Notation  Review

These definitions and illustrations are from the MiBAC Music Theory Page - Music Software -

Terms and Concepts


Rhythm - The combinations of long and short, even and uneven sounds that convey a sense of movement. The movement of sound through time.  Concepts contributing to an understanding of rhythm are: 

Beat - The underlying, evenly spaced pulse providing a framework for rhythm.

Meter - The pattern in which a steady succession of rhythmic pulses is organized.

Create a steady beat by tapping your foot or clapping your hands.  A metronome is a visual and auditory way to discuss the steady beat.  The higher the number you set on a metronome, the more beats per minute and the faster the arm moves.  I often march to a regular beat, then start to slow, speed up, slow again to demonstrate irregular beat.  Use words and phrases as examples.  For example - murmur has two equal syllables, but kachoo is irregular because of the accent on the second syllable.  The rhythm of word syllables and accents can help students hear rhythm patterns.  

Time Signatures

Time signatures are used to indicate how the musical rhythm and meter is organized. The rhythm and meter of a piece of music are independent of the tempo. Whether the piece is played fast or slow, the rhythm and meter stay the same. The upper number in the time signature indicates the number of beats in a measure. The lower number indicates which note value receives one beat.

Note Symbols

This table shows the music symbols and names of the most commonly used notes.

Note Value Tree

Each of these notes is half as long as the note above it.

Dotted Notes

A dot following a note or rest increases its duration by half the original value.

Rest Symbols

This table shows the music symbols and names of the most commonly used rests. Rests are used to indicate silence.

Practice Questions


Music and Math

Go to the Rhythm and Math Page in Rhythm folder of Course Documents.


Melody - A logical succession of musical pitches arranged in a rhythmic pattern.  An important part of melody is rhythm.  The notes vary in pitch and duration.  Form also applies to melody.  Melodies include repetition as well as contrast.  Pitch characteristics of melodies include:

What Is Pitch?

Taken from

Pitch is the musician's term for the frequency of a note. Pitch refers to how high or low a note sounds. High pitches are on the right side of the piano keyboard and low pitches are on the left side of the piano keyboard. Pitch ranges are often referred to in terms of the human singing voice.

The accepted pitch standard is A-440, i.e., the note A above middle C has a frequency of 440 cycles per second. 


Musical Alphabet

The keyboard below shows the musical alphabet



5 lines and 4 spaces

Notes sit on the line or in the space, indicating the pitch of the tone.


Treble Clef Names

The treble clef is also called the G clef because the clef symbol curls around the line that represents the G above middle C.


The names of the treble clef lines can be remembered by the saying "Every Good Boy Does Fine." The spaces spell "F A C E."



A clef symbol is placed at the beginning of each staff to fix the location of a specific pitch.





Practice Naming the Notes Below:



Accidentals are symbols that alter the pitch of a note. Accidentals are placed immediately to the left of the note they affect.





Whole and Half Steps

The half step is the smallest unit of pitch used in Western music. On the piano, a half step is the musical interval from any one key to its closest neighbor, either black or white. Half steps occur naturally between the two white key pairs E-F and B-C. Two consecutive half steps are called a whole step.








Relative Major/Minor Scales

Relative major and minor scales share the same key signature, but begin on different notes. G major and E minor are relative major and minor scales.







Examples of Melodies

Melodies are like conversations.  Musical thoughts are divided into phrases.  Often, melodies include two parts - a question and an answer.  The melodies below form questions and answers in the key of C major.  Notice that all four phrases start on C.  The answer is more definitive when the final note in the home key note - in this case a C.


Intervals, Harmony, and Form


An interval is the distance in pitch between two notes.  These can be melodic intervals that or the pitches can sound simultaneously, creating harmonic intervals.  The intervals below are harmonic intervals because the notes sound at the same time. 





C Major Chord Progression in Bass Clef

A chord includes at least three notes that sound simultaneously in consonant harmony.  A triad is a root position chord that includes three tones each 3 steps apart.  The chord progression provides the background harmony for songs.  Generally, a song in a major key will include the major chords within that scale.  The major chords are triads built on the first, fourth, and fifth notes of the scale.  In the key of C, the primary chords would be C, F, and G.  In this progression a tone 7 notes above the G has been added for flavor.  This is called the G7 chord.  Notice the guitar tablature notation for the chords played in the bass clef on the piano.


The Expressive Elements of Music

See the course documents under Timbre, Dynamics, and Tempo.

Abbreviation Term Meaning



Crescendo get louder


Diminuendo get quieter
p Piano quiet


Pianissimo very quiet


Pianississimo very, very quiet
mp mezzo piano quite quiet
mf mezzo forte quite loud
f forte loud
ff fortissimo very loud
fff fortississimo  very, very loud
sf sforzando suddenly very loud

The general rule is to add an "iss" for every added f or p.  
e.g  .ff = fortissimo so fff = fortississimo and pp = Pianissimo so ppp = pianississimo.

  Adagio slow
  largo slow and dignified
  andante flowing, at walking pace
  allegro quick and bright
  allegretto a little slower than allegro
  vivace fast and lively
  presto very quick
  accelerando getting faster
  ritenuto (rit.) holding back
  rallentando (rall.) slowing tempo 

flexible tempo

  rubato flexible tempo



Copyright 2003 by Carla Piper, Ed. D.