Teaching Tools: Glossary

Teaching Tools are provided in each Sheet Music product description to assist teachers, students, and parents in purchasing music. Definitions of how all terms are used on MusicAndTheory.com are provided here for your reference. 

Read more about Piano Teaching Tools and why they're included.

* Please Note: Terms were selected for each piece based on the piece’s skill level and how significantly each element is featured. Some terms are used only for select pieces, especially for beginning level music. Some terms may be not be listed for higher level difficulty pieces (the assumption is that the musician is likely already familiar with the concepts). Some terms may not be listed if they are not significantly featured (for example, an intermediate level piece with only one “staccato” marking may not list “staccato” as a Teaching Tool).

Terms Glossary

5-finger Hand Position: Piece is mostly or entirely in a 5-finger hand position, or a major segment of the piece is in a 5-finger hand position. If a key is listed in parentheses, hands play in the 5-finger pentascale for that key. Examples: "5-finger Hand Position (C Major)" is written for RH 1 on Middle C (C4) and LH 5 on the next lowest C (C3). If no key is listed in parentheses, it is an atypical 5-finger position.

6/8 Time Signature: Written in 6/8 time signature.

8va: Includes 8va marks. Play the passage one octave higher.

8vb: Includes 8vb marks. Play the passage one octave lower.

12-bar Blues: Written in or based on the traditional 12-bar blues progression.

15ma: Includes 15ma marks. Play the passage two octaves higher.

15mb: Includes 15mb marks. Play the passage two octaves lower.

Accelerando: Includes accelerando.

Accents: Includes prevalent or noteworthy accents (only specified for select pieces).

Accidentals: Includes sharps, flats, and/or natural signs that are not within the listed key signature. Examples: Occasional use of G# in an A minor piece; frequent use of Bb in a piece that is written in F Major but has no listed key signature (for beginning level pianists).

Additional Actions: Includes additional actions besides playing with fingers and pedaling (such as foot stomping, clapping, or snapping fingers).

Alberti bass: Includes an accompaniment pattern in which a broken chord is played as lowest, highest, middle, highest. Example: LH plays repeating CGEG CGEG eighth notes.

Arpeggios: Includes arpeggios, i.e. a passage with the 1st (tonic), 3rd (mediant), 5th (dominant), and 8th (tonic octave) scale degrees. Differs from “broken chords” which may include only 1-3-5 or 1-5-8.

Articulations: Includes articulation notation marks such as staccatos and accent marks.

Blues: Based on or includes a blues scale. 

Boogie-Woogie Bass Line: Includes a repeating boogie-woogie bass figure for Left Hand.  

Broken Chords: Includes broken chords played melodically.

Caesura: Includes "railroad tracks" indicating a pause in the music during which time is not counted (also called a "grand pause").

Call and Response: Includes call-and-response; for example, after the right hand plays a passage the left hand echoes it or plays a complementary phrase.

Challenging Key Signature: Written in a key with at least 4 sharps or flats.

Chord Guide/Chord Symbols: Includes chord instruction (shortened chord names above the staff).

Chord Inversions: Includes inverted chords.

Chords (key): Includes chords in a particular key, often primary chords I IV V (or V7).

Chromatic Scale: Includes chromatic passages or teaches traditional 1-3-1-3 chromatic scale fingering pattern.

Clef Changes: Includes clef changes (only specified for beginner/intermediate level pieces or advanced pieces for which this is a prominent feature). 

Contrary Motion: Teaches contrary motion, e.g. RH ascending passage with LH descending passage at the same time.

Cross Hands: Includes hand-over-hand movement, e.g. LH reaching over RH to play higher keys.

Crossovers: Includes finger crossovers, such as 2 crossing over 1 or 3 crossing over 1.

Cross-Staff Beaming: Includes cross-staff beams for eighth notes (quavers). Only specified for some beginner pieces. 

Cross-Staff Movement: Includes notes that travel across the Grand Staff, e.g. LH passage begins in the lower bass clef staff but transitions to the upper treble clef staff in the middle of a phrase.

Cross-Staff Slurs: Includes slurs that transfer from one hand to the other across the Grand Staff; technical practice for fluid legato playing.

Cut Time: Written in cut time, 2/2 meter, alla breve.

D.C. al Coda: Includes D.C. al Coda indication to repeat from the beginning until the To Coda sign, then skip ahead to the Coda.

D.C. al Fine: Includes D.C. al Fine indication to repeat from the beginning until Fine (end).

D.S. al Coda: Includes D.S. al Coda indication to repeat from the Segno sign until the To Coda sign, then skip ahead to the Coda.

D.S. al Fine: Includes D.S. al Fine indication to repeat from the Segno sign until Fine (end).

Diminished Chords: Includes a significant amount of diminished chords.

Dotted Eighth Notes: Includes dotted eighth note rhythms (only specified for select pieces).

Dotted Quarter Notes: Includes dotted quarter note rhythms (only specified for select pieces).

