Musical Terms Every Beginning Musician Should Know

Beginning musicians must learn certain terms to follow the music and understand what the instructor is speaking of as they teach. The terminology overwhelms many people and may lead them to question why they wish to learn the instrument. However, there is no reason to panic. Once a person learns the basic terminology, understanding a musical piece becomes much easier. The following terms are ones every beginning musician should know. The musician can learn other terms as their skill level increases. 

Beat: As Piano Movers of Texas explains, the pattern and speed of a musical piece determine the beat. Once the musician identifies the beat of a piece, it becomes easier to control other elements. Think of a ticking clock. Each tick of the clock is a beat. The beat is the time unit of the music, and these beats come together to form the rhythm of the piece. By speeding up or slowing down the clock's second hand, the person changes the tempo of the beat. Composers do the same with musical works.

Chord: When people think of a chord in music, they think of multiple notes being played at the same time. However, the notes don't have to be played simultaneously or by the same instrument. Each instrument can play a different note from the same chord at the same time or one person can play the chord. This depends on how the composer wrote the piece. Musicians typically hear three or four pitches in one chord, but chords in jazz pieces often have five or six pitches.

Melody: The melody of a musical piece serves as the most notable and memorable feature of the work. It is nothing more than a collection of notes pleasing to the ear, and many works contain multiple melodies. The melody tends to be simple and is often repeated several times throughout the work. Think of how words come together to form a sentence. The melody works in much the same way, bringing notes together to create a memorable piece. 

Rhythm: Composers create the rhythm of a piece by grouping unaccented beats around accented ones. They regularly repeat or group the beats to form this rhythm, and the rhythm may consist of both notes and silences or rests. A rhythm is a specific number of beats repeated at a certain speed. It divides the music into regular metric patterns that a musician can follow.

Tempo: The speed at which an individual plays a musical piece is referred to as the tempo. The tempo is determined by the number of beats per minute in the piece, and the tempo may change throughout the piece. Musicians must understand the difference between the tempo and the time signature when playing. 

Learn one term each day until you feel confident that you understand the five mentioned above. Once you feel confident with these terms, learn a new one each week. The instructor can help determine which words apply to the pieces being learned at any time. Don't hesitate to ask for clarifications, as the terminology is of great help in advancing your musical instruction. 

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