Grade 1

Grade 1 - Terms and Signs

Music Terms And Signs for Theory Grade 1

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Theory of Music Grade 1 Certificate Course. Suitability:
Unisa, Trinity Guild Hall, ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music). Watch a sample video on how our certificate courses work. OR

Theory Revision Classes are for those learners who have completed the Grade 1 course with a local teacher and need revision classes to achieve a distinction. With our revision courses, there is no need to buy the Online Course. Rather buy your revision classes in single or consecutive lessons.

Grade 1 Theory of Music

Grade 1 Theory of Music Sylabus

1 Note values of semibreve, minim, crotchet, quaver and semiquaver, and their equivalent rests (candidates may use the terms ‘whole note’, ‘half note’, etc.). Tied notes. Single-dotted notes and rests.

2 Simple time signatures of two four, three four and four four. Bar-lines and the grouping of the notes listed above within these times. Composition of a two-bar rhythm in answer to a given rhythm starting on the first beat of a bar.

3 The stave. Treble (G) and bass (F) clefs. Names of notes on the stave, including middle C in both clefs. Sharp, flat and natural signs, and their cancellation.

4 Construction of the major scale, including the position of the tones and semitones. Scales and key signatures of the major keys of C, G, D and F in both clefs, with their tonic triads (root position), degrees (number only), and intervals above the tonic (by number only).

Grade 1 Music Terms and Signs fo the Theory of Music Examinations. Suitable for the ABRSM, Trinity Guild Hall, Unisa and Rock School examinations.

The list below are the required terms that will be included in the Grade 1 examination paper. The signs below will be included and learners will be required to describe each music symbol /sign.

Music Terms and Signs Grade 1 – used in the Theory Examination

Download a Complete PDF document of these music terms and signs

The Slur

How the Slur is written in music notation.  The slur connects the sounds or pitches of two different notes and requests that the performer plays them smoothly or connectedly.

The Tie

The Tie joins two notes with the same pitch. The example below demonstrates the use of the tie in a piece of music.

Fermata / Pause

The fermata sign may be written above or below a note head. It instructs the performer to pause on the note within the context of the piece of music. The note will be longer in duration than its neighbouring notes in the bar of music. In the figure below, the performer is required to pause on the last note of the bar. The last note of the bar is a dotted minim or dotted half note and has a value of three beats. The, pause, sign implies that the note will be held longer than three beats.

The Repeat Sign In Music Notation

How to use the repeat signs in music notation. The second repeat sign in the example tells the performer to repeat the piece of music from the first repeat sign. If the first repeat sign is not present, repeat from the beginning of the piece. This will often be followed ‘first ending’ and ‘second ending’ of a part.

Staccato Sign In Music Notation

Staccato dots may be placed above or below the note head. The affected notes are played disconnectedly. 

Metronome markings or Metronome Indications

The metronome indication in the illustration below, prescribes a tempo of: sixty crochet beats per minute.

Crescendo, Decrescendo and Diminuendo - their usage in Music Notation

Crescendo: gradually getting louder
Decrescendo: gradually getting softer
Diminuendo: gradually getting softer

The Accent Sign 

The accent symbol is placed over the note head or below it. The accent symbol means that the performer will play the note louder and ensure that it is more pronounced than the other notes without the accent symbol.

The Octave Symbol - 8va

The octave symbol, 8va, when placed above the staff, the performer will play the indicated part, an octave higher than written.

The Octave Symbol - 8vb

The octave symbol, 8vb, 8va, or just 8 under the staff requires that the piec is played one octavel lower than written

Grade 1 Theory of Music - Terms & Signs


Table of Grade 1 Italian terms and signs followed by their English meaning.

Suitable for Unisa, Trinity College and ABRSM Grade 1 theory of music examinations.
Italian Term Abbreviation English Meaning
accelerando accel. gradually getting quicker - refers to tempo or speed
adagio   slow
allegretto Jackson fairly quick
andante   at a medium or walking speed or pace
cantabile   singingly or in a singing style
crescendo cres. gradually getting louder
da capo D.C repeat fromt he beginning of the piece
dal segno D.S repeat from the sign
decrescendo decres. gradually getting quieter or softer
diminuendo dim. gradually getting quieter of softer
fine   the end
forte f loud
fortissimo ff very loud
legato   smoothly or connectedly
lento   slow
mezzo   half
mezzo forte mf moderately loud / half loud
mezzo piano mp moderately soft / half quiet
moderato   moderately
piano p soft or quiet
pianissimo pp very quiet
poco   a little
rallentanto rall. gradually getting slower
ritardando rit. gradually getting slower
ritenuto rit. held back
staccato stacc. detached
tempo   tempo refers to speed, e.g. a tempo means, in time
8va   octave - depending on its placement on the staff, It will be used to indicate a section that must be played an octave lower or higher than actually written.