Ch 1: Elements of Music

About This Chapter

Watch video lessons that cover the elements of music, including construction of musical pieces, composers, types of music and more. Use the short quizzes that follow each lesson to measure your understanding.

Elements of Music

Music is more than just something pretty to listen to. There are many different elements that go into creating a musical piece. These elements shape the way a piece sounds and what musical genre or category it falls into. Our lessons on the elements of music will help you learn about the factors that are involved in creating music.

Our lessons will cover some of the basic musical elements, such as key signature, tempos and time signatures. You'll get to dive into learning how to read a piece of music through looking at the different parts of a written piece. Our video lessons will show you how things like rhythm and dynamics give a piece of music a familiar sound.

Moving on, you'll get to watch lessons that show you how the different musical elements that you learned about work to shape a piece of music into a standard form, such as a symphony, sonata or rondo. You'll learn more musical vocabulary, including form, movement and modulation.

As you begin to learn more about how a piece of music is shaped through how it is written and the different elements that are used, our lessons will introduce you to how instruments and singers play a role in the creation of music. Study the different voice types, such as soprano or tenor, the vocal arrangement options, such as trio or quartet and the different instruments, such as woodwinds, strings and brass.

Understanding the basics will help you as you move into our lessons that cover specific types of musical genres, such as opera, jazz and orchestra. Take a look at how an opera is composed, what unique aspects make a musical piece an opera and the different types of operas. Discover more about jazz and the history of this musical style. Learn how swing and scat play into the jazz scene. Study jazz composers and performers, too. Our lessons will also cover orchestral music, diving into a study of the format, instrument sections and history.

You'll also begin on a path to learning more about music from specific periods throughout history. Learn about the style, history, composers and roles of music from the medieval period, the Renaissance, the baroque period, the Classical era, the Romantic era and the modern era.

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21 Lessons in Chapter 1: Elements of Music
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.

Texture and Voices in Music: Definition & Overview

20. 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.

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

21. 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!

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