The Elements of Music In today’s world, it may be harder to get away from music than it is to find music. Music fills our ears in places as distinct as the grocery store, dentist office, sporting events, and shopping mall. We hear music played in the background of most television shows and movies. We listen to it on our car radios or on an amp player. We talk about our favorite artists with friends, go to concerts, and perhaps even produce music ourselves on an instrument. In other words, music is all around us.
Yet, even though we consume a great deal of music each day, how often do we stop o appreciate the music that we are listening to? Do we understand the basic elements of the music and what makes it appealing to us? Do we think about the musical influences that have crafted particular genres of music such as hip-hop, techno, country and western, or pop? Often, music is the backdrop to whatever else we might be doing. We can gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the music we listen to by examining its elements and historical influences. Think about two very different types of music.
Maybe you thought about rap and classical music. Maybe you thought about country and choral music. Whatever types of music that you thought of, now consider what those types of music have in common. It can sometimes be hard to see the commonality in music, even though at a fundamental level, all forms of music have many things in common with each other. In the following sections, we will examine some of the underlying structures that various forms of music share. These elements help to give the music we hear, in whatever form, a sense of order and structure. They are part of what helps us to recognize music as music.
What are the elements of music and why should you care about them? The various elements of music are what give music its unique characteristics when combined with other factors. For example, some songs are fast while others are slow. Some pieces of music use different rhythms or beats than other pieces of music. Some music is loud; other music is soft. These elements are combined by musicians to create distinct pieces of music. Dynamic Learning Inc. I All Rights Reserved. 02: The Elements of Music Pitch If you’ve listened to music, you’ve probably noticed that some sounds are higher and some sounds are lower.
Essentially, this is pitch. Pitch is the frequency of a sound, ND it relates to the highness or lowness of a tone that we hear. If you have an elastic or rubber band, try hooking one side of the band to a stationary object such as a nail and hold the other end, drawing the band out a little bit. Then pluck or hit the band. What did it sound like? Does the sound differ if you hit the band softly versus if you hit it with more force? Does the sound differ if you hit the band quickly versus if you hit it slowly? You may notice that the faster the band vibrates, the higher the tone that is produced from the band.
Slower vibrations or frequencies create lower tones. The Elements of Music By immenseness not the same as frequency when we are discussing music. This is because musical pitch is subjective in the sense that two people may perceive a pitch differently depending on their direction. In the West, there are typically twelve different pitches used in music. An easy way to conceptualize these twelve pitches is to think of seven white keys on a piano and the five black keys that are between them. If you imagine the piano keyboard again, you may note that there are many more keys than Just twelve.
The cycle of these twelve keys is repeated on the keyboard a number of times. The repetition of these twelve itches is known as an octave. A scale is a group of notes in ascending and descending pitch. We often see the C scale referred to when we are talking about music. You may be familiar with the syllables that we sometimes use to sing a scale: Do, Re, Me, FAA, So (or Sol), La, T’, Do. If you were to sing these syllables along with the ascending notes, you would have sung a scale. 03: The Elements of Music Rhythm A famous George and Aria Gershwin song published in the sass proclaimed, “Vive got rhythm, Vive got music. Rhythm represents another fundamental aspect of music and perhaps the most fundamental of all musical elements. It is the timing of the musical sounds or notes in the music. Rhythm is composed of both the strong, accented pulses as well as the weaker, unaccented pulses. The pattern of these pulses comprises rhythm. Some of the earliest music consisted almost entirely of rhythm, in the form of drumming or clapping. Rhythm, in one form or another, exists all around us. Some scholars have argued that the need or recognition for rhythm begins for humans in their mother’s womb, where their mother’s heartbeat keeps a steady pulse.