Dotted Rhythms: Includes various dotted rhythms, such as dotted eighth notes and/or dotted quarter note rhythms (only specified for select pieces).

Double Flats: Includes double flats.

Double Sharps: Includes double sharps. 

Dynamics: Includes dynamic markings (beginner level) or has a heavy emphasis on dynamic expression.

Eighth Notes: Includes eighth notes (only specified for early beginner pieces).

Fade-Out Ending: Pianist should diminuendo to nothing through the end of the piece.

Fermata: Includes at least one fermata.

Fifths: Includes a lot of fifths intervals (harmonic and/or melodic).

Finger Extension: Includes passages where fingers extend just beyond the 5-finger position, such as extending RH 5 up one key or extending LH 5 down one key (only specified for beginner level pieces).

Fingering: Includes finger numbers, especially for a particular fingering technique other than thumb under, crossover, etc.

Flats: Includes flats (only specified for some beginner level pieces).

Fortepiano: Includes fp sign, which means to strike at forte dynamic and immediately transition to piano dynamic afterward.

Fourths: Includes a lot of fourths intervals (harmonic and/or melodic).

Glissando: Sliding up or down the keyboard, notated with a starting pitch followed by a wavy line angled upward or downward to an ending pitch.

Grace Notes: Includes at least one grace note (appoggiatura and/or acciaccatura).

Hand Movement: Includes movement over the keys well beyond the 5-finger hand position (only specified for select beginner level pieces).

Harmonic Minor: Most or a significant portion of the piece is written in harmonic minor; provides a good opportunity to discuss the different types of minor modes and when they might be used. 

Improvisation: Piece provides opportunities to improvise.

Key Change: Includes a key change mid-piece that is reflected by a change in the key signature, e.g. the piece begins in C Major and modulates to G Major.

Key Signature: Written in a key with at least 1 sharp or flat appearing in the key signature at the beginning of every line (only specified for select beginner level pieces).

Ledger Lines: Includes notes below or above either the Treble or Bass staff (or both).

Left Hand Treble: Left hand must read treble clef notes.

Legato: Includes legato style marking, either the word “legato” or slurs.

LH Melody: A significant portion of the melody is played mostly or entirely by the Left Hand, with Right Hand playing accompaniment.

Lifts: Includes phrases in which short groups of notes are marked with slurs, with several of these slurred groups in a row. The end of each slurred group should have a little lift before beginning the next group of slurred notes. Creates a bit of a "singsong" feel. 

Marcato: Includes marcato markings, a vertical wedge or "hat" that indicates the note should be played as a strong accent and usually suggests cutting the note value a little short. 

March Style: Written in a march style, typically with a steady tempo of 120 bpm.

Meter Changes: Piece changes meter at some point; for example, music begins in 4/4 time but transitions to 3/4 time at some point. 

Melodic Minor: Most or a significant portion of the piece is written in melodic minor; provides a good opportunity to teach the different types of minor modes and when they might be used. 

Melody Markers: Sometimes the melody line is difficult to follow as it crosses between hands and accompaniment. These are dashed, dotted, or solid lines indicating that the melody has transitioned from RH to LH (or from LH to RH) so that the performer can easily follow the melodic path.

Minor Key: Written in a minor key.

Modal Music: Written in a musical mode other than traditional major or minor (such as phrygian, mixolydian, etc.).

Modulation: Includes 1 or more sections with distinct modulation, which may not be reflected in the key signature.

Octave Changes: Includes passages that require moving one or both hands up or down to the same keys in a different octave.

Octaves: Includes a lot of octaves intervals (harmonic and/or melodic).

One-Hand Playing: All or a significant portion of the piece is written for just one hand. 

Parallel Motion: Teaches parallel motion, e.g. playing ascending CDEFG in both hands one octave apart at the same time. Parallel motion may not be in unison -- for example, RH could play an ascending CDEFG while LH plays an ascending EFGAB pattern.

Pedal: Includes pedal markings for the damper/sustain pedal (only specified for select beginner-intermediate pieces).

Pentatonic Scale: Piece is based on the pentatonic scale.

Phrasing: Piece is particularly well-suited to teaching phrasing; typically contains slurs indicating each phrase.

Pick-up: Piece starts with a pick-up measure.

Polyrhythms: Includes differing rhythms, played concurrently, in which one is usually irrational. Example: In 4/4 meter, LH plays eighth notes while RH plays triplet eighth notes for a 3:2 feel.

Repeat Note Fingering: Includes a fingering technique in which the pianist must switch to another finger on repeated notes. Examples: many As in a row fingered as 3-2-1-3-2-1 repeated, or four Gs in a row fingered as 5-4-3-2 before playing the next note.

Repeat with 2nd Ending: Includes repeat signs with 1st and 2nd endings.

Repeat with Multiple Endings: Includes repeat signs with at least 3 different endings.

