a set of five horizontal lines and four spaces, on which note symbols are placed to indicate their pitch. The pitches indicated by the vertical position of notes on the staff are relative to a fixed pitch that is determined by the placement of a symbol called a clef at the left-hand side of the staff (the staff can also called a stave).
Ledger Line
a tool of musical notation to express notes that do not fall on the regular lines or spaces of the musical staff. A short line (slightly longer than the note) is drawn parallel to the lines on the staff (above or below as appropriate), corresponding to where the staff line would be if the note were in range.
a musical symbol used to indicate the pitch of written notes. Placed on one of the lines at the beginning of the staff, it indicates the name and pitch of the notes on that line. This line serves as a reference point by which the names of the notes on any other line or space of the staff may be determined.
Key Signature
a series of sharp symbols or flat symbols placed on the staff, designating notes that are to be consistently played one semitone higher or lower than the equivalent natural notes (for example, the white notes on a piano keyboard) unless otherwise altered with an accidental. Key signatures are generally written immediately after the clef at the beginning of a line of musical notation, although they can appear in other parts of a score, notably after a double bar.
Time Signature
(also known as “meter signature”) is a notational convention used in Western musical notation to specify how many beats are in each measure and what note value constitutes one beat. Time signatures indicate meter, but do not necessarily determine it; the composer is free to write in a different meter than that indicated by the signature, so long as the music contains the correct number of beats.

Most time signatures comprise two numbers, one above the other. In text time signatures are written in the manner of a fraction: the example shown at right would be written 3/4.

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In a musical score, the time signature appears at the beginning of the piece, immediately following the key signature (or immediately following the clef if the piece is in C major or A minor). A mid-score time signature, usually immediately following a barline, indicates a change of meter.

refers to the softness or loudness of a sound or note, but also to every aspect of the execution of a given piece, either stylistic (staccato, legato etc.) or functional (velocity). The term is also applied to the written or printed musical notation used to indicate dynamics.
the overall quality of sound of a piece, most often indicated by the number of voices in the music and by the relationship between these voices.
the speed or pace of a given piece. It is an extremely crucial element of sound, as it can affect the mood and difficulty of a piece.
a dynamic direction in music, often appearing in sheet music as p, and indicating that the performer should play softly.
a musical dynamic meaning “loudly” or “strong”
a series or progression of musical notes over time
the use of different pitches simultaneously, and chords, actual or implied, in music
the set of notes a musical instrument can play, or used in a piece of music.
Describes the difference in pitch between two notes.
what plays the music

ex. human voice, symphony, quartet, etc.

Text/Word Painting
the musical technique of having the music mimic the literal meaning of a song
The simplest of textures, consisting of melody without accompanying harmony. This may be realized as just one note at a time, or with the same note duplicated at the octave (such as often when men and women sing together).
a texture consisting of two or more independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice (monophony) or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords (homophony).
A texture in which two or more parts move together in harmony, the relationship between them creating chords.
A texture where there is a “sameness of rhythm in all parts” or “very similar rhythm” as would be used in simple hymn or chorale settings. Homorhythm is a condition of homophony.
Imitative Polyphony
an example would be a round, where the rhythm repeats
any musical instrument which produces sound primarily by causing a body of air to vibrate, without the use of strings or membranes, and without the vibration of the instrument itself adding considerably to the sound.
any musical instrument which produces sound primarily by way of a vibrating string or strings stretched between two points.
any musical instrument which creates sound primarily by way of the instrument vibrating itself, without the use of strings or membranes.
any musical instrument which produces sound primarily by way of a vibrating stretched membrane.
the measurement of a musical line into measures of stressed and unstressed “beats”, indicated in Western music notation by a symbol called a time signature.
an emphasis placed on a particular note
there is only one note for each syllable of the text.
a melody that moves mostly by whole step or half step, moving up and down the scale.
a melody that moves mostly by leap, skipping notes in the scale.
a musical setting is neumatic if there are two to seven notes per syllable.
a musical setting that has two or more melismas and if the rest of the setting has several notes per syllable.
Gregorian Chant
the central tradition of Western plainchant, a form of monophonic, unaccompanied sacred song of the western Christian Church.
the major service of the Catholic church, commemorating Christ’s sacrifice. Divided into the proper (items with texts that change from day to day) and the ordinary (items with unchanging texts).
a polyphonic composition based on plainchant. A new line (the vox organalis) is added to the original plainchant line (the vox principalis) and uses the same text as the original. Sections of a chant that were originally sung by the choir remain as plainchant, so an alternation of polyphony and monophony results.
a polyphonic genre which originated in the thirteenth century in which the upper voice or voices are texted (usually syllabically) and the bottom voice, the tenor, is untexted.
any French-texted secular song
an Italian secular genre using the form a a b or a a a b. If polyphonic, the top line is often more florid than the bottom.
the name for a musical sign in plainchant notation which designates a very small melodic gesture sung to a single syllable.
rhythmic modes
rhythmic patterns governing the performance of measured sections of Notre Dame organum and, by extension, polyphonic conductus and early motets (late twelfth-thirteenth centuries). All patterns employ triple meter. In the following short-hand descriptions, “Dah” is worth three units, “duh” two units and “dee” is a single unit; while the vertical stroke act like modern-day barlines showing groupings of three beats.

mode 1: trochaic (duh dee) — duh dee | duh dee | duh dee | ….
mode 2: iambic (dee duh) — dee duh | dee duh | dee duh | ….
mode 3: dactylic (Dah, dee duh) — Dah | dee duh | Dah | dee duh | ….
mode 4: anapestic (dee duh, Dah) — dee duh | Dah | dee duh | Dah | ….
mode 5: spondaic (Dah, Dah) — Dah | Dah | Dah | ….
mode 6: tribrachic (dee dee dee) — dee dee dee | dee dee dee | ….

a tempo marking indicating that the music is to be played slowly
at a walking pace (76 – 108 bpm)
moderately (108 – 120 bpm)
slow and solemn
fast and bright or “march tempo” (120 – 168 bpm)
lively and fast (~140 bpm)
very fast (168 – 200 bpm)
very slow (40 – 60 bpm)