    This really helped me. Thanks!

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