Accents / Accented

 Accent symbols

An accent mark is positioned over a note to highlight that the note should be played with more emphasis. It is generally accepted that an accented note is played louder than unaccented notes. The accent used in the Essential Guitar Skills course is the third symbol in the diagram above. The most common is the horizontal accent, the fourth symbol in the diagram above; this is the symbol that most musicians mean when they say accent mark.


Signs that make the following notes sharp or flat or natural. Accidentals continue for the remainder of the measure, or bar, in which they occur. Once a bar line is passed, the effect of the accidental ends, except when a note affected by an accidental (either explicit or implied from earlier in the bar) is tied to the same note across a bar line.

Accompaniment / (to) Accompany

Music played by other members of the ensemble to support the principal performance being played by another member.

To play along with other musicians, but normally in a lesser (support) role.

Alternating Hand Pattern

This is the term used for describing the effect an odd numbered subdivision has on a single stroke roll, where the hand falling on the beat alternates every beat.

Alternate Picking

Alternate picking is the technique used by bass players to develop greater fluency. When playing eighth notes the first finger picks on the beats and the second finger is used for the ‘+’ of each beat, effectively alternating the picking.


Arpeggio is a chord spread out with one note being played one note after another, usually from the bottom of the chord to the top. Sometimes called a broken chord.


A musician who adapts a composition for particular voices or instruments or for another style of performance.

Ascending Scale

A scale starting on the root note and played up to the octave note.



A loud and persistent beat on the second and fourth beats in a bar played on the snare drum. The back beat clearly distinguishes rock music from it’s origins of rhythm, blues and jazz.

Bar chord

See barre chord.


A barre is when a finger (usually 1st finger) is extended across more than one string at a time.

Barre Chord

A barre chord (often called bar chords) is a guitar chord played by holding down more than one string with the index finger (finger 1 of the fretting hand) and not playing any open strings.


Music is ordered into bars (or ‘measures’). Bars divide the music into a given number of beats. For example, there may be 4 beats or 3 beats in a bar. In common time there are 4 beats in a bar. A bar is the space between two vertical lines on the stave and these lines are called bar lines.

Bar Lines

Bar lines (or barlines) are vertical lines drawn on the stave at the end of each bar.

Bass Clef

The bass clef is used for low pitch instruments and is the musical stave used to display notation for the bass guitar. For the keyboard, notes below Middle C are usually played with the left hand.

Bass Drum

The deepest/lowest sounding drum in the modern drum kit. The bass drum lies on the floor and is operated by a foot pedal.

Bass Guitar Chart

The music the bassist is asked to follow when playing a piece of music. The original score has the entire bands parts on it and from that the arranger creates a part for each member of the band. Also known as bass guitar guide.

Bass Guitar Guide

See bass guitar chart.


We use beams to join notes together into groups. Often used in the joining of 4 sixteenth notes and / or 2 eighth notes into one beat of common time. Beams are only used with notes that have tails. Quarter notes and half notes cannot be beamed.


A beat is the measurement of the ‘pulse’ felt in music. We can both feel and count the beats in a bar. Different beats affect the feel and tempo of the tune. A metronome helps the musician play to the beat.


Originally an African American style of musical composition. It was generally sung as an unhappy lament of a love affair. In more recent times it has become used to describe a mood of song rather than style.


This is where the piece of music drops some instruments out and effectively 'breaks down' some of the parts played. This helps build dynamics and provides the listener with a contrast without writing a new section.

Broken Chord

See arpeggio.


See middle eight.


Brushes are a set of bristles (metal or plastic) connected to a handle so that the bristles make a fan shape. The handles are commonly made of wood or aluminum, and are often coated with rubber. Some brushes are telescoping, so that the bristles can be pulled inside a hollow handle and the fan made by the bristles can be of variable length, width and density. Retracting the bristles also protects the brush when it is not being used.

Brushes add texture and sound not possible with sticks. For instance, silky swish sounds on coated heads and the delicate ‘ting’ sound on cymbals are only possible with thin wire or nylon brushes.



In contemporary songs the chorus tends to denote the main theme of the tune (often referred to as the ’hook’) and contrasts from the verse in terms of melody and dynamics.


A combination of notes, used as the basis of creating harmony. A chord is made up of at least two notes.

Chord Box(es)

A chord box is a diagram of the fretboard, used to demonstrate the position of the fingers of the fretting hand on the fretboard in forming chords.

Chord Progression

Songs often contain several chords linked together to form a chord progression, which becomes the basis of a song.


See treble clef and bass clef.


These are often used when playing in a studio to help keep the band in time. The clicks give the tempo to the drummer, often the beats in the bar. The click sound is produced by either a sequencer or drum machine and is listened to through headphones or a click monitor.


