Do You Know Basic Music Theory?


Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Music theory can be quite complicated, but the basics are pretty simple! Whether you're a music professional or just starting out, this quiz will test your knowledge of basic music theory! So let's see if you can play a tune.

What is common time?

Common time is 4/4. This is usually noted as C. Sometimes you also see cut common time, or 2/2, which is C with a vertical line through it.

What does P stand for on sheet music?

P stands for piano on sheet music. You should play softly when you see the P, because it refers to volume - not your choice of musical instrument.

What is tempo?

Tempo refers to the rate or speed of the music. Tempo is an Italian word.

What word describes the volume of the music?

Dynamics is the word used to describe the volume of the music. In terms of dynamics, piano is soft and forte is loud.

What does "mezzoforte" mean?

Mezzoforte means moderately loud. Often, mezzoforte is referred to as mf.

Which of these was NOT a musician?

Salvador Dali was a famous painter. He was known for his surrealist style. He would have been a pretty strange musician.

What is andante?

Andante means walking tempo. Think about a nice comfortable stroll, and that is andante pace.

What does staccato mean?

Staccato means detached. Something with a staccato rhythm is usually short and sharp. Think of small punctuations in the music.

What is the highest female voice part?

The soprano is the highest voice part. A mezzo soprano would be a mid-soprano, with a slightly lower register.

What does allegro mean?

Allegro means lively or fast, and it refers to tempo. When the tempo is allegro, the music moves at a brisk pace.

What is "Every Good Boy Does Fine"?

"Every Good Boy Does Fine" is a mnemonic device, useful for remembering the notes on the treble staff. From bottom to top, the notes on the lines are E, G, B, D and F. Also, the spaces from bottom to top are FACE!

What is a cadence?

There are many types of cadences. These include interrupted, plagal, imperfect, perfect, authentic and deceptive cadences.

Which of these is NOT an element?

Genre is not an element. The other three are all elements of music, and each has its own qualities.

What does legato mean?

Legato refers to a smooth and flowing manner. The movements of a ballet dancer are often legato.

A stave has how many lines?

A stave or staff has 5 lines. On the treble clef, played with the right hand on a piano, from bottom to top you have E, G, B, D and F.

What is a staff notation?

A staff notation is the set of notes for the musician to play. The staff is the set of horizontal lines on which the notes are placed.

What does adagio mean?

Adagio means slowly. When you play adagio, you play slow enough so that every note can be heard clearly.

How many notes are in a chromatic scale?

There are 12 notes in a chromatic scale, also known as a half-tone scale. In a standard octave, there are 8 notes.

What clef is used for instruments that have a higher pitch?

The treble clef is used for instruments that play at a higher pitch. These instruments include the violin, flute and trumpet.

What is a minim?

A minim is a half note. It is written as a ring with a stem. You hold this note for two counts.

Decrescendo is the same as ______ ?

Decrescendo is the same as diminuendo. Crescendo means gradually becoming louder, so decrescendo refers to gradually becoming softer.

H-moll is from what language?

H-moll is a German notation. The letter H represents a B-natural, while the letter B represents a B-flat.

What is an eighth note?

The British quaver is what Americans refer to as the eighth note. There are also the semiquaver, demisemiquaver, and hemidemisemiquaver.

What is the note on the top of the bass clef staff?

A is the note on the top of the bass clef staff. The order of the lines on the bass clef, bottom to top, is GBDFA.

What is the lowest female voice part?

Alto is the lowest female voice part. Any woman with a deep, rich, low voice is an alto.

In a time signature, what does the bottom number signify?

The bottom number of a time signature refers to the value of each beat. It's basically telling you which note gets one beat.

How many keys are on a piano?

There are 88 keys on a piano! 52 of these keys are white and 36 are black.

Which instrument is a trumpet's cousin?

The bugle is the cousin to the trumpet. A bugle usually has no valves.

What does dolce mean?

Dolce refers to sweetness and softness. When a musician sees this note, they know to play sweetly.

Which of these is an instrumental group?

These are all instrumental groups. You'll find most or all instrumental groups present in an orchestra.

What is an interval?

An interval is the distance in pitch between two notes. The smallest interval is half a step.

What is a cadenza?

A cadenza is a solo performance within a larger piece. This performance can often be sped up or slowed down at the performer's will.

What is the top number of a time signature?

The top number of a time signature refers to the beats per measure. It's best to count it out before you get started.

What is the G clef?

G clef is another name for the treble clef. The G clef curls around the second line on the staff, which is the G.

What is poco a poco?

Poco a poco means little by little. It can be in reference to a dynamic increase or decrease in something.

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes