A Mini Primer on Music/Lyrics

Discussion in 'Music Talk' started by jusmail, Mar 5, 2005.

  1. jusmail

    jusmail New Member

    Found it on the net and thought I will share it with you all:

    Music has its own distinctive language. There is a language of musical sounds as well as a language of musical elements.

    Musical sounds have certain distinctive properties:

    1. duration (the sound's length)
    2. pitch (the sound's tone)
    3. intensity (the sound's loudness)
    4. timbre (the color of a particular tone)

    Music also contains certain essential elements:

    1. Instrumentation refers to the voices and instruments used

    2. Performing style refers to style of singing or playing

    3. Dynamics or intensity refers to patterns of loudness and softness

    4. Rhythm refers to the pattern of the beat

    5. Melody is a succession of notes forming a distinctive sequence. It consists of:
    pitch (shifts in tone)
    intervals (measurement of how much a pitch goes up or down)
    melody contour (the shape of the melody)

    6. Harmony involves the pitch accompanying the melody. This typically takes the form of chords (or combinations of notes).

    7. Texture refers to the mixture of sounds and pitches.

    8. Form refers to the organization of a musical piece.

    Music Glossary

    Chord: Three or more notes sounded simultaneously. Chords can be consonant or dissonant.

    Consonance: The pleasant or relaxed sound of some intervals and chords.

    Dissonance: The harsh or tense sound of some intervals and chords.

    Dynamics: The loudness or softness of a piece or section of a piece. Dynamics are usually given in Italian, such as piano (soft) and forte (loud). Dynamics may change suddenly or gradually. A gradual increase in volume is a crescendo. A gradual decrease in volume is a decrescendo.

    Form: The large-scale organization of a piece. “Happy Birthday” is in the form AABA because the first, second, and fourth phrases are alike, and the third phrase contrasts with the others.

    Genre: The type of piece. "Happy Birthday" is a song. A song is a genre for voice and usually has some sort of accompaniment, such as a piano or orchestra. Other genres include symphonies (orchestra alone) and concertos (orchestra and instrumental soloist). All of these may have subgenera. Note that a song is a specific kind of genre and that a symphony should NOT be referred to as a song.

    Harmony: If melody is the horizontal element of music, then harmony is the vertical element. In other words, a harmony is all the musical sounds happening at a given instant.

    Imitation: Two identical melodies happening at the same time, but staggered. When “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” is sung as a round, imitation occurs.

    Meter: The way in which durations are organized. Pieces can be either essentially duple (1-2-1-2) like a march; or essentially triple (1-2-3-1-2-3) like a waltz.

    Melody: A tune. This is what you can whistle after hearing a piece. Melodies are constructed out of notes. Also called a theme.

    Motive: The smallest group of pitches and rhythms that makes musical sense. The first phrase of “Happy Birthday” has two motives. The first is made up of four notes (Hap-py Birth-day) the second two (to you).

    Notes: The individual sounds that create a melody or a whole piece of music. Notes have a pitch and duration.

    Phrase: The sentences of music. The song “Happy Birthday” has four phrases: 1. “Happy birthday to you.” 2. “Happy birthday to you.” 3. “Happy birthday dear Georgie.” 4. “Happy birthday to you.” But remember, phrases are determined by the music, not just the text. A composer could choose to misalign musical phrases and textual phrases.

    Pitch: The highness or lowness of a sound. Pitches are given letter names (A-G) and can be slightly raised (sharp, #) or slightly lowered (flat, b). An “Interval” is the distance between two pitches.

    Range: The distance between a piece's or section of a piece's highest and lowest pitches. Ranges can be narrow or wide.

    Rhythm: The durations used in creating a piece. Rhythmic patterns are organized into meters

    Style: Style is the way in which a composer or a performer uses the musical materials discussed above to create a piece. So, a song (a genre type) may be in of a number of styles: jazz, pop, classical, etc. Styles may be general (jazz) or they may be composer specific (in the style of Beethoven, or in the style of Billy Joel). The style of "Happy Birthday" might be called children's song due to its simple melody and harmony.

    Tempo: The speed of a piece or section of a piece. Tempos are usually given in Italian, such as allegro (quickly). Tempos may change suddenly or gradually. A gradually increase in tempo is an accelerando. A gradual decrease in tempo is a ritardando.

    Texture: The relationship of the melody and harmony in a piece of music. Textures can be monophonic (melody alone); homophonic (melody and chords); or polyphonic (a web of melodies and harmonies).

    Tin Pan Alley Song Glossary
  2. jusmail

    jusmail New Member

    Elements of Song Structure

    Verse: the first section of a song, usually strophic (featuring at least two sets of lyrics set to the same music); often omitted in performances of songs composed after about 1920.

    Chorus (refrain): the second section of a song, usually 32 bars, and usually in eight-bar units that can be labeled with letters. The most common song forms are AABA and ABAC. From 1890 onward, the chorus increasingly became the emotional and musical core of the song.

    Bridge (release): the section connecting two statements of a song's principal melody. The bridge is the B section in AABA and other song forms.

    Vest: the last two lines of a verse, providing a strong lead-in to the chorus.

    vest: "I'm chipper all the day, happy with my lot. How do I get that way? Look at what I've got:"

    chorus: "I got rhythm, I got music . . ."

    Song Styles: Early (1890-1920)

    Story ballad: a ballad that tells a story, rather than one that focuses on a feeling.