The coda was originally intended to be the final and clinching part of the tune, in that it did not develop the composition any further. Although not always the case, it is often the final part of a tune, taken after a number of repetitions of verses and chorus.

Coda Sign

Is a musical sign, generally accepted to signify that the musician jumps from the coda sign in the music to the section denoted as coda, usually after a D.S al coda instruction.

Common Time

Music is ordered into bars, and each bar has a defined number of beats within it, providing the pulse of the music. The most commonly used pulse in rock music is that of 4 beats. So, music that has 4 beats in a bar is often described as being written in ’common time’.


A composer is a person who writes music.

Compound Time

Where there is a mixture of simple time and triplet notes, creating a mixture of rhythm.

Crash Cymbal

The crash cymbal is mostly used for punctuating accents. The sound is one of a slow attack and long decay and is best used with the punch and cushion of a bass drum underneath it, giving it depth. When used with soft mallets they produce a long shimmering sound, which is a perfect percussive sound effect.

Cross Stick

The top rim of the drum can be struck as well as the drumhead to create a ’chipping sound’ when the stick is laid across the drum. Often used in quieter passages of songs.


See quarter note.


Curls are a very expressive technique found in all forms of lead guitar playing from blues through to metal. A curl is similar to a string bend in execution but does a totally different job.

Whereas a string bend creates a different note to the fret on which the bend is started, a curl does not bend into a new note. It merely curls away (higher) from it's original pitch and a new note is picked/played (or the string muted) before the curl reaches its apparent destination.


Cymbals are an important part of the modern drum kit and percussion family of instruments. They are plate shaped discs, made of bronze and other metals. Cymbals are often positioned around a drum kit on stands and are struck either with sticks, mallets or brushes. Cymbals have no definite pitch, but may have higher and lower sounds.



Damping is a technique for preventing strings or a drum skin from vibrating. A guitarist might rest his palm against the strings and a drummer might leave the stick on the drum skin, or actually place material on the drum head to reduce vibrations. Guitarists use damping a lot in palm muting.

Dance Hall

A type of Jamaican popular music which developed around the late 1970s. This musical genre (style or family of musical styles) is associated with ska, reggae and rocksteady.

Descending Scale

A scale where you start on the octave note and play down to the root note.


Disco is a style of music that became part of popular music in the mid to late 1970’s. Typical exponents of Disco music were the Bee Gees who wrote the soundtrack for the famous Saturday Night Fever Film in 1977 that epitomised Disco Dance culture of that time.


The fifth note in a scale and the second most important note in a scale. It is known as a 'perfect fifth' because it is always in harmony with the root note.


These are marks in music that follow a note to indicate that the note should be increased in length by half of its value.

Dotted Eighth Note

This is an eighth note that has a dot after it, increasing its value from half of a beat to three quarters of a beat.

Dotted Eighth Note Rest

This is an eighth note rest that has a dot after it, increasing its value from half of a beat to three quarters of a beat.

Dotted Quarter Note

This is a quarter note that has a dot after it, increasing its value from 1 beat to 1 and a half beats.

Dotted Quarter Note Rest

This is a quarter note rest that has a dot after it, increasing its value from 1 beat to 1 and a half beats.

Double Bar Line

Often referred to as ’tram lines’, this denotes the end, or beginning of a new section in a song/tune


The first beat of a bar (measure) of music.


Strumming a guitar involves the use of both down and up-strokes. The down-strokes are played by strumming from the bottom E string up to the top E string - string 6 to string 1. Because of the way the guitar is held, the strumming hand moves downwards when playing a down-stroke.

Drum Chart

The music the drummer is asked to follow when playing a piece of music. The original score has the entire band’s parts on it and from that the arranger creates a part for each member of the band.

Drum Fills

Drum fills are where the drummer plays a pattern or rhythm which is a break from the groove of the song. Often used to highlight changes in the song structure to create a change in dynamic intensity in the music.

Drum Guide

See drum chart.

Drum Map

A drum map describes which drum is represented by which note on the musical stave. For example, notes in the bottom space of the stave are bass drum notes. The middle space is where the snare drum note is placed. See Classroom Resources for example of a drum map.

DS al Coda

Is a musical instruction meaning to ‘Go to the Sign, and then take the Coda’.


In standard music notation, the duration (time length) of a particular note is defined by how long it lasts compared to a whole note.


In music, dynamics refers to the softness or loudness (volume) of a sound or note. The term is also applied to the written or printed musical notation used to indicate dynamics.


Economy of Movement

The technique used to identify common notes in chord progressions that make only small hand movements necessary to change chords. Used often by guitarists, bass players and keyboard players.

