Music Terms 101

Music Terms 101

What music terms should a competent musician know? If you're a relative beginner at speaking the language of music, it can be a daunting challenge to know where to begin.

Found below are some helpful links to get you started. These are listed in no particular order, so you may have to pick and choose the best resource for your specific place on the road to learning the language of music.

NOTE: At the bottom I have added a link to a really nice music basics video course.


  • A good inexpensive reference book is the Essential Dictionary of Music, published by Alfred.
  • For something quite a bit more detailed, you might get the one-volume edition of The Harvard Dictionary of Music. (There's a smaller portable edition called The Harvard Brief [or Concise] Dictionary of Music).
  • The grandaddy of them all might be the many-volume Groves Dictionary of Music that a good library might have. (Have some spare change rattling around in your couch? The hardcover edition sells on Amazon for about $1,500.)


Basic Music Terminology (Music 101) - a set of quizlet flash cards.

Classical Dictionary Tempo Page - an extensive list of tempo markings and terms of all kinds, with detailed definitions and links

Common Tempo Markings in Music - a short list of tempo markings, including those in French, Italian, and German, plus tempo alteration terms

Glossary of musical terms - short list of terms

Glossary of Useful Musical Terms! - terms on a singing website

Glossary of Jazz Terms - defined from the perspective of the jazz musician

Glossary of jazz and popular music - "list of jazz and popular music terms that are likely to be encountered in printed popular music songbooks, fake books and vocal scores, big band scores, jazz, and rock concert reviews, and album liner notes."

100+ Musical Terms For Beginners Learning Piano

Glossary Of Singing Terms - "definition guide to some of the words you’ll hear that are used within the singing community."

MUSIC BASICS VIDEO COURSE Although not technically about music terms, this video course on music basics would be a terrific place to start to get a good solid understanding of how music works.

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