    High-Class Ballad: a ballad characterized by elevated poetic language, noble sentiments, and many expressive indications. Its melody and accompaniment are sometimes more complex and difficult than other popular songs styles.

    Waltz Song: song in triple meter.

    March Song: song with high-spirits, fast tempo, and in duple meter.

    Ragtime Song: quick, syncopated song with strong alternating bass and slang or dialect lyrics.

    Coon Song: song featuring racist depictions of African Americans and heavy stereotyped black dialect. Coon songs are often syncopated after 1895 and can be considered a subgenre of ragtime song.

    Novelty Song: a quick, humorous song, often with a surprising twist in the music or lyrics.

    Ethnic Novelty Song

    Suggestive Song

    Song Styles: Late (1920-1955)

    Ballad: a slow sentimental song, usually about love, in which melodic and harmonic beauty take precedence over rhythmic vitality.

    Rhythm Song: a quick, often syncopated song, combining melodic catchiness and rhythmic vitality.


    Double Rhyme: two rhyming syllables.

    "I'm bidin' my time, 'cause that's the kinda guy I'm"

    Triple Rhyme: three rhyming syllables.

    "We'll take Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, too"

    Internal Rhyme: rhyme within a line.

    "Granting your wish I carved our initials on that tree,

    Just keep a slice of all the advice you give so free."

    Apocopated Rhyme: rhyme in which one word rhymes with only part of another.

    "Though we feel

    our lot is terrible

    it is really not unbearable"

    "beans could get not keener reception in a beanery

    Mispronunciation Rhyme: rhyme depending on the mispronunciation of one word.

    "You're a rose,

    You're Inferno's Dante,

    Your the nose,

    On the great Durante"

    Eye Rhyme: false rhyme in which words are spelled alike, but sound different.

    daughter/laughter or prove/love

    Off Rhyme: rhyme featuring similar sounds without an exact rhyme.

    "I'm bidin' my time,

    'cause that's the kinda guy I'm"

    Poetic Devices

    Alliteration: repetition of consonants.

    "You are the promised kiss of springtime"

    Antithesis: a contrast or opposition stressed through parallel grammatical structure.

    "But if, baby, I'm the bottom You're the top!"

    Apocope: the loss of one or more sounds from the end of a word.

    "Don't mind telling you, In my humble fash

    That you thrill me through with a tender pash"

    Apostrophe: direct address to an absent person, abstract ideas, inanimate object, or place.

    "Swanee, how I love you, how I love, my dear old Swanee"

    Archaic Words: old-fashioned word, not in use at the time the song was written.

    "Thou swell, thou witty, thou grand"

    Barbarism: word distortion to make up a nonexistent word.

    Bathos: Overdone pathos or ridiculous climax, often humorous.

    "You're a Botticelli, you're Keats, you're Shelley, you're Ovaltine"

    Cliche: overused expression. An Ira Gershwin favorite.

    Colloquial: Informal language.

    "Let's call the whole thing off"

    Dialect: Regional or ethnic variant of the language. African American dialect was often signaled by certain misspellings.

    Displaced Accent: stressing the wrong syllable.

    "so na-tur-al that you want to go to war"

    Double Entendre: word or phrase with two meaning.

    "Let's do it, let's fall in love"

    Dysphemism: a negative expression.

    "an atmosphere that simply reeks of class"

    Enjambment: continuation of a sentence or phrase beyond the end of a poetic line.

    "keep the mem'ry of . . . the way you old your knife"

    Epenthesis: the insertion of a sound or letter.

    "If you lak-a-me lak I lak-a-you"

    Euphemism: mild or complimentary term substituted for an offensive one.

    "lady of the evening"

    Hyperbole: exaggeration of the sake of emphasis.

    "I'd walk a million miles for one of your smiles"

    Invocation: summons to God.

    "God Bless America"

    Irony: statement whose meaning is the opposite of what it actually says. Often used by a smitten person who claims not to be in love

    "Although I adore you, remind me to ignore you"

    Metaphor: direct comparison (without using "like" or "as.")

    "You are the angel glow that lights a star"

    Metonymy: designating something with the name of something associated with it.

    "the bottle" for alcohol

    Minced oath: a softened swear word.

    "Jeepers Creepers"

    Newly Coined Words:

    "automobubbling . . . in my merry Oldsmobile"

    Onomatopoeia: word formed to imitate natural sounds.


    Oxymoron: opposites combined

    "down in the depths on the ninetieth floor"

    Persona: a song's protagonist

    Personification: inanimate objects invested with humanqualities.

    "dat Ol' Man River, he must know sumpin' but don't say nothin'"

    Pun: a play on words

    "I was blue just as blue as I could be, ever day was a cloudy day for me . . .

    Blue skies, smiling at me, nothing but blue skies do I see."

    "They're writing songs of love, but not for me . . .

    When every happy plot ends with a marriage knot, and there's no knot for me"

    Rhetorical Question: question whose answer is implicit or obvious.

    "How deep is the ocean, how high is the sky"

    Shibboleth: a word or pronunciation that distinguishes one group from another.

    "I hoid" for "I heard" in a Brooklyn accent

    Simile: Comparison of dissimilar things using "like" or "as"

    "I'm happy as the day is long"

    Slang: Informal words

    "Hello ma baby, hello ma honey, hello ma ragtime gal"

    Solecism: violation of good grammar

    "I Got Rhythm"

    Synecdoche: expression in which a part equals the whole or vise verse

    "the ivories" for "the piano"

    Vernacular: everyday language

    Steven Mintz Copyright 2004

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