Eighth Notes

An eighth note lasts for ½ a beat and derives its name from the fact that it divides a bar of common time into eight equal parts. It is worth an eighth of a whole note.

In classical terminology an eighth note is called a quaver.

Eighth Note Triplets

These are the group of 3 notes that occupy the same space as two eighth notes, when grouped as triplets.


A group of musicians playing together (assembled). This can be any type of group, classical or pop.

Extended Arpeggio(s)

An arpeggio which includes notes in addition to the three notes of the basic triad chord (1st, 3rd and 5th). Often the extended arpeggio will include an octave note.

Extended Chord(s)

A chord which includes notes in addition to the three notes of the basic triad chord (1st, 3rd and 5th).



See drum fills


Fine is Italian for finish and is found at the end of a piece of music.


See fretboard.

First Time Bar

This bar is played at the end of a repeated section the first time the section is played.

5 (Five) Chords

Also known as power chords, technically they are known as 5 chords as they have only two notes in the chord —the root and the 5th. They are called power chords as they are often used to provide a powerful sound and are used a lot in rock music.

Flats (b)

This (b) is the sign that when placed before a note reduces (flattens) its pitch by a semitone.

Flattened Third

By taking a major scale and then flattening the pitch of the 3rd note in the scale by a semitone this has the effect of changing a chord from major to minor. This is called a flattened 3rd.

Floor Tom

See lo-tom.

4/4 (Four Four)

Is a time signature, often referred to as common time, but meaning 4 beats of quarter notes in a bar.


In drumming, the bass drum plays four quarter notes all the way through the bar. It is typical of reggae music and is called playing 'four on the floor'.


Also known as the fingerboard. The neck of the guitar/bass guitar is where guitarists/bass players place their fingers on the strings to form chords and play notes.

Fretted String

A fretted string occurs when the note is played by placing the fretting hand finger on the fretboard on the note required.


The frets are the spaces on the fretboard between the fret markers (fret wires). The nearer the fret is to the body of the guitar the higher the note.

Fretting Hand

The fretting hand is the one used to play the fretboard on the guitar.


Ghost Notes

These are notes that are played very quietly to add to the rhythm of a drum groove. Often these are played on the snare drum.


See rock groove.

Guitar Chart

The music the guitarist is asked to follow when playing a piece of music. The original score has the entire bands parts on it and from that the arranger creates a part for each member of the band.

Guitar Frames

Guitar frames are diagrams of the fretboard, used to demonstrate the position of the fingers of the fretting hand in the formation of chords. See chord box(es).

Guitar Guide

See guitar chart.


Half Note

A half note is worth 2 beats and looks like a clear circle with a stem. It is worth half a whole note.

In classical terminology a half note is called a minim.


When playing either a guitar or a bass, a 'hammer-on' is when the first of a pair of notes (often joined by a tie) is played as normal, by plucking the fretted string. In the case of the second, higher pitched, note, the sting is not plucked again with the right hand but the note is fretted firmly (hammered) with the left hand finger only.


Refers to notes of different pitch being played (or sung) at the same time. May be thought of as referring to the 'vertical' aspects of music, whereas melody refers to the 'horizontal' movement in music.

Head Stock

The head stock is at the top of the guitar at the end of the fretboard/neck of a guitar/bass. It is where the machine heads are usually located. Some guitars/basses such as Steinbergers and the Stewart Stow-Away do not use headstocks and are known as ‘headless’ guitars — these guitars use special strings.


The Hi-hat (or hihat) is made up of two cymbals, with one on top of the other. They sit together on a stand that is operated by a foot pedal. The hi-hats are played by striking them with a stick, normally with the foot pressing down on the pedal and the cymbals close together. The Hi-hats can also played by closing the cymbals together, using the foot on the pedal.


The hi-tom, is a drum with skins on both sides of the drum. You play the top head, known as the ‘batter head’. It will be the tom drum with the highest relative sound (pitch).

The sound from a tom is generally rounded as the shape of the drum is such that the two skins resonate together to produce the same tone. Tuning is very important. In the majority of instances the bottom head should be the same tension as the top head. You can vary the tensions between skins but this will affect the decay of the sound after the drum has been struck. If the bottom head is looser the sound will drop, if tighter it will rise.

Hip-hop (Hiphop, Hip hop)

A music genre and a cultural movement developed in New York City starting in the 1970s, predominantly by African Americans and Latinos. Since first emerging in the Bronx, hip hop music has grown into an entire lifestyle, commonly referred to as hip hop culture, which has today spread around the world and is practised by many people regardless of nationality, ethnicity or religion. Hip hop as a cultural movement encompasses a wide array of human activities, so called elements, including but not limited to hip hop music, breakdance, graffiti, DJing and MCing (rapping).


House is a musical style of popular dance music that became part of the 90s popular club scene.



To improvise music is to take a performance created in the moment without use of memory or from a prepared or written score and produce a melodic and rhythmic melody.


The difference in pitch between two notes played together as a chord or one after the other.


In literal terms this means to turn a chord upside down. In musical terms it is a chord that does not have its root at the bottom of the chord.


Jam Session

An occasion when the band gets together to play, rehearse or write songs together. It is a great opportunity to try things out. It is very much like having a conversation with someone — you never know where it'll end up. The ideas though are all related to each other.


A style of music largely associated with the African American community that mixed rhythms from West Africa, harmony from Europe and gospel singing.


A short tune with a theme used to accompany an advertisement used often on radio or television, but in any form of broadcast medium such as the internet or cinema.



In the concept of music composition the use of a key indicates an adherence, in a passage of music, to the notes of a specified major scale or minor scale.

Keys (on a Keyboard or Piano)

Found on a keyboard, these are depressed by the keyboard player to play the required note, or groups of notes. By holding them down for varying lengths of time, a keyboard player generates rhythm and duration/sustain as well as pitch.

Keyboard Chart

The music the keyboardist is asked to follow when playing a piece of music. The original score has the entire bands parts on it and from that the arranger creates a part for each member of the band. Also sometimes referred to as keyboard guide.

Key Signature

The key signature indicates the key in which the passage of music should be played.


Lead Guitar

Lead guitar refers to the part played by a guitarist that is both significant in its position within the music and plays a prominent role in the band. The lead guitar part can be the main tune or theme within the music, but may also be a solo.

Lead Hand(ed)

A drummer has a preferred hand that they invariably lead with. In most cases this is the right hand. Accordingly, that hand is called the lead hand and the other hand the non-lead hand. So a right handed drummer's lead hand is their right and their non-lead is their left. A left handed drummer's lead hand is their left and their non-lead hand is their right.

In the case of the Guitar/Bass, right handed players strum/pick with their right hands and play chords/notes with the left. Left-handed players may use their left hand for strumming and chords/notes with their right. They need the stringing to be reversed and the guitar turned through 180 degrees. Left handed guitars are now produced which also re-locate all the control knobs on the body of the guitar so that they are in the correct position for a left handed player.

Ledger Lines

Ledger lines are short lines above and below the stave which accommodate notes that are too high or too low for the stave.


A short music phrase — often used in lead guitar playing.


Normally refers to a public performance by a band.


The lo-tom is a drum with skins on both sides of the drum. You play the top head, known as the ‘batter head’. It is the tom drum with lowest relative sound (pitch) and is often referred to as a floor tom, as it sometimes rests on a standard that sits on the floor.


Machine Heads

The machine heads, located on the headstock, can be tightened or loosened to tune the guitar strings. Tightening the strings sharpens the sound and loosening them flattens the sound.

Major Scales

A major scale is a series of single notes progressing upwards and downwards within an octave. Specifically a major scale has intervals of a tone between each note, with the exception of the intervals between 3-4 and 7-8 notes, which are semitones.


Mallets are drum sticks used by percussionists to play a variety of instruments. They are made up of a stick with a soft felt end which provides a more cushioned percussive strike to the standard wooden or plastic bead generally used for playing the drum kit.


Another name for a bar.


A melody is a succession of notes which have an organised and recognisable pattern or shape.


A metronome is a music device that provides a steady beat. It helps the player establish the correct tempo of the piece of music. Metronomes can play at all tempos and once set at the desired tempo they play the beat continually.


The mid-tom, is a drum with skins on both sides of the drum. You play the top head, known as the ’batter head’. It is the tom drum with relative sound (pitch) being in the middle of the three standard toms.

Middle Eight

Much pop music follows a thirty-two bar form often referred to as AABA. The middle eight is the 'B' part of a song where the melody and the mood of the song changes before returning to the original (A). It is sometimes also known as the bridge. It is also common for the middle eight to be other than 8 bars in length.


See half note.

Minor Scales

A minor scale is a series of single notes progressing upwards and downwards within an octave. Specifically a minor scale has intervals of a tone between each note, with the exception of the interval between 2-3 and 5-6, which are semitones.

Minor Triads

A minor triad is a triad with the 3rd note being flattened by a semitone.


A rhythm written on one pitch (on one note).

Muscle Memory

Muscles learn motions so that they develop an ability to recognise a previously performed movement. The more often a movement is repeated the better the performance of the muscles in response, as they develop greater familiarity with the motion.

Musical Pick-up

An instrumental part introducing the next bar. It may be a run of a few notes that leads into the main body of a piece or introduces a new section. It is often the case that a solo instrument plays this pick-up.


