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Term 2 Theory Lessons & Quiz

Term 2 Theory Lessons & Quiz

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Course: Music 8
Book: Term 2 Theory Lessons & Quiz
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Date: Monday, 24 February 2020, 2:24 AM

1 Road Maps


Good music usually has lots of repetition; it makes it easier for the listener to understand the music they are listening to, and gain more enjoyment out of it. Notes, rhythms, melodies, harmonies and instrumentations are usually repeated, in some form, throughout a piece of music. For example, if a certain musical phrase represents a character in an opera, that phrase may be repeated every time that character is on stage. A repeat may be part of a musical form, like Rondo form where the A theme is repeated over and over again. Repeats are used in pop music where the verse and the chorus of the song get repeated, even though they usually have different lyrics. Knowing how to read repeats is really useful.

repeat sign is the simplest kind of repeat because the repeated section is played exactly the same. The section that is between the forward facing and backward facing repeat sign is played twice. If there is no forward facing repeat sign, then you should return to the beginning of the piece and play the whole thing over again.

A simple repeat may also include an ending. This shows that the section is almost exactly the same, but it differs slightly. At the point where the music differs, an ending is put in. The first time you play through the section, you take the 1st ending. Then you repeat back to the beginning, skip over the 1st ending and play what is in the 2nd ending. Usually you'll only have 1 or 2 endings, but sometimes things can get a little crazy. The bar numbers are written below each bar so you can see how each of these endings works.

D.C. and D.S.

Endings work well when the passage that is being repeated only differs slightly or the section being repeated is relatively short. If you have a long repeated section, it can be easy to lose your place in the music and forget where the beginning repeat sign is. Musicians have come up with two easier ways to indicate long repeats.

D.C. is an abbreviation for the Italian term da capo. "Capo" in Italian means "the head." So, a D.C. written in the music means you should repeat back to the head, or the beginning, of the piece.

D.S. is an abbreviation for the Italian term dal segno. "Segno" in Italian means "the sign." So, a D.S. written in the music means you should repeat back to the sign, which looks like a sideways S with some dots and a line through it.

al Fine and al Coda

Fine (pronounced "fee-nay") literally means the end. A Fine is used in conjunction with a D.C. or D.S. repeat. Once you have repeated back to the beginning or the sign, you need to know where to stop. If the repeat is al Fine that, after repeating back to the beginning or sign, you should continue to play until you see the Fine. That is where you stop.

A D.C. al Fine would look like this:

This is how a D.S. al Fine would be performed:

Coda is a section of music added to the end of the piece of music. Sort of like a tag on the end. If you see an al Coda written in the music, it means you should repeat back to the beginning or the sign, and then when you see "to Coda" and the coda symbol (it looks like a target sign), you jump to the Coda immediately.

A D.C. al Coda would be performed this way:

An a D.S. al Coda is marked like this:

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2 Dynamics and Articulations


Dynamics refers to the volume of a sound or note. It makes music expressive and helps the musician create a mood, feeling or emotion. Loud dynamics are associated with anger, extreme happiness, or victory. Soft dynamics are associated with sadness, longing, or calm. Dynamic signs are written above or below the notes.

It is important to mention that dynamics, although they have a "standard" amount of loudness and softness, aren't measured exactly. Obviously a forte dynamic on a flute and a forte dynamic on a tuba will be quite different if you measure the actual decibel level. A single violin playing a pianissimo dynamic will sound much quieter than an orchestra playing the same dynamic level. Dynamics are sort of relative based on the type of instrument and the group that you are playing with. However, you should be able to hear a difference between each level.

You have probably seen piano, mezzo forte and forte before, but the last few dynamics on here might be new to you.

fortepiano - If you see this written under a note, it means you should play that note forte, and then immediately drop down to a quiet piano dynamic.

sforzando - If you see this written under a note, it means you should play that note as a strong accent and then return to whatever dynamic level you were playing before.

crescendo is a special dynamic marking that indicates a gradual increase in dynamic level. Your loudness starts at the pointed end and then gradually increases over the length of the crescendo sign until it gets to its loudest point at the wide end. If the crescendo is short, then you don't have much time to increase your loudness. If the crescendo is really long, sometimes the sign isn't included and the word "cresc." is written in the music instead. In either case, it is a gradual increase in loudness over time.

diminuendo or decrescendo is the opposite of a crescendo. It indicates a gradual decrease in dynamic level. Often you will have a specific dynamic level written at the end of one of these markings to show exactly how loud you should end up being at the end. Not every decrescendo should end with you playing or singing as quiet as you can. It may only be a slight decrescendo from forte to mezzo forte. Just make sure you watch your music carefully.


