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Ch 16: Basic Elements of Music: Help and Review

About This Chapter

The Basic Elements of Music chapter of this Introduction to Humanities Help and Review course is the simplest way to master the basics of music. This chapter uses simple and fun videos that are about five minutes long, plus lesson quizzes and a chapter exam to ensure students learn the essentials of basic music elements.

Who's it for?

Anyone who needs help learning or mastering introductory humanities material will benefit from taking this course. There is no faster or easier way to learn humanities. Among those who would benefit are:

  • Students who have fallen behind in understanding instrument families or how to read music
  • Students who struggle with learning disabilities or learning differences, including autism and ADHD
  • Students who prefer multiple ways of learning humanities (visual or auditory)
  • Students who have missed class time and need to catch up
  • Students who need an efficient way to learn about the basic elements of music
  • Students who struggle to understand their teachers
  • Students who attend schools without extra humanities learning resources

How it works:

  • Find videos in our course that cover what you need to learn or review.
  • Press play and watch the video lesson.
  • Refer to the video transcripts to reinforce your learning.
  • Test your understanding of each lesson with short quizzes.
  • Verify you're ready by completing the Basic Elements of Music chapter exam.

Why it works:

  • Study Efficiently: Skip what you know, review what you don't.
  • Retain What You Learn: Engaging animations and real-life examples make topics easy to grasp.
  • Be Ready on Test Day: Use the Basic Elements of Music chapter exam to be prepared.
  • Get Extra Support: Ask our subject-matter experts any basic music question. They're here to help!
  • Study With Flexibility: Watch videos on any web-ready device.

Students will review:

This chapter helps students review the concepts in a basic elements of music unit of a standard introductory humanities course. Topics covered include:

  • Notes on the treble and bass clefs
  • Sharps and flats
  • Major and minor key signatures
  • Musical scales
  • Instrument families
  • Tempo and rhythm
  • Musical forms
  • Time signatures and meters
  • Melody, harmony, texture and dynamics

53 Lessons in Chapter 16: Basic Elements of Music: Help and Review
How to Read Notes on the Treble Clef Staff

1. How to Read Notes on the Treble Clef Staff

How do musicians interpret notes on the treble clef staff? What types of instruments play notes that are read in the treble clef staff? Who invented the notation system? Find out in this lesson!

How to Read Notes of the Bass Clef Staff

2. How to Read Notes of the Bass Clef Staff

How do musicians interpret notes on the bass clef staff? What types of instruments play notes that are read in the bass clef staff? How is the bass clef staff different from the treble clef staff? Find out in this lesson!

Sharps and Flats: Reading and Identifying Sharp and Flat Notes in Music

3. Sharps and Flats: Reading and Identifying Sharp and Flat Notes in Music

What do sharp and flat notes look like? How are they different from regular notes? When and where are sharp and flat notes used? Find out in this lesson!

How to Determine Major Key Signatures in Music

4. How to Determine Major Key Signatures in Music

What is a key signature? How can you tell the key of a song by just looking at it? Are there flats and sharps in all songs? What are some common key signatures in the Major tonality? Find out in this lesson!

How to Determine Minor Key Signatures in Music

5. How to Determine Minor Key Signatures in Music

Key signatures are useful in playing and understanding music, but how do you know if the key signature is for a Major or a minor key? Find out in this lesson!

Understanding and Building Musical Scales: Definitions & Types of Scales

6. Understanding and Building Musical Scales: Definitions & Types of Scales

What is a 'scale' in music? How do tonality, pitch, and accidentals play a role in making a scale? What kinds of notes make up a scale? What is the difference between a Major scale, minor scale, blues scale, and pentatonic scale? Learn all about scales in this lesson!

Musical Timbre of Instruments and Singers: Definition

7. Musical Timbre of Instruments and Singers: Definition

How can you tell if you are listening to a violin or a flute? How do composers use timbre to express their ideas and keep the listener interested? Find out in this lesson on timbre!

