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The Power of Music in Presentations: Enhancing Your Audience Experience

Music is a awesome tool for connecting with people and influence their emotions. It is no different in presentations, where the right background music and sounds can captivate an whole audience, enhance the speaker’s message, and leave a good impression.

In this article, we’ll explore the role of background music in presentations, the different types and genres, and best practices for using music effectively.

Music in Presentations

Adding Ambiance with Background Music

Background music can set the tone and mood of a presentation, It is played in the background while the speaker is presenting. It can help to create a relaxing and professional atmosphere, mask any background noise, and reinforce the presentation’s message. Some popular genres for background music include classical, jazz, and ambient music . 

These are popular genres for presentations because they provide a calming and relaxing atmosphere that enhances the overall mood and feel of the presentation. Classical music is often used to convey a sense of sophistication and elegance, while jazz music provides a more relaxed and laid-back vibe. Ambient music creates a peaceful and meditative environment that helps to keep the audience focused on the presentation. These genres of music also have a low volume that doesn’t overpower the speaker or the presentation content. Additionally, classical, jazz, and ambient music are timeless and versatile, making them suitable for various types of presentations and audiences.

Enhancing the Presentation with Sound Effects

Sound effects can add an extra layer of excitement and engagement to a presentation. They can be used to highlight key points, emphasize a joke, or even to create a suspenseful atmosphere. Some popular sound effects for presentations include applause, laughter, and thunderstorms.

For example, imagine a presentation about a new product launch. The presenter wants to emphasize the excitement and anticipation surrounding the launch. By using the sound effect of applause and cheering, the presenter can build the atmosphere of excitement in the room, making the audience feel more engaged and invested in the presentation. The sound of applause can also be used to reinforce the positive reaction to key points in the presentation. The use of sound effects in this way can add a dynamic and interactive element to the presentation, making it more memorable and enjoyable for the audience.

TIP! Freesound.org is one of the best places to find free sound effects –  https://freesound.org/

Creating a Soundtrack for Your Presentation with Music Beds

Music beds are short pieces of music that are used to bridge the gaps between different parts of a presentation. They can be used to transition from one section to another or to reinforce the mood of a presentation. Some popular genres for music beds include instrumental rock, pop, and electronic music.

An example of using a music bed in a presentation would be a sales presentation for a new product. The presenter starts with an introduction of the company and then moves on to the features and benefits of the product. To create a smooth transition from one section to another, the presenter uses an instrumental pop music bed. This music bed is upbeat and energetic, creating a positive mood that reinforces the excitement about the new product. The music bed continues to play in the background as the presenter moves on to the next section of the presentation, creating a seamless and enjoyable experience for the audience.

Elevating Your Presentation with Music - Best Practices

Here are some best practices for using music effectively in presentations:

Pick the right music: The music you choose should complement the message of your presentation. Avoid using music that is too distracting or that detracts from the content of your presentation. See our article with  5 Tips for Selecting the Best Royalty-Free Music for Your Projects

Use low volume: The music should be at a low volume so that it does not overpower the speaker’s voice.

Timing is important: The timing of the music is crucial. It should start and stop at the right moments to create the desired mood and effect.

Who is your audience? When choosing the background music, consider the age and cultural background of your audience. Music that is popular with one group may not be that popular by another group.Avoid distracting elements: Music with lyrics or a lot of instruments can be distracting. Consider using instrumental music or sound effects that complement your presentation without taking away from the speaker’s message.

Avoid distracting elements: Music with lyrics or a lot of instruments can be distracting. Consider using instrumental music or sound effects that complement your presentation without taking away from the speaker’s message.

Where to Get Music for Presentations?

When it comes to finding music for presentations, there are many options available online.

Our Website is a great place to start your search for music for presentations. We offer a wide range of original music, including background music and sound effects. Our library is constantly growing, so you’re sure to find the perfect fresh audio for your presentation.

Also checkout our list with the 6 best Royalty-free music libraries online:  The Best Royalty-Free Music Libraries Online

Frequently Asked Questions on Music for Presentations

The best type of music for presentations is subjective and depends on the message and audience of the presentation. Some popular genres for background music include classical, jazz, and ambient music. For sound effects, popular options include applause, laughter, and thunderstorms. For music beds, instrumental rock, pop, and electronic music are popular choices.

When choosing music for your presentation, consider the message and audience of your presentation. The music should complement the content and not detract from it.

The music should be at a low volume so that it does not overpower the speaker’s voice.

The timing of the music is crucial. It should start and stop at the right moments to create the desired mood and effect.

It is generally not recommended to use copyrighted music in a presentation unless you have obtained permission from the copyright owner. Using copyrighted music without permission is illegal and can result in fines and other legal penalties.

Music can influence the audience’s emotions and set the tone and mood of a presentation. It can also help mask any background noise and reinforce the presentation’s message.

Music can definitely make a positive impact on a presentation, but it can also detract from the content if not used correctly. Choosing the right music and using it effectively is key to elevating the audience’s experience.

Bringing It All Together - The Benefits of Music in Presentations

Background music and sounds effects can play a significant role in enhancing the audience’s experience during a presentation. The background music, sound effects or music beds can captivate listeners, emphasize the speaker’s message, and leave a lasting impression.

To maximize the effectiveness of music in presentations, it’s recommended to follow best practices and use it strategically. This can result in a more elevated presentation and a memorable experience for the audience. When preparing for a presentation, consider incorporating music as an added layer to engage your audience.

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Music and related topics

Participatory music vs presentational music

In this post, I’ll be doing some public-facing note-taking on Music As Social Life: The Politics Of Participation by Thom as Turino . I’m especially interested in chapter two: Participatory and Presentational Performance. We in America tend to place a high value on presentational music created by professionals, and a low value on participatory music made by amateurs. It’s useful to know that there are people in the world who take a different view.

Turino divides music into four big categories:

  • Participatory music. Everyone present is actively doing something: playing an instrument, singing or chanting, and/or dancing. For example: a bluegrass jam, campfire singing, a hip-hop cypher .
  • Presentational music. There’s a clear divide between the performers and the audience. Audience members might dance or sing along, but they are not the focus. For example: a classical, rock or jazz concert.
  • High-fidelity recording. A document of a live performance (or a convincing illusion of such.) For example: a classical or jazz album.
  • Studio sound art. A recording that was constructed in the studio using techniques other than (or in addition to) people performing in real time. For example: a late Beatles album, or any pop song since 1980.

Turino devotes a lot of his attention to three examples of participatory music cultures:

  • Aymara musicians in Peru
  • Shona music in Zimbabwe
  • Contra dancers in America

This last group might strike you as the odd one out. Turino sees more commonalities between the musical experience of American contra dancers and participants in Shona rituals than he does between the contra dancers and audiences at, say, a jazz concert.

Qualities of presentational music:

  • It’s made by professionals (or would-be professionals) — “real” musicians, as Americans call them.
  • The musical form tends to be “closed” — it’s known to the performers in advance. There are a few exceptions, like free jazz, but those are outliers.
  • Closed forms make it possible for the music to have great formal complexity and less predictability. Though presentational music does not have to be complex or unpredictable, audiences tend to demand a certain amount of variety.
  • Textures and timbres are transparent, meaning that you can hear the individual sounds clearly. Tuning and timing are usually precise, though there are exceptions, like punk and indie rock.
  • Presentational music is usually scripted, rehearsed and tight. Even jazz improvisation mostly takes place within mutually understood constraints.

Qualities of participatory music:

  • It’s made by musicians of widely varying skill. Most participants are “amateurs,” not “real” musicians by American standards. There’s a low floor for core participation, like shaking a shaker steadily, and a high ceiling for elaboration, like virtuoso lead percussion.
  • The audience/artist distinction is blurry or nonexistent.
  • The form of the music is open, cyclical and very repetitive .
  • There might be a lot of improvisation and looseness, but it all takes place within predictable structures.
  • Textures and timbres are dense, with loose (“wide”) tuning and timing.
  • Beginnings and endings are “feathered” — unscripted, loose, and sometimes disorderly.
  • The music is game-like, though usually without “winners” and “losers.”

In participatory music cultures like Zimbabwe and Peru, the ability to make  music is as basic a social skill as making small talk is in North America. Music is part of “real life,” not separate from it or above it somehow. One of my favorite documents of participatory music is this delightful recording of workers canceling stamps in the University of Ghana post office. Anyone in the room could jump in with a rhythm or a whistled tune.

Speaking of documentation: for Aymara people, recorded music has the same relationship to actual music as a photo of a person does to the person: the document is no substitute for the real thing.

The values of participatory music are profoundly different from those of presentational music. Turino quotes his Zimbabwean mbira teacher:

[T]he best mbira players could offer their best performance at a ceremony but if no one joined in singing, clapping and dancing, the performance would be considered a failure… Although the drummers or mbira players perform the most specialized core musical roles in ceremonies, they are not considered the stars of the event with other contributions being secondary. Rather, they, along with hosho (shaker) players, are more like workmen with the special responsibility to provide a firm musical foundation that allows and in fact inspires others to participate.

This is as far from the current western academic art music value system as it’s possible to get.

People in participatory cultures do prefer skillful musicians over inept ones. But the social aspect of the music is the most important one, and usually people keep critical judgment of the performance to themselves. It’s sort of like the way Americans judge their kids’ musical performances, with loving tolerance for its flaws.

