Music Fundamentals
Kerman, Chs. 1-4

This is a glossary of terms taken from the first four chapters of your music book with additional links added that will aid your understanding of the material.

Kerman Ch. 1 Kerman Ch. 2 Kerman Ch. 3 Interlude B Kerman Ch. 4 Links

Kerman, Chapter 1, Music, Sound, and Time

Music-an art based on the organization of sound

Acoustics-branch of physics concerned with sound

Pitch-highness or lowness of a sound

Frequency-scientific term for pitch, means number of vibrations per second

Dynamics-degree of loudness or softness in music (or volume)

Amplitude-Scientific term for volume, means size of sound waves

Dynamic      Abbreviation    Meaning

piano     p                 soft

mezzo piano  mp            moderately soft

mezzo forte  mf                moderately loud

forte     f                 loud

Dynamic     Symbol/Meaning

decrescendo    gradually softer
(decresc.) or


crescendo gradually    louder

Tone Color-Quality of a sound caused by the overtones/partials of a freqeuency

Timbre-another term for tone color

Duration-length of sounds

Rhythm-organization of the length of sounds and silences in music


Kerman, Ch. 2, Rhythm and Pitch

Rhythm-organization of the length of sounds and silences in music

Beat-regular, recurrent pulsation that divides music into equal units of time

Accent-to emphasized or stress a note, downbeats (the first beat of a measure) have a natural accent

Meter-the organization of beats into regular groups.  Common meters include:
 Duple meter-two beats to the measure: 1-2/1-2, etc.
 Triple meter-three beats to the measure: 1-2-3/1-2-3, etc.
 Quadruple meter-four beats to the measure: 1-2-3-4/1-2-3-4, etc.

Measure or bar-A group containing a fixed number of beats

Bar lines-line that divides the measures

Downbeat-the first, stressed beat in a measure

Syncopation-when an off-beat (between the beats) is accented, or  a beat not normally stressed (such as beat 2) is accented, this creates syncopation which is important in jazz and popular music

Tempo-speed of the beat; common tempo indications include: largo (very slow); adagio (slow); andante (moderately slow; at a walking pace); moderato (moderate pace); allegretto  (moderately fast-or allegro moderato); allegro (fast); presto (very fast); accelerando (get gradually faster); ritardando (get gradually slower)

Metronome-device invented in 1816 that ticks like a clock at any desired number of beats per minute-120 beats per minute is considered "allegro" (fast)-it is also called "march tempo"

Pitch-highness or lowness of a sound (frequency)

Scale-collection of pitches arranged in ascending/descending order, comes from the Italian word "la scala" which means "the ladder"

Interval-distance between two pitches; unison-2nd-3rd-4th-5th-6th-7th-octave









Octave-2:1 ratio in number of vibrations from lower pitch to upper pitch; A=440, also A=220, A=880, etc.

Half step-the smallest interval on the keyboard and in Western music

Whole step-an interval equal to two half steps

Leap or skip-any interval larger than a step

Diatonic scales-the major and minor scales, each of which consists of a combination of half and whole steps

Chromatic scale-The twelve consecutive half steps within the range of an octave

Ex. 1 A one octave chromatic scale ascending, then descending.  A chromatic scale contains all half steps, and can be played at the keyboard by playing all the black and white keys consecutively.

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Major scale-the ascending pattern of steps is whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half

Ex. 2 This is a C Major scale ascending, then descending.  The most important tone is the first degree of the scale, the tonic note "C."  The second most important is the fifth degree of the scale, the dominant note "G."  The half steps are between "E" and "F" (3rd and 4th notes) and between "B" and "C" (7th and 8th notes), the places where there are no black keys at the piano.  The other steps are whole steps.

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Music notation-the way in which music is written down

Note-a symbol which indicates a period of sound in music

Rest-a symbol that indicates a period of silence in music

Time signature-numbers in notated music which indicate the number of beats in a measure and which type of note receives the beat

Staff-Five lines and four spaces upon which music is notated

Clef-a symbol that fixes the tone represented by each line and space on the staff

Sharp-a symbol (#) that indicates a tone is to be performed one-half step higher than notated

Flat-a symbol (b) that indicates a tone is to be performed one-half step lower than notated

score-the notated parts for all the voices and/or instruments of a musical composition aligned vertically


Kerman, Ch. 3, The Structures of Music

Melody-a series of single notes that adds up to a recognizable whole; combines pitch and rhythm

Tune-a melody that is easily recognized, memorized, and sung

Phrase-a section of melody, comparable to a section or phrase of a sentence

Cadence-resting point at the end of a phrase

Ex. 3  This is Mary's Little Lamb in the key of C Major.   It has two phrases of equal length (four measures each).  The first phrase is called the "question" phrase, and the second phrase is called the "answer" phrase.  The phrase endings are called "cadences."  The phrases in music are like the phrases in a sentence, with the cadences being like the commas and periods of the sentence.

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Contour-Shape of outline of a melody formed by its notes
 Conjunct-smooth, connected
 Disjunct-angular disconnected

Ex. 4  Below is the the first eight measures of the "Star Spangled Banner" in the key of C Major.  It is a very disjunct melody, contaning a lot of leaps (skips) and also has a very broad range of notes.  This makes this melody difficult to sing.

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Ex. 5  Below is "America" in the key of F Major.  It is a very conjunct melody, meaning it moves mainly by steps, which makes it easy to sing.  Measures 6 through 9 is a sequence, with measures 8 and 9 duplicating measures 6 and 7 one note lower.  The B-flat at the beginning of each line is called the "key signature" and makes every "B" in the music the black key "B-flat."

