These definitions were developed over many years of teaching music to children and adults. They are meant to capture the essence of their terms in a simple way.

  1. A note marked with a sharp ( # ), flat ( b ), or natural ( n ) symbol.
  2. A pitch that doesn't belong in the key signature.
  3. The black keys on the piano are often called the accidentals.
Beats per Minute (bpm)
A measure of how many beats would be played in one minute if the speed of the beat remained steady. For example, a second has a tempo of 60bpm, because it beats exactly 60 times in each minute. In order to qualify as a tempo, the speed of the beats must remain constant. If the beat is speeding up or slowing down, then it is not a specific tempo, but changing tempos.
How long something lasts in time. Temporal length. For example:
The amount of cycles per second, measured in Hertz. For example, imagine plucking a guitar string. If it vibrates twice per second, then we say it has a frequencey of 2Hz. The faster it vibrates, the higher the frequency. For humans, frequencies of about 20Hz or faster sound like a single pitch rather than separate, individual clicks or pulses. Frequencies higher than about 20,000Hz cannot be heard by most humans at all (but they can be heard by children).

The standard tuning frequency for musical instruments is A440, which is the pitch you hear when a sound vibrates exactly 440 times each second. In fact, if you could clap 440 times per second, then you could tune an entire orchestra!

Major Scale
The major scale consists of 7 consecutive notes in the musical ahphabet, in the following order of whole steps and half steps: This pattern can be viewed as two major tetrachords separated by a whole step: The octave is usually doubled for the final note, which adds resolution. The C major scale is the only major scale that has no accidentals: C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C. The major scale is the most common scale used in Western Music. more info on the major scale
Middle C
The C closest to the center of a piano (with 88-keys). In standard tuning (A=440Hz), middle C is approximately 261.6Hz.
Sounds that have been organized to make art.
Music Theory
The study of how music works. more info on music theory
  1. A single musical sound, including its pitch and duration.
  2. A written symbol that represents one sound. In standard Western music notation, note duration is reprensented by type (whole, half, quarter, eighth, ect.), and pitch is represented by position on the staff.
Notes are combined to create all of the music that we hear.
"Octave" literally means "eighth." In music, the octave is equivalent to the 8th note of a major scale, which is always the same tone as the first note of the scale. So if we start on C, then the 2nd note is D, the third is E, the fourth is F, the fifth is G, the sixth is A, the seventh is B, and the 8th is another C.

It is common practice to designate the particular octave with a number. For example, if the first C on a standard, 88-key piano is C1, then middle C is C4. This is the octave system used on

The perucussion family contains instruments that primarily makes their sound in one of three ways:
  1. hitting
  2. scraping
  3. shaking
Believe it or not, scraping and shaking are different ways of hitting. If you think about this for a moment, you may realize why. Have you figured it out yet?
A common keyboard instrument with one key for each pitch, laid out in ascending order from left to right. When the key is pressed, it causes a hammer to hit the string(s). Because of this hammer action, the piano is considered a percussion instrument. The standard, modern day piano has 88 keys, from A0 through C8.
The frequency of a tone; how high or low a tone is. In music, a pitch is labeled with a capital letter followed by its accidentals (if any) and may be followed by an octave number. Some examples of pitches:
A specific combination or pattern of sound and silence. If the combination is played at a different tempo (faster or slower), it is still the same rhythm. more info on Rhythm
Rhythmic Comprehension
How well one understands (or comprehends) the rhythm. A measure of one's cognitive ability to understand the relationship between beat and rhythm. The more complicated and syncopated the rhythm, the more difficult it is to understand. The simplest rhythms are those which fall directly on the strong beats. Examples of more complicated rhythms, listed in order from simple to complex: Rhythmic comprehension can be improved with practice.
Rhythmic Theory
The study of how rhythm works.
Anything that can be heard. Any aural stimulus, no matter the duration.
The speed of the beat/pulse, measured in beats per minute (bpm).