Terminology in Music

Understanding and learning musical terms is a fundamental part of your education in music. All aspects of music, such as performance, music history, and music theory, have many terms that are essential to know. Commonly-used musical terms may occur in a particular language such as English, Italian, German, or French. In some cases terms in several languages may be commonly used, such as the names of instruments that are written in a composer's native language on a score. A list of many important musical terms is given on this website.

You can think of mastering musical terms as learning a new language. The more you use this “new language” the more fluent you become. We use discipline-specific terminology to convey something very precise to readers who also know music terminology. Therefore it is very important to use musical terms correctly. This will help you in performance, in thinking about music, and in communicating to others verbally and in writing.

  • When you write about music use this terminology in your notes and final reports.
  • It is helpful to keep a notebook containing musical terms and their definitions that are new to you.
  • Keep writing the words as our hand and brain work together when trying to remember and learn new words.
  • You should have a standard dictionary such as The New Harvard Dictionary of Music available to refer to when you encounter a term that you do not know.

The list of musical terms from which the Musical Terms Exam is drawn can be downloaded in PDF form by clicking this link: List of Musical Terms