Understanding Music Advanced Higher Music

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Understanding Music

Advanced Higher Music

Concept Booklet

National 5


Advanced Higher
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Important concepts


Anthem: Short sacred choral piece sung in English. Sometimes sung by a choir unaccompanied and sometimes accompanied by organ, featuring solo parts.

Aria – Main song in an opera. Shows off the singers ability-tuneful.

Ayre/Air : Song or simple melody, sometimes the title of a movement of a suite.

Ballett : A type of madrigal in strophic form which was originally danced to.

Baroque- a term used to describe music from 1600-1750 – Handel/ Bach. Music from this Era was very ornamented and commonly uses the harpsichord.

Bothy Ballad – a traditional male Scottish folk song about rural life in the Doric dialect.

Blues- An African-American style of music where the music is based on a 12-bar blues pattern. It uses notes from the blues scale and usually sounds very sad or melancholy due to the lyrics.

Celtic Rock- rock music fused with traditional Irish or Scottish music.

Chamber MusicChamber music is a form of classical music that is composed for a small group of instruments - traditionally a group that could fit in a palace chamber.

Chorale : A German hymn tune, written in four parts for soprano, contralto (alto), tenor and bass.

Chorus - SATB group of singers who perform together in Oratorios and Operas.

Classical – a term used to describe music from 1750-1820 – Mozart/Haydn/Beethoven.

Concertino In a Concerto grosso this is the name given to the small, solo group of instrumentalists as opposed to the main group, the Ripieno.

Concerto GrossoA Concerto grosso is an important form of music which developed throughout the Baroque Period having three main elements concertino, ripieno and basso continuo.

Consort: Dance-like in style; this music could be played by solo instruments such a lutes, harpsichords or virginals, by small groups of instruments of the same family or a group of varied instruments from different families.

Concerto – Piece for soloist and orchestra in 3 or 4 movements with a cadenza.

Contemporary jazz Contemporary jazz is an umbrella term for all kinds of jazz music being played now - as well as jazz music of the 80s, 90s, 00s & 10s.

Electronic dance music Electronic dance music is normally heard in clubs where the DJ combines tracks electronically into one smooth mix. It can encompass music of different genres including house music, dubstep, drum and bass

Gaelic Psalms – Psalms from the Bible are sung in church services in Gaelic in the Western Isles. They are usually led by a precentor (or the pastor) and the congregation join in.

Galliard A Renaissance court dance which follows the pavan.

Gospel – a style of religious singing which emerged in America in the late 19th Century. It was influenced by the spirituals of black slaves and music from the Protestant evangelical church.

Indian – Music from India which contains ragas (scales and modes) and talas (rhythmic patterns) played on the Sitar and Tabla Drums.

Jazz- A style which emerged out of blues and ragtime in New Orleans. Lots of syncopation and swing rhythms.

Jazz FunkJazz funk is a sub-genre of jazz music. Many of the key features found in jazz music are evident here too –a strong rhythmic ‘groove,’ above which instrumentalists improvise solo passages. The most significant difference from jazz are the instruments within the ensemble. These will typically consist of drums, bass guitar, rhythm guitar and synthesiser, in short then, it is the merging of traditional Jazz characteristics with electronic instruments requiring electronic amplification.

ImpressionistMusic written in the impressionist style mirrors the style of painting by Artists such as Claude Monet, where edges between objects are often blurred.

Latin American- Lively music using a lot of percussion instruments to form Samba bands.

Leid: This term (the German word for song) refers to songs for solo voice, accompanied by piano.

Madrigal A non-religious work, polyphonic in style, using imitation.

MassThe Mass is a sacred choral work traditionally using the five main sections of the Roman Catholic, Western Orthodox, Anglican or Lutheran Church liturgy.

Minimalist – Music which uses simple, repetitive melodic and rhythmic patterns which are gradually extended by adding more and more simple layers. It emerged in 20th Century music.

Motet A sacred choral work with Latin text and polyphonic texture, usually sung a cappella.

Mouth Music- (port-a-beul) an improvised vocal style used in place of musical instruments to accompany Scottish Dances.

Musical- a popular 20th Century musical drama that is performed on stage with costume and scenery containing singing and dialogue.

Musique ConcreteRecorded natural sounds which are transformed using simple editing techniques such as cutting and re-assembling, playing backwards, slowing down and speeding up.

Nationalist Music which incorporates elements of folk music of the composer’s country.

Neo-classical From about 1929, composers reacted against Romanticism returning to the structures and styles of earlier periods, combined with dissonant, tonal and even atonal harmonies.

Opera – a musical drama that is performed on stage with costumes and scenery. Operas are commonly performed in Italian and contain the vocal styles Recitative, Aria and Chorus.

OratorioUsually a story from the Bible set to music for soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Passacaglia:Variations over a Ground Bass.

Pavan A Renaissance court dance linked with the galliard.

Piano Trio: A piano trio is a chamber music ensemble comprising of three instruments; the most common form comprises of a piano, violin and cello.

Pop- A style of music that uses modern sounds and song lyrics.

PlainchantAlso known as Gregorian Chant or Plainsong was the mainstay of music in the early church.

Pibroch – a term used to describe complex solo music for bagpipes.

Ragtime – a style of popular American Music with a vamp accompaniment and syncopated melody.

Rapping – a popular style of American Music where half-sung half-spoken melodies (often improvised lyrics) are performed over a regular rhythmic accompaniment or beat.

Ripieno Ripieno is one of the elements of the Baroque Concerto Grosso. It describes the larger / main group of ensemble instruments.

Recitative -A type of vocal writing where the music follows the rhythm of speech, used in operas and oratorios.

Renaissance Renaissance means 'rebirth' and marks a period in history where there was a resurgence of interest in music based on the ideas of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Reggae – originally appearing in Jamaica in the mid-1960s, reggae is now a popular urban style characterised by accented upbeats or off-beats.

Retrograde: To go backwards; a melody or a section of music can be written or performed from the end to the beginning.

Rock-a popular modern style of music which uses electronic instruments and effects.

Rock n’ Roll- a style of dance music from the mid 1950s America which developed from Rhythm and Blues. Elvis Presley was said to be the King of Rock n’ Roll.

Romantic- a term used to describe music from 1820-1900. Schubert/ Mahler/ Tchaikovsky/Webb

Scots Ballad- a traditional Scottish folk song performed in English with or without an accompaniment.

Serial A 20th-century method of musical composition invented by Schoenberg in which the 12 notes of the Chromatic scale are organised into a series or tone row.

Sonata – Sonata can be exemplified in two ways, either as a composition for solo piano, or a composition for a solo instrument accompanied by piano.

Song Cycle: A group of songs linked by a common theme or with a text written by the same author, usually accompanied by piano but sometimes by small ensembles or full orchestra.

Soul Music - Soul music developed in the southern states of America and grew in popularity throughout the 1960’s. It was a combination of gospel, blues and country music, and its gritty sound reflected what was happening socially in America at that time.

Sprechgesang: A technique used in vocal music where the singer is required to use the voice in an expressive manner half-way between singing and speaking.

String Quartet -

Swing – a style of lively popular jazz and big band dance music from the 1930s and 1940s.

Symphony – Piece for whole orchestra, no main solo instrument. There are 3 or 4 movements and can last up to an hour or more.

Waulking Song – a traditional Gaelic song, with a repetitive rhythm from the ladies waulking the cloth on the table. This style contains call and response.

Acciaccatura An ornament which sounds like a crushed note played very quickly on the beat or just before it.

Added 6th This describes a note 'added' to the familiar Chord structure (root, 3rd and 5th).

Appoggiatura: An ornament which sounds like a leaning note, takes half the value of the main note which follows it or two-thirds if the main note is dotted.

Ascending- when music is moving higher in pitch

Arpeggio- a style of broken chord where notes are played one after the other in an ascending or descending pattern.

