Musical Terms Glossary: Piano

One of the toughest parts of learning an instrument is getting acquainted with all the special terms surrounding the process! Each instrument has its own set of nomenclature, which can seem daunting and confusing. 

Below, you will find a glossary of the most common musical terms in the piano world. Read on to learn more, or to check a term you heard in class or read in your workbook!

Musical Terms Glossary: Piano

  • Arpeggios: The act of playing chords in single note patterns across the keyboard. 
Classical Guitar Technique : Classical Guitar Exercises |
  • Baby Grand: A smaller version of a grand piano, often seen in homes and hotel lobbies. 
Used Chickering Grand Piano
  • Contrary Motion: When the notes of each hand go in the opposite direction. 
Contrary Motion (Beginner to Advanced) - YouTube
  • Damper Pedal: Also known as the Sustain Pedal
Pedals On The Piano, What Do They Do? - Lessons in Your Home
  • Felt Piano: A modified piano in which extra felt is placed between the hammers and the strings, creating a soft muted sound. 
  • Fingering: Refers to which fingers should play which notes in a song or scale. 
First Piano Lessons for Kids - How to Teach Piano Fingering
  • Glissando: A special effect in which the pianist glides their hand across all of the keys between two notes. 
How to Play a Gliss on the Piano or Keyboard - dummies
  • Grace Note (piano slide): A technique in which a note below or above “slides” into the target note. This is marked in sheet music by a small quaver before a note. 
grace note - Wiktionary
  • Grand Piano: The largest kind of piano, used in concert halls by professional pianists. 
Dynamix Grand Piano Samples - Dynamix Audio
  • Honky Tonk: An upright piano that is slightly out of tune. This sound was made famous by bar musicians at the turn of the century. 
  • Muting: A technique in which the player will place one of their arms inside the piano to dampen the strings. 
  • Parallel Motion: When the notes of each hand go in the same direction. 
  • Prepared Piano: Used in some compositions, a prepared piano is created by placing specific items inside the piano in specific places to change the sound. 
  • Sostenuto Pedal: The middle pedal of a piano. It is the same as the Damper Pedal but only applies to notes held down before the pedal use is initiated. 
  • Stride Piano: A style of piano playing in which the left hand makes large jumps or “strides” between notes on each beat. Commonly used in early jazz piano and ragtime. 
  • Trill: A fast embellishment on a note. 
Playing Grace Notes, Trills, and Glissandos on the Piano - dummies
  • Una Corda Pedal: Also known as the soft pedal 
  • Upright Piano: The smallest kind of acoustic piano. Often seen in homes and rock bands.
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Closing Notes

Our Piano Glossary is always evolving, so if there are any other terms you aren’t sure of ask your teacher! Or feel free to reach out to us to set you up with one of the best pianists in the city!

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