Vocabulary

Vocabulary Definitions

Form
    Symbols
    Lowercase letters indicate musical phrases or subsections: for example, a b indicates a contrasting period;
    a b a indicates a phrase, contrasting phrase and return to the original phrase. A prime (as in a a’ ) denotes
    a phrase and a varied restatement. Capital letters are used to indicate larger sections of compositions.
 
Terms
    Cadence
    Cadential extension
    Coda
    Codetta
    Contour
    Countermelody
    Elision (phrase elision)
    Fragment (fragmented motive)
    Introduction
 
Jazz and pop terms
    bridge
    chorus
    song form (AABA)
    turnaround
    twelve-bar blues
 
Melodic procedures
    augmentation
    conjunct
    diminution
    disjunct
    extension, phrase extension
    fragmentation
    internal expansion
    inversion, melodic inversion
    literal repetition
    motivic transformation
    octave displacement
    retrograde
    rhythmic transformation
    sequence
    sequential repetition
    transposition
    truncation
    Motive
    Period
        antecedent
        consequent
        contrasting period
        double period
        parallel period
    Phrase group
    Refrain
    Small forms
        binary
        rounded binary
        simple binary
        ternary
    Solo, soli
    Stanza
    Strophic
    Theme
        thematic transformation
    Through-composed
    Tutti
    Variation
    Verse
 
Harmony
    Symbols
        Roman and Arabic numerals
            Capital Roman numerals denote major triads.
            Lowercase Roman numerals denote minor triads.
            A capital Roman numeral with a “ + ” indicates an augmented triad.
            A lowercase Roman numeral with a “ ø ” indicates a diminished triad.
            Arabic numerals or figured-bass symbols denote intervals above the bass and
            hence indirectly indicate chord inversion. Arabic numerals may indicate voice leading and/or non-harmonic tones.
 
Triads
    6 indicates a first inversion triad
 
    6
    4 indicates a second inversion triad
 
Seventh Chords
    7 indicates a root-position seventh chord
 
    ø7 indicates a diminished (fully-diminished) seventh chord
 
    Ø7 indicates a half-diminished seventh chord
 
    6
    5 indicates first inversion
 
    4
    3 indicates second inversion
 
    4
    2 indicates third inversion
 
Other figures
    8–7 indicates melodic movement from an octave to a seventh above the bass.
    9–8, 7–6, 4–3 indicate a suspension and melodic resolution.
    An accidental before an Arabic numeral indicates alteration of the interval involved.
    A figure with a slash (e.g., ) or a plus (e.g., 4+) indicates that the note creating the interval in question is raised a half step.
 
Cadence Types
    Authentic Cadence
        Imperfect authentic Cadence
        Perfect authentic Cadence
    Conclusive cadence
    Deceptive
    Half
        Phrygian half
    Inconclusive cadence
    Plagal
 
Chord Quality
    Triads
        augmented or +
        diminished or ø
        major or M
        minor or m
 
    Seventh chords
        major seventh (MM; M7) (“major-major”)
        dominant seventh (Mm7) (used for “major-minor” seventh chords exercising a dominant function)
        minor seventh (m7; mm) (“minor-minor”)
        half-diminished seventh (Ø7; dm) (“diminished-minor”)
        fully-diminished seventh (ø7; dd) (“diminished-diminished”)
 
Functions and Progressions
    Scale degrees/diatonic chord names
        tonic
        supertonic
        mediant
        subdominant
        dominant
        submediant
        subtonic
        leading tone
 
    Functions
        tonic function
        dominant function
        predominant function
 
    Circle of fifths
    Deceptive progression
    Harmonic rhythm
 
    Modulation
        common tone modulation
        phrase modulation
        pivot chord modulation
 
    Neighboring chord
    Rate of harmonic change
    Realize, realization of a figured bass, realization of a four-part Roman numeral progression
 
    Retrogression
    Secondary dominant
    Secondary leading tone chord
    Tonicization
 
Treatment of second inversion ( 6/4 ) triads
    Arpeggiating 6
                          4—a 6/4 created by arpeggiation of the triad in the bass (e.g., 1a).
 
    Cadential 6
                   4—a I 6/4 preceding the dominant, often at a cadence. Although it contains the notes of the tonic triad, it does not exercise a tonic function but
                        rather serves as an embellishment of the dominant. It occurs in a metrically stronger position than the dominant, and the upper voices most often move by
                        step to the tones of the dominant. May also be written as V6/4 = 5/3 , including the resolution of the cadential 6/4 to the dominant (e.g., 1b).
 
    Neighboring or pedal 6
                                       4 (embellishing 6/4, auxiliary 6/4 )—occurs when the third and fifth of a root position triad are embellished by their respective upper
                                            neighboring tones, while the bass is stationary, usually occurring on a weak beat (e.g., 1c).
 
    Passing 6
                4—harmonizes the second note of a three-note ascending or descending scale fragment in the bass; that is, it harmonizes a bass passing
                   tone. The usual metric placement is on an unaccented beat and the motion of the upper voices is ordinarily by step (e.g., 1d).
 
EXAMPLES
 
1a. Arpeggiating 6
                          4 
1b. Cadential 6
                     4 
1c. Neighboring or Pedal 6 
                                      4
1d. Passing 6
                  4
 
Non-harmonic Tones
    Anticipation
    Appoggiatura
    Embellishment
    Escape tone (échappeé)
    Neighboring tone (auxiliary tone, embellishing tone, neighbor note)
        double neighbor
        lower neighbor
        upper neighbor
        neighbor group (cambiata, changing tones, changing notes)
 
    Ornament
    Passing tone (accented, unaccented)
    Pedal point
    Preparation
    Resolution
    Retardation
    Suspension
        rearticulated suspension
        suspension chain
 
Spacing/Voicing/Position
    Soprano
    Alto
    Tenor  
    Bass
    Close position
    Open position
    Doubling
    Inversion, inversion of chords

    Root
    Root position
    First inversion
    Second inversion
    Third inversion
 
Voice Leading
    Common tone
    Contrary motion
    Cross relation (false relation)
    Crossed voices (voice crossing)
    Direct fifths (hidden fifths)
    Direct octaves (hidden octaves)
    Oblique motion
    Overlapping voices
    Parallel motion
    Parallel intervals
        objectionable parallels
        parallel fifths
        parallel octaves
    Similar motion
    Tendency tone
    Unresolved leading tone
    Unresolved seventh
    Voice exchange
 
Miscellaneous Harmonic Terms
    Arpeggio, arpeggiation
    Chromatic
    Common Practice Style
    Consonance
    Diatonic
    Dissonance
    Figured bass
    Flatted fifth
    Lead sheet
    Picardy third
    Resolution
 
Intervals
    Compound interval
    Half step (semitone)
    Interval
    Inversion, inversion of an interval
    Numerical names (i.e., third, fifth, octave)
    Quality or type (e.g., perfect, major, minor, diminished, augmented)
    Tritone
    Unison (prime)
    Whole step (whole tone)
 
Performance Terms
    Antiphonal
    Articulation
        arco
        legato
        marcato
        pizzicato
        slur
        staccato
        tenuto
    Call and response
    Dynamics
        crescendo
        diminuendo
        terrace dynamics
        pianissimo pp
        piano p
        mezzo piano mp
        mezzo forte mf
        forte f
        fortissimo ff
    Improvisation, improvisatory
    Phrasing
    Tempo
        adagio
        allegro
        andante
        andantino
        grave
        largo
        lento
        moderato
        presto
        vivace
        accelerando
        ritardando
        ritenuto
        rubato
 
Rhythm/Meter/Temporal Organization
    Accent
        agogic accent
        dynamic accent
        metrical accent
 
    Anacrusis (pickup; upbeat)
    Asymmetrical meter
    Augmentation
    Bar line
    Beat
    Beat type
        compound
        simple
 
    Changing meter (multimeter)
    Cross rhythm
    Diminution
    Dot, double dot
    Dotted rhythm
    Duplet
    Duration
    Hemiola
    Irregular meter
    Meter
        duple
        quadruple
        triple
 
    Note value
    Polyrhythm
    Pulse
    Rhythm
    Swing rhythm
    Syncopation
    Tempo
    Tie
    Time signature (meter signature)
    Triplet
 
Scales/Keys/Modes
    Accidental
    Chromatic, chromaticism
    Diatonic
    Key signature
    Major
    Minor
        harmonic minor
        melodic minor, ascending/descending natural minor (Aeolian)
    Mode
        Ionian
        Dorian
        Phrygian
        Lydian
        Mixolydian
        Aeolian
        Locrian
 
    Modality
    Parallel key, parallel major or minor
    Pentatonic
    Relative key, relative major or minor
    Scale degrees
        tonic ^1
        supertonic ^2
        mediant ^3
        subdominant ^4
        dominant ^5
        submediant ^6
        leading tone ^7
    Tetrachord
    Tonal
    Tonality
    Tonic
    Whole-tone scale
 
Text/Music Relations
    Lyrics
    Melismatic
    Stanza
    Syllabic
 
Texture
    Alberti bass
    Canon
    Canonic
    Chordal accompaniment
    Contrapuntal
    Counterpoint
        imitation
        imitative polyphony
        nonimitative polyphony
        countermelody
        fugal imitation
    Heterophony, heterophonic
    Homophony, homophonic
        chordal homophony
        chordal texture (homorhythmic)
        melody with accompaniment
    Instrumentation
        brass
        continuo
        percussion
        rhythm section
        strings
        timbre
        woodwinds
    Melody
    Monophony, monophonic
    Obbligato
    Ostinato
    Polyphony, polyphonic
    Register
    Solo, soli
    Tessitura
    Tutti
    Walking bass
 
Other terms that may be used on the AP Music Theory Exam
    Aria
    Art song
    Concerto
    Fugue
    Genre(s)
    Interlude
    Opera
    Prelude
    Postlude
    Sonata
    Song
    String quartet
    Symphony