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Music Theory 3

tempo, dynamics, pitch, key signatures

Benjamin Fugitt

on 11 October 2013

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Transcript of Music Theory 3


Tempo is the speed of a piece of music.
How quickly or slowly the piece of music is played.
Tempo is measured in Beats Per Minute (BPM).
The higher the BPM, the faster the music.

Example (listen)
If the tempo is 60 BPM, then there are 60 beats played every minute.
If the piece of music is in 4/4 time, there are 60 quarter notes played every minute.
Today we will be talking about three things that every piece of music has in common:

There are many Italian words that are used to describe tempo.
(the most common ones are in

Larghissimo — very, very slow (20 bpm and below)
Grave — slow and solemn (20–40 bpm)
Lento — slowly (40–60 bpm)
— broadly (40–60 bpm)
Larghetto — rather broadly (60–66 bpm)
— slow and stately (literally, "at ease") (66–76 bpm)
Adagietto — rather slow (70–80 bpm)
Andante moderato — a bit slower than andante
— at a walking pace (76–108 bpm)
Andantino – slightly faster than andante
Marcia moderato - moderately, in the manner of a march
— moderately (108–120 bpm)
Allegretto — moderately fast (but less so than allegro)
Allegro moderato — moderately quick (112–124 bpm)
— fast, quickly and bright (120–168 bpm)
Vivace — lively and fast (≈140 bpm) (quicker than allegro)
Vivacissimo — very fast and lively
Allegrissimo — very fast
— very fast (168–200 bpm)
Prestissimo — extremely fast (more than 200bpm)
Why does tempo matter?

Tempo can change the "feeling" of a piece.

Slower tempos might sound sadder.

Quicker tempos might sound happier.

If you play something at the wrong tempo, it might have the wrong feeling.

Dynamics deals with the volume of the sound in music.
It can refer to how loud or soft a note is, or...
How the volume changes over time.

Example (listen)
There are many Italian words to describe Dynamics in music.
Because dynamics change often throughout a piece of music, musicians use abbreviations for many of the words.

p or piano, meaning "soft"
ƒ or forte, meaning "loud"
mp, standing for mezzo-piano, meaning "moderately soft"
mƒ, standing for mezzo-forte, meaning "moderately loud"
pp, standing for "pianissimo" and meaning "very soft"
ƒƒ, standing for "fortissimo" and meaning "very loud"
ppp is marked, with the reading pianissimo possibile ("softest possible").
ƒƒƒ being fortissimo possibile ("loudest possible").
Crescendo means that the music gradually gets louder
Decrescendo means that the music gradually gets softer.
Why do Dynamics Matter?

Quiet music sounds more peaceful.

Loud music sounds more exciting.

Changes in dynamic can create tension and interest throughout a piece

We have already talked about pitch when we discussed the names of the notes.
Pitch is how HIGH or LOW the note sounds.
Pitch is a measurement of "frequency of vibrations", but musicians usually just use the letter names of the notes.
To review:

The 7 main notes on a scale are:
If you start at C, what is the next higher note?
There is a note between C and D.

If you put a # before a note (called a 'sharp sign') the note is raised higher, but not as high as the next note.

C# is half way between C and D
Similarly, if you want to make a note lower, but not as low as the next note, you write a (called a 'flat sign)

D is half way between C and D.

That means that D and C# sound the same, but are written differently.
If you play a scale with all the possible notes(naturals, sharps and flats), you are playing a

If you want to cancel out a sharp or a flat, write a (called a natural sign). The note goes back to normal.

The first scale we learned was the C Major Scale.
It starts on C.
It doesn't have any sharps or flats.
Instead of writing the sharp or flat sign before every note that needs it, musicians use
to make their lives easier.

Write the sharps or flats that are used just before the
, and they will apply to all the notes throughout the piece.

are written at the beginning of every line, but the
is only written at the beginning.
However, you can't just choose what sharps or flats you want. You have to follow the rules based on the CIRCLE OF FIFTHS.
You don't have to memorize all this. We are going to learn the most common key signatures only.
If you have one sharp, it is F# and it is in the key of G Major. Remember, the scale starts on G.
If you have 2 #, it is the key of D Major. What note does it start on? What are the 2 sharps?
If you have 1 flat, it is B and you are in the key of F Major. What note do you start on?
If you add another sharp to the ones you already have you are in the key of A Major. The three sharps are F, C, and G.

What note do you start on?
Those are the most common key signatures, but there are many more.

Musicians usually choose a key signature...
based on they type of instrument or voice that will be playing or signing,
how high or low the piece should be sounded,
to avoid putting lots of sharps and flats in the music.

Practice: Write the following on music paper. Under each note, write the letter name of the note.
Full transcript