Natural Notes

A natural note is one that is neither sharpened nor flattened. On a piano keyboard the natural notes are identified by the white keys (A,B,C,D,E,F,G).

Natural Sign ( Natural sign )

The purpose of a natural sign is to cancel a flat or sharp from either a preceding note or the key signature. Naturals are assumed (by default) in key signatures — ie. any note not identified as a sharp or flat is deemed to be a natural note.

Non-lead Hand

A drummer has a preferred hand that they invariably lead with. In most cases this is the right hand. Accordingly, that hand is called the lead hand and the other hand the non-lead hand. So for right handed drummers the lead hand is their right and their non-lead is their left. A left handed drummer’s lead hand is their left and their non-lead hand is their right.


The marks in written music that are used to represent notes, rests, expression, timing, dynamics, etc.


A note is a symbol on the stave which represents the pitch and duration of a sound.

Note Head

The note head is the circle on the stave that represents the position of the note within the bar. There are different note heads for different note values and voices of instruments, including the drum kit. For instance, whole notes and half notes are clear circles, whereas all other notes values are black circles. For drums, traditional note heads as described above, but for cymbals a cross (x) is used, in order to distinguish between cymbals and drums.



An octave is an interval of 8 notes (including the top note and the bottom note). The note name of the top note is the same as that at the bottom.

Off beat

In a bar of common time there are 4 beats to the bar. In the case of playing 8 eighth notes, the count would be "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and" or "1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + ". Any notes played on the 'and' (or '+') are played on the 'off' beat.

On beat

In a bar of common time there are 4 beats to the bar. Playing a quarter note on each beat in time with the count "1-2-3-4" is playing 'on' the beat.

1-4-5 (One-four-five)

The sequence of chords common in rock music and in the blues.

Open String

An open string is when the (right handed) guitarist/bassist plays the string with their right/strumming/picking hand, but does not use the fretboard. Accordingly, the string is not closed by the left hand. The following open strings can be played open (with just your right hand).

Guitar Bass
6th (bottom) string E 4th (bottom) string E
5th string A 3rd string A
4th string D 2nd string D
3rd string G 1st (top) string G
2nd string B
1st (top) string E
Open Voicing (Opening Out)

Where the notes of a chord are spread out over more than the root, 3rd and 5th. Often the octave is included and the notes are not necessarily played in the order of root, 3rd and 5th. The notes may be played as a combination of arpeggio and chord.


Palm Muting

Palm muting is the technique of damping the strings with the plectrum hand when striking the strings, hence creating a tight and clipped sound. Used a lot in rock music when playing rhythm guitar.

Perfect Fifth

See dominant.


A short musical passage contained within a composition, of indetermined length but normally between a beat and four bars of length that creates either a recognisable harmonic and or rhythmic pattern.


Phrasing is the playing of harmonic figures by the drummer using a system that enables the drummer to catch the rhythm whilst playing a drum roll. Generally, using a single stroke roll, but can be played in any sticking.


See plectrum.


See alternate picking.

Pickup, (Pick-up), (Pick up)

(a) A series of notes that precedes the first note of the first bar (of a section) of music. Their purpose is to 'lead into', 'set up', 'anticipate' or 'pick up' the tune.

(b) A device that captures mechanical vibrations (usually from stringed instruments such as the electric guitar or electric bass) and converts them to an electrical signal which can be amplified and recorded.


The term ‘pitch of a note’ refers to how high, or how low, the note sounds. The pitch is determined by the speed of the vibration of the sound. Faster vibrations create higher pitched notes than slower moving vibrations. On a guitar, the thickness and length of the string determine the pitch of the note when the string is struck.

Playing in Position

Playing in position position on a guitar/bass means that you can play all the notes you need to without moving your fretting hand. Ordinarily, this means that you are able to use different fingers on your fretting hand to play the different notes within your pattern.


Also known as a pick, this is the piece of (usually) plastic held in the right (strumming) hand that is used to strike the strings with. They come in varying degrees of stiffness.

Power Chords

See 5 chords.

Practice Pad

A practice pad is normally made of rubber and simulates the feel of a drum. It is quiet to play and often used to for practice when noise is a problem.


A term used to indicate that the rhythm seems to push early into the next beat.


Quarter Notes

A quarter note lasts for 1 beat. It is so called because it divides a bar of common time into 4 quarters. It is worth a quarter of a whole note.

In classical terminology a quarter note is called a crotchet.


See eighth note.


Recording Session

This is a period of time allotted for music to be recorded. Generally, a recording session is 3 hours long and takes place in a recording studio with other musicians. Sessions can be longer, depending upon the amount of musical material to be recorded.


A music genre (style) developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s.

