Staff or stave
The fundamental latticework of music notation, upon which symbols and notes are placed.
Ledger or ledger lines
Ledger lines are used to extend the staff to pitches falling above or below it, and extend a small distance to each side.
Bar lines are used to separate measures.
Double bar line
Double bar lines are used to separate two sections or phrases of music.
Dotted bar line
A dotted bar line subdivides long measures into shorter segments for ease of reading.
An accolade or brace connects multiple lines of music that are played simultaneously. Depending on the instruments playing, the brace, or accolade, will vary in design and style.
Treble clef (G clef)
The treble clef symbol is used to show where the pitch G, denoted by the center spiral, above middle C is located on the staff. It is also the most commonly used clef in music notation.
Alto and tenor clef (C clef)
This clef points to the line or space representing middle C. Also called the "alto clef".
Bass clef (F clef)
The line or space between the dots in this clef denotes F below middle C.
The neutral clef is used for pitchless instruments, such as some of those used for percussion.
Breve or double whole note
Note lasting twice as long as the whole note, or twice as long as the number of beats per measure.
Semibreve, or whole note
Note lasting the full count of the measure
Minim, or half note
Note played for half the duration of a whole note. If there are four beats per measure, the half note is played for two counts.
Crotchet, or quarter note
Note played for one quarter of a whole note.
Quaver, or eighth note
Note lasting one eighth the length of a whole note.
Semiquaver, or sixteenth note
Note lasting one sixteenth the count of a whole note.
Demisemiquaver, or thirty-second note
Note lasting one thirty-second the amount of a whole note.
Hemidemisemiquaver, or sixty-fourth note
Note lasting one sixty-fourth the amount of a whole note.
Beams connect eighth notes and notes of shorter value. Used for numerical grouping, making it easier on the reader.
Note lasting the full count of the note, plus half of its value. The quarter note shown would last a total of three eighth notes.
Indicates the number of measures in a resting part without a change in meter, used to conserve space and to make for easier reading.
Double whole note rest
Rest lasting the duration of two measures
Rest lasting the duration of a measure.
Half note rest
Rest lasting one half the duration of the measure
Quarter note rest
Rest lasting one quarter of the duration of a measure
Eighth note rest
Rest lasting one eighth the duration of the measure.
Sixteenth note rest
Rest lasting one sixteenth the duration of the measure.
Thirty-second note rest
Rest lasting one thirty-second the duration of the measure.
Sixty-fourth note rest
Rest lasting one sixty-fourth the duration of the measure.
Lowers the pitch of a note by one semitone, or half step.
Raises the pitch of a note by one semitone, or half step.
Cancels a previous accidental, or modifies the pitch of a sharp or flat as defined by the given key signature.
Lowers the pitch of a note by two chromatic semitones. Usually used when the note to be modified is already flatted by the key signature.
Raises the pitch of a note by two chromatic semitones. Usually used when the note to be modified is already sharped by the key signature.
Soft. Usually the most often used volume dynamic.
Music is to be played very softly.
Extremely soft. Not often in musical notation are pieces to be played softer than pianississimo.
Music is to be played half as soft as piano.
Music is to be played loud.
Half as loud as forte. More commonly used than mezzo-piano. Mezzo-forte is used as the default volume level when no dynamic is given.
Extremely loud. One does not often see louder dynamics than this, which are specified with additional fs.
Denotes a sharp, fierce accent on a single sound or chord. When written out in full, it applies to the sequence of sounds or chords under or over which it is placed.
A gradual increase in volume. Can be extended under many notes to indicate that the volume steadily increases during the passage.
A gradual decrease in volume. Can be extended under many notes to indicate that the volume steadily decreases during the passage.
A section of music in which the music should initially be played loudly (forte), then immediately softly (piano).
This indicates that the note is to be played shorter than notated, in a sharper manner, while still maintaining its full value.
Indicates a longer silence after the note, a sharper more accentuated staccato. Usually applied to quarter notes or shorter.
The note is to be played with its full value, or slightly longer.
The note is played much louder or with a much stronger attack than any surrounding unaccented notes.
Left-hand pizzicato or stopped note
A note on a stringed instrument where the string is plucked with the left hand (the hand that usually stops the strings) rather than bowed. On the horn, this accent indicates a "stopped note" (a note played with the stopping hand shoved further into the bell of the horn).
On a stringed instrument, a note played by stretching a string away from the frame of the instrument and letting it go, making it "snap" against the frame. Also known as a Bartók pizzicato.
Natural harmonic or open note
On a stringed instrument, denotes that a natural harmonic is to be played. On a valved brass instrument, denotes that the note is to be played "open" (without lowering any valve, or without mute).
Symbol denoting that the note it is placed above is to be held indefinitely, until the conductor says otherwise. This halts the tempo and appears over all parts at the same metric location in a piece.
Up bow or sull'arco
On a bowed string instrument, the note is played while drawing the bow upward. On a plucked string instrument played with a plectrum or pick, the note is played with an upstroke.
Down bow or Giù arco
Like sull'arco, except the bow is drawn downward. On a plucked string instrument played with a plectrum or pick , the note is played with a downstroke.
A rapid alternation between the specified note and the next higher note (according to key signature) within its duration. When followed by a wavy horizontal line, this symbol indicates an extended trill.
Rapidly play the principal note, the next higher note (according to key signature) then return to the principal note for the remaining duration. In much music, the mordent begins on the auxiliary note, and the alternation between the two notes may be extended.
Rapidly play the principal note, the semitone below it, then return to the principal note for the remaining duration. In much music, the mordent begins on the auxiliary note, and the alternation between the two notes may be extended.
When placed directly above the note, the turn (also known as a gruppetto) indicates a sequence of upper auxiliary note, principal note, lower auxiliary note, and a return to the principal note. When placed to the right of the note, the principal note is played first, followed by the above pattern. A vertical line placed through the turn reverses the order of the auxiliary notes.
The first half of the principal note's duration has the pitch of the grace note (the first two-thirds if the principal note is a dotted note).
The acciaccatura lasts very briefly, as though passed on the way to the principal note, which receives virtually all of its notated duration.
Tells the performer to repeat playing of the music from its beginning. This is followed by al fine, which means to repeat to the word fine and stop, or al coda, which means repeat to the coda sign and then jump forward.
Signal marking where the repeat from the segno begins.
Tells the performer to repeat playing of the music starting at the nearest segno. This is followed by al fine or al coda just as with da capo.
Indicates a forward jump in the music to its ending passage, marked with the same sign. Only used after playing through a D.S. al coda or D.C. al coda.