America suffers from its lack of participatory music

I have a hypothesis that the lack of participatory music in daily American life is a major obstacle to our well-being. Most humans in world history regard social music as a basic emotional vitamin, and our lack of it shows in our collective unhappiness, as clearly as malnutrition shows in stunted bone growth. Children have participatory music opportunities, at home, on the playground, at school, in church and at camp. But as an adult, you really have to make an effort to seek out music-making opportunities. One of the biggest pleasures of having a young kid is all the participatory music-making you do with them.

Few people have the time or energy to make presentational music of professional quality, and it takes a dedicated hobbyist indeed to overcome the stigma we place on amateurism. It’s interesting to me, then, to look at all the ways that Americans and other westerners try to cope, mostly by trying to make presentational and recorded music more participatory. Entire subcultures have sprung up devoted to trying to bridge the gap, intentionally or not.

Blurring the lines between presentational and participatory

The secret of the Grateful Dead’s rabid following mostly lies in the way they made presentational music feel participatory. The sloppiness that Dead detractors find so irritating becomes a positive virtue if you imagine the band leading a very big singalong. It’s easy to sneer at the Deadheads, but there was something undeniably real going on at the concerts, a lot of very enthusiastic dancing and singing along.

In high school, I saw the Dead close a show with “ Not Fade Away ” by Buddy Holly, as they often did. The audience sang along to the chorus and clapped along in a son clave beat. The band gradually got quieter and quieter until all you could hear was the crowd’s clapping and singing. Then the band waved goodnight and walked offstage as the crowd continued. We kept the chant and clap going all the way down the ramps and across the parking lot. It was such a pleasurable participatory music experience that I’m still writing about it decades later. The best big rock bands do something similar — think of Paul McCartney’s audience singing along with the “ na na na na ” part of “Hey Jude.”

Electronic dance music is an interesting new wrinkle. Remember that dance counts as participation in music. Even though EDM is the very definition of studio sound art, its reason for being is much the same as Zimbabwean mbira music: to get people moving. Some people do listen to EDM at their desks or in their cars or wherever, but even there, the point is usually to create a virtual dance club of the mind, to turn the boredom of working or commuting into a party activity.

This morning I was reading a blog post on OutKast’s recent reunion show at Coachella . Even though OutKast is one of the greatest hip-hop groups of all time, they failed to make much of an impression on the Coachella crowd. The blogger says that since the Coachella audience is mostly there for EDM, they’re expecting a participatory experience, with the focus on themselves. Daft Punk and Deadmau5 are very smart to  mask their faces, so you don’t focus too much on them as performers.

Like Deadheads, EDM enthusiasts are the object of much derision — the OutKast post above fairly drips with contempt — but really it’s just a matter of conflicting musical value systems. OutKast has some great hooks and singalong choruses, but their music is mostly verbally dense and intricate. It’s as good as presentational music gets, but it’s performer-focused, and it’s the wrong fit for the participation-focused Coachella crowd. It’s ironic that hip-hop has become such a presentational form; it started as a totally participatory one (as it still is in places, like the cyphers referenced above.)

Karaoke represents an uneasy truce between presentation and participation. Murino points out that most karaoke singers have to overcome considerable shame, and must brave the judgment of their friends. It’s no accident that people usually combine karaoke with heavy drinking.

College a capella groups represent another awkward compromise. The performances are presentational, but not usually up to professional standards. The audience needs to be “in on it” for the music to work, but there’s usually little singing along, and no dancing. Here’s a fascinating exception: I saw a college a capella group in Central Park singing “Like A Prayer” by Madonna. When they got to the groovy part at the end, a teenaged girl in the crowd jumped up next to them and started improvising gospel melismas. The group was startled but delighted. Presumably, this girl was from the highly participatory culture of black church, and her reaction was a perfectly logical one in that context. I’ve never seen such a thing happen on a college campus.

The Disquiet Junto is an unusual blend of studio sound art and participatory practice. Junto members get a weekly assignment by email, and create a piece of music or sound art in response. The Junto has the same inviting low floor and high ceiling that you see in participatory music, but the participants are creating polished recordings in isolation. The Junto SoundCloud group is a presentational environment on its face, but the lively discussion among community members makes it somewhat more participatory. There have been some Junto performances, which have been highly presentational. On the other hand, some Junto projects call for remixing of other participants’ work, and the line between artist and listener there is thoroughly confused. It’s a good confusion, though, one that feels rich with possibility for the future.

Constructivist music teachers strive to make participants out of their students — NYU’s IMPACT program is an example. In our presentational culture, constructivists have our work cut out for us, since would-be participants are always judging themselves against the impossible standards of top-flight professionals. Electronic music has some potential to bridge the gap. Well-designed music production software can give amateurs access to the kind of polished sounds previously only attainable by professionals. My NYU thesis project is designed to make it easy for beginners to make sound-art-quality rhythms. However, to make that possible, the software severely restricts the users. Is there an unavoidable tradeoff between expressive freedom and accessibility? That’s the big question.

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5 replies on “participatory music vs presentational music”.

  • Pingback: Blog Post 2- Call/Response Music – Jacob Weinstein– History of Popular Music

In light of your post, I have to say that it’s no surprise then, that OutKast’s biggest hit “Hey Ya” calls for audience participation

  • Pingback: SuiteLinks: April 19 « Piano Addict

Most interesting, but i like that we can have both types. Presentational is good too. It would be a sad world without professional musicians. I love the stamping tune!

I’m all in favor of presentational music; it’s just a matter of balance. The problem now is that presentational music is crowding out participatory music, at least in America.

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Everything you need to know about multimedia presentations

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Anete Ezera May 25, 2023

Crafting a well-executed multimedia presentation can be the determining factor between success and failure when delivering presentations. The impact of a multimedia presentation is undeniable, but what exactly does it entail, and what are the essential considerations to keep in mind when creating one?

In this article, we’ll explore the key components involved in creating compelling multimedia presentations and delve into the strategies that can help you assemble these elements to craft the perfect presentation. We’ll discuss the importance of content structure, visual design, and engaging storytelling techniques that capture your audience’s attention and leave a lasting impact. Additionally, we’ll provide insights on leveraging Prezi’s features to enhance your multimedia presentations, making them more dynamic and interactive.

presentation design tips

What is a multimedia presentation?

A multimedia presentation is a computer-based presentation that uses various forms of media to effectively communicate and engage an audience. In today’s fast-paced world, multimedia presentations have emerged as one of the most powerful and impactful means of communication. Complex ideas and information can be challenging to convey using only traditional tools. However, by harnessing the potential of visually engaging images, high-quality audio clips, and captivating video content, you can deliver a wealth of information that isn’t only clear, but also interesting, easy to understand, contextual, detailed, and engaging.

To facilitate the creation of multimedia presentations, Prezi offers a user-friendly and intuitive platform that empowers presenters to transform their ideas into attention-grabbing visual stories that move. One of the standout features of Prezi is its dynamic zooming capability. With this feature, presenters can seamlessly navigate between various levels of content, zooming in to emphasize critical details and zooming out to provide a comprehensive overview. This interactive zooming functionality not only adds visual interest to your presentation but also enables you to guide your audience’s focus and create a fluid and engaging storytelling experience. Furthermore, the presentation canvas allows for more creativity and freedom as you don’t need to be limited by the traditional slide-based presentation format. 

A man showcasing a multimedia presentation

The psychology of multimedia

Multimedia presentations are not just about what you say but also how you make your audience feel and remember. Let’s discover how colors, visuals, and sounds can influence your audience’s perception and memory retention.

Color psychology

Colors evoke emotions and convey messages. For instance, red can signal urgency and passion, while blue suggests trust and calmness. Choose your color palette wisely to align with the emotions you want to portray to your audience.

Visual impact

Visuals are your secret weapon. The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text. Use attention-grabbing images and graphics that resonate with your message. For example, if you’re presenting about eco-friendly initiatives, images of lush forests and clear skies can speak volumes.

Soundscapes

Sound can set the mood and reinforce key points. Think about the background music in movies – it enhances the overall emotional impact of a scene. In your presentation, use background music or sound effects thoughtfully to complement your content.

Memory retention

Did you know that people tend to remember only about 10% of what they hear after three days? However, if you pair that information with relevant visuals, retention jumps to 65%. Craft your multimedia presentation with this in mind; use visuals to reinforce your message for better recall.

Incorporate these psychological cues effectively, and your multimedia presentation will not only capture attention but also leave a lasting imprint on your audience’s memory.

Young woman teaching online from her living room. Young woman wearing headphones while having a online training at home.

Which elements can be included in a multimedia presentation?

