How to Describe Music – Music terminology

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Are you looking to describe your music but you can’t seem to find the right words to do so? Well, if this is you, then, you might want to take some time and read this post. In this post, I will share with you some common terminologies used in music and their definition.

So, without wasting time, let’s dive into it.

Definition of Musical Terms


Melody refers to the combination or arrangement of single notes to form a satisfying tune.

Melody employs rhythm such that whenever a song is played it resonates with the audience. The audience can pick up the ending of a song even if it has been cut short in the middle as a result of the melody.

They have subconsciously registered the tone, rhythm, and flow of the song. Melody is a combination of pitch and rhythm.

As mentioned above, it is the part of the song that sticks with you. Melody can be classified as either conjunct or disjunct.

Conjunct melody is much easier to play since notes are close to each other. Disjunct melody is much difficult to play since it is mostly disjointed.


Harmony is produced when two or more notes are played together to produce a soothing effect.

Harmony sets the tone of a song. It makes a song happy or sad. Harmony is systemic and ensures chords are not played out of tune. Harmony supports a melody and can be heard in chords.

Harmonies can be placed into two categories; dissonance and consonance. Consonance is a smooth-sounding combination of musical notes while dissonance is rather a harsh and loud combination of musical sounds.


Rhythm refers to the organization of a variety of repeated beats. Rhythm is often defined as music’s way of telling time.

While the melody is more linear and coherent, the rhythm is tumultuous and chaotic. Rhythm makes you want to stomp your feet, clap your hands, move your hips, and dance.

Rhythm combines long and short sounds.

There must be a differentiation between a beat and rhythm. While a beat is regular and study, rhythm encompasses so many sounds. It is unstable.


Tempo refers to the speed at which a song is played and is commonly known as the heartbeat of music. It determines the pace of a song.

Tempo determines the emotions of a song. While a fast tempo would make you cheerful or want to dance, a slow tempo would make you sad and static.

Some tempo markings include; Largo (very slow), Adagio slow), Andante (walking pace), Moderato (moderately), Allegro fast), Presto (very fast), Prestissimo (very very fast), and Vivace (very fast and lively).


Timbre is the quality of music that differentiates one sound of instruments from another instrument.

For example, drums have distinctive sounds that make them easier to identify when played alongside the piano or violin. Timbre has defined the color of music.


Musical texture groups musical layers into numbers and functions. It may also refer to the number of individual instruments played in a song.

Music texture is grouped into three; monophonic, homophonic, and polyphonic. The most basic musical texture is termed monophonic.

Monophonic has no harmony. An example is a solo artist singing an acapella.

The homophonic texture encompasses two notes sounding at the same time. A classic example is a choir where a soprano, an alto, a base, and a tenor sing at the same time.

Lastly, the polyphonic has two or more melodies performed alternately and repeatedly. In this case, the notes sing one after the other and not together, unlike the homophonic texture.


Dynamics refers to the degree of loudness or softness of music. A song is marked to decide on how loud or soft it is to be performed.

Some examples of these dynamic markings are; Pianissimo (very quiet), Piano (quiet), Mezzo piano (moderately quiet), Mezzo forte (moderately loud), forte (loud), and Fortissimo (very loud). These markings are written in symbols.

Some other dynamic markings are crescendo and decrescendo. Crescendo means you sound soft and progress high while with decrescendo you start high and then decrease your note.

Definition of Musical Genres


Pop music is ever-evolving. It means popular music hence it encompasses all forms of music from hip hop to hand music to electronic music.

Pop is anything played on mainstream radio stations. Pop can be said to be the biggest form of music even though comparatively it is the youngest.

Some of the greatest pop musicians are Taylor Swift, Khalid, Ed Sheeran, and so many others.


Blues was developed in the 19th Century and was played with a simple guitar or banjo. However, over the years it developed to include drums, electric guitars, and multiple players.

Blues is a genre of music played with soul. It was indigenous to African-Americans butt as a result of globalization it has spread far and wide.

Classical music:

Classical music refers to all orchestral forms of music that were developed between 1750 and 1820.  Almost ironically, classical music was developed out of protest and reaction to the music that was played at the time. Although all forms of music that predate jazz music are grouped into classical music, this is not necessarily so.

It is merely a broad definition given to ancient music however, classical music has a distinct form. Some classical musicians are Beethoven, Wolfgang Mozart and so many other brilliant geniuses of their time.

Country music:

Just like the name, country music developed from the countryside, the south side of the United States of America. It however is influenced by Irish music and traditional English ballads. In some ways, it reflects the cowboy culture that exists in the countryside of the USA.

In modern times, it has however developed to be country rock, country pop, and neo country. Some country musicians are James Blake, Blake Sheldon, and so many others.

Drill music:

Drill music is a more modern yet underground genre of music. Drill music developed from the ethnic sector of the United Kingdom. It is a more aggressive form of music that takes its roots from grime, rap, and dance. It has a very distinct beat that is hyper yet somber at the same time.

The lyrics are mostly about acts of violence and criminal content.

Grime music:

This is a British form of hip hop. It encompasses dance, rap, hip hop, and reggae to form a distinct blend.

It is extremely popular in the United Kingdom and is currently making waves in some African countries. Some Grime musicians are Stormzy, Aitch, and so many others.

Hip Hop:

 Hip hop is the incorporation of rap and very cool beats. It developed in the United States as a reaction of the African Americans to their environment.

It was used to tackle social issues such as police brutality, strikes, and racism. Another motivation for the promotion of hip hop was dissed tracks aimed at rival gang members and enemies.

Some important hip-hop rappers are Tupac, Biggie, Eminem, Nas, Snoop Dogg, and so many others.

Indie music:

Indie music refers to independent music and independent artists who did not identify as part of mainstream music. Indie music is termed as an offshoot to rock and encompasses bands and lately electronic music. Indie music is for upcoming artists who make music on their own with limited facilities.

It is often characterized by the sound of a guitar played in one note. It is not as flashy as mainstream music and often does not include quite a much effort into the production.


Jazz originated from New Orleans. This is not surprising since jazz music sounds like an expression of the city of New Orleans. Jazz is chaotic and is driven by the passion of players. It is often said that the players do not know where the music leads to but they just play for enjoyment.

Jazz is flexible and encompasses a mix of rhythm and numerous lead instruments like drums and trumpets.


Kpop was developed in South Korea and has been extremely explosive over the years. What began as fun and a bit of comedy has taken over the world and changed music as we know it.

You can now find mainstream pop artists collaborating with Korean musicians just so they can tag along with the Kpop craze.

Kpop is not simply music but is also a culture. We have seen it give birth to bands like BTS and Blackpink all of whom have made music with the likes of Halsey, Lady Gaga, Lauv, and so many other big artists.


Opera is a key part of classical music that found a way of existing on its own. Opera features vocal performances that make up a type of music theatre.

Opera refers to a play that is sung. It is characterized by the high pitch in which performers sing in. It is often performed in theatres so the sounds of the opera musicians can be carried from pew to pew.

Musicians are often dressed specifically to suit the play. If you are to play a clown then be sure you will have your face extremely powdered and your mouth covered in lipstick. Opera is a culture and way of life. In Italy and most parts of Rome, it is extremely popular.

Tags: Musicians

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