A SHORT MUSICAL GLOSSARY
Beat – The term “beat” can be thought of in two ways. A beat is simply a count, an expression of musical time that might be written as a quarter note. One might say, “ there are four beats to a measure.” The other reference is to the beat as a pulse or a rhythm, heard alone or in a song. A steady beat in any time signature features identical notes. An even walking pace is a good example of a beat. Even so, a beat can be syncopated. People often say of a song that “it has a good beat.”
Measure- A group of beats expressed in notes on the musical staff that are framed at beginning and end by the placement of a bar line. A measure can also consist of empty space between two bar lines.
Time Signature- These numbers appear as a fraction at the beginning of a piece of music. The number on top shows how many beats occur in one measure of music. The number below the bar indicates what kind of note receives one full beat.
4/4 time- A time signature that indicates four beats to a measure, and that a whole note receives four beats.
3/4 time “Waltz time”- A time signature that indicates three beats to a measure, and that a whole note receives four beats.
Tempo- The pace at which musicians perform a piece of music. Tempo is not fixed or absolute. The composer or arranger can suggest a tempo at which they prefer their composition be played. But the tempo is reinterpreted by every musician who plays the piece. Tempos often vary during the course of a single performance of classical or jazz music. Tempos are more commonly fixed in popular music.
Pitch, Note, Key and Melodic Vocabulary
Key Signature- The key signature is indicated by the placement of sharps or flats at the head of each staff to tell the musician what scale the music is based upon.
Melody- A sequence of notes, played and/or written on the musical staff.
Note- A note is a pitch with a specific identity on the musical staff. Notes are given letter names to represent their position relative to pitches higher and lower. A note can be written and read or simply performed.
Pentatonic- This refers to a specific type of scale that contains only five notes or solfege pitches - DO, RE, MI, SO and LA. Oddly, FA is skipped in the pentatonic scale because it represents the sub-dominant pitch, and can be harder for children to audiate and sing than the other pitches in the scale.
Pitch- A pitch is a sound that has musical value determined by the speed of its frequency, and its perceived height or depth, as well as its position in relation to other pitches.
Rhythm- A rhythm is a pattern of beats that repeats many times in a row, setting up a “groove” or predictable “beat” for some number of measures in a piece of music. When different rhythms occur at the same time in music, they overlap and become “contrapuntal.”
Root note- The root note of a chord is the note around which the chord is built. The chord carries the name of that note as part of its identity.
Scale- An ordered sequence of notes. There are many kinds of scales, each one featuring a specific pattern of distances between notes that is expressed on the lines and spaces of the musical staff.
Standard Notation- A method of expressing musical sounds in writing with symbols (called notes) on the musical staff.
Tablature- A method of writing and reading music designed specially for guitarists. It differs from standard notation in that it indicates which strings of the instrument to play, with which specific fingerings, and at what designated locations the desired notes can be played along the fingerboard.
Dynamics- Varying degrees of loud and soft in music; the dynamics can be influenced by the intrinsic ability of any particular instrument create different levels of sound, and the touch, “feel” or attack of the musician’s fingers on the instrument.
Capo- A device most commonly used with guitar or banjo, the capo functions like a C clamp, holding strings down tightly against the fingerboard to increase string tension and raise the pitch of every string. Placing a capo over all the strings of an instrument raises its key.
Flatpick- A flatpick is usually made from a thin piece of plastic, shaped to fit comfortably between one’s thumb and index fingertip. Playing with a flatpick produces a clear, bright sound. To hold and strum with a flatpick, the player squeezes the flat edge of the pick between the Thumb of the strumming hand and the top joint of the index finger.Relaxing the muscles in the hand, the player brushes the tip of the pick across the strings while strumming.
Electronic Guitar Tuner- The fastest and most reliable way to tune a guitar is with an electronic tuner. It it housed in a small box with LEDs that allow the player to SEE when a string is in tune. There are many different models that work well.
Classical Position- To sit correctly with the guitar in the classical position the player sits up straight with his or her right foot flat on the floor and the left foot raised up several inches, resting on a low stool. Placing the guitar over the left thigh at about a 45 degree angle to the ground, with the lower bout between his or her thighs, tline of the guitar should appear to be almost diagonal to the floor. The player rests his or her right arm over and around the lower bout of the guitar and lets the strumming hand rest over the "mouth.
Folk Position - To play guitar in the folk position, the player sits up straight in a chair, and places both feet flat on the floor. The players thighs must be level to create a "shelf" that keeps the guitar on his or her lap. The player rests the guitar over his or her right thigh, perpendicular to the ground. And reaches his or her right arm over the lower bout of the guitar, elbow at the top, and lets his or her hand fall across the "mouth." This position creates a snug, comfortable fit between the player’s body and the
Bass-Down Strum- This strum begins with plucking one bass string for a full count, then strumming down across the guitar strings for another full count. The strum is good for playing music in 2/4 or 4/4 time.
Bass-Down-Down Strum- Like the Bass-Down Strum, this strum begins with plucking one bass string for a full count. Then the player strums down across the guitar strings twice, each Down strum lasting for one full count. The strum is good for playing music in 3/4 time.
Down-Up Strum- Strumming down, then up across the strings to a steady beat or pulse.
Fingerpicking- When a player fingerpicks, he or she isolates the guitar strings and plucks them individually or concurrently in small designated groups, usually in a fixed pattern. The strings can be plucked with the soft pads of one’s fingertips, or with fingerpicks made of metal or plastic, worn around the soft pads of the fingertips, to create a bright, clear tone.
“Hammer-On”- A Hammer-On is a special guitar technique made popular in Blues music. It consists of two notes played consecutively by plucking an open string and letting it ring for a split second, then pressing a fingertip down over that string with enough force to create a second vibration and a new note without having to pluck the string a second time.
Down Strum: Strumming down across the strings to a steady beat or pulse.
Shuffle Strum- Strumming down, then up across the strings to an uneven rhythm pattern during which the down strum lasts for a full beat and the up strum lasts only half a beat.
Strum- A strum is any pattern of motions, down and/or up, of the hand or flatpick across the guitar strings. It creates a rhythm.
Chord- A chord is a family of related notes that center around a root note that bears the chord’s name. For example the C major chord has a C note as it’s “root” or tonal center, but also includes an E note and a G note.
Chord Progression- A chord progression is a sequence of chords, each one played for a portion of a measure or more before changing to the next chord.
Big G- Big G is a large, bassy, first position chord that spans all the strings of the guitar. It is played with the High G note on the 1st (High E) string, the C note played on the 5th (A) string, and the Low G note played on the 6th (Low E) string. One popular way to finger this chord includes placing the pinky on string 1 (High E) the middle finger on string 5 (A string), and the index finger on string 6 (Low E.) A strategically more sound way to finger the chord requires a slightly larger finger stretch so the ring finger plays the C note and the middle finger plays the Low G note.
Little G- The Little G chord is an easy-to-play abbreviation of the Big G, containing only the High G note played on the 1st (High E) string, and open B, G, and D notes on the open strings 4 through 1.To play Little G, strum across strings 4 through 1, only.
Blues- A now-traditional form of American music derived from African music and songs that were initially brought to the United States by African slaves, sung, revised, and adapted by people of African origins and descent before being embraced by people from all ethnic backgrounds and walks of life including those of Anglo and European descent.
Composition- An original musical creation.
Song- A composition that includes a vocal part with lyrics, abstract or intelligible.
Chorus- A portion of a song that repeats, both melody and lyrics, after each verse and is easily recalled by listeners. Using letter representation of song forms, if the verses are A and B, the musical bridge is C, and the chorus D, and the most popular form for a song might be A, D, B, D, C, D, D.
Verse- The portion of a song that, unlike the chorus, includes different lyrics each time its melody occurs in a song.
Arrangement- The intentional manipulation of musical dynamics and portions of music within a single piece to create an overall effect as well as a transformational listening experience throughout.
Solo- A portion of a performance of a composition that is played by a single, featured musician.
Spiritual- A form of music that evolved along the same lines as Blues music, but which refers specifically to the presence of God, the existence of Heaven, and faith in a life beyond human existence on Earth. Spirituals are often sung in churches and at community gatherings.
Call and Response Song- The call and response song evolved, like the Blues, from the culture of African and African-American slaves who sang to one another in the fields and on work gangs. One voice leads and the others sing in response to the leader. Call and response songs frequently feature questions and answers, or statements and affirmations.
Parts of the Guitar
Bridge- This narrow bar is normally placed perpendicular to the guitar neck, well below the sound hole. It holds the saddle of the guitar and bottom ends of the guitar strings..
Bridge Pins: On some guitars, the guitar strings are held in place along the bridge with little pegs called bridge pins that secure the ball ends of strings in small holes cut into the bridge.
Head- The head of the guitar holds the tuners.
Nut- The nut of a stringed instrument guides the strings into their places at the head, and along the fingerboard. A typical guitar nut has six slots, one for each string.
Frets- Frets are made of thin metal wire. They sit in the wood along thefingerboard at intervals that divide the fingerboard into spaces which create musical half steps. To play notes on the guitar clearly, place your fingertips between the frets, not on them.
Fingerboard- This flat, smooth surface holds the frets. You press the strings under your fingertips against it to play new notes.
Sound Hole- Also referred to as the "mouth." The sound hole allows the vibrating air that occurs when you pluck or strum strings to travel into the guitar and resonate throughout the wooden body. This produces a larger sound than would occur in an instrument without one or more sound holes.
Saddle- This guides the strings and lifts them above the fingerboard to create string tension. To play a note other than the open strings, one must depress a string against the fingerboard. The amount of string tension created by the height of the nut and bridge is called the guitar's "action." Action can be raised or lowered to improve the playability of your guitar.
Tuners- All stringed instruments have tuners around which are wound the top ends of their strings. Folk instruments have a primary set of tuners at the head. Some classical instruments also have very small, fine tuners at their bridges. There are six tuners on a guitar, one for each string. To raise