Music Terminology You Should Know

There is a lot of music terminology for musicians and even experienced piano players come across new terms for their music. Some music terminology is more common than others, and few of these terms are listed here.


Accelerando – getting faster as the section of the piece marked goes on.

Adagio – played very slowly

Allegro – played at a fast tempo and with a cheerful mood

Andante – played moderately slowly

A tempo – go back to the original tempo

Beat – the basic unit of time in music, it is a regular tap of the foot, for example

Chord – when you play three or more notes together all at once

Coda – an ending that is different that previous verses in the musical piece

Crescendo – getting louder and louder through a marked passage

Diminuendo – getting softer and softer through a marked passage

Dolce – sweetly

Ensemble – a musical group, it could be anything from a band to a classical group

Forte – means to play the piece loudly, forcefully

Fortissimo – play the piece very loudly

Genre – the category of music (or any other artwork), rock and blues are examples

Glissando – playing down the keyboard rapidly, usually by sliding thumb down the keys

Interval – the distance between two musical tones

Largo – very slow and broad

Mezzo forte – play the piece somewhat loudly

Mezzo piano – play the piece somewhat softly

Phrase – a unit of music, denoted by a curved line under or over notes phrased together

Pianissimo – play the piece very softly

Piano – play the piece softly

Presto – play extremely fast

Semitone – also known as a half step

Staccato – play notes quickly, crisply, and detached from each other

Tempo – the rate of speed of the musical piece; it can vary during songs when marked

Variations – when you play a basic tune and then play different versions of it that retain the same basic melody.

These are the most frequently used music words used by pianists, along with the words that have already been used in previous lessons. Keys and key signatures, the time signatures, half notes, whole notes, quarter notes, etc. There are always more words that can be added to your musical vocabulary.

Some of the words above are written out above or between the staffs. Some are noted by using a mark of some sort. There are many markings to learn, but some of them are easy. This is because the word is often written out along with the marking.

As an example, a crescendo marking starts as a point on the left and opens up wider to the right. Sometimes, the word crescendo will also be written somewhere either in the marking or under it to help you. Some markings you will have just have to learn. Staccato music is marked by dots under the notes you are to play short and crisp.

When you learn all of this music terminology, do not sit back and ignore the rest of the words and markings you find. Keep learning and you will never get bored. There is always more to know when learning the piano.

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