Multimedia presentations have come a long way from the relatively simplistic options of the past. Now a whole range of different elements can be used to ensure your stand-alone presentation wows your intended audience. Some of the examples of what you can add to your multimedia presentations include:

  • Slides: Slides are the backbone of most multimedia presentations. They consist of visual elements like text, images, graphs, and charts. Slides help you organize information and guide your audience through your presentation. For example, in a business pitch, slides can showcase product images, market data, and key points.
  • Videos: Videos add motion and life to your presentation. You can use them to demonstrate processes, showcase testimonials, or provide visual explanations. In an educational setting, a biology lecture might include videos of animal behaviors or experiments.
  • Audio clips: Audio clips can range from background music to voiceovers. They enhance the auditory experience of your presentation. In a travel presentation, you might include the sounds of waves crashing on a beach to create a more immersive feel.
  • Animations: Animations breathe life into static content. They can illustrate processes, emphasize key points, or add a touch of humor. In a marketing presentation, animations can show how a product evolves or highlight its unique features.
  • Music: Music sets the mood and tone of your presentation. It can create excitement, relaxation, or suspense. In a fashion show presentation, music may compliment the models’ walk down the runway, enhancing the overall experience.
  • Images: Images are powerful visual aids. They can create certain emotions, provide context, and simplify complex ideas. In a history lecture, images of historical events and figures help students visualize the past.
  • Text: Text is one of the most crucial parts of your content. It provides information, explanations, and key points. In a scientific presentation, text can explain research findings or provide definitions of complex terms.
  • Podcasts: Podcasts are audio presentations that offer in-depth discussions or storytelling. They are excellent for sharing interviews, discussions, or storytelling. In a business conference, you might use a podcast-style presentation to share insights from industry experts.
  • Pop-ups: Pop-ups are interactive elements that can surprise and excite your audience. They can include clickable links, additional information, or even mini-quizzes. In an e-learning module, pop-ups can provide learners with instant feedback on their progress.

For any professional who wants to stand out from the crowd with multimedia presentations that truly dazzle and inspire, Prezi’s multimedia platform brings you everything you need.

Choosing the right multimedia for your presentation subject

When creating a multimedia presentation, it’s crucial to select the appropriate multimedia elements that align with your presentation subject. By choosing the right multimedia, you can effectively convey your message, enhance understanding, and captivate your audience. Consider the following factors when selecting multimedia for your presentation:

A man in front of a class presenting a multimedia presentation.

Content relevance: does it fit your message?

Evaluate the relevance of each multimedia element to your presentation subject. Determine how each element contributes to the overall message and supports your key points. Choose multimedia that directly relates to your topic and enhances the understanding and engagement of your audience.

Visual impact: how visually appealing is it?

Visual elements play a significant role in multimedia presentations. Assess the visual impact of different multimedia options such as images, videos, and animations. Opt for high-quality visuals that are visually appealing, clear, and reinforce your message. Balance aesthetics with substance to maintain a professional and engaging presentation.

Audio enhancement: does it complement your content?

Determine if your presentation would benefit from audio elements such as background music, sound effects, or voiceovers. Audio can evoke emotions, set the mood, and reinforce key points. However, use audio sparingly and ensure it complements your content rather than overpowering it.

Data visualization: can it simplify complex data?

If your presentation involves data or statistics, explore options for effective data visualization. Choose charts, graphs, or maps that you can find on Prezi and incorporate those into your presentation. These elements will help you present complex information in a clear and digestible format. Visualizing data will also help your audience grasp the main points quickly and facilitate better comprehension. 

Multimedia integration: do all elements work together?

Aim for a cohesive and seamless integration of multimedia elements into your presentation. Ensure that different multimedia components blend well together and create a unified visual and auditory experience. Avoid using too many diverse multimedia elements that may distract or overwhelm your audience.

Accessibility considerations: is it accessible to everyone?

Keep accessibility in mind when selecting multimedia elements. Ensure that any visual or audio content you include is accessible to individuals with disabilities. Provide captions or transcripts for videos and ensure that any audio content is accompanied by text summaries. Consider the needs of all your audience members to ensure an inclusive and engaging presentation.

Technical feasibility: will it work smoothly during your presentation?

Assess the technical feasibility of incorporating various multimedia elements into your presentation. Consider the equipment and software requirements for displaying and playing different multimedia formats. Test the compatibility and functionality of multimedia elements in the presentation environment to avoid any technical glitches during your actual presentation.

By carefully considering these factors, you can choose the right multimedia elements that enhance your presentation’s effectiveness and engage your audience. Remember, the key is to strike a balance between informative content, compelling visuals, and appropriate interactivity to create a memorable and impactful multimedia presentation. 

Smiling professional young women giving a good presentation online.

What makes an effective multimedia presentation?

An effective multimedia presentation is like a good book you can’t put down or a catchy new song you hear on the radio that you can’t stop humming to all day long – it has your audience instantly engaged and wanting more. 

Gone are the days when we were limited to presentations that only featured text and basic graphics. Nowadays, using a combination of audio, video, and images can help anyone effectively communicate their message to any audience.

Prezi enables users to create attention-grabbing presentations that move their audience. You can create your own presentation from scratch or start out with a template that you can find in Prezi’s template gallery.

8 things to consider when creating a multimedia presentation

Creating a multimedia presentation can be very straightforward. It just requires some basic planning and preparation and the correct tools to implement those plans. Follow these steps when enhancing a presentation with multimedia.

What is your message?

What exactly are you presenting, and what key messages do you wish to communicate to your audience? Take time to thoroughly think through these questions before constructing your multimedia presentation.

Who is your audience? 

You must understand who exactly your audience is. After all, there is likely a huge difference between what might work best with 20-something IT specialists or a group of senior management. Are you hoping to sell a product to potential investors? Delivering a quarterly report to your bosses? Or preparing a presentation for a job interview? Be very clear about who your audience is.

Preparation is vital, and with it comes research. You can’t wait to get started creating your new multimedia presentation. And the temptation is often to begin without first investigating fantastic examples of other people’s work for ideas or not taking advantage of Prezi’s awesome customizable presentations that are freely available to you, the user. Simply head over to Prezi’s Gallery and get inspired!

Create your content outline

What content do you wish to include in your presentation? Once you have decided, it’s time to create a content outline for your multimedia presentation. You can begin building the structure of your presentation by splitting your topic into separate ideas that run in a clear, logical sequence. If you want to learn more about how to create an effective presentation structure, watch the following video:

Decide which visualization mediums work best 

There are literally dozens of visualization mediums to choose from. The hard part sometimes is deciding which of these works best for you. Options include GIFs, short animation clips, audio clips, TED Talk video clips – the list goes on and on. The great news is that you can easily integrate all of these elements into your Prezi presentation. What’s more, Prezi has an extensive library of different multimedia elements like GIFs, stickers, images, icons, and more that you can pick and choose while creating your presentation.

Utilize templates

You might start entirely from scratch, building the presentation from the bottom up, which is great if you already have a clear idea in your mind. However, if you’re still trying to figure out what you want the end result to look like or want to spend less time on presentation design, explore the numerous tried and tested templates available on Prezi. You’ll discover various templates that are great for multimedia presentations.

Prezi template gallery

It’s time to add your multimedia 

Don’t overdo the types of multimedia content you use in your presentation. Why? Because using too many different kinds can feel overwhelming and a little too ‘show offish’. Focus on 2-4 types of content that will work best with your target audience. Try to hit that balance between simplicity and style. If you are using video or animation, use it occasionally.

If you need to present online, take advantage of Prezi Video’s option to share your content next to you on-screen during your presentation. This will engage your audience and keep them hooked throughout your multimedia presentation even online.

Prezi Video template gallery

Review and analyze your work

Your multimedia presentation is ready. Or is it? Invest some time reviewing your presentation. Is it clearly structured and cohesive? Do the multimedia elements you have added achieve what you wanted them to achieve? Be honest with yourself and trust your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right with your presentation, don’t be afraid to make changes! 

Best practices for delivering a multimedia presentation

Delivering a multimedia presentation requires careful planning and execution to effectively engage and captivate your audience. Follow these best practices to ensure that you leave a lasting impression on your audience.

Know your material

Familiarize yourself with the content of your presentation to make sure you can confidently deliver it without relying too heavily on notes. Thoroughly understand the key points, supporting evidence, and transitions between different sections. This will enable you to maintain a natural flow and deliver a confident presentation. Also, consider using Presenter Notes . They serve as a reminder of important talking points and additional information during your presentation. Only visible to you, the presenter, the notes remain hidden from the audience. This allows you to effectively communicate your points without any interruptions.

Practice timing

Time your presentation to ensure it fits within the allocated time frame. Practice transitions between different multimedia elements, such as slides, videos, and interactive features, to maintain a smooth flow. Keep in mind that pacing is crucial, so allocate sufficient time for each part of your presentation while maintaining an engaging pace.

Use visual aids strategically

Visual aids are a powerful tool for conveying information and enhancing understanding. However, it’s essential to use them strategically to support and highlight your message, rather than distract from it. Use visuals sparingly and ensure they’re clear, visually appealing, and easy to understand. Avoid cluttered slides and prioritize concise and impactful visuals that reinforce your key points. If you want to learn more about good presentation design practices when it comes to adding visual content, watch the following video on the topic: 

Speak clearly and confidently

Effective communication is key to delivering a memorable presentation. Project your voice to ensure everyone in the audience can hear you clearly. Maintain eye contact with your audience to establish a connection and demonstrate confidence. Speak with clarity and conviction, emphasizing key points and using appropriate pauses for emphasis. A confident and engaging delivery will help your audience connect with your message.

Incorporate storytelling techniques

Storytelling is a powerful way to engage and captivate your audience. Incorporate storytelling techniques to create a narrative structure for your presentation. Begin with a compelling introduction that sets the stage and grabs attention. Use storytelling elements such as anecdotes, examples, and personal experiences to illustrate your points and make the content relatable and memorable. A well-crafted story can evoke emotions and leave a lasting impact on your audience.

Practice with technology

Familiarize yourself with the multimedia tools and technology you will be using during the presentation. In particular, get to know the endless features and capabilities of Prezi, the powerful multimedia presentation tool. Take the time to explore its features and understand how it can enhance your presentation. Familiarize yourself with the different templates, transitions, and interactive elements available. By mastering Prezi, you’ll be able to create attention-grabbing presentations that move.

Adapt to the audience

Tailor your presentation to resonate with your specific audience. Consider their demographics, interests, and background when delivering your content. Use language that is accessible and appropriate for your audience, avoiding jargon or technical terms that may be unfamiliar. Incorporate relevant examples and references that relate to their experiences. By adapting your presentation to their needs and preferences, you can create a stronger connection and enhance their overall engagement.

Engage the audience

Use interactive features to involve your audience and make the presentation more engaging. Incorporate audience polling, where participants can vote or provide feedback on specific questions or topics. Additionally, include dedicated Q&A sessions to encourage active participation and address any queries or concerns. Engaging the audience in this way promotes interaction and makes your presentation more dynamic. 

Business people raising hands to ask questions during a presentation. Woman giving a good presentation with people sitting in front raising hands at convention center.

Ask for feedback

You can practice your presentation in front of people to get honest feedback. This way you can make any changes or work on specific areas that may need tweaking before the real thing. After your real presentation, you may even want to seek feedback from your audience to gather insights on what worked well and areas for improvement.

Remember, a well-delivered multimedia presentation is a combination of interesting content, effective visuals, and confident delivery. By following these best practices, you can create an engaging experience for everyone in the room.

How to engage your audience with interactive multimedia presentations

In addition to the essential components and best practices we’ve discussed, incorporating interactive elements can take your multimedia presentations to the next level. By engaging your audience in an interactive experience, you can captivate their attention and create a memorable presentation. Let’s explore some strategies for incorporating interactivity into your multimedia presentations:

Interactive charts

Instead of static images, use interactive charts to convey data and complex information. Allow your audience to explore different data points, toggle between visualizations, and interact with the content. This hands-on approach enhances understanding and engagement.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) 

If applicable, consider incorporating VR or AR elements into your multimedia presentations. These technologies provide immersive experiences that can transport your audience to different environments or allow them to interact with virtual objects. VR and AR can be particularly effective in fields such as architecture, education, and product demonstrations.

Gamification

Introduce gamification elements to make your presentation more interactive and enjoyable. Create quizzes, challenges, or interactive scenarios that require audience participation. Offer rewards or incentives for active engagement, such as badges or prizes.

Collaborative activities

Foster collaboration among your audience by including interactive activities. For example, you can divide your audience into small groups or pairs and provide specific tasks or discussions related to your presentation topic. Encourage participants to share their insights or findings with the larger group afterward.

The class tutor uses storytelling to engage students.

Live demonstrations

If possible, incorporate live demonstrations of software, tools, or processes directly into your presentation. Showcasing practical examples in real-time can enhance understanding and engage the audience through active participation.

Remember, interactivity should align with your presentation goals and content. Incorporate interactive elements strategically to support your message and keep your audience engaged throughout the presentation. Prezi offers various interactive features and templates to help you create dynamic and immersive multimedia presentations.

By embracing interactivity, you can transform your multimedia presentations into memorable experiences that leave a lasting impact on your audience.

Common concerns with multimedia presentations

People often share some common concerns when diving into multimedia presentations. Here are a few of those concerns and simple solutions to tackle them:

Technical glitches

  • Worry: Fear of technical issues derailing your presentation.
  • Solution: Always have a backup plan in case technology decides to be temperamental. Test your setup beforehand to avoid unexpected surprises.

Media overload

  • Worry: The fear of overwhelming your audience with too much media.
  • Solution: Strike a balance by using multimedia elements strategically. Less can often be more when it comes to engaging your audience effectively.

The evolution of multimedia tools

The world of multimedia presentation tools has seen quite a transformation over the years, making the process more user-friendly and accessible than ever before. Platforms like Prezi are at the forefront of this evolution, continuously updating and improving the presentation creation process. With intuitive interfaces and a wide range of creative options at your fingertips, multimedia tools have truly democratized the art of multimedia presentations. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a newcomer to the presentation scene, the evolution of multimedia tools has made it easier than ever to craft the perfect presentation.

Multimedia presentation examples 

Your audience will immediately lose interest if all you offer them is a traditional slide deck. Instead, take advantage of Prezi’s Gallery and get inspired by dynamic, interactive, and engaging presentations that include various multimedia elements.

Below are a few examples of attention-grabbing and creative multimedia presentations that you can get inspired by or even reuse as templates for your own presentation topic.

Summer Plans presentation

The summer plans presentation inspires and captivates. The template is perfect for delivering a story, sharing an experience, or presenting a plan. It features multiple media elements, such as animations, images, and data visualizations. 

Why Leaders Need to Get Out of Their Own Way presentation

This presentation grabs our attention with its visually appealing design and strategic use of visuals. The simple yet engaging layout divides the presentation into four parts, creating a well-defined structure that is easy to follow. You can reuse this presentation as a template for delivering a topic that you need to unpack in a certain order. 

Corporate Social Responsibility presentation

This multimedia presentation engages and captivates with animations, images, icons, and more. As a template, it’s perfect for creating and delivering informative presentations, where you need to dive into the details of certain topics.

Earth Day presentation

The Earth Day presentation is a great example of how one can create a timeline presentation with Prezi. It includes various media elements that make this multimedia presentation highly engaging and informative.

Future-proofing your presentations

To make sure your multimedia presentations stay useful and up-to-date in the long run, here are some straightforward tips:

Pick the right formats

  • Use common file types like PDF, MP4, and JPEG since they’re likely to stay usable in the future.

Keep things fresh

  • Don’t let your content get old. Update it regularly with new information and visuals to keep it interesting and relevant.

Fit different screens

  • Make your multimedia presentations so they can work on big screens and small devices like phones or tablets.

Try new tech

  • Keep an eye on new technologies like virtual reality and interactive features. They can make your presentations more exciting and modern.

Listen to your audience

  • Pay attention to what your audience likes and dislikes. Their feedback can help you improve your multimedia presentations and keep them interesting.

With these easy steps, you can make sure your multimedia presentations will still be great in the future!

Create attention-grabbing multimedia presentations with Prezi

In conclusion, crafting a well-executed multimedia presentation is crucial for achieving success in delivering presentations. This article has explored the key components involved in creating compelling multimedia presentations and provided insights on how to assemble these elements effectively. By considering the importance of content structure, visual design, and engaging storytelling techniques, presenters can capture their audience’s attention and leave a lasting impact. Furthermore, leveraging Prezi’s features can enhance multimedia presentations, making them more dynamic and interactive. By incorporating these strategies and utilizing the right tools, presenters can elevate their presentations to a new level and increase their chances of achieving their desired outcomes. Ultimately, mastering the art of multimedia presentations opens up opportunities for effective communication and successful presentations in various professional and academic settings.

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VEGA SLIDE

Playing Music Throughout a PowerPoint Presentation

presentation definition music

Adding music to your PowerPoint presentations can make them more engaging and memorable for your audience. However, incorporating audio effectively requires some planning and technical know-how. This article provides tips and step-by-step instructions for playing music throughout your PowerPoint slides.

Why Add Music to Presentations?

Choosing presentation music, adding music in powerpoint.

Follow these simple steps to insert audio tracks into your PowerPoint slides:

1. Select a Music File

2. go to the insert tab.

Insert tab in PowerPoint

3. Click on Audio > Audio on My PC

4. choose your audio file, 5. adjust playback options.

With the audio selected, go to the Playback tab. Check the box for Play in Background so the music plays across all slides.

6. Set Timings (Optional)

7. present.

Press F5 to present your slideshow. The background music should play automatically as you go through the slides!

Advanced Tips and Tricks

Adding background music can make ordinary PowerPoint presentations truly memorable. With the right audio track and some simple editing, you can easily play music across your entire slideshow. Just be purposeful in selecting relevant songs and balance the volume with your voiceover. Use the tips in this article to enhance your next presentation with custom music!

About The Author

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The Phrase, Archetypes, and Unique Forms

John Peterson

Key Takeaways

This chapter introduces the phrase, the sentence, the period, the repeated phrase, compound forms, and unique phrase-level forms.

  • A sentence is a special kind of phrase that contains a presentation and a continuation .
  • The period : a phrase-level form consisting of an antecedent and a consequent .
  • The repeated phrase : two phrases where the second is a written-out repeat of the first.
  • Sometimes two sentences are arranged in an antecedent-consequent relationship to create a compound period .
  • Although the forms discussed in this chapter are all quite common, it’s equally common for a composer to write a unique phrase-level form that isn’t in dialogue with the ones discussed here.

Chapter Playlist

The first phrase in Schubert's "Du bist die Ruh" is divided in two halves.

A phrase is a relatively complete thought that exhibits trajectory toward a goal, arriving at a sense of closure. In tonal classical music, the goal of a phrase is almost always one of the kinds of cadences described in the  Introduction to Harmony, Cadences, and Phrase Endings chapter :  perfect authentic cadences (PACs) ,  imperfect authentic cadences (IACs) , and  half cadences (HCs) . [1]

A phrase can be any length, but phrases of 4, 8, or 16 measures are particularly common. Example 1 shows a segmentation analysis for a phrase of 4 measures (a common length), while Example 2 shows a segmentation analysis for a phrase of 13 measures (an unusual length).

