Study Map

Music Theory Vocabulary for Kids

When you start learning about music or how to play a musical instrument, you'll quickly notice that music involves a lot of vocabulary words. Learning these new words will help you understand music, and you'll probably catch on much faster as you learn how to play an instrument. Many musical terms are Italian, and this is because many years ago, when musical rules were being made, it was Italian composers who were involved in this process. As more people began catching on and using the terms, they just continued to use the ones that Italian composers had already created.

A Cappella: A cappella music is choral music that is performed without instruments accompanying the singers.

Accidental: An accidental is when one note is made sharp or flat but this is not reflected in the key of the piece.

Adagio: An adagio tempo is slow.

Alto: An alto is the voice that is lower than a soprano but higher than tenor and bass parts.

Arrangement: An arrangement is an adaptation of a song or musical composition. Sometimes an arrangement might make big changes to the score, or the changes might be very small to just change a few parts.

Articulation: Articulation tells you how notes should be played, possibly with accents or slurs or staccato or legato.

Bass Clef: The bass clef might also be called the "F clef," and it includes the lower half of notes on the grand staff below middle C.

Chord: A chord is a group of three or more notes played at the same time to create a harmony.

Crescendo: A crescendo means the music gradually gets louder.

Dynamics: Dynamics refers to the loudness of notes or phrases of notes. Common dynamics from loudest to softest include fortissimo, forte, mezzo forte, mezzo piano, piano, and pianissimo.

Ear Training: This type of music training helps you recognize pitches, melodies, rhythms, and chords, which helps you with music reading and performing.

Flat: A flat sign looks like a lowercase "b," and it shows that a note needs to be lowered by a half-step.

Glissando: A glissando happens by playing several of the pitches between two or more notes, possibly on a piano, violin, or another instrument.

Intervals: Intervals are the spaces between two pitches; this might be a whole step or a half-step.

Key Signature: A key signature is the special arrangement of flats or sharps shown at the beginning of a staff. Major and minor scales have specific key signatures associated with them.

Legato: Legato music is smooth, with the notes connected to create a continuous sound.

Measure: A measure is a group of beats that are divided by bar lines.

Octave: An octave is an interval of eight notes, each a whole step apart, with the first and last notes having the same "quality," though one note is lower and the other note is higher.

Opera: An opera is a theatrical performance that is set to music. The performers usually sing their parts as they act, and music is a big part of the show. The actors also usually dress up in fancy costumes.

Pitch Interval: Pitch interval refers to the distance between two pitches, and this interval is expressed in half-steps or whole steps between the pitches.

Scales: The word "scales" comes from an Italian word that means "ladder." Scales are a stepping arrangement of pitches that make up an octave.

Sharp: A sharp sign looks like a number sign, and it shows that a note needs to be raised by a half-step.

Sonata: A sonata is a collection that usually includes four different instrumental movements.

Soprano: A soprano sings the highest female part in a choral selection, harmonizing with alto, tenor, and bass parts.

Time Signature: The time signature might also be called "meter," and this refers to the organization of beats to make groups. Time signature is indicated at the start of a musical piece near the key signature, and it can change during a piece.

Treble Clef: The treble clef can also be called the "G clef," and this clef includes the upper half of the notes on the grand staff above middle C.