Instrument Families of the Orchestra: String, Woodwind, Brass & Percussion

8. Instrument Families of the Orchestra: String, Woodwind, Brass & Percussion

There are so many instruments in the orchestra! What similarities and differences can one find between them? How do the instruments work? Find out about the string, woodwind, brass and percussion families in this lesson!

Tempo: Definition and Uses in Musical Forms

9. Tempo: Definition and Uses in Musical Forms

How does the speed of a song affect our emotions? How can we determine the speed of a song just by looking at it? By learning about tempo, we can find out!

Rhythm: Quarter Notes, Eighth Notes, Rests & Other Basic Rhythms

10. Rhythm: Quarter Notes, Eighth Notes, Rests & Other Basic Rhythms

Rhythm is an imperative part of music. Knowing the basic rhythms such as quarter notes, eighth notes, and rests will give you a deeper understanding of the music you hear. Learn about these notes and other basic rhythms in this lesson!

Rhythm: Recognizing Syncopation, Dotted Notes & Ties

11. Rhythm: Recognizing Syncopation, Dotted Notes & Ties

Beyond simple quarter notes and eighth notes, musical rhythm can become confusing. In this lesson, you'll learn how to recognize and define ties, dotted notes and syncopation. You'll also learn two styles where syncopation is often heard and how ties and dotted notes contribute to creating syncopation.

Major and Minor Keys: Tonality in Music

12. Major and Minor Keys: Tonality in Music

How does a movie's soundtrack enhance our emotions? Watch this video lesson to learn how musical tonality can express feeling in everything from movies to rock songs to operas.

Musical Form: Definitions and Analysis

13. Musical Form: Definitions and Analysis

What is musical form and why is it important? How can we determine the form of a song just by listening? In this lesson, learn the different parts that make up a musical form.

Musical Form: Phrasing, Binary, and Ternary Forms

14. Musical Form: Phrasing, Binary, and Ternary Forms

Why do composers use form? How do composers use phrases to create tension and release in their music? What is binary form, and how does it compare to ternary form? Find out in this lesson!

Classical Music Forms: Symphonic, Sonata, Theme and Variation & Rondo Forms

15. Classical Music Forms: Symphonic, Sonata, Theme and Variation & Rondo Forms

What exactly is a symphony? Why are some classical songs called sonata or rondo? Discover the answers to these questions as you study the different forms of classical music in this lesson.

Time Signature in Music: Definition and Examples

16. Time Signature in Music: Definition and Examples

Time signatures, or meters, are a way to communicate the pulse and feel of a piece of music. Musicians, dancers and listeners alike use them to interpret where the strong and weak beats lie, including their divisions. Find out the specifics of time signature in this lesson.

Meters and Time Signatures in Musical Forms

17. Meters and Time Signatures in Musical Forms

What's the difference between a waltz and a polka? What's a 'mazurka,' and why did Chopin write so many of them? How can time signature imply a type of form? Find the answers to these questions and more in this lesson!

Melody vs. Harmony: Definitions and Examples

18. Melody vs. Harmony: Definitions and Examples

What is a 'melody?' How are 'melody' and 'harmony' different? What kinds of harmonies are used in classical and current popular styles of music? Find out the basics of melody and harmony in this lesson.

Development of Musical Form Throughout History

19. Development of Musical Form Throughout History

If you think that classical music has always been classic, think again - it was really just one in a line of musical forms. Western music has evolved throughout history, starting with monastic chants and continuing through today's varied styles.

Dynamics in Music: Piano, Forte and Why They Are Important

20. Dynamics in Music: Piano, Forte and Why They Are Important

Dynamics are a way of communicating volume and intensity in music. Piano, forte and other markings help musicians interpret the expressive quality of the music. What do these markings look like? What types of markings exist, and what do they mean? Learn more about dynamics in this lesson!