Phrases can comprise either ideas or both subphrases and ideas. The diagrams in Example 3 depict both of these scenarios. When we diagram phrases, we follow two general principles:

  • Square brackets are used for ideas and subphrases (essentially anything that doesn’t have to end with a cadence).
  • Arcs are used for anything at the phrase level or above (essentially anything that must end with a cadence). [2]

Two phrase diagrams are shown. The first one shows a phrase that is divided into two ideas. The second shows a phrase that is divided into two subphrases. Each of those subphrases is divided into two ideas.

Because closure is so important for phrase identification, it’s crucial to correctly identify cadences. Not every pause or V–I motion is a cadence! Example 4 discusses a passage with multiple locations someone might mistakenly label as cadences.

Example 4. A passage with multiple locations someone might mistakenly label as cadences in Haydn’s Piano Trio in F Major, Hob. XV:6, I (0:00–0:24).

Two Categories: Archetypes vs. Unique Forms

Below, we’ll explore two main ways that phrase-level forms might be organized:

  • They might play with what we’ll call an archetype . These are special ways of organizing phrases, and you’ll read about two kinds: sentences and periods .
  • They might not relate to an archetype at all, in which case we’ll say they’re unique forms, meaning they are not organized as sentences or periods.

Note that this doesn’t mean that archetypes are more common than unique forms. Phrase-level forms belonging to both categories appear frequently in common-practice music. Moreover, these categories might best be viewed as two ends of a spectrum ( Example 5 ) in which a phrase-level form can be understood as “closer” to one category or the other without clearly belonging to either one.

A double-headed arrow. At one end if the term "unique forms" at the other end is the term "archetypes"

Example 5. A spectrum of phrase-level formal categories.

Archetype 1: The Sentence (A Special Kind of Phrase)

Analysis of Louise Farrenc, Cello Sonata, Movement 2 as a sentence. A diagram is also given.

Example 6 shows one common way to construct a phrase, called a sentence . A sentence consists of two subphrases: the presentation and the continuation . The presentation is often four measures long, and it consists of a basic idea (b.i.) and its repetition. The continuation is often the same length as the presentation, creating a sense of proportional balance. It’s characterized by four traits that are discussed below.

Several diagrams are given that show a variety of sentence lengths: 16 measures, 8 measures, and 4 measures. Each divides in half, and those halves themselves divide in half.

Although it’s common for the presentation and continuation to be the same length (several common lengths are shown in Example 7 ), just as often, the continuation is longer than the presentation ( Example 8 ). However, it’s not common for the continuation to be shorter than the presentation.

More Detail: The Presentation

The presentation is a subphrase comprised of a basic idea (b.i.) and its repetition (as in the first half of Example 6 ).

Basic ideas are often two measures long, but one-measure or four-measure basic ideas also occur with some frequency.

The repetition of the basic idea is often varied, which can sometimes make it challenging to determine whether one is dealing with repetition or with a completely different idea. One of the characteristics that usually helps to clarify is contour : if the two ideas share the same contour, often we hear the second as a varied repetition of the first. If the two ideas have different contours, then we’re more likely to hear the second section as contrasting with the first, something that will return in our discussion of the period later in this chapter.

Some common transformations of the basic idea are:

  • Rhythmic or melodic embellishment
  • Transposition
  • Change of harmonization
  • Change of interval quality or size (or both)

Presentations typically begin on the tonic harmony, and they may do one of several things:

  • Prolong tonic via a progression such as [latex]\mathrm{I–V–V–I}[/latex] or [latex]\mathrm{I–ii^4_2–V^6_5–I}[/latex]
  • Move from tonic to dominant: [latex]\mathrm{I––V––}[/latex]
  • Move from tonic to a non-dominant harmony, most often a strong pre-dominant such as ii (6)

More Detail: The Continuation

The continuation is a subphrase that typically feels less stable than the presentation.

It’s characterized by four traits:

  • Note that fragmentation refers only to the length of the units . It does not refer to their melodic content, which may or may not be related to the basic ideas.
  • Increased rhythmic activity: the use of faster durations than in previous units.
  • Sequences : units are repeated and transposed.
  • Increased harmonic rhythm : chord changes occur more often than before. For example, if the basic ideas are each two measures long and each is harmonized with a single chord, the continuation might contain chord changes every measure.

A continuation subphrase is easier to identify if it includes more of the traits listed above, but very often, only some of these traits are present. Perhaps the most obvious one is fragmentation, which usually signals continuation even in the absence of the other traits, but not all continuations exhibit fragmentation.

Continuations may therefore take one of two typical forms: with fragmentation (as in Example 6 ) and without fragmentation (as in Examples 9 and 10 ). In Example 9 , the continuation doesn’t divide into a smaller idea level. The term unit (u.) denotes a grouping that simply expresses the traits of the next higher grouping to which it belongs; in Example 10 , it indicates that the two-measure idea expresses continuation (perhaps through increased harmonic rhythm, for example).

An analysis of Beethoven's Polonaise for Military Band showing a 4 measure sentence where the continuation doesn't have fragmentation.

Continuations may therefore take one of two typical forms:

  • Example 6  above showed a typical continuation with fragmentation.
  • In Example 9 , the continuation doesn’t divide into a smaller idea level.
  • The term “ unit ” (u.) is used in Example 10  to denote a grouping that simply expresses the traits of the next higher grouping to which it belongs. Here, unit would mean that the two-measure idea expresses continuation through its increased harmonic rhythm.

Since continuations are unstable at their beginnings, it’s hard to generalize about how they might begin harmonically. In terms of their endings, however, continuations always drive toward a cadence, and in classical music, that cadence can be any of the three common kinds ( perfect authentic , half , or imperfect authentic cadence ).

Summary: The Archetypal Sentence and Its Variants

Sentences come in many forms: the clearest, most obvious sentences are closer to the idealized archetype, and phrases that are less clear may be highly varied while still exhibiting some traits of the sentence (we call such phrases sentential ). The archetypal sentence consists of:

  • 4 or 8 measures
  • A presentation
  • A continuation whose length balances that of the presentation
  • Fragmentation in the continuation

To be clear, many sentences do not have all of these traits. At a minimum, to be sentential, a phrase needs a presentation and a continuation.

Archetype 2: The Period (A Combination of Two Phrases)

An analysis of a period in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, Third Movement

In addition to the sentence, another common phrase-level form is the period ( Example 11 ). Unlike the sentence , which is a single phrase, the period comprises two phrases, each consisting of a basic idea (b.i.) followed by a contrasting idea (c.i.)  (see below on how the treatment of these ideas differs in each phrase). The first phrase, called the antecedent , is often four measures long, and it ends with a weaker cadence, most often a half cadence (HC). The second phrase is called the consequent . It ends with a stronger cadence than the antecedent, most often a perfect authentic cadence (PAC). It may be the same length as or longer than the antecedent; it’s rare for it to be shorter.

More Detail: The Antecedent

Antecedents are sometimes characterized as “asking a question” to which the consequent “provides the answer.” Another way to think of it is that the antecedent makes an incomplete statement and the consequent completes it. Both of these descriptions stem from the fact that the antecedent always ends with a weaker cadence than the consequent.

Antecedents typically start on tonic harmony, and they most often end on a half cadence. While it’s certainly possible for the antecedent to modulate, it’s more common for the it to be entirely in the tonic key.

More Detail: The Consequent

Like the antecedent, the consequent also comprises a basic idea and a contrasting idea. Most consequents begin with a basic idea that is similar or identical to that of the antecedent, but it may also be different. [3] If the two basic ideas are different, it might be useful to label the antecedent’s basic idea as “b.i. 1 ” and the consequent’s as “b.i. 2 .”

The consequent’s contrasting idea is almost always different from the antecedent’s due to the fact that it must end with a stronger cadence than the antecedent. The degree of difference varies widely: sometimes the consequent’s c.i. begins like the antecedent’s and only changes near the very end; other times, the c.i. is entirely different.

Consequents most often begin on tonic harmony and end with a PAC.

Periods may either stay in a single key or modulate (i.e., change keys). If the period modulates, the change of key usually happens during the consequent.

The Repeated Phrase (Another Way to Combine Two Phrases)

Another relatively common phrase-level form—one that sometimes gets confused with the period —is the repeated phrase , which consists of a phrase followed by a written-out repeat ( Example 12 ).

Analysis of the first two phrases of Schubert's "Du bist die Ruh" as a repeated phrase.

A phrase between two repeat signs would typically not be considered a repeated phrase—this term refers to a phrase with a written-out repeat that adds additional measures to the piece. The repetition is often varied (for example, the melody may be embellished during the repeat), which explains why a composer may choose to write out the phrase a second time.

In a repeated phrase, the first phrase can end with any kind of cadence, and the second phrase must therefore end with the same one. This distinguishes a repeated phrase from a period, in which the consequent ends with a stronger cadence than the antecedent.

Compound Phrase-Level Forms (Combining Archetypes)

An analysis of Christian Petzold's Minuet in G as a compound period. The first 8 measures (the antecedent) are a sentence and the second 8 measures (the consequent) are also a sentence.

Since the sentence is a single phrase, and since the period is composed of two phrases, it’s possible for a period to be made of two sentences, as in Example 13. When one form contains another kind of form in this way, we call the result a compound form .