An articulation is a marking that specifies how a note should be performed, either in terms of duration or stress. Some articulation markings affect the length of a note (staccato vs tenuto). Some affect the loudness of a note (accent). There are articulations that show when a singer should breathe and how a string player should operate their bow. There are, of course, far too many total articulations to focus on in Grade 8, so we will be addressing only a few of the most common ones you might see. In order (from left to right):

Staccato - the note should be played short and detached

Tenuto - the note should be played for its full value and be given a slight emphasis

Accent - the note should start with a strong emphasis

slur is a marking that means you should connect all the notes within the slur together. As a singer, you can slur by moving from one note to the next as smoothly as possible in one breath. A wind player can move their fingers and avoid tonguing or changing their embouchure between notes. A string player connects all the notes in a slur without changing their bow. Piano players have to move from one note to the next by playing the next note slightly before they release the previous one, or by easing the piano key down more slowly. They have a little less control during a slur because of the percussive way a piano operates mechanically, but they can still produce a smooth sound with lots of practice.

fermata is a marking that indicates a note should be held for a long time. If you have a conductor, they will indicate how long the note should be held. If you are playing as a soloist, it is up to you to decide how long to hold it, depending on what you are playing and the certain effect you want to create.

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3 Key Signatures


In Grade 7 we learned about 3 types of accidentals: sharp, flat and natural. A sharp raises a note by a semitone (or half step). A flat lowers a note by a semitone. A natural cancels out the effect of a previous accidental. But there are also two more accidentals that we have not yet discussed.

If you want to raise a note by more than a semitone, you can use a double sharp or double flat. It does exactly what you might imagine - changes a note by double the amount. A double sharp raises a note by a tone (or whole step), which is twice as much as an ordinary sharp. It looks like an X. A double flat lowers a note by a tone. It doesn't have a special different sign: it's just 2 flats. You won't see the accidentals very often, but it is important to know what they are and what they do.

What is a key signature?

Accidentals are okay if they only appear every so often. However, if you find that every single note of a certain type consistently has an accidental on it, you can collect that information together to make your music look cleaner. A key signature is a collection of every accidental found in a scale. That information is presented right at the beginning of a line, right after the clef, and it tells the musician that every single note of that certain type should be played with a sharp or flat (unless otherwise modified). But you don't just throw random sharps and flats in there and call it a day. There is a certain order things need to be placed in.

Flat Keys

The flats are arranged in a specific order. This order is the same regardless of which clef you are playing in. The flats will just end up being placed on different lines so they can indicate the correct notes.

The saying you can use to remember the order of flats is: Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles' Father.

As you can see, the flats are written in that order: B, E, A, D, G, C, F.

How to Name a Flat Key

If you see a key signature and need to know what key it is, there several tricks or tips to use. I will present the one that I personally use, but if you have a different way that you prefer, feel free to use that. We will only be identifying major keys in Grade 8.

For flat key signatures: Look at the second last flat and that is the name of the key.

This is key has 5 flats: B, E, A, D, G. The second last flat in the order is D, so this is the key of Db major.

This trick does not work for the key signature of 1 flat. There is no second last flat, obviously. You will just need to remember that it is the key of F major.

Here is an exercise to help you practice naming flat key signatures:

Sharp Keys

Just like the flats, sharps are also arranged in a specific order. This order is the same regardless of which clef you are playing in.

The saying you can use to remember the order of sharps is: Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle

It is the exact same saying as the order of sharps, just in reverse order. F, C, G, D, A, E, B.

How to Name a Sharp Key

If you see a key signature and need to know what key it is, there several tricks or tips to use. I will present the one that I personally use, but if you have a different way that you prefer, feel free to use that. We will only be identifying major keys in Grade 8.

For sharp key signatures: Look at the last sharp and go up one letter name.

This is key has 4 sharps: F, C, G, D. The last sharp is D. If I go up one letter name from D, then I know that this is the key of E major.

When the key signature has a lot of sharps, you need to be careful. The last sharp in the order for this key is E. If I go up one letter name, that would make this the key signature of F major ... but that's not correct! The note F is sharp in this key. F# is in the key signature. So, that makes this the key of F# major.

Here is an exercise to help you practice naming sharp key signatures:

Here is an image that shows you every major key - flats and sharps.

