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  • Chris Anderson

Music Revision - DRSMITH For Appraising Part Two

Continuing on from our previous blog going over DRSMITH, in more detail, for appraising.


What is playing the music.

Family Members

Strings - Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Harp, Guitar, Lute

Woodwind - Flute, Piccolo, Recorder, Clarinet, Saxophone, Bassoon, Oboe, Harmonica

Brass - Trumpet, Cornet, Trombone, French Horn, Baritone, Euphonium, Tuba

Percussion (Pitched) - Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Marimba, Piano, Tubular Bells

Percussion (Non-Pitched) - Drum Kit, Snare Drum, Triangle, Cowbell, Tambourine, Cymbals, Bongos, Congas, Timbales, Timpani (though this can sound like a specific note), anything else you hit to make a sound!

Voice - Soprano (highest female voice), Alto (lowest female voice), Tenor (highest adult male), Bass (lowest adult male), Baritone (voice in-between Tenor and Bass), Treble (boys voice, same pitch as Soprano), Falsetto (very high male voice), A Capella (unaccompanied singing)

Questions to ask:

What instruments are playing?

What voices are singing?

What order do the instruments enter?

What is the instruments significance?

What combinations of instruments are playing?

Any special techniques being used? (See Timbre)

How do the instruments help create the mood or period of the piece?


The speed of a piece.

Useful Terms

Adagio - Slow

Allegro - Brisk and lively

AllegrettoQuite fast, not as fast as allegro

Andante - Walking pace

Grave - Slow and solemn

Largo - Slow and broad

Larghetto - Slow, but not as slow as largo

Lento - Slow

Moderato - Moderate speed

Presto - Very fast

Prestissimo - As fast as possible

Vivace - Lively

Accelerando (Accel.) - Speeding up

Allargando - Stretch the tempo

A Tempo - Back to original speed

Rallentando (rall) - Gradually slowing down

Ritenuto (rit. or riten.) - Gradually slowing down

Ritardando (rit.) - Hold back.  Slow down immediately

Rubato - Flexible pace

Questions to ask:

How fast or slow is the piece?

Does the tempo change?  Gradually or suddenly?

What effect does the tempo (change) have on the piece?

Are there any moments of silence?  Why?  What effect does this have?

Is the tempo in strict time, or is it flexible?


How the instruments work together.

Useful Terms

Monophonic - A single line of music.  A single melody with no harmonic accompaniment.  Music played in octaves is considered monophonic.

Homophonic - Melody with a chordal accompaniment.

Polyphonic - Two or more melody lines played at the same time.

Heterophonic - A melody is played by different parts with some differences in pitch.

Thick - Lots of instruments/voices

Thin - Few instruments

Unison - Everyone singing the same part.

Chorus - The ensemble in a musical/opera.

Solo - Individual instrument/voice

Duet - Two singers/instruments

Trio - Three

Quartet - Four

Descant - A second melody played or sung over the main melody.

Questions to ask:

What texture is the music?

Does the texture change?

Are there many or few instruments playing/voices singing?


The quality of the sound being made.

Useful Terms

Staccato - Short detached notes

Legato - Smooth connected notes

Pizzicato - Strings being plucked

Arco - Strings being played with the bow

Col Legno - With the wood of the bow

Double Stopping - Two strings played at once

Triple Stopping - Three strings played at once

Quadruple Stopping - Four strings played at once

Tremolo - Rapid movement on one string made by moving the bow in quick short moves from right to left

Flutter Tongue - Rapid notes played by rolling an “R” sound while playing the notes

Tongued notes - The notes sound individual.  Not as short as staccato.

Mute - There are many different mutes that brass instruments can use, they produce different effects.  See blog on Brass for more information.  A mute is also available for use on stringed instruments, this gives a softer, mellower tone.

Beaters - Different beaters and sticks will produce different timbres.  Using brushes will produce a soft sound.  Using felt beaters on a drum will produce a muffled sound whereas if used to roll on a cymbal will produce a smooth sound.

Questions to ask:

Are any special techniques being used?

How does the timbre contribute to the music?


The key of a piece.

Useful Terms

Major - Often associated with happy music

Minor - Often associated with sad music

Modal - Used a lot in folk songs.  Music written before major and minor scales were a thing were written in modes.

Chromatic - Used in serialism.  There is a semitone between each note.

Pentatonic - A five note scale.

Whole-tone Scale - A scale made up of whole tones.

Questions to ask:

Is the piece in a major key or a minor key?

Is it modal?

Does it use any special scales such as chromatic, pentatonic, whole-tone?

What effect does the tonality have on the piece?  How effective is it?


More than one note played at the same time.

Useful Terms

Consonant - “Nice” sounding harmony.  Created using notes from the key/chord.

Disonant - Notes that clash and don’t sound “right” when played together.

Modulation - Change of key

Cadence - The end of a phrase, section or piece.  See blog on Cadences

Pedal note - A repeated, single note, often in the bass

Drone - A long, sustained note.

Arpeggio - Notes from a chord played individually.

Tierce de Picardie - A major chord played at the end of a piece in a minor key.  For example a D major chord played at the end of a piece in D minor, an E major chord played at the end of a piece in E minor, and so on.

Questions to ask:

Is there any dissonance?

Can you recognise any of the cadences?

Are there any familiar chord progressions?

Does the piece modulate?  Suddenly or gradually?

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