Glossary of Musical Terms


An augmented chord is similar to a major chord or triad (consisting of the root note, third note and the fifth note) but with a major third note and a sharpened fifth note. 

Blue Note

A blue note is a flattened note, typically a flattened 3rd, 5th or 7th note, from a scale. Blue notes are most frequently used in blues and jazz music, although they can appear in other genres.

Chord Progression 

Chord progression is the order in which chords are played during a song. Chord progression can be written using roman numerals instead of writing down the chord itself. Below is an example of chord progression in the key of C major.

This is useful for song-writing as it means that songs written using the above method can be transposed with ease (as the number remains the same). 


















A chord is a set of notes played at the same time. There are many different types of chords, the simplest being a triad, which consists of a root note, the third note and the fifth note. Chords that consist of four notes are also common, which often adds the sixth or seventh note to the root, third and fifth note, thus these chords are known as sixth or seventh chords.

Circle of fifths 

The circle of fifths (otherwise known as the circle of fourths) is a diagram used to show how the twelve tones of the chromatic scale relate with each other, showing each tones corresponding key signature as well as helping to find the notes in the minor and major keys of the said tone. The circle of fifths can be used to calculate how many sharps of flats are in a key signature, making it very useful for song-writing. It is worth noting that when reading the circle clockwise it is known as the circle of fifths and when going anti-clockwise it is known as the circle of fourths.


The diatonic scale is a scale in which only the seven notes from a standard scale are played, thus lacking any chromatic or blues notes. The regular major or minor scales in any key signature are an example of diatonic scales. Melodies or chords are named diatonic if they follow a diatonic scale.


A diminished chord is similar a regular chord or triad (consisting of the root note, third note and the fifth note) but with a minor third note and a flattened fifth note, which resembles a minor triad or chord. For example, a regular A minor chord consists of the notes A C E; a diminished A minor chord would consist of the notes A C Eb. A diminished chord is the opposite of an augmented chord.


The dominant note is the fifth note in a regular diatonic scale. For example, in the C major scale (C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C) the dominant note would be G, the fifth note. Thus a dominant chord is the fifth chord in a regular chord progression. 


Flattened notes are notes lowered by a semi-tone, giving it a slightly lower sound. The symbol for flats is similar to a lowercase b.  


A musical genre is how different types of music is classified. There are a wide variety of different genres that people listen to. Rock, pop, jazz, metal, country and classical are all examples of musical genres. Each genre tends to have defining characteristics which can be used to classify the genre of a band or song. 


Harmony can be created using by playing multiple different pitches together to create a sound. Standard diatonic chords are an example of harmony, where the root note is being accompanied by the third note and the fifth note to create a harmony. Guitar solos can be harmonised to create a pleasant and fuller sound.   


An interval is the distance between two different pitches on a diatonic scale. The distance between the two notes is determined by the number of semi-tones the two notes are apart. For example, the interval between A and C would be a minor third.


When a chord is inverted the root note is not a the bottom of the chord and the chord has a different lowest note.

Key signatures

Key signatures are used to show which key a piece of music is in, traditionally being indicated by a set of sharps or flats at the beginning of the stave. This is the simplest and easiest method for writing music, as it means that every time there is a sharp note played in the key, a sharp note does not have to be shown each time, as the key signature will have already indicated whether the note was sharpened or not. The only diatonic keys with no sharps or flats is the C major scale and the A minor scale. 


The major scale (also known as the Ionian scale) is perhaps the most commonly used scale in music. The major scale tends to create a bright and happy sound.


The minor scale (also known as the Aeolian scale if referring to natural minor) is a scale used frequently in most genres of music. The minor scale tends to create a dark and sad sound.


A mode is the way in which the order of a scale of notes is played and is a type of scale. There are seven different modes that the Greeks discovered that are still used to this day, being: the Ionian mode, the Dorian mode, the Phrygian mode, the Lydian mode, the Mixolydian mode, the Aeolian mode and the Locrian mode.

Nashville Number System

The Nashville Number System is a method that can be used to transcribe chords and notes to their respective numbers, transposing a song into a neutral key. The Nashville Number System is very useful as it allows musicians transpose a song to any key with great speed and ease.


An octave is an interval of twelve semi-tones in the chromatic scale or an interval of eight tones in a diatonic scale. 

Pentatonic Scale

A pentatonic scale is a scale consisting only of five different notes with an octave. Pentatonic scales are often used by guitar players whilst playing a solo or improvising, thus learning to play the pentatonic scale is highly recommended for everyone who wants to learn to play the guitar.  

Root note

The root note is always the note upon which a chord is based upon. For example, an F major triad would consist of the notes F, A and C the root note in this chord would be F as it is the note upon which the chord is based.


A scale is a series of notes that can consist of any set of notes. When written out, scales are often ordered from the lowest to highest pitch in an ascending order and highest to lowest pitch when descending back down the scale. 

Slash Chord

A slash chord (also known as a compound chord or split chord) is a chord where the first part of a slash chord is played but with the part after the slash played in the bass line. For example, the slash chord D/F (pronounced “D over F”) would be played as a regular D chord but with an F in the bass line. Slash chords are used to emphasise the second part of the slash chord.


A semi-tone is an interval between a note the size of half a tone in a regular diatonic scale and is the smallest interval used in most Western music. For example, the distance between C and C sharp is a semi-tone. For example a distance of one fret on the guitar.


A sharp is an accidental notes are notes raised by a semi-tone, giving it a slightly higher sound. The symbol for sharps in music is similar to a hash-tag (#).  


The sub-dominant is the fourth note in a regular diatonic scale. For example, the sub-dominant of a C chord would be F.


The tonic is the first note in any regular diatonic scale, being the same note as the name of the key that a piece of music is in. For example, the tonic of the key C would be C.


Transposing is altering the pitch in a piece of music (for example moving all of the notes in a song up or down). Transposition can refer to changing the key of song or changing the pitch of a melody or solo). Changing key can be used in song-writing in the last chorus or verse to give an added effect as the song draws to an end. Although this can be a a bit cliched in the wrong hands.


Rearranging the upper notes of a chord in different ways gives you chord voicings. The lowest note should remain the same. 



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