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Musical Terms to Study for the Miller Analogies Test (MAT)

To do well on the MAT, you have to know common musical terms and their meanings. This list will keep you in tune with the musical terms you need to know to succeed on the Miller Analogies Test.

  • A cappella: Style of singing without any instruments accompanying the voice(s)

  • Accelerando: Gradually speeding up

  • Accent: Marking placed on a note to indicate significance

  • Adagio: Slow speed for a song

  • Allegretto: Moderately fast speed for a song

  • Allegro: Fast speed for a song

  • Altissimo: Very high range of notes

  • Alto: Lowest boy’s/woman’s vocal range

  • Andante: Relaxed speed for a song, like walking

  • Appoggiatura: Grace notes that take some of the following note’s duration

  • Arpeggio: Notes of a chord played individually

  • A tempo: Indicates a return to the original speed of a song

  • Bass: Lowest male vocal range (or) tones of low frequency. Opposite of treble

  • Beat: Continued rhythm of a song

  • Bend: Sliding a note up or down a little in jazz

  • Brass: Instruments like trumpets, tubas, and trombones

  • Bridge: Section of a song that differs from the refrain or verse

  • Cadenza: Solo section of a song

  • Canon: Musical theme that is repeated and layered

  • Carol: A festive, usually religious song

  • Chord: Group of notes played simultaneously

  • Clef: Symbol on the staff to define note range (for example, G clef, bass clef)

  • Coda: Final section of a song

  • Coloratura: Ornamentation of a vocal part

  • Contralto: Lowest female vocal range

  • Countertenor: Highest male vocal range

  • Crescendo: Gradually increasing the volume

  • Decelerando: Gradually slowing down

  • Decrescendo: Gradually decreasing the volume

  • Dirge: A song expressing grief; commonly heard at funerals

  • Dynamics: Indications of volume in a song

  • Encore: Another song played at the end of a concert by request

  • Falsetto: Vocal range above the normal, especially in men

  • Fermata: Marking to indicate holding a note longer than usual

  • Fine: The end

  • Flat: Marking indicating that a note should be lowered by one tone

  • Forte: Loud

  • Fortissimo: Very loud

  • Harmony: The use of multiple notes simultaneously to create chords

  • Hymn: Song praising a deity

  • Intro: Beginning of a song

  • Key: One of the 12 notes that a song can be based on

  • Largo: Slowly

  • Legato: Smoothly, connected

  • Marcato: Every note accented

  • Measure: Short unit of a song comprising a cycle of beats

  • Medley: Song made up of parts of other songs

  • Melisma: Changing the note during one syllable

  • Meter: The rhythmic beat of a song

  • Metronome: Timekeeping device that produces regular beats

  • Mezzo-forte: Moderately loud

  • Mezzo-piano: Moderately soft

  • Motif: A short musical idea that repeats itself in songs

  • Natural: Marking that cancels an existing sharp or flat

  • Octave: The eight notes comprising a scale

  • Oratorio: Large musical composition, like an opera

  • Percussion: Instruments that are struck like drums or bells

  • Pianissimo: Very soft

  • Piano: Soft

  • Pitch: The ordering of musical tones based on frequency

  • Poco: A little

  • Prelude: Musical introduction

  • Presto: Quickly

  • Rest: A period of silence in a song

  • Ritard: Slowing down

  • Rondo: A form of a song where the theme is alternated between other sections

  • Rubato: Flexible speed, not like a metronome

  • Scale: A sequence of notes all either ascending or descending

  • Semitone: Half-step. The smallest interval between notes

  • Sforzando: Suddenly loud and accented

  • Sharp: Marking indicating that a note should be raised by one tone

  • Soprano: Highest female vocal range

  • Staccato: Making each note very short

  • Staff: The five lines on which notes are placed

  • Subito: Suddenly

  • Syncopation: Style with emphasis on the upbeats

  • Tacet: Silent

  • Tempo: Speed of a song

  • Tenor: High male vocal range

  • Tenuto: Marking that indicates holding a note slightly longer

  • Tessitura: Middle or most comfortable part of a note range

  • Treble: Tones of high frequency; Opposite of bass

  • Trill: Quickly alternating between two notes

  • Tutti: All

  • Vibrato: Note wavering up and down

  • Woodwinds: Instruments including flutes, oboes, and saxophones

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