Elements of Music - Revision Notes

These notes outline the key points of elements of music. They are based a lot on the notes from BBC bitesize.

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Elements of music
Key signatures
Major ­ Sharps
G ­ F#
D ­ F#, C#
A ­ F#, C#, G#
E ­ F#, C#, G# D#
B ­ F#, C#, G#, D#, A#
F# - F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#
Major ­ flats
F - Bb
Bb - Bb, Eb
Eb ­ Bb, Eb, Ab
Ab ­ Bb, Eb, Ab, Db
Db ­ Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb
Gb­ Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb
Finding the relative minor
All major keys have a relative minor. To find this, just count down three semitones. For
example, the relative minor of C is A minor.
Dynamic marking Meaning
< Crescendo: Getting louder
> Diminuendo: Getting quieter
pp Pianissimo: very quiet
p Piano: quiet
ff Fortissimo: very loud
f Forte: loud
mf Mezzo forte: fairly loud
mp Mezzo piano: fairly quiet
sf Sforzando: sudden accent (just on that
> (marked near note head) Accent: emphasis on a particular note

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Family Instruments
Woodwind Piccolo, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Saxophone, Bassoon, Recorder
Brass Trumpet, French Horn, Trombone, Tuba
Strings Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Harp, Guitar
Percussion Timpani, Bass Drum, Snare Drum, Triangle, Xylophone, Glockenspiel
Keyboard Piano, Harpsichord, Organ, Synthesiser
Music actions
Music action Meaning
Glissando Sliding from one note to another
Pizzicato Plucking the strings
Tremolando Very quick playing of a single note
Distortion A special sound on the electric guitar
Note bending Common on plucked string instruments
Muted A device which is put in…read more

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Interrupted cadences are `surprise' cadences. Instead of the anticipated perfect
cadence, you get a minor chord.
Imperfect cadences sound unfinished. An imperfect cadence ends on chord V. (5)
Plagal cadences are formed by the chords IV ­ I. (4 ­ 1)
The character of a piece of music is related to its key centre of tonality.
Tonal music is in a major or minor key.
Atonal music is not related to a tonic note and therefore has no sense of key.…read more

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Sometimes imitations contain slight changes to the tune, to make it more interesting. These
changes might be:
Changes in octave
Adding ornaments
Playing at a different speed.
Riff, ostinato and loop
These three words mean the same thing, although `ostinato' is more often used when
describing classical music, `riff' is more often used when describing pop music, and `loop' is
used in contemporary dance music.
Hooks, fills and breaks
A hook is a short catchy melodic idea designed to be instantly memorable.…read more

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Presto Very quick
Accelerando Gradually speeding up
Rallentando Gradually slowing down
Ritenuto Immediately slower.
Allargando Getting slower and broadening
Rubato Literally `robbed time', where rhythms are played freely for expressive effect.
Rhythm notation
Rhythm notation shows the duration of a note.
A semibreve lasts for four crotchet beats.
A minim lasts for two crotchet beats.
A quaver lasts for half a crotchet beat
A semiquaver lasts for a quarter of a crotchet beat.
Time signatures
Time signatures contain two numbers.…read more

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Polyphonic music has parts that weave in and out of each other. It is also sometimes called
contrapuntal music. It may contain a element of imitation, where one voice or instrument
copies what has just been played by another.
A fugue is a special type of polyphonic texture. Fugues always begin with a tune that is played
on a solo instrument or by instruments in unison.…read more


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