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 Sequence-A melodic phrase repeated at different levels of pitchTune-a melody that is easily recognized, memorized and sung

Motive-A short melodic phrase that may be developed

Theme-A melody that recurs throughout a piece of music

harmony-the simultaneous sounding of two or more different tones

dissonance-an active, unsettled sound

consonance-a passive sound which seems to be "at rest"

Ex. 6 The following are examples of dissonant (tense, unsettled, active) sounds resolving to consonant (restful, peaceful) sounds.  In Western music, dissonant sounds resolve to consonant sounds.

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chord-a meaningful (as opposed to random) combination of three or more tones

triad-A chord with three tones, consisting of two superimposed thirds

Ex. 7 Building triads in the key of C Major.  A triad is the most basic chord in Western harmony.  It uses a bottom tone called the "root" and two thirds stacked upon it called the "third" and the "fifth."

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Ex. 8  These are the basic triads in the key if C Major.  These triads can be used to harmonize melodies in the key of C Major.  They are extracted from the C Major scale above by stacking up the notes of the C Major scale in thirds.  For instance, stacking the 1st, 3rd, and 5th tones of the scale produced the tonic triad (represented by Roman numeral "I"), which is the most important triad.  Stacking the 2nd, 4th, and 6th notes of the scale produces another triad, stacking the 3rd, 5th, and 7th notes produces another triad, etc.  The second most important triad is the dominant triad (represented by the Roman numeral "V"), which is the triad built upon the 5th note of the scale.

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texture-the manner in which melodic lines are used in music

monophonic texture (monophony)-one unaccompanied melodic line

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polyphonic texture (polyphony)-the simultaneous combination of two or more melodic lines that produce a meaningful harmony

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imitative polyphony-the simultaneous combination of two or more melodic lines in which the melodies mimic (imitate) one another

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round-the above example is also an example of a round-a melody that may be performed by two or more voices entering at different times, producing meaningful harmony

homophonic texture (homophony)-a melodic line accompanied by chordal harmony

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tonality or tonal system-The system of harmony, based upon the major and minor scales, that has dominated Western music since the 1600ís

Tonic-The first and most important note of a scale, to which all the other notes bear a subordinate relationship. The tonic is represented by a Roman numeral I

Key-the tonic note, and the scale upon which a piece of music is based

dominant (V)-the fifth note of the major and minor scale and the triad built upon it

subdominant (IV)-the fourth note of the major or minor scale and the triad built upon it

modality-building music around major or minor scales

keys-building music around varied central pitches

modulation-moving from one key to another in a piece of music, shifting the central pitch (tonic)

Minor scale-the ascending patter of steps is whole, half, whole, whole, half, whole, whole

Ex. 9  Below is a C minor scale.  The third, sixth, and  seventh (sometimes) notes of the minor scale are lowered one half step.  This makes the half steps in a minor scale between the second and third notes and fifth and sixth notes of the scale.

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Ex. 10  Below is Mary's Little Lamb in the key of C minor.  It is harmonized with tonic (C minor-"i" triads) and dominant seventh (V7) chords built from the C minor scale.

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Ex. 11  Below is Mary's Little Lamb harmonized with tonic (I) triads and dominant 7th chords (V7) in the key of C Major.

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Ex. 12  This is the first phrase of "Twinkle, twinkle" played in three different keys, and harmonized with tonic, subdominant, and dominant chords.  Can you figure out which keys? (the answers are below the example)

Click on music to play-keys of C Major, F Major, F minor


Kerman, Interlude B (musical instruments/timbre)

Timbre is the quality of sound that an instrument of voice produces.  In other words, a soprano singer (high female voice), a trumpet, and a flute all have different timbres, even though they are all high.  Below is an excellent link to help you recognize the sound and look of different instruments.

Dallas Symphony Orchestra


Kerman, Ch. 4, Musical Form and Musical Style

form-structure of a piece of music, based upon repetition and contrast-can often be diagrammed with letters such as A B A

genres-types of musical compositions, such as symphony, concerto, opera, or overture

style-combination of qualities that makes musical pieces distinctive from one another

Helpful Link

Ricci Adams' - Animated music theory lessons

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Last updated on 8/22/2013

Additional miscellaneous examples for later chapters

Ex. 1  This is the F Major scale.  So that the half steps stay in the correct place (between 3-4 and 7-8), it uses a B-flat.  The B-flat is written as an accidental, rather than a key signature in this case.

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Ex. 2 These are the basic triads built not in the key of C Major, but the key of F Major.  They can be used to harmonize melodies in the key of F Major.

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Whole tone scale-the six consecutive whole steps within the range of an octave

Ex.3  The following is a whole tone scale played twice.  It uses all whole steps and has an eerie, wandering sound because there is no leading tone half step leading back to tonic ("do") to give it a feeling of a central pitch.

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Leading tone-The seventh step of a scale (ti) that leads back to the tonic (do)

Pentatonic scale-A five note scale

Ex. 4 The following is based upon a pentatonic scale, a five note scale which is found in the folk music of many Western and non-Western cultures.

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Mode-A seven note scale within the range of an octave, including but not limited to the scale patterns we call major and minor

Ex. 5  This is an F scale without a B-flat.  It sounds wrong to our ears because the 4th note of the scale is a half step too high.  This means the half steps are betwen 4 and 5 and 7 and 8 instead of 3-4 and 7-8.  This is actually an example of a very old scale called a "Lydian scale," one of the modal scales that was used more than 500 years ago during the Middle Ages.

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