An analysis of the first phrase in Hensel's "Abendlied" as a unique phrase-level form.

How is Example 13 like a period? The first phrase (the antecedent) ends with a half cadence, and the second phrase (the consequent) ends with a stronger cadence: a perfect authentic cadence. This weak-to-strong cadence pattern makes this example retain that sense of “question and answer” or “incomplete thought to completed thought” that is so characteristic of the period.

How does Example 13 use sentences? The antecedent and the consequent are each a sentence: in each phrase, the first four measures are the presentation and the last four measure are the continuation.

Unique Phrase-Level Forms

The phrase-level forms we’ve looked at in this chapter are all quite common, but just as common are phrases that are unique—that aren’t in dialogue with these archetypes in any obvious way.

When we analyze such passages, we can still perform a segmentation analysis. We can choose to apply labels flexibly, but we can also feel free to abandon labels where they don’t seem to support our interpretation. In Example 2 , we showed a segmentation analysis of a phrase of unique length, and we now show how one might apply select labels to those segments in Example 14.

  • Analyzing sentences ( .pdf , .docx ). Asks students to compare excerpts to the archetypal sentence, provide form diagrams, and optionally, provide harmonic analysis for any given excerpt. Worksheet playlist
  • Analyzing archetypes and unique forms ( .pdf , .docx ). Asks students to identify excerpts that are archetypes (periods, sentences, compond periods) or unique forms, and to diagram those that are archetypes. Optionally, students can harmonically analyze the excerpts.  Worksheet playlist
  • Composing melody-only sentences ( .pdf , .mscx ). Students compose four-measure sentences from a given basic idea (melody only).
  • Composing fully realized sentences ( .pdf , .mscx ). Students select from a bank of basic ideas to compose an 8-measure sentence with full texture (accompaniment and melody).

Media Attributions

  • Segmentation of Schubert’s “Du bist die Ruh” © John Peterson and Megan Lavengood is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
  • Hensel, “Abendbild” © John Peterson and Megan Lavengood
  • Example_004
  • Example_005_Spectrum © John Peterson and Megan Lavengood is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
  • Example_005 © John Peterson and Megan Lavengood is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
  • Example_006 © John Peterson and Megan Lavengood is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
  • Example_007 © John Peterson and Megan Lavengood is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
  • Example_008 © John Peterson and Megan Lavengood is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
  • Example_009 © John Peterson and Megan Lavengood is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
  • Example_010 © John Peterson and Megan Lavengood is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
  • Example_011 © John Peterson and Megan Lavengood is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
  • Example_012 © John Peterson and Megan Lavengood is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
  • Example_013 © John Peterson and Megan Lavengood is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
  • In other kinds of music, such as post-tonal music or popular music, closure may be signaled by other kinds of devices. ↵
  • See the discussion of formal hierarchy in Foundational Concepts for Phrase-Level Forms for a reminder of what is above the phrase level. ↵
  • Some analysts use the term "parallel period" to describe a period in which the consequent begins the same way as the antecedent, and "contrasting period" to describe a period in which the consequent begins differently than the antecedent. Since contrasting periods are so rare, however, this book simply uses “period” to refer to a parallel period, specifying the type only in the rare instance of a contrasting period. ↵

A relatively complete musical thought that exhibits trajectory toward a goal (often a cadence).

A special kind of phrase consisting of a presentation and a continuation.

A subphrase consisting of a basic idea and its repetition. Presentations don't usually end with cadences.

A subphrase that features a mix of any of the following: fragmentation, increase in harmonic rhythm, increase in surface rhythm, or sequences. Continuations end with a cadence and are usually found in the second half of a theme.

A phrase-level form that consists of two phrases: an antecedent and a consequent.

A phrase consisting of a basic idea followed by a contrasting idea that ends with a weak cadence.

A phrase consisting of a basic idea followed by a contrasting idea that ends with a strong cadence. It usually forms the second half of a phrase-level form.

Two phrases where the second one is a repetition of the first. The repetition is always written out (repeat signs don't signify a repeated phrase), and usually the repetition is a variation on the initial statement.

Occurs when one form is composed of other smaller forms. For example, a period may be composed of two sentences, or one or more of a ternary form's sections may be composed of a binary form.

A V–I cadence that ends with do (1̂) in the melody. Both harmonies must be in root position.

A V–I cadence in which V, I, or both harmonies are inverted, and/or do (1̂) is not in the soprano over the tonic triad. Additionally, IACs are often used to evade a cadence.

A kind of inconclusive cadence that occurs when a phrase ends on V. Occasionally, particularly in Romantic music, the final chord of a half cadence will be V⁷.

The smallest unit of music identified by a segmentation analysis. Ideas need not end with cadences, and they may combine to form subphrases or phrases. Examples include basic idea, contrasting idea, unit, cadential idea, and fragments.

Phrases that are "archetypal" or that follow an archetype are related to the sentence, the period, or one of the hybrid phrase-level forms.

Basic ideas are short units that are typically associated with beginnings. They don't usually end with cadences, and they often establish tonic. They are the first units we hear in a presentation, an antecedent, a consequent, and a compound basic idea.

Making unit sizes smaller than the previously established size. For example, if units had previously been two measures long, fragments might be one measure long.

A pattern that is repeated and transposed by some consistent interval. A sequence may occur in the melody, the harmony, or both.

The rate at which chords change, usually expressed in chords per measure. A common rate of chord change in 18th-century classical music is one chord per measure, for example.

A segment of music that expresses whatever the prevailing higher-level grouping expresses. For example, if a unit is contained within a continuation, it expresses continuation function. We often apply the term "unit" to ideas that aren't easily categorized using terms such as basic idea, contrasting idea, or cadential idea.

A phrase that differs substantially from the archetypal sentence while still exhibiting some traits of a sentence-structure phrase.

A small unit that contrasts with the material that came immediately before it, usually in terms of contour. It's featured in the antecedent and the compound basic idea.

OPEN MUSIC THEORY Copyright © 2023 by John Peterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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I love quirky usb chargers (and some are actually useful), authy may have just leaked your phone number, quick links, adding music to your presentation.

There are many ways to improve your PowerPoint presentation---adding animations to objects, customizing slide transition styles, and using interesting themes to name a few. In addition to all that, you can also add music to your presentation.

PowerPoint makes it very simple to add music to your presentation. Adding music to your presentation may be a great idea, but there are also cases where it may be considered unprofessional. We’re not here to tell you when to do it, just how to do it, but make sure it’s appropriate for the situation.

Switch to the "Insert" tab and then click the “Audio” button.

Audio in media section

A menu will appear, giving you the option to either upload music from your PC or record your own audio track.

two audio options

If you’d like to record your own audio, select “Record Audio,” and the “Record Sound” window will appear. Go ahead and give your audio a name, then click the “Record” icon when you’re ready to start.

Record audio

After the “Record” icon is selected, a timer will start which gives you the total length of the sound being recorded. Once you’re ready to stop recording, press the “Stop” icon. To listen to your recording, you can press the “Play” icon. If you’re happy with what you're recording, select “OK” to insert it into your presentation.

Finish recording audio

If you prefer to upload music from your PC instead, go back to the audio options menu and select “Audio on My PC.” This will open your PC’s directory. Locate the audio file you’d like to use, then select “Insert” at the bottom-right of the window. PowerPoint supports several popular formats, like MP3, MP4, WAV, and AAC.

Insert audio from PC

Now you’ll see a speaker icon appear in your presentation. Here, you can play the audio, control the volume, and move the audio back or forward 0.25 seconds.

Audio microphone

Additionally, the “Playback” tab appears in the ribbon. By default, the “Audio Style” is automatically set to “No Style.” This means that the audio will only play on the slide where you insert it, the icon will appear in the presentation, and the audio will only begin once you click that icon.

But you can change all that. You can use the options here to adjust the default playback volume, choose whether the music starts automatically or on a click, whether it plays across other slides, whether it loops until you stop it, and so on.

We’re going to change this by selecting “Play in Background” in the “Audio Styles” section.

play in background

There are a few other options available to you, as well. You can add (or remove) bookmarks for specific times in your audio clip, trim parts of the audio, and give your audio a fade in/out effect.

other options

Use these tools to customize the perfect audio for your presentation.

  • Microsoft Office
  • Office 2016

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Presentation Background Music Free Download . 81 tracks

Presentation background music works great in slide-shows, PowerPoint (ppt), education, class and school presentations or training tutorial videos.

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Questions? check the Frequently Asked Questions page. * All the rights for these music tracks belong to their authors who let their music free use in exchange for crediting them in your project (except works that are in the public domain - no credit is required). We advise you to check the licence details in each track page.

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presentation

Definition of presentation

  • fairing [ British ]
  • freebee
  • largess

Examples of presentation in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'presentation.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Phrases Containing presentation

  • breech presentation

Dictionary Entries Near presentation

present arms

presentation copy

Cite this Entry

“Presentation.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/presentation. Accessed 6 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

Kids definition of presentation, medical definition, medical definition of presentation, more from merriam-webster on presentation.

Nglish: Translation of presentation for Spanish Speakers

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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about presentation

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Early Indian and Chinese conceptions

Ancient greek ideas, music in christianity, 17th- and 18th-century western conceptions.