Texture and Voices in Music: Definition & Overview

21. Texture and Voices in Music: Definition & Overview

Why are background instruments important? What do 'thin' and 'thick' mean in a musical sense? Let's find out more about texture and how we use it to describe music.

What is A Cappella Music?

22. What is A Cappella Music?

A cappella music refers to vocal music, either solo or choral, that is sung without music behind it. In this lesson you will learn about the history of this style of singing and what kind of vocal music is sung a cappella today.

Backmasking of Songs: Psychology & Examples

23. Backmasking of Songs: Psychology & Examples

This lesson will explain the strange controversy surrounding the technique known as backmasking. The origins of this concept will be explored and the hysteria surrounding it during the 1980s will be assessed.

What is the History of the Bolero?

24. What is the History of the Bolero?

Learn about the origins and development of the Bolero, a popular dance form in Spain and Latin America. Discuss the music, movement, and changes since the Bolero first appeared in the 18th century through modern times.

Aerophones: Types & Examples

25. Aerophones: Types & Examples

Aerophones are a family of instruments that use a vibrating column of air to produce sound. They are prevalent throughout all cultures. This lesson explores the different types of aerophones.

Camerata: Definition, Music & Singers

26. Camerata: Definition, Music & Singers

In the study of music, camerata can refer specifically to a late sixteenth-century organization that was based in Florence or to present-day music ensembles that have adopted the name. This article discusses both uses of the term.

Composer Rameau: Operas & Music

27. Composer Rameau: Operas & Music

Jean-Phillipe Rameau was an important composer of the French Baroque period. This lesson will discuss his music, compositional style and his contribution to the development of opera.

Tone Color in Music: Definition & Explanation

28. Tone Color in Music: Definition & Explanation

Tone color is an element of sound that allows the listener to identify the distinct qualities of that sound that are not related to pitch, volume, or duration. This lesson explores how tone color is created and altered, as well as the ways in which it should be described.

Declamation: Definition, Music & Examples

29. Declamation: Definition, Music & Examples

Declamation is the relationship of text to music. In this lesson we will learn how it is used by composers and singers to enhance the music and also how it functions as a musical style.

Diatonic Scale: Definition & Patterns

30. Diatonic Scale: Definition & Patterns

Did you know that you can play an example of every type of diatonic scale just by using the white keys on the piano? Learn about diatonic scales, including major scales, natural minor scales, and modes.

Diminution: Definition & Value

31. Diminution: Definition & Value

This lesson will teach you about the musical practice of diminution, including how composers have used it in various settings. You will learn about diminution of intervals, diminution of chords, and diminution of rhythms and melodies.

Enharmonic in Music: Definition, Equivalents & Notes

32. Enharmonic in Music: Definition, Equivalents & Notes

An enharmonic tone is a musical note that has multiple names. Like a homophone, the enharmonic tone is spelled differently but has the same meaning (or does it . . . ?) This lesson will explore the how and why of this musical curiosity.

Etude: Definition & Instruments

33. Etude: Definition & Instruments

Etudes are musical studies that help students learn the techniques of their instruments. In this lesson we will learn about some of the etude composers, and about piano etudes in particular.

Fortissimo: Definition, Music & Instruments

34. Fortissimo: Definition, Music & Instruments

If you are writing a piece of music and want to tell the musicians to play really loudly, how do you do it? Find out why, when, and how composers use the musical dynamic marking 'fortissimo.'

French Horn: History, Facts & Songs

35. French Horn: History, Facts & Songs

Despite being one of the few orchestra pieces to have a geographical name, the French horn is actually German. Keep reading to learn about the surprising history of the horn, how it is used in music, and addition information on this musical instrument.

G Major: Scale, Chord & Music Theory

36. G Major: Scale, Chord & Music Theory

In this lesson we'll explore the music theory behind the key of G major. We'll learn about the scale, the chords, and how they interact. The concepts explored in this lesson can be applied to any of the major keys.

Ground Bass: Definition, Composers, Instruments & Examples

37. Ground Bass: Definition, Composers, Instruments & Examples

This lesson provides a brief overview of what the term 'ground bass' means in Western music and how it is used to create comprehensible, meaningful musical structures. You'll also get some examples of famous works constructed using this technique.

Harpsichord: Definition & History

38. Harpsichord: Definition & History

How could it be that the instrument that made Bach famous, before being rejected in favor of the piano, is now finding its way to video games? Keep reading to learn more about the harpsichord.

Phrase in Music: Definition & Structure

39. Phrase in Music: Definition & Structure

Could you read a book that had no punctuation? Could you play music that had no phrases? Learn all about phrases and why they're important, including the meaning of key terms such as cadence, period, antecedent, consequent, and phrase mark.

Sitar: Definition, History & Parts

40. Sitar: Definition, History & Parts

Providing a uniqueness of sound immediately recognizable as South Asian, the sitar has seen its popularity grow exponentially since George Harrison picked one up more than fifty years ago. Learn more about this instrument and how it came about.

Styles of Music: Types & History

41. Styles of Music: Types & History

This lesson will detail three basic categories of music that will help to formulate an introductory knowledge of musical style and history. Examples will be provided for each category and notions concerning audience, production, and distribution will be discussed.

Syncopation: Definition & Examples

42. Syncopation: Definition & Examples

The element of surprise makes life interesting. In the rhythm of music, the element of surprise is called syncopation. Learn about the various ways to use syncopation for greater effect.

Ternary Form in Music: Definition & Examples

43. Ternary Form in Music: Definition & Examples

In this lesson, you will learn about musical form and what defines ternary form. You will also learn to identify ternary form by looking for large sections, changes in the music, and returning to music heard at the beginning of the piece.

The Mbira Instrument: History & Music

44. The Mbira Instrument: History & Music

The mbira is a traditional African instrument that has been played for over a thousand years. In this lesson we will discuss the instrument and its history.

Through-Composed Music: Definition, Form & Songs

45. Through-Composed Music: Definition, Form & Songs

In this lesson, you will learn about what make a piece of music through-composed. You will learn about the form of through-composed music and become familiar with some examples in this style.

Tremolo: Definition & Effect

46. Tremolo: Definition & Effect

Before there were synthesizers, guitar pedals, and microphone filters, composers found cool ways to change how music sounded by using different performance techniques to create special effects. This lesson explores one of these effects: tremolo.

Troubadour: Definition, Music & Instruments

47. Troubadour: Definition, Music & Instruments

Troubadours were a highly respected group of poets and musicians who lived during the Medieval period. In this lesson, we will learn about their art and influence.

Walking Bass: Definition, Patterns & Technique

48. Walking Bass: Definition, Patterns & Technique

This lesson will cover walking bass, a technique for improvising bass lines that's used by musicians in many different genres from classical to jazz. You'll learn about the technique and how musicians have used it throughout history.

Western Music: History & Timeline

49. Western Music: History & Timeline

Have you ever wondered what exactly Western music is, or how it has changed over time? This lesson will answer both of these questions and more as we explore the history of Western music.

What Is Secular Music? - Definition & History

50. What Is Secular Music? - Definition & History

Simply put, secular music is any music not written for the church. This lesson will examine the history of this important musical genre and look at how it became what it is today.

Crescendo in Music: Definition & Notation

51. Crescendo in Music: Definition & Notation

In this lesson, we learn about the musical term, crescendo. We're going to cover how it's used, how it's written, how it's performed, and where it came from.

Key Signature in Music: Definition & Concept

52. Key Signature in Music: Definition & Concept

In this lesson, we're talking about key signatures. We'll learn how to properly write them, how to quickly identify them, and why they're used in the first place.

Scherzo: Definition & Form

53. Scherzo: Definition & Form

In this lesson, we're going to discuss the scherzo. It will provide a broad overview of the concept by addressing its form, its musical characteristics, and what scherzo means in the first place.

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