Common Musical Terms
Used During Singing!
Many Musical Terms are used in a musical score or song sheet to guide the singer or instrumentalist as to how to play the song or music required. These terms cover a wide range of musical directions, including music dynamics, rhythm, tempo, song structure, as well as expression and feel.
In this section, we explain the meanings of these interesting terms, which may seem quite alien to those of us who do not have any musical background or who have never had any music or singing lessons at all. For those who wish to learn about other basics of singing, click on the relevant link provided.
I will explain the Common Musical Terms Used During Singing here on this webpage, so just scroll down to find out more!
For those who are interested in learning more about the basic Tempo and Rhythm Terminology, click on the link provided and it will bring you to the relevant section that will discuss terms like “Tempo”, “Beat”, “Allegro”, “Ritardando” and so on.
There is also another section on various basic terminology used to describe Song Structure or Musical Form, and there we will discuss terms like “Verse”, “Chorus”, “Medley”, “Canon” and many more!
Also, for those who are not afraid to be confused by the many musical terms used in singing, and wish to see them all at one glance, click here to view a more comprehensive Glossary of Musical Terms!
Now, there are many common terms used during singing, and we will begin with those that denote the Dynamics of our singing. Those who have basic musical knowledge may recognise these terms as these are the basic symbols used in a music score.
Dynamic markings include p, which stands for ‘Piano’ and means to sing or play softly, and f, which stands for ‘Forte’ and means to sing or play loudly.
There are also other symbols like mp which means moderately soft (Mezzo Piano), mf which means moderately loud (Mezzo Forte), pp which means to sing or play very softly (Pianissimo), and ff which means to sing or play very loudly (Fortissimo)!
These symbols help the singer or musician to know how loudly or softly they should sing or play, so as to achieve a desired effect in the expression of the music. Most of these terms are in Italian, but try not to get too distracted by the names of these terms and focus more on their respective meanings.
Other symbols include the Crescendo and Decrescendo symbols, as shown below:
These Crescendo and Decrescendo symbols tell the singer how to vary the volume in his or her singing. They are usually placed below the notes being referred to, in order to direct the singer in his or her dynamics while singing.
Crescendo means to get gradually louder, whereas Decrescendo means to get gradually softer. Another term for Decrescendo would be Diminuendo, abbreviated as dim.
Apart from dynamic markings, there are also other terms that affect the musicality of what we sing. For example, when people say that we are singing slightly sharp or slightly flat, they usually mean that our pitch is either slightly higher or slightly lower than it should be. A sharp is placed on a note to raise its pitch by 1 semitone, and a flat is placed on a note to reduce its pitch by 1 semitone.
Terms like Major and Minor refer to the key of the song, and the effect that the music creates. Music in a Major key is predominantly happy and positive, for example the famous Wedding March song, whereas music in a Minor key is predominantly negative and sad, and used more in sad love songs.
Other musical terms like Staccato and Legato direct the singer in terms of technique. To sing in a legato manner would be to sing in a smooth and jointed fashion, whereas to sing in a staccato manner would be to sing the notes in a short and detached way! Legato singing is usually used for slow ballad songs, and Staccato singing is usually used for fast or happy and lively songs!
Various other terms like musical intervals and scales are very useful in our singing training, and we can use these as great pitching exercises! To find out more about musical scales and pitching exercises, click on this link now! An interval refers to the distance between 2 notes, and can be as small as 1 semitone, and as large as can be! A musical scale refers to a series of notes in succession in a specific pattern, in order to create a certain melodic effect.
Finally, there are terms like accent and slur that affect the way we sing. Accent refers to emphasising the note or word concerned and giving it slightly more impact than other words, in accordance to a rhythmic pattern. Slur refers to singing 2 notes or more in a smooth sliding manner, and can often add wonderful effect to our singing, making it more interesting and colourful!
Learning about the Common Musical Terms Used During Singing is a great way to start our musical journey, and allows us to understand the brief basics of singing so that we can interpret the multitude of terms and symbols in the musical world!
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