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  • The Canadian Encyclopedia - Music History
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Bobby McFerrin

music , art concerned with combining vocal or instrumental sounds for beauty of form or emotional expression, usually according to cultural standards of rhythm , melody , and, in most Western music, harmony . Both the simple folk song and the complex electronic composition belong to the same activity, music. Both are humanly engineered; both are conceptual and auditory, and these factors have been present in music of all styles and in all periods of history, throughout the world.

Music is an art that, in one guise or another, permeates every human society. Modern music is heard in a bewildering profusion of styles, many of them contemporary, others engendered in past eras. Music is a protean art; it lends itself easily to alliances with words, as in song , and with physical movement, as in dance . Throughout history, music has been an important adjunct to ritual and drama and has been credited with the capacity to reflect and influence human emotion . Popular culture has consistently exploited these possibilities, most conspicuously today by means of radio , film , television , musical theatre , and the Internet . The implications of the uses of music in psychotherapy , geriatrics , and advertising testify to a faith in its power to affect human behaviour . Publications and recordings have effectively internationalized music in its most significant, as well as its most trivial, manifestations . Beyond all this, the teaching of music in primary and secondary schools has now attained virtually worldwide acceptance.

But the prevalence of music is nothing new, and its human importance has often been acknowledged. What seems curious is that, despite the universality of the art, no one until recent times has argued for its necessity. The ancient Greek philosopher Democritus explicitly denied any fundamental need for music: “For it was not necessity that separated it off, but it arose from the existing superfluity.” The view that music and the other arts are mere graces is still widespread, although the growth of psychological understanding of play and other symbolic activities has begun to weaken this tenacious belief.

Music is treated in a number of articles. For the history of music in different regions, see African music ; Oceanic music and dance ; Western music ; Central Asian arts: Music ; Chinese music ; Japanese music ; Korean music ; Islamic arts ; Native American music ; South Asian arts: Music ; and Southeast Asian arts: Music . See also folk music . Aspects of music are treated in counterpoint , harmony , instrumentation , mode , music criticism , music composition , music performance , music recording , musical sound , music notation , rhythm , scale , and tuning and temperament . See also such articles as blues , chamber music , choral music , concerto , electronic music , fugue , jazz , opera , rhythm and blues , rock , symphony , sonata , theatre music , and vocal music . Musical instruments are treated in electronic instrument , keyboard instrument , percussion instrument , stringed instrument , and wind instrument , as well as in separate articles on individual instruments, such as clarinet , drum , guitar , kayagŭm , piano , tabla , and theremin .

(Left) Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee (Ramon Luis Ayala Rodriguez) perform during the 2017 Billboard Latin Music Awards and Show at the Bank United Center, University of Miami, Miami, Florida on April 27, 2017. (music)

Historical conceptions

Music is everywhere to be heard. But what is music? Commentators have spoken of “the relationship of music to the human senses and intellect,” thus affirming a world of human discourse as the necessary setting for the art. A definition of music itself will take longer. As Aristotle said, “It is not easy to determine the nature of music or why anyone should have a knowledge of it.”

presentation definition music

Early in the 20th century, it was regarded as a commonplace that a musical tone was characterized by the regularity of its vibrations; this uniformity gave it a fixed pitch and distinguished its sounds from “noise.” Although that view may have been supported by traditional music, by the latter half of the 20th century it was recognized as an unacceptable yardstick. Indeed, “noise” itself and silence became elements in composition , and random sounds were used (without prior knowledge of what they would be) by composers, such as the American John Cage , and others in works having aleatory (chance) or impromptu features. Tone , moreover, is only one component in music, others being rhythm , timbre (tone colour), and texture . Electronic machinery enabled some composers to create works in which the traditional role of the interpreter is abolished and to record, directly on tape or into a digital file, sounds that were formerly beyond human ability to produce, if not to imagine.

From historical accounts it is clear that the power to move people has always been attributed to music; its ecstatic possibilities have been recognized in all cultures and have usually been admitted in practice under particular conditions, sometimes stringent ones. In India, music has been put into the service of religion from earliest times; Vedic hymns stand at the beginning of the record. As the art developed over many centuries into a music of profound melodic and rhythmic intricacy, the discipline of a religious text or the guideline of a story determined the structure. In the 21st century the narrator remains central to the performance of much Indian traditional music, and the virtuosity of a skillful singer rivals that of the instrumentalists. There is very little concept of vocal or instrumental idiom in the Western sense. The vertical dimension of chord structure—that is, the effects created by sounding tones simultaneously—is not a part of South Asian classical music; the divisions of an octave (intervals) are more numerous than in Western music, and the melodic complexity of the music goes far beyond that of its Western counterpart. Moreover, an element of improvisation is retained that is vital to the success of a performance. The spontaneous imitation carried on between an instrumentalist and narrator, against the insistent rhythmic subtleties of the drums, can be a source of the greatest excitement, which in large measure is because of the faithful adherence to the rigid rules that govern the rendition of ragas —the ancient melodic patterns of Indian music.

presentation definition music

Chinese music , like the music of India, has traditionally been an adjunct to ceremony or narrative. Confucius (551–479 bce ) assigned an important place to music in the service of a well-ordered moral universe. He saw music and government as reflecting one another and believed that only the superior man who can understand music is equipped to govern. Music, he thought, reveals character through the six emotions that it can portray: sorrow, satisfaction, joy, anger, piety, love. According to Confucius, great music is in harmony with the universe, restoring order to the physical world through that harmony. Music, as a true mirror of character, makes pretense or deception impossible.

presentation definition music

Although music was important in the life of ancient Greece, it is not now known how that music actually sounded. Only a few notated fragments have survived, and no key exists for restoring even these. The Greeks were given to theoretical speculation about music; they had a system of notation, and they “practiced music,” as Socrates himself, in a vision, had been enjoined to do. But the Greek term from which the word music is derived was a generic one, referring to any art or science practiced under the aegis of the Muses . Music, therefore, as distinct from gymnastics , was all-encompassing. (Much speculation, however, was clearly directed toward that more-restricted meaning with which we are familiar.) Music was virtually a department of mathematics for the philosopher Pythagoras ( c. 550 bce ), who was the first musical numerologist and who laid the foundations for acoustics . In acoustics, the Greeks discovered the correspondence between the pitch of a note and the length of a string. But they did not progress to a calculation of pitch on the basis of vibrations , though an attempt was made to connect sounds with underlying motions.

Plato (428–348/347 bce ), like Confucius, looked on music as a department of ethics . And like Confucius he was anxious to regulate the use of particular modes (i.e., arrangements of notes, like scales) because of their supposed effects on people. Plato was a stern musical disciplinarian; he saw a correspondence between the character of a person and the music that represented him or her. Straightforward simplicity was best. In the Laws , Plato declared that rhythmic and melodic complexities were to be avoided because they led to depression and disorder. Music echoes divine harmony; rhythm and melody imitate the movements of heavenly bodies, thus delineating the music of the spheres and reflecting the moral order of the universe. Earthly music, however, is suspect; Plato distrusted its emotional power. Music must therefore be of the right sort; the sensuous qualities of certain modes are dangerous, and a strong censorship must be imposed. Music and gymnastics in the correct balance would constitute the desirable curriculum in education. Plato valued music in its ethically approved forms; his concern was primarily with the effects of music, and he therefore regarded it as a psychosociological phenomenon.

Yet Plato, in treating earthly music as a shadow of the ideal, saw a symbolic significance in the art. Aristotle carried forward the concept of the art as imitation, but music could express the universal as well. His idea that works of art could contain a measure of truth in themselves—an idea voiced more explicitly by Plotinus in the 3rd century ce —gave added strength to the symbolic view. Aristotle, following Plato, thought that music has power to mold human character, but he would admit all the modes, recognizing happiness and pleasure as values to both the individual and the state. He advocated a rich musical diet. Aristotle made a distinction between those who have only theoretical knowledge and those who produce music, maintaining that persons who do not perform cannot be good judges of the performances of others.

Aristoxenus , a pupil of Aristotle, gave considerable credit to human listeners, their importance, and their powers of perception. He denigrated the dominance of mathematical and acoustical considerations. For Aristoxenus, music was emotional and fulfilled a functional role, for which both the hearing and the intellect of the listener were essential. Individual tones were to be understood in their relations to one another and in the context of larger formal units. The Epicureans and Stoics adopted a more naturalistic view of music and its function, which they accepted as an adjunct to the good life. They gave more emphasis to sensation than did Plato, but they nevertheless placed music in the service of moderation and virtue. A dissenting 3rd-century voice was that of Sextus Empiricus , who said that music was an art of tones and rhythms only that meant nothing outside itself.

The Platonic influence in musical thought was to be dominant for at least a millennium. Following that period of unquestioned philosophical allegiance , there were times of rededication to Greek concepts, accompanied by reverent and insistent homage (e.g., the group of late 16th-century Florentines, known as the Camerata , who were instrumental in the development of opera ). Such returns to simplicity, directness, and the primacy of the word have been made periodically, out of loyalty to Platonic imperatives , however much these “neo” practices may have differed from those of the Greeks themselves.