We can also find rhythm in other sounds around us, including the footsteps of another or the chiming of a clock as the our changes, as we tend to give these sounds a musical element in our heads. We might also argue that our daily lives have a rhythm or spacing to them. We often have schedules and do particular things at particular times, such as sleeping and eating. This is why we refer to it as the “rhythm of life. ” Rhythm also occurs in the spoken language, although you may not have thought about this before. In fact, prosody is the study of rhythm, pitch, and other aspects within language.
While each of these examples is different than music, they all represent the idea of space, pattern, and repetition in sound or movement. As rhythm exists around us daily, you are probably already aware of rhythm in music, even if you did not know the term to attach to it. Rhythm is the aspect that makes you want to move to the music, including tapping your foot or dancing. In music, rhythm is measured. In other words, musicians can measure the timing between the strongest pulsations in the music being played. You may have heard these pulsations referred to as beats.
The beat is the basic time unit within a piece of music. You may have seen a music score with bars of notes the pitch of the music, but also the rhythm. For example, a piece of music may be assured in a 4/4 time. This indicates that each bar of music on the score will have four measured beats in it. Generally, when using 4/4 time, the first beat will be the strongest beat. In this case, the first beat of the bar is known as the down-beat. It is also the most likely place for a chord change in the music. The third beat in the bar is often the second strongest beat or pulse.
In these circumstances, the first and third beats are known as “on” beats, since the emphasis of the music in the bar is on these beats. The emphasis is known as an accent. The second and fourth beats here would e known as “off’ beats since emphasis is not on these beats. However, in some cases, unexpected beats will be given emphasis, such as the two and four beats in 4/4 time. Syncopation involves placing emphasis on normally UN-emphasized beats or using a rest on a normally emphasized beat. In other words, syncopation involves disrupting or interrupting the expected or normal rhythm of music.
Many different types of music, including aka, reggae, rap, Jazz, and some forms of metal, use syncopation regularly in the music. In addition to the emphasis on certain notes within a bar of music, rhythm also indicates the speed of the notes. Tempo is the speed of a given piece of music. If you think about it, tempo plays an important role in determining the mood of a piece of music, along with elements like pitch. Fast tempos create very different moods within music as compared to slow tempos. Today, the tempo is generally indicated by the beats per minute.
The faster the tempo, the more beats per minute will be played; the slower the tempo, the fewer beats per minute. A metronome, or a device that produces regular ticks or beats according to the beats per minute, is one way that musicians and composers can help maintain a consistent pace in the music. Musicians have used some common terms for centuries to denote the general tempo for a piece of music: Largo: very slow Adagio: slow Moderator: moderate tempo Allegro: fast Presto: very fast As with some of the other notations in music, these terms are general terms, rather than specific.
They are dependent on how an individual decides to interpret them. A fast tempo for one individual may be slightly faster or slower than a fast tempo for another, even with the same piece of music. In designating the beats of music on sheet music or scores, musicians use a series of notations to indicate when a note would be played and the pitch of that note. You have probably seen examples of these notes before, particularly if you play a musical instrument or sing in a choir. Musical notation is similar to a written language. It gives the person reading the notations information about the music.
The notes that are used to indicate tempo include: How are these notes interpreted? Imagine that you are using a 4/4 time, where there are four beats per bar of music. A whole note represents these four beats. In other quarter notes, you would use four of those notations to fill up the bar, and each of he other notations is calculated in a similar way (two half notes, eight eighth notes, etc. ). 04: The Elements of Music Dynamics Think back a minute to the discussion that we had on pitch. Now imagine that you are playing with a set of child’s blocks.
Think about placing each of these blocks an equal distance apart, placing them down at exactly the same speed, and putting them in exactly the same position. Each block represents a particular pitch. Now think about what it would be like if each note of music was like these blocks?played in exactly the same way each time. While the pitch might differ between notes, they loud be evenly played and spaced, with no variation in loudness, rhythm, or timing. This would produce some monotonous music, even if the pitch differed from note to note.
Dynamics in music refers to the loudness or softness of a note, as well as the quality of the note as played. Some of the dynamics in music happen naturally. Imagine trying to play those notes for exactly the same length, in exactly the same quality, at exactly the same loudness or softness. It would be almost impossible to maintain this for any length of time for most people. We naturally bring in dynamics as we play because we naturally vary these aspects. Over the years, musicians have developed various terms to denote the sound level that a note is to be played at.
If you look at sheet music for a piece, particularly if the piece is to be performed by an orchestra or other formal group, you will often find notations indicating the loudness or softness that an instrument should be using. Some of these notations include: Fortissimo (of: played very loudly Forte (f): played loudly Mezzo forte (MFC): played moderately loud Mezzo piano (pm): played moderately soft Piano (p): played softly Pianissimo (up): played very softly These notes help musicians to identify the sound level that they are meant to be playing at.
Yet, they are still approximations since each person interprets these terms in a slightly different manner. The defining of loudness in a piece of music can not only help set the mood of the music, but it also helps instruments work together to create music. Imagine if all of the instruments were allowed to play as loudly as they wanted in an orchestra. The result might be that some instruments would be drowned out while others would overpower the music. In addition, the mood of the music would be very different. Imagine a very sad piece of music played as loudly as possible.
This might create music that sounds angrier than it does sad, producing different emotions in the listener. The level of sound can happen gradually or suddenly within a piece of music. Submit Fernando (usually written as soprano) is a the notations that we discussed earlier. For example, you may see SP on the sheet music, indicated a sudden change where the notes should be played softly. In addition to sudden changes, we also find gradual changes in the volume of sounds. These changes are referred to with special terms as well.
Crescendo (or cress. Refers to music that gradually increases in volume or gets louder. Decrescendo or diminuendo(decrees. Or dim. ) refers to music that gradually decreases in volume or gets softer. In addition to the level of sound that music is played at in a piece, another element of dynamics is the quality of the tone. Timbre (which is pronounced tam-beer) is the tone quality of a sound, and it is what helps to distinguish one musical instrument from another. It is also sometimes referred to as color or tone quality.
You are already aware of timbre whether you realize it or not. For example, you are probably able to extinguish different musical instruments from others. A piano sounds different from a flute or a guitar, for example, even when they are all playing the same note. In addition, each individual instrument has its own timber, and those with a good ear for a particular instrument may be able to actually tell one cello apart from another cello or one flute apart from another flute. Human voices also differ from one another.
You’ve probably noticed this as well in listening to singers. We can separate some of the timber differences of humans into four different categories: Soprano: a high female voice Alto: a low female voice Tenor: a high male voice Bass: a low male voice If you think about the human voices that you’ve heard, you most likely are able to distinguish between human voices Just as some people are able to distinguish between instruments. 05: The Elements of Music Melody Melody may be one element of music that you feel somewhat familiar with.
After all, we often talk about the melody of a song or piece of music. We may whistle it as we walk about or hum it to ourselves. At the most basic level, melody is a series of musical notes that have been strung together. It is composed of both pitch and withy and it represents the notes in a piece of music that catch our ears. Many pieces of music have other, extra notes within the music, but melody consists of that main series of notes that we hum or sing for a piece of music. Melodies may be repeating sets of notes or musical phrases in some songs.
For example, in some songs, the verse part of a song will have the same melody each time it is used in the song, or the chorus may have a consistent melody, regardless of how many times it is used in the song. In general, a melody will also feature a range of different notes, rising and falling throughout the piece. If the melody did not have same note on the piano for an entire song. Within a melody are melodic phrases. Just as a phrase in a sentence gives a definite meaning when the words are placed together, so too do the melodic phrases within a piece of music.
Melodic phrases are groups or sets of notes that make sense together, express a musical idea, and, when combined, create the melody. Just as we often pause when speaking a new phrase, we often find that there is a slight pause in the notes from the end of one melodic phrase to the start of another. The pause may be small, such as holding the last note just a bit longer than the earlier notes in the phrase, but with practice, we can learn to hear them. Melodic phrases also often line up with the phrases in the lyrics, so that can be another way of finding them in many cases. Some forms of music also incorporate harmony.
Harmony is having more than one pitch within the music at the same time. We often think of harmony as a complement to melody. In other words, when it is used, harmony sounds pleasant to us when placed with the melody of a piece of music. The two (or more) notes played together sound good together. However, in some cases, the harmony can be dissonant to the elodea, sounding harsh or even unpleasant when the two notes are mixed. In Western music, harmonies are often related to chords, which are major or minor triads (three notes played at the same time). 06: The Elements of Music Form Imagine that you are a composer.
You’ve learned about the elements of pitch, rhythm, and dynamics. You have these aspects ready and you need to compose a particular piece of music. Now you are ready to deal with the form of music as you piece these elements together into something that is pleasing to the ear. In a way, it is like a building a house. Even if you have all of the materials in front of you, you still need to plan and carefully construct the structure of the building before you begin placing plaster, wood, and glass into the structure; in other words, you need to make sure that the structure doesn’t fall apart and that it will serve its purpose.
Once the structure is in place, you can then create changes and additions that will set your building apart from others and give it a unique style. So it is with music. Generally, form is referred to as the framework that a composer uses to create a piece of music. It is the combination of the other musical elements, including pitch, memo, and dynamics. For example, a pop musician may use an alternating chorus and verse form. Each type or genre of music may have different forms that are commonly used and in fact, these forms may help define that particular genre.
Composers can, and do, improvise and make changes to these forms to create new types or new sounds. However, the basic forms remain and are familiar starting points for music. One area of form that composers and others can look at is the small phrases or series of notes that comprise one part of a piece of music. This may include both the music itself as well as the lyrics that are to be sung with the piece of mono in many popular forms of music. Essentially, this form of music indicates when a chord change will happen in the music.
It may look something like this: C C C c FCC GAFF In this case, the chord changes occur at the start of a bar of music so the musician would play four bars in the chord of C, before changing to F for two bars, and so on. Lyrics can also follow particular forms. One common form is toothsome meter, which consists of four lines of a particular number of beats that end in the rhyming pattern of a-b-a-b. This has been a common form for both ballads and hymns for quite some time. The form may sometimes have variations, such as a rhyming pattern that follows a-b-x-b, where the second and fourth lines rhyme, but the first and third do not.
An example of the common meter can be found in the theme to the classic television serialization’s Island: Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale off fateful trip. That started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship. The use of the common meter often means that different lyrics could be substituted easily within the music, since the same number of syllables would be used. Other examples of the common meter can be found in the popular hymn “Amazing Grace” ND the Christmas carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem. In addition to the more minute parts of the music that a composer has to deal with, he or she also has to make decisions on a larger scale when dealing with form. For example, classical pieces may prescribe which instruments will be used to create the music in a performance or how many instruments will be used. Changing these prescriptions can create vastly different music than what the composer intended. Imagine, for example, that a classical piece designed for flutes and clarinets is played by a banjo and an accordion. The piece would likely have a different mood and feel tit the change.
While there are many different forms that we may encounter when examining music, let’s take a look at a couple that have been common in history. Concerto is a musical piece in which one solo instrument (such as a piano or violin) is accompanied by an orchestra. Typically a concerto is structured into three different parts or movements. A sonata is a musical composition for a solo instrument (often piano or other keyboard instrument). In some cases, a composition may be called a sonata if it was designated as such by the composer rather than having the piece meet other criteria for a sonata.
A symphony is a musical piece that has been scored for a full orchestra; it is often an extended composition. Many symphonies have four parts or movements, with the first movement in sonata form. In this unit, we examined some of the basic elements that make up music. Although most of us are familiar with music in one form or another, we may not give a great deal of thought to the elements that combine to produce music. Having a basic understanding of these elements can help us better understand the similarities and differences among the produce some of our favorite pieces of music.