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We wanted to bring you a few terms that you might frequently associate with music. We encourage everyone to pick-up an instrument and start exploring the world of music, as it’s a fascinating one. To schedule a meeting with our local NY teachers, please send us a note here.

Terms in Music

Music is composed of many different composite elements or fundamentals. Some of these include rhythm, harmony, texture, timbre/color, dynamics, beat, pitch, articulation, and form. These elements are assembled together to create music according to different rules or schemas, including scales and modes.

Pitch refers to the subjective experience of owness or highness of sound. Since sound consists of waves propagating through a medium (in most cases, air), sounds that we perceive as low generally have a slower wave frequency, and sounds we perceive as high generally have a faster wave frequency. Some people have what is known as perfect pitch and can identify a given tone immediately, but most people have relative pitch and can only identify relationships however, they can use these relationships to identify other notes given the identity of the first one. Other elements contribute to our experience of pitch, including sound pressure level, preceding notes, and harmonic overtones (tonal complexity). It is important to note that subjective experience of pitch and objective frequency do not exist in a linear relationship that is to say, an threefold increase in frequency would not necessarily correlate to a threefold increase in perceived pitch.

At very low wave frequency levels (less than 1000 hertz or oscillations per second), we perceive sounds as becoming quieter as the wave frequency decreases, and at high frequency levels (greater than 2000 hertz) we perceive sounds as louder as wave frequency increases. This has to do with the fact that the human ear is more sensitive in higher registers, particularly the 2000-4000 hertz range in which the human voice is situated.

Western music has historically relied on several different pitch standards to tune concert instruments, each being oriented around a particular key, with more distant keys becoming less and less harmonic. Even the nature of a given note has been subject to change. A Concert was defined in 1859 by France as 435 Hz, but meanwhile in England the concert A ranged from 439 to 452 Hz. In 1955, the International Organization for Standardization canonized 440 Hz as the definition of a concert A, and since then, A440 has become widely accepted as the A above middle C.

The distance between two pitches is referred to as an interval. Two of the same pitch is called unison, and various other intervals exist. The simplest interval is the octave, which consists of a doubling or halving of the initial frequency.