The term 'reggae' is sometimes used in a broad sense to refer to most types of Jamaican music, although the word specifically indicates a particular music style that originated after the development of ska and rocksteady. Reggae is based on a rhythm style characterized by regular chops on the off-beat, known as the skank. The tempo is generally slower than that found in ska and rocksteady. Reggae is often associated with the Rastafari movement, which influenced many prominent reggae musicians in the 1970s and 1980s.

Repeat Signs

Two horizontal lines, one which is thick, the other that is thin, followed by two dots, one above the other represent a section of music, collection of bars that should be repeated. If the dots are on the right of the lines this denotes the beginning of the repeated section. Dots to the left denote where the repeat ends and from this point you return to the beginning of the repeated section. See Essential Drum Skills - Lesson 6.


These are marks in music notation which show where there should be silence and how long the silence should last.


Rhythm is technically everything in music other than pitch that contributes to the pulse, emphasis and forward movement of time.

Rhythm Guitar

Rhythm guitar refers to the part played by a guitarist that is generally a rhythmic accompaniment and usually involves playing of chords.

Ride Line

A regular rhythmical pattern played on a cymbal - generally the hi-hat or ride cymbal.


The rim is the metal or wooden ring that is used to secure the drum skin to the drum. The rim has holes to enable the tension rods to be screwed into the tension boxes. The rim can be struck as well as the drumhead to create a ‘chipping sound’ when the stick is laid across the drum. A ‘rim shot’ occurs when both rim and the centre of the drum head are struck at the same time.

Rim Shot

A ‘Rim Shot’ occurs when both rim and the centre of the drum head are struck at the same time with the same drum stick.

Rock Groove

The term ‘rock groove’ describes the strong beat played by the drummer emphasising the 4 beats in the bar typical of rock music. It is generally accepted that the snare drum plays a loud and persistent beat on the second and fourth beats in a bar (which is often referred to as the ‘backbeat’). The back beat clearly distinguishes rock music from it’s origins of rhythm, blues and jazz.

Rock Music

Rock music has evolved from the late 1940’s rhythm recordings and the 1950s rock-and-roll style of music. It is difficult to be precise about when rock music began. However, in the period of rapid social change after the Second World War, the music of African Americans began to seep into white American teenage culture giving rise to this new type (genre) of music. Modern day examples of rock bands would be: 1960’s Led Zeppelin; 1970’s Deep Purple; 1980’s Whitesnake; 1990’s Guns ’n’ Roses; and 2000s Alien Ant Farm.


A music genre popular in Jamaica in the late 1960s. It came after ska and before reggae.


The root is the first note in a chord and comes from the name of the chord. For instance the triad of A is made up of A, C# and E. The A is the name of the chord and the first note. Accordingly it is called the root as it is at the bottom of the chord. The C# is the 3rd and the E is the 5th.

Root and Fifth

On the bass, the root and fifth is played by playing the root note and then playing the fifth which is found across one string (towards higher pitched string) and up two frets.

On the guitar the same pattern applies for notes rooted on stings 2, 4, 5 & 6. In the case of notes rooted on the 3rd (G) string, the 5th is found by moving from the root across one string and up three frets. In the case of the 1st string the fifth will be found 7 frets above the root.

A power chord on the guitar is formed by playing just two notes, the root and the fifth — usually rooted on the 6th or the 5th string.

On keyboards the 5th is the fifth note in the scale counting the root as the 1st. It is 7 semitones above the root. The 5th is the same note in both the major and minor scale. E.g.

In the scale of C major: C(root), D, E ,F , G(5th), A, B, C.

In the scale of C minor: C(root), D, Eb, F, G(5th), Ab, Bb, C.

Root Bass Note

The root bass note is the note from which a chord originates or the lowest note when the chord is in its basic position.

Root Position

This is when the chord is played in its most basic form with the note from which the chord originates being played at the bottom of the chord.


A run is used to link up notes by playing a series of chords or notes that connect. A run is usually short in length, typically lasting between a beat and a bar.



A scale is a series of single notes progressing upwards and downwards within an octave. See major scale, minor scale, ascending scale and descending scale.

Second Time Bar

This bar is played instead of the first time bar when the repeat section is played for the second time.


A part of a song (piece of music), such as a verse or a chorus. A complete, but not independent, musical idea. It is denoted in the score by the use of double bar lines.


See whole note.


See sixteenth note.


This is the smallest interval between notes (in Western music). It is the interval between each note up or down. On a keyboard, the interval between any two adjacent notes is called a semitone (e.g. B to C, or F to F#). On a guitar or bass fretboard, a semitone is an interval of one fret on the same string eg. G# (4th fret on the bass E string) is one fret above G (3rd fret on the bass E string).

