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© University of Sheffield 1

HOW TO WRITE YOUR FIRST SONG
THE UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD





GLOSSARY



ACCENT An emphasis applied to a note or beat.

ARPEGGIO Notes of chord played individually, in a pattern.

BAR
A unit of time measured by the number of beats. Typically a musical
piece contains several bars each with the same number of beats,
specified by the time signature.

BEAT A main accent or rhythmic unit.

CHORD A simultaneous combination of notes, usually three or more.

CONTOUR The shape of a melody as it rises and falls.

CROCHET
A note a quarter of a whole note, these are also known as quarter
notes.

DORIAN
The mode based on the series of intervals formed by playing from D
to D using only natural notes (i.e. the white notes on a piano). In this
example, these notes would be DEFGABCD.

HARMONY The broader name for the way chords are used in a piece.

INTERVAL The distance between any two notes.

KEY
The way that notes of a scale are used with some degree of hierarchy,
centring around the tonic and the dominant notes.

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© University of Sheffield 2

MEASURE The same as ‘bar’ but this term is more commonly used in the US.

MELODY A series of pitches organised into a recognisable shape.

METRE
This occurs where beats are organised into groups, often 3s or 4s in
Western music.

MINIM
Also known as a half note, this is a note played for half of the
duration of a whole note.

MINOR
A scale or key that contains a flattened 3rd (in comparison with
Major), 6th and 7th. There are several versions of the minor scale –
natural, harmonic and melodic.

MODE A type of scale but with less reliance on tonic-dominant relationship.

NOTES
A musical sound of a particular frequency and length. The word note
can also be used as an informal name for ‘pitches’. See PITCH.

OCTAVE An interval of 12 semitones, for example C to C.

PITCH The frequency of a musical sound.

PHRASE An identifiable section of melody, with a sense of beginning and end.

PULSE Synonymous with beat.

QUAVER
A note played for one eighth the value of a whole note. It is also
known as an eighth note.

RHYTHM The organisation of time in music.

SCALE
A series of notes organised in pitch order most often following a
defined pattern of tones and semitones.

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