Atonal – Not major or minor – uses dissonance – doesn’t sound nice. It emerged in the 20th Century and composers such as Schoenberg and Webern adopted the tonality in their works.

Augmented triad This chord is formed by a major triad in which the 5th degree is raised by a semitone.

Broken Chord – when the notes of the chord are played separately.

Chord Progression – (I, IV, V and VI in major keys) a sequence of chord changes. Chords I, IV, V and VI are built on the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 6th notes of any scale. In C major these chords would be C major (Chord I), F Major (Chord IV), G Major (Chord V), and A minor (Chord VI).

Chromatic Scale – a scale or musical passage that moves in semitones (C C# D D# E F F# G and so on.)

Cluster Chord – a bunch of adjacent notes played together.

Contrary motion – where two musical parts move in opposite directions.

Counter-melody – a second melody that complements the main melody.

Descant – This is a vocal decorative part sung at a high pitch than the main melody.

Descending- when music is moving lower in pitch

Diminished 7th A diminshed 7th chord consists of four notes built one on top of the other. It is built up using intervals of a minor 3rd - a minor 3rd describes two notes which are 4 semitones apart e.g. C-Eb.

Discord – notes or chords that sound harsh or clashing.

Dominant 7th Chord built on the dominant (5th) note of a key which adds the 7th note above its root.

Drone- a constantly sustained note (normally a bass note) over which the main melody is played. Bagpipes and the Sitar use drones.

Glissando – to slide smoothly between two notes that are some distance apart.

Grace note – an ornament where a rapid additional note or notes are used to decorate the melody.

Harmonics: The high eerie sounds produced on a bowed string instrument by lightly touching the string at certain points.

Harmonic minor scale The notes of the harmonic minor scale are the same as the natural minor except that the seventh degree is raised by one semitone, making an augmented second between the sixth and seventh degrees.

Imperfect Cadence – a chordal sequence which makes the phrase sound unfinished.

(for example I-V or II – V.)

Improvisation- when music is made up on the spot

Interrupted cadence An interrupted cadence is usually formed by the chords V–VI. (In the key of C major, chords G to A minor.) This creates an ending which can sound unfinished – where the listener is surprised that the music has drawn to a close.

Interval The distance in pitch between two notes.

Inverted Pedal - High note held on/repeated while other parts change


Question and Answer

Major/Minor tonality – the key of a piece of music. A major key sounds happy and positive sounding. A minor key sounds sad, scary or tense sounding.

MelismaticMore than one note per syllable.

Melodic minor scale The melodic minor scale consists of different notes when ascending/descending.

Mode/modal Term used to describe music based on a mode.

Modulation – Change of key.

Mordent An ornament which sounds the main note, the note above and then the main note again.

Obbligato (instrumental) A prominent solo instrument part in a piece of vocal music.

Octave – the distance between two notes 12 semitones apart. Middle C and High C.

Ornament- one or more decorative notes added to a melody.

Pedal Low note held on or repeated while other parts change.

Pentatonic Scale – a scale which uses only five different notes to make a particular sound. It is used in Rock, Jazz, Blues and Folk Music.

Perfect Cadence - a chordal sequence which makes the phrase sound finished with chords V-I.

Pitch Bend- where a note is ‘bent’ away from its natural pitch by pulling down or pushing up a string on an instrument such as a guitar.

Plagal cadence A cadence is formed by two chords at the end of a phrase.

Polytonality/ bitonality The use of two (bitonality) or more keys (polytonality) played or sung at the same time.

Relative major/minor

Repetition – Musical idea heard more than once.

Scale – an ascending or descending succession of notes consisting of the different notes found in a particular key or mode.

Scat singing – a style of jazz singing where meaningless words or syllables are improved in a piece of music.

Semitone – the musical interval of half a tone. For example C to C#. This is the smallest distance between two notes in tonal music.

Sequence – Pattern of notes repeated higher or lower


Suspension This effect occurs when a note from one chord is held over to the next chord creating a discord, and is then resolved by moving one step to make a concord.

SyllabicOne note per syllable.

Tierce de Picardie The final chord of a piece of music in the minor key is changed to major.

Tone – a musical interval made up of 2 semitones. For example C to D.

Tone row/note row An arrangement of the 12 notes of the octave which forms the basis of a composition.

Tritone Interval of an augmented 4th, eg C–F sharp or F–B. It is made up of three whole tones.

Turn Four notes which turn round the main note with the note above, the main note, the note below, and the main note again.

Vamp- improvising a simple chord accompaniment normally on piano. This accompaniment normally has a bass note followed by a chord.

Whole-tone Scale – a scale that moves only in tones. For example C,D,E,F#,G#,Bb, C.


3 against 2


Accelerando – gradually becoming faster

Adagio – The music should be played slowly.

Allegro - a speed marking meaning fast.

Anacrusis – Tune starts before the first beat of the bar. Think “happy” in happy birthday.

Andante- a speed marking meaning ‘walking pace’

A tempo – return to the original speed


Compound time – The quavers are linked in groups of three instead of groups of two.

Each beat is worth a dotted crotchet and can be split into 3 equal parts – JIGG-I-TY. 6/8

Cross Rhythms – where the normal accents of a time signature are moved around to create different kinds of rhythms in a piece of music, or when separate parts play different rhythms at the same time.

Diminution A passage of music where the length of the notes used are halved, for example, where a crotchet was used originally it would be replaced by a quaver.

Dotted Rhythms – rhythms with dots after the notes.

Hemiloa A rhythmic device giving the impression of a piece of music changing from duple (2) to triple (3) time, or vice versa.

Jig- Scottish dance in compound time which is fast and lively.

Irregular time signatures Irregular time signatures occur when the music does not naturally fall into equal groupings.

March – Scottish ‘dance’ in simple time intended for marching along.

Moderato- an Italian term indicating that the music is to be played at a moderate speed.

Rallentando – gradually becoming slower.

Ritardando – an Italian term indicating that the music should slow down gradually. This is usually abbreviated as rit.

Rubato - a term indicating that the tempo should be gently increased or decreased at will by the performer. It is a tempo marking which gives ownership to the performer. Sometimes it is described as ‘Stolen time’.

Reel- a lively Scottish dance in simple time.

Scotch Snap – a rhythm where a short note on the beat is followed by a longer one. Usually found in Scottish Music.

Simple time – The quavers are linked in groups of two. Each beat is worth a crotchet and can be

split into 2 equal parts – TAN-GO – 4/4: 2/4

Strathspey – A Scottish dance in Simple Time with scotch snaps.

SyncopationStrongly accented notes playing off or against the beat. Will sound more jumpy.

Time changes The time signature specify how many beats are to be contained in each bar and which note value is to be given one beat.

Waltz- a moderato tempo dance in ¾


Alberti bass - Broken chords played by the left hand on the piano. Low - high – middle – high.

Answer: In a fugue, after the subject is played, the same tune appears in another voice or part in the dominant (a 5th higher or a 4th lower). This is called the answer.

Antiphonal: Dialogue between voices or instruments - one group of voices or instruments answers the other.

Basso continuo Basso continuo is a form of musical accompaniment used in the Baroque period. It means 'continuous bass'.

Binary Form – a musical structure with 2 sections – A & B which are usually repeated.

Bridge : A link between two themes.

Cadenza – passage for soloist to show off in a concerto. It sounds made up – improvised.

Canon (Round)- a musical form where the first melody is imitated by another part (or parts) before the melody is finished.

Coda – a short ‘ending’ section which concludes the music.

Concerto grosso

Contrapuntal – A polyphonic texture which uses imitation.

Countersubject In a fugue, after the subject or answer is played, the continuation of that same instrument or voice is called the countersubject.

Da capo aria The da capo aria is a musical form that was prevalent in the Baroque era. It is sung by a soloist with the accompaniment of instruments, often a small orchestra.

Episode – Term given to the contrasting sections in Rondo Form

ExpositionThis describes the first hearing of the 'theme' and is normally associated with compositions structured in Sonata Form or Fugue.

Fugue A contrapuntal piece based on a theme (subject) announced in one voice part alone, then imitated by other voices in close succession.

Ground Bass - A theme in the bass which is repeated many times while the higher parts change.

Homophonic Texture - all parts move at same time or melody with accompaniment – same rhythms at the same time.

Imitation –The melody is immediately copied in another part.

Inversion When a musical shape is mirrored; an inverted chord is formed when a note other than the root is in the bass.

Leitmotiv A theme occurring throughout a work which represents a person, an event or an idea, etc.

Middle 8- an eight bar instrumental section in a song that functions as a link between a verse and chorus.

Minuet & Trio - dance with 3 beats in a bar often found in a symphony.

Ostinato/Riff - Repeated pattern of notes

Polyphonic Texture 2 or more parts with different rhythms - weave independently of each other. Like Contrapuntal

Riff- a short musical pattern played repeated throughout the music.

Ritornello Ritornello is used to describe a theme which returns frequently throughout a piece of music, or a movement within a larger piece.

Rondo – A musical structure with several sections always coming back to section A eg. A – B – A – C–A – D

Strophic Structure – a term used to describe vocal music in which different lyrics are sung to the same

musical verse each term. Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus structure.

Sonata form This term is used to describe the structure of the first movement of many sonatas, symphonies and often overtures.

Stretto Where voices or instruments enter very quickly one after the other, as in fugue.

SubjectThe main theme in a composition, the main themes in sonata form, or the main theme on which a fugue is based.

Through-composed A vocal/choral composition in which there is little or no repetition in the musical structure i.e. where the composition is not structured as verse/chorus.

Tierce De Picardi – Minor piece last chord major.

Ternary Form– A musical structure in 3 sections: A B A

Theme & Variations –A musical structure where the main theme is played and then changed in a different way each variation eg. It is put into a minor key, notes added to tune, different beats in a bar.

Walking Bass – Notes move on every beat.

Voices – Highest to lowest

Coloratura Soprano



Mezzo Soprano


Counter-tenor TEMPOS – SPEEDS






Moderate tempo


Walking Pace




getting faster


getting slower


robbed time – speeding up or slowing down to suit the mood of the piece.




Instruments & Related Concepts
Strings Concepts/Playing Technique

Violin Arco - Bowed

Viola Pizzicato - Plucked

Cello Double Stopping – 2 notes played at the same time

Double Bass Tremolando

Harmonics (Guitar and strings)

Harp / Clarsach


Piccolo Blown - Air is blown through

Flute instrument to produce sound



Bassoon Flutter Tonguing - Rolling your Rs while

blowing a note.


(not in orchestra)


Trumpet Con Sordino - Muted - creating a different

French Horn sound than normally.

Trombone expected.


Percussion Untuned Percussion

Tuned Percussion Snare Drum Bodhran

Drum-kit Bongo Drums

Xylophone(wooden) Cow Bell Guiro

Glockenspiel(metal) Bass Drum Castanets

Vibraphone Cymbals Tambourine

Timpani (kettle drum) Triangle

Tubular Bells

Dynamics and the Italian terms
Scottish Music



English meaning




very quiet







moderately quiet




moderately loud








very loudly




Gradually getting louder




Gradually getting softer




Other features




Only dance with 3 beats



2 – 6/8 time

STRAWBERRY, compound time,




TANGO, simple time, flowing




Jumpy, Scotch Snap


Marching speed

2 or 4

Steady, strong pulse.






Waulking Song


At work


Beating sound

Bothy Ballad


Farm work

Usually no

Tells story

Gaelic Psalm


Church North Scotland


In Gaelic, Call & Response, not nice.

Mouth Music


Nonsense made up Gaelic words


Imitating melody of bagpipes

Scots Ballad


Telling story


Lots of verses and chorus,

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