Repeat: Includes repeat signs.

Rests: Includes a lot of rests that should be observed carefully to capture the intended rhythm and feel.

Rhythm: Includes challenging rhythms.

Right Hand Bass: Right hand must read bass clef notes.

Ritardando: Includes ritardando.

Rolled Chord: Includes a rolled chord, sometimes called an “arpeggiated chord” or a “glissando” (not to be confused with the term “glissando” that refers to sliding up or down the keyboard).

Rubato: Intended to be played with rubato tempo, where the general tempo is stable but may slow or speed up at certain parts of each phrase to accommodate musical expression and interpretation.

Scale: Includes scale passages and/or scale fingering, e.g. RH fingering 1-2-3-1-2-3-4 for an ascending line or LH fingering 5-4-3-2-1-3-2-1 for an ascending line.

Sevenths: Includes a lot of sevenths intervals (harmonic and/or melodic).

Seventh Chords: Includes seventh chords (only specified for some pieces); provides a good opportunity to introduce this type of chord to pianists who may be less familiar with its sound.

Sforzando: Includes sforzando markings (sf, sfz).

Sharps: Includes sharps (only specified for some beginner level pieces).

Silent Change: Includes a fingering technique in which one finger should be exchanged for another while leaving the key depressed. Example: Play C with RH 2 but then switch to RH 1 while leaving C depressed. 

Simile: Includes "sim." or "simile" marking. Continue playing in the same manner as previously indicated. Example:  4 measures of a particular pedal pattern, followed by "simile", suggests continuing to pedal in the same way. 

Single Staff: Piano music that is not written in Grand Staff format, but with a single staff. Used for select primer/beginner level pieces. 

Sixteenth Notes: Includes sixteenth note rhythms (only specified for select beginner level pieces).

Sixths: Includes a lot of sixths intervals (harmonic and/or melodic).

Skips: Includes skip-wise reading for early beginners (only specified for select beginner level pieces).

Slur: Includes slurs.

Sostenuto Pedal: Includes sostenuto pedal (the middle pedal).

Staccato: Includes prevalent or noteworthy staccatos (only specified for select pieces).

Steps: Includes stepwise reading for early beginners (only specified for select beginner level pieces).

Stride: Includes LH stride piano accompaniment, a challenging 4-beat pulse pattern in which the LH leaps or "strides" back and forth between a single bass note or bass octave on the 1st and 3rd beats and chords on the 2nd and 4th beats. Often found in ragtime and jazz styles. 

Swing Rhythm: Piece should be played with a swing rhythmic feel.

Syncopation: Includes syncopated passages.

Tempo Changes: Includes tempo changes other than ritardando, such as accelerando, rallentando, or a tempo change for a new section.

Tenuto: Includes tenuto markings to emphasize certain notes. Interpretation of tenuto depends on musical context and is defined as either giving the note a slight accent, holding out the note for its full length (or slightly longer so that it “leans” into the next note), or sometimes both.

Thirds: Includes a lot of thirds intervals (harmonic and/or melodic).

Thirty-Second Notes: Includes thirty-second note rhythms.

Thumb Under: Includes passages where the thumb must tuck under another finger, as in a scale (1-2-3-1).

Tie: Includes ties (only specified for select beginner level pieces).

Tone Cluster: Includes at least one chord with at least 3 adjacent notes in the scale.

Transposition: Piece is a particularly good choice for practicing transposing; for instance, it may be in a 5-finger position with few or no accidentals and less complicated rhythms so that the pianist can focus more fully on correctly transposing the notes.

Tremolo: Alternating quickly and repeatedly between notes, usually notated with 2 or 3 parallel horizontal lines angled up to the right between the notes. The note values are modified so they both reflect the full duration of the tremolo; for example, a tremolo between C and G lasting 4 beats will be notated as a C whole note and a G whole note with tremolo lines between them. 

Triads (key): Includes chord triads in a particular key.

Trill: Includes at least one trill or "shake".

Triplets: Includes triplets; may be triplet eighth notes, quarter notes, sixteenth notes, or other. 

Tuplets: Includes rhythm groupings that are not typically found in the meter. Examples: 4/4 time in which one beat is divided into 5 sixteenth notes, or 6/8 time in which one beat (usually 3 eighth notes) is divided into 2 eighth notes.

Unison: Includes sections where hands play unison.

Unusual Staff Reading: Includes an unusual staff situation, such as an ossia staff, or four staves total (each hand reads two staves).

Unusual Time Signature: Written in a time signature other than 4/4, 3/4, 2/4, or 6/8.

Voices: Includes different “voice” parts, where multiple distinct melodies and countermelodies can be heard. Especially common in baroque and classical music but may be seen in any genre. May have 2 voice parts (one in each hand) or may have 3-4 voice parts weaving through both hands.

Waltz Style: Written in a waltz style.

Read more about Piano Sheet Music Teaching Tools and why they're included in each Product Description.