This exercise mixes flats and sharps. It may take you a long time to recognize each key when you first start, but the more you practice, the more automatic it will become. Eventually you may even be able to see a key and know right away what it it without even counting!

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4 Major and Minor Intervals


In Grade 7, we learned how to name an interval based on its distance. When counting an interval, you need to start with the note you are on and count up.

This is a fourth. If you start on the bottom one as 1 and then count up each line and space until you reach the top note, you will have 4 counts.

Major and Minor Intervals

We can also name an interval by its quality. You may have heard of major and minor scales before. Intervals can also be major or minor. They can have other qualities too, but we will not be studying that this year.

You can determine the quality of an interval two ways: using semitones and using key signatures. The method using semitones is technically easier, but there is a lot of memorization involved. If you are confident with your key signatures, you may want to use that method because it's a bit faster. If you are still unfamiliar with key signatures, then you may want to stick to the semitone method. The choice will be up to you. Both methods will be explained here.

Semitone Method

Once you have determined the distance (2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.) of an interval, you can count the number of semitones between the two notes to determine whether it is major or minor.

major second is made up of 2 semitones. You can see them on the keyboard to the right. Every major second, regardless of what note it begins on, will be 2 semitones apart.

minor second is made up of 1 semitone. You can see that on this keyboard. The minor second is 1 less semitone than the major.

major third is made up of 4 semitones. They are numbered on the keyboard. E to G# is a Major 3rd. C to E is also a Major 3rd.

minor third is made of 3 semitones. That is one less than a major 3rd. You will see this same pattern throughout - a minor interval will always be one less semitone than its major.

Here is a chart which shows the intervals and number of semitones that you will be required to know for your theory quiz. The cells that are greyed out, you do not need to know.

Perfect Intervals

You can see on this chart that some intervals are called "major" and some are called "perfect." Unison, fourth, fifth, and octave intervals are called perfect instead of major. This is because way, way back in the olden times of music, those intervals were thought to have the perfect consonant sound for harmony. For centuries, harmonies using unison, 4th, 5th, and octave intervals were the only ones allowed in sophisticated church music. Other intervals like seconds, thirds, and sixths were thought to have a rough and displeasing sound and were inappropriate for important sacred music. We don't really believe that today, but we still hang onto the old names for tradition's sake. You will never see a "major fourth" written as an interval - it's always called a "perfect fourth." Likewise, a "major seventh" would never be called a "perfect seventh." Even though major and perfect mean the same thing in this case, that's just the way it's done.

Key Signature Method

If you are very familiar with your key signatures, then you may use this method for determining the quality of an interval.

Step One - Look at the bottom note of the interval. What key is that? What is the key signature Which notes are flat and sharp?

"The bottom note is C. The key signature of C major contains no sharps or flats."

Step Two - Look at the top note of the interval. Does this note follow the key signature?

  • Yes! This interval is major (or perfect).
  • No! If the note is a semitone lower than it should normally be in that key signature, then it is a minor interval.

"In the key of C major, the note A should be a natural. The top note is an A natural, so this is a major sixth."

You can see that knowing your key signatures makes this process quite simple. No counting involved. Let's try a couple more.

The first interval starts on a C. We already know that the key signature of C major has no sharps or flats. The top note, B, fits in perfectly with the key signature of C major. That means the first interval is a major seventh.

The second interval starts on a D. They key signature of D major has 2 sharps: F# and C#. The top note of this interval is a C natural. According to the key signature of D major, there should be a C#. The top note of this interval is only C natural though and that's a semitone lower than C#. That means this interval is a minor seventh.

In Grade 8, you will only be required to identify intervals that start on C, G, and F. Even if you are not very confident with key signatures, you should be able to remember the key signatures of those 3 keys.

Here is an exercise to help you practice naming major and minor intervals in those keys:

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5 Term 2 Theory Quiz

Before you attempt this quiz:

1. Ensure you review the written lessons in this lesson book.

2. Use the exercises (click on the green "try this" image) to help you practice your skills.

Term 2 Theory Quiz

This quiz consists of 20 questions that review the concepts you have learned so far.

You may not use any books, websites, papers, or any outside assistance to complete it. You may use a printout or picture of a piano keyboard to help you, if you want.

You have 20 minutes to complete the quiz.

After the first attempt, look through the test and see where your mistakes are. You have 2 attempts on this quiz.

Click on the image below to complete the Term 2 Theory Quiz.