In the 21st century the effects of Greek thought are still strongly evident in the belief that music influences the ethical life; in the idea that music can be explained in terms of some component such as number (that may itself be only a reflection of another, higher source); in the view that music has specific effects and functions that can be appropriately labelled; and in the recurrent observation that music is connected with human emotion. In every historical period there have been defectors from one or more of these views, and there are, of course, differences of emphasis.

presentation definition music

Much of the Platonic-Aristotelian teaching, as restated by the Roman philosopher Boethius ( c. 480–524), was well suited to the needs of the church; the conservative aspects of that philosophy , with its fear of innovation , were conducive to the maintenance of order. The role of music as accessory to words is nowhere more clearly illustrated than in the history of Christianity , where the primacy of the text has always been emphasized and sometimes, as in Roman Catholic doctrine , made an article of faith. In the varieties of plainchant , melody was used for textual illumination; the configurations of sound took their cue from the words. St. Augustine (354–430 ce ), who was attracted by music and valued its utility to religion, was fearful of its sensuous element and anxious that the melody never take precedence over the words. These had been Plato’s concerns also. Still echoing the Greeks, Augustine, whose beliefs were reiterated by St. Thomas Aquinas ( c. 1225–74), held the basis of music to be mathematical; music reflects celestial movement and order.

presentation definition music

Martin Luther (1483–1546) was a musical liberal and reformer. But the uses he envisioned for music, despite his innovations , were in the mainstream of tradition; Luther insisted that music must be simple, direct, accessible, an aid to piety. His assignment of particular qualities to a given mode is reminiscent of Plato and Confucius. John Calvin (1509–64) took a more cautious and fearful view of music than did Luther, warning against voluptuous, effeminate, or disorderly music and insisting upon the supremacy of the text.

presentation definition music

In reviewing the accounts of music that have characterized musical and intellectual history , it is clear that the Pythagoreans are reborn from age to age. The German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) perpetuated, in effect, the idea of the harmony of the spheres, attempting to relate music to planetary movement. René Descartes (1596–1650), too, saw the basis of music as mathematical. He was a faithful Platonist in his prescription of temperate rhythms and simple melodies so that music would not produce imaginative, exciting, and hence immoral, effects. For another philosopher-mathematician, the German Gottfried von Leibniz (1646–1716), music reflected a universal rhythm and mirrored a reality that was fundamentally mathematical, to be experienced in the mind as a subconscious apprehension of numerical relationships.

presentation definition music

Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) ranked music as lowest in his hierarchy of the arts. What he distrusted most about music was its wordlessness; he considered it useful for enjoyment but negligible in the service of culture. Allied with poetry , however, it may acquire conceptual value. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) also extolled the discursive faculties, saying that art, though it expresses the divine, must yield to philosophy. He acknowledged the peculiar power of music to express many nuances of the emotions. Like Kant, Hegel preferred vocal music to instrumental, deprecating wordless music as subjective and indefinite. The essence of music he held to be rhythm, which finds its counterpart in the innermost self. What is original in Hegel’s view is his claim that music, unlike the other arts, has no independent existence in space, is not “objective” in that sense; the fundamental rhythm of music (again an aspect of number) is experienced within the hearer.

After the 18th century, speculations upon the intrinsic nature of music became more numerous and profound. The elements necessary for a more comprehensive theory of its function and meaning became discernible. But philosophers whose views have been summarized thus far were not speaking as philosophers of music. Music interested them in terms extrinsic to itself, in its observable effects; in its connections with dance, religious ritual, or festive rites; because of its alliance with words; or for some other extramusical consideration. The only common denominator to be found, aside from the recognition of different types of music, is the acknowledgment of its connection with the emotional life, and here, to be sure, is that problematic power of the art to move. Various extramusical preoccupations are the raison d’être of “contextualist” explanations of music, which are concerned with its relation to the human environment . The history of music itself is largely an account of its adjunctive function in rituals and ceremonies of all kinds—religious, military, courtly—and in musical theatre. The protean character of music that enables it to form such easy alliances with literature and drama (as in folk song, art song, opera, “background” music) and with the dance (ritual, popular entertainment, “social,” ballet ) appears to confirm the wide range and influence that the Greeks assigned to it.

Music Production Glossary: Audio and Music Production Terms

Expression is a fundamental element of music that goes beyond the mere reproduction of notes and rhythms. It is the intentional conveyance of emotions, moods, and artistic interpretations that breathe life into music, making it a powerful and captivating art form. Through various musical elements and techniques, such as dynamics, articulation, phrasing, tempo, timbre, and ornamentation, expression adds depth, meaning, and individuality to a musical performance.

What is Expression as a Music Element: Table of Contents

Definition of expression as a key element in music.

At its core, expression in music refers to the intentional communication of emotions, moods, and artistic interpretations by the performer or composer. It goes beyond the technical execution of the music and involves infusing the performance with the performer’s personality, emotions, and creative ideas.

Expression encompasses a wide range of musical elements and techniques that contribute to the overall emotional and artistic impact of a musical performance. These elements may include:

  • dynamics , which refer to the varying degrees of loudness and softness in music ;
  • articulation , which involves the shaping and emphasis of individual notes or phrases;
  • phrasing , which concerns the grouping and shaping of musical phrases;
  • tempo , which determines the speed or pace of the music ;
  • timbre , which refers to the tone quality or color of the sound ;
  • ornamentation , which involves the embellishment or decoration of the music.

Importance of Expression in Music

Expression is a fundamental element of music that sets it apart from other forms of art and communication. It allows musicians to convey their emotions, ideas, and interpretations to the audience, creating a unique and personal musical experience. It is the expression that gives music its emotional depth, artistic interpretation, and communicative power.

  • Expression distinguishes music from a mere mechanical reproduction of notes and rhythms. While technical proficiency is essential in music, it is the expression that brings the music to life and makes it emotionally resonant to the listener. It is through the intentional use of dynamics, articulation, phrasing, tempo, timbre, and ornamentation that musicians can convey the intended emotions and moods of the music.
  • Expression allows musicians to communicate their emotions, ideas, and interpretations to the audience. Music is a universal language that has the power to evoke emotions and convey messages without the need for words. Through expression, musicians can communicate their own emotions and interpretations of the music, creating a connection with the listener on a deeper level.
  • Expression is essential in music performance, interpretation, and composition. In performance, expression allows musicians to convey the intended emotions and moods of the music, adding depth and authenticity to their rendition. In interpretation, expression enables musicians to interpret and convey the composer’s artistic intent and creative ideas, adding their own personal touch to the music. In composition, expression is a crucial element that allows composers to convey their emotions, ideas, and intentions through the musical elements and techniques they choose to include in their compositions.

Historical Perspective on Expression in Music

Expression in music has evolved over time, taking on different forms and meanings in various musical eras and cultures. In the Baroque era, which spanned roughly from the 17th to the early 18th century, expression was characterized by intricate ornamentation, elaborate use of dynamics, and a focus on technical virtuosity.

In Classical music, which followed the Baroque era and lasted from the mid-18th to the early 19th century, expression became more balanced and restrained, with an emphasis on clarity, form, and structure.

In the Romantic era, which emerged in the 19th century, expression took on a more emotive and subjective quality, with composers and performers seeking to convey intense emotions and individualistic interpretations through the use of dynamic contrasts, rubato ( tempo flexibility), and rich harmonic textures.

In contemporary music, which encompasses a wide range of styles and genres from the 20th century to the present, expression has become even more diverse, with experimentation in various musical elements and techniques, including extended techniques, unconventional scales, and new electronic soundscapes.

Cross-cultural influences have also played a significant role in shaping expression in music. Different regions and traditions around the world have their own unique ways of expressing emotions, moods, and artistic interpretations through music.

For example, in Indian classical music, expression is conveyed through the use of intricate ornamentation, melodic improvisation, and rhythmic patterns. In African music, expression is often conveyed through complex polyrhythms, call-and-response structures, and vocal techniques. In Chinese traditional music, expression is achieved through subtle changes in pitch , timbre, and ornamentation.

The exchange and fusion of musical ideas and techniques across cultures have contributed to the richness and diversity of expression in music.

Technological Advancements and Changes in Musical Styles

Technological advancements and changes in musical styles have also influenced the evolution of expression in music throughout history. The development of new musical instruments has expanded the possibilities for expression, allowing musicians to produce a wider range of dynamic contrasts, timbral variations, and extended techniques.

For example, the invention of the piano in the 18th century revolutionized expression in Western music, with its ability to produce a wide range of dynamics and timbres through the use of hammers and strings. In the 20th century, advancements in electronic instruments and recording technology opened up new avenues for expression, with musicians able to manipulate and shape sounds in unprecedented ways.

Changes in musical styles and genres have also had a profound impact on expression in music. Different styles and genres emphasize different musical elements and techniques, shaping the way emotions, moods, and artistic interpretations are conveyed.

For example, in jazz, improvisation and individual expression are highly valued, with musicians encouraged to express their unique interpretations and ideas in their solos. In rock and popular music, expression is often conveyed through the use of vocals, lyrics, and instrumentation to create a specific emotional atmosphere or convey a particular message. In experimental and avant-garde music, expression can take on unconventional and abstract forms, challenging traditional notions of musical expression.

Elements of Expression in Music

Dynamics and articulation.

Dynamics and articulation are fundamental elements of expression in music. Dynamics refer to the varying levels of loudness and softness in music, while articulation refers to the manipulation of how notes are played, including staccato (short and detached), legato (smooth and connected), accents (emphasis on a particular note ), and slurs (smoothly connecting two or more notes).

These elements contribute to the emotional impact and contrast in music, shaping the character and mood of a musical piece. For example, a sudