Glossary

Here are some terms commonly used throughout my blog and throughout the realm of music education:


  • Balance — when no section is unintentionally overpowering the other sections; how the volumes of the instruments compare to each other
  • Beats — main units of music OR interfering frequencies that you often hear when you are tuning and are out of tune (not a sound that is pleasing to the ears)
  • Bend — a note that changes pitches without actually fingering another note, often used in jazz
  • Composer — the person who writes a particular piece of music
  • Conductor — the person that stands at the front of the ensemble, moving their arms and leading the group
  • Dissonance — clashing and tension between notes, often quite unsettling
  • Ensemble — group of musicians that play together; can be a band, orchestra, choir, etc.
  • Embouchure — the shape your face and mouth make around the instrument to hold it
  • Flat — lower than normal in pitch
  • Instrument — whatever you use to make music, including the voice
  • Key — determines how many flats and sharps should be played in a song or piece
  • Key signature — sharps and flats written in the staff that you should play
  • Note — a single sound or pitch; also the physical notation of a pitch in written music
  • Piece — original musical work/composition
  • Pitch — how high or low a note is, measured in Hertz
  • Pyramid of sound — visual representation in the shape of a pyramid that demonstrates how loud each instrument section should be; high woodwinds like flutes are often at the top (meaning we should hear less of them), and low brass like tubas are often at the bottom (we should hear more of them)
  • Scoop — starting a note lower than normal and then moving into the normal pitch, usually done by manipulating embouchure
  • Score — the booklet that the conductor reads when guiding an ensemble; all of the parts for every instrumentalist are written out here for the conductor to see
  • Sharp — higher than normal in pitch
  • Staff — the six lines written down on paper that show you what to play in musical notation
  • Time signature — determines how many notes get the beat and how long a measure is; written in the staff
  • Tone — the overall sound and warmth of an instrument
  • Transpose — to switch an excerpt of music from one key to another
  • Tuning — adjusting to play the correct pitch and prevent beats from occurring; creates a united sound within an ensemble