Music Theory Quiz - Test your knowledge of musical terms
Music theory quiz - Musical Terms
How well do you know musical terms? Even non-musicians use music terms such as: 'notes', 'chords', 'tempo' etc in everyday conversation when talking about music. Have a go at this short ten question quiz to test your knowledge of what some common musical terms mean. The questions generally get a little more difficult as you go through the quiz. The answers are explained below in more detail for any that you get wrong, and would like to know more about.
Music theory quiz - Musical Terms
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How did you do? If you got any wrong, the next section gives a short explanation of the answers. Don't look down there until you've taken the quiz. There are some links to my other articles on those topics if you want a more in-depth understanding of them.
- Pitch refers to the 'highness' or 'lowness' that we hear from a musical tone depending on its frequency (rate of vibration). The higher the frequency, the higher the pitch.
- The tempo is the speed or pace of the beat. It's shown in music scores by the use of mostly Italian terms such as presto (fast) or adagio (slow). More specifically, it can be shown by the number of beats per minute (BPM).
- Time signatures (aka meter signatures) in standard music notation consist of two numbers stacked vertically. such as 44 (four four) or 38 (three eight) and give information regarding the number of beats per measure (the top number) as well as the note duration chosen to represent the beat (the bottom number). They are placed at the start of music scores or elsewhere if needed. 24, for e example, means there are two quarter note beats per bar or measure.
- The difference in pitch (or pitch relationship) between two notes is called an interval. If the two notes that make the interval are played at the same time, it's a harmonic interval. If they're played successively, it's a melodic interval.
For more info on intervals, visit my intervals article.
- The octave (from Latin octo meaning 8) is named after the span of eight scale notes of a major or minor scale. If you sing the "do re mi..." major scale, the "do" at the end, being the eighth note, is one octave higher than the "do" you started with. In other words, it's the interval between any note and the next note of the same name, higher or lower. Its full title is 'perfect octave' but we rarely have to stipulate that. There are non-perfect octaves too. A up to Ab (A flat) is a diminished octave and A to the A# (A sharp) above the next higher A is called an augmented octave.
- A semitone or half step is the smallest standard interval in our major-minor key system of music. It's the difference in pitch between any piano key and the next note higher or lower, or the distance of one fret of a guitar string.
Some instruments, such as violins, can produce much smaller intervals just by the player making small changes of finger position. Guitarists can do it too by bending strings, but pianists can't (which is why I chose piano keys for the question).
If the two notes that form a semitone have the same letter names such as C and C sharp, the semitone is called chromatic. If they have different letter names, such as B and C, the semitone is diatonic.
- The root of a chord is the note that it's based on and named after. The root of the chord, C sharp minor, for example, is the note C sharp. In any arrangement of that chord, all the C sharp notes are roots. Most often, the preferred lowest note of the chord is the root, as the chord tends to sound more stable with the root in the bass. In that case, the chord is said to be in root position. If another chord note is the lowest, the chord is said to be inverted.
Learn more about chords in my chord construction article.
- Major, harmonic minor and pentatonic are all types of scale. Scale types have a distinctive character due to their unique order of intervals between the notes. Scales are used in various ways, such as note sources for composing music or improvising music over a given chord sequence (e.g., many lead guitar solos). They are also used as practice exercises for improving finger dexterity and knowledge of where all the notes are located on instruments.
- All intervals can be classed as consonant or dissonant. Notes of consonant intervals combine well. Notes of dissonant intervals clash. Both qualities are equally important in music. They work together to produce tension and relaxation. The noun forms are consonance and dissonance.
- Notes that sound the same but have different names are said to be enharmonic or enharmonically equivalent. For example, C sharp is enharmonically equivalent to (or enharmonic to) D flat. The term can also be applied in the same way to intervals, chords, keys and scales.
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