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Music Terms for Beginners

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You'll find some of the most common and important music terms that has to do with piano playing in this page.

Repeat Signs

Repeat Signs

The double dots inside the double bars indicate that everything between the double bars must be REPEATED.

If you only see the closing dotted bar and no opening dotted bar it means you have to repeat the whole piece staight from the top and all the way back to the dotted bar.

An example of an incompleate measure in the song When the Saints go Marching In

Play this piece next and follow the repeat signs.

In the Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg Download

Pick Up Bar / Up Beat Bar

Some pieces start with an INCOMPLETE MEASURE.
We call it a pick up bar.
The first measure in this piece has only 3 counts.
The missing beat is found at the last measure.

An example of an incompleate measure in the song When the Saints go Marching In

When you repeat the whole piece, you will have one whole measure of 4 beats as you play the last measure of last bar combined with the first incomplete measure.

When a piece begins on a weak beat - like the second bar in our case, you must therefore ACCENT the first beat after the bar line in order to help the listener understand where he's at.

Let's practice some pieces with a pick-up bar.

Oh Susanna Download

William Tell Download


8va sign

When the 8va sign is placed over the notes, you should play the note 1 octave (8 notes) higher than written.
An example of an 8va sign in Morning Mood by Grieg

This sign is often used to write the higher notes in a more comfortable way. Instead of sweating while trying to locate the notes above the staff with many ledger lines we simply write the notes an octave lower, on the staff, and we add the 8va sign above.

We might use the 8va to write very low notes under the staff in a more comfortable way as well, but then we'll place the sign under the staff.

First Ending / Second Ending

Signs of First Ending and Second Ending

This music term tells you to go to different endings after repeating a part of a piece.

During the first time you have to follow the sign of the first ending, and after repeating the piece between the dotted bars you have to skip the first ending and go straight to the second ending.

An example of using the first and second ending in Ode to Joy by Beethoven

Da Capo Al Fine

An example of a D.C al Fine sign in Old Macdonald

This music term means that you have to back to the beginning and play the whole piece through until you read the Fine sign which means The End.

Da Segno al Fine

Segno Sign

When you see the De Segno al Fine Sign you should go back to the S sign instead of going to the beginning like the D.C al Fine Sign and play through until the FINE.

An example of a D.S al Fine sign in Bridal Chorus

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