Session Players

These are musicians who play music professionally and are hired to play music for a specific purpose such as the recording of music for recording artists, television and radio shows etc. They are generally well trained musicians with an ability to read music very well and play in a large variety of styles and musical situations.

Setting Up

This is where the drummer precedes an accent or phrase with a fill, which is intended to create an anticipation of the accent/phrase that follows.

Sharps (#)

When this sign (#) is placed before a note it raises (sharpens) its pitch by a semitone.


Shuffle describes a feel of music associated with blues and jazz, which uses tuplets.

(The) Sign ( D.S. (Dal Segno) sign )

This sign is similar to a dollar sign and denotes the point to return to when instructed with the term 'D.S. (Dal Segno)' which means 'Go to the Sign'.

Simple Time

There are no triplets in simple time; all the notes can be divided evenly in 2, such as whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, sixteenth notes etc.

Single Stroke Roll

A drum roll is the playing of a series of even notes on a drum. A single stroke roll is played with a single hit (stroke) per hand, alternating between the right and left hand.

Sixteenth Notes

A sixteenth note lasts for 1/4 of a beat and derives its name from the fact that it divides a bar of common time into 16. It is worth a sixteenth of a whole note.

In classical terminology a sixteenth note is called a semiquaver.


A music genre (style) that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s. It was a key influence on the development of rocksteady and reggae.


The drum skin is a circular plastic film that is spread across the top and bottom of a drum. Striking the skin sounds a drum. The tension and tuning of the skins plays a major part in the sound of the drum. The skin is a temporary but essential part of the drum, like strings on a guitar, and is easily replaced when worn through use.


The snare is the collection of metal wires that are suspended beneath a snare drum to make a rattling sound. The addition of a snare to a drum brightens the drums tone and produces its unique sound.

Snare Drum

The snare drum has a number of strands of metal wires across the bottom skin, which resonates against the skin when struck. The strand of wires are called a snare, hence the name of the drum. The snare drum is used a lot in rock music to produce the backbeat.


The Italian word 'staccato' means 'detached'. It is used in music to describe notes that are sounded in an abrupt/'chopped off' manner so that they do not seem to be attached to the following notes. Silence makes up the remaining part of the duration of the note. The rhythm is not affected.

They are usually notated by a dot over the head of the note when the stem is downward, or by a dot below the head of the note when the stem is upward:



These are the 5 horizontal lines and four spaces that music is written on. Each space and line represents the position of particular note or voice of the drum kit. See drum map.


The stem is the vertical line attached to the note head that helps to identify the note’s value or duration. Half notes and quarter notes have just a stem. Eighth notes and sixteenth notes have tails as well.

Stick - Drum Stick

Shaped wooden object used to strike drums to produce sound. Usually made of hickory, oak or hard maple.

Stick Across

See cross stick.

String Bend

String bending is a very commonly used technique and is one of the most exciting sounds in lead guitar. When bending a string you take a given note and push it up (or down) to create the sound of a different note usually one or two frets higher than the fret you have your finger on.

Not to be confused with a curl.

String Crossing

This is where the guitarist/bassist has to move from one string to another to play the desired notes.


Strumming is the technique of playing the guitar strings by striking across the strings on the body of the guitar using up strokes and down strokes.


When referred to in music, subdividing is used to divide the beat into smaller parts so as to enable a wide variety of notes to be played of different lengths. By having a variety of notes of different lengths (whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, etc.) more interesting rhythmic patterns can be created.


The 4th note of the scale — 1 below (sub) the dominant 5th.


Instruments with the shortest 'sustain' are usually drums; a drum beat begins to fade almost instantly.

Consider a 'sustained' note played on a piano. When a note is sustained it continues to sound until the key playing the note is released. As long as the key is depressed the note will sound, although it will gradually fade until it becomes inaudible. However, releasing the key will cut off the sound abruptly, ending it's sustain.

On a guitar a note will be 'sustained' after the string is struck, or plucked, until the string is muted or damped e.g. by applying a palm mute or by touching the string lightly, without pressing it against the frets, with the fretting finger.

In the case of brass instruments or a pipe organ, the note may be sustained as long as air continues to be blown through the instrument.


A style of jazz playing which originated in the 1930s predominantly for dancing. It is associated with big band music from artists such as Glen Miller, Art Shaw and Gene Krupa.


Syncopation is where the emphasis of the pulse of the music is 'off' the beat.



Latin for "it is silent". In music the term is used to indicate that an instrument does not play for a (long) period of time.


These are the short lines that are attached to the stem of a note that helps to identify the duration of the note. If a note has one tail it is an eighth note. If it has two tails it is a sixteenth note. When a group of tailed notes are joined together, they are connected by ’beaming’ the tails. See beams.


Tempo is the speed at which a piece of music is performed. Tempo is measured in beats per minute.


The third is the third note in a scale. A triad chord for example is made up of the root, third and fifth notes in a scale.

Three Way Co-ordination

Playing the drum kit requires good co-ordination between both hands and both feet. When a groove uses 3 drums/cymbals then three limbs need to be used in a co-ordinated manner, hence the term ’three way co-ordination’.

The bass drum, snare drum and hi-hat work together in rock and pop music at the centre of grooves. The control of these three voices is a large part of developing three way co-ordination.

Thumb-Under Technique

Where the thumb is used to reposition the fingering on the keyboard when playing scales, or runs of more than 5 notes notes (see Lesson 2, Essential Keyboard Skills course).


A tie increases the length of a note by attaching the value of the following note to it. A curved line between two notes signifies a tie.

Time Signature

The time signature indicates the meter of the piece of music. In rock music it normally comprises of the letter ‘C’ to represent common time. It can also be made up of 2 numbers, the top one referring to the number of beats in a bar, the bottom number indicating what type of notes the beats represent. For example, 3/4 means 3 beats of quarter notes; 5/8 means 5 beats of eighth notes.


Shortened version of ’tom-tom’. On a standard drum kit you will find a hi-tom, mid-tom and a lo-tom (sometimes called a floor tom). These provide additional changes of pitch to add to the sounds of the drum kit. A tom is normally mounted on the bass drum, or sits on the floor (floor tom/lo-tom) and does not have a snare.


The tendency of music to have a 'centre'/'home note (pitch) that the music revolves around. The music will sound incomplete until it returns (resolves) to that pitch.


A tone is an interval of two semitones. On a keyboard it is the interval between any two notes which have one note between (e.g. C to D, E to F#, Ab to Bb). On a guitar or bass fretboard, a tone is an interval of two frets on the same string - e.g. A (5th fret on the bass E string) is two frets above G (3rd fret on the bass E string).


See root


This is where a concept or principle can be reapplied to another part of the keyboard, or neck of the guitar to simply transfer a pattern, therefore enabling the student to learn the concept once and apply it in a multiple of situations.

Treble Clef

The treble clef is used to display notation for higher pitched instruments. The treble clef represents the notes above Middle C on the modern keyboard. On the keyboard, notes in the treble clef are usually played with the right hand.


A triad is a chord made up of three notes. Usually the triad is made up of the root, third and fifth.


A group of 3 notes, or rests written where a group of 2 notes is suggested by the time signature; ie. where it would appear to have two eighth notes, there are 3 eighth notes triplets.


Any group of notes that uses a 3 feel and where time is divided by 3.

12-bar (Twelve-bar) blues

It is a very common chord sequence for bands to play. It is called a '12-bar' because it has a total of twelve bars in the sequence. The blues can be played in any key, but guitar and bass players prefer open chords, that is, chords with several open strings: e.g. E-A-B7 or A-D-E7. Keyboardists may prefer C-F-G7 or G-C-D7. Whichever the key chosen, the chord pattern is 1-4 -5 (root (tonic), sub-dominant and dominant) - i.e. the root (first), fourth and fifth of the chosen key. Where extended chords are used, the 7th variant of the dominant is usually used.

12/8 (Twelve eighths)

Is a time signature meaning 12 beats of eighth notes in a bar.

Two Way Co-ordination

Playing the drum kit requires good co-ordination between both hands and both feet. When a groove uses 2 drums/cymbals, then two limbs need to be used in a co-ordinated manner, hence the term ’two way co-ordination’. Two-way co-ordination is often used in developing co-ordination rather than in general playing.


Unaccented Notes

This tends to refer to notes that are muted with the palm muting technique.

Up and Down-strokes

Up and down-strokes are used when strumming with a plectrum. When playing eighth notes, the down stroke is on the beat and the up stroke is played on the ‘+’.


The final beat of a bar, that anticipates the first beat (downbeat) of the new bar (measure).


An up-stroke is one in which the guitar is strummed from the top (in terms of pitch) E string to the bottom E string — string 1 to string 6. Because of the way the guitar is held, the strumming hand moves upwards when playing an up-stroke.



Grooves played by a rhythm section that do not have a tune. They tend to be used to introduce the rhythm before moving on to a section which expands the rhythm more melodically.


A section of a song that provides a contrast to the chorus.


Different sounds are produced by the different drums and cymbals that make up a drum kit. Each drum or cymbal has a unique sound or ’voice’. The drums and cymbals that make up the kit are often referred to as ’voices’.


Whole Note

A whole note is worth 4 beats. The note head looks like a clear circle, and does not have a stem.

In classical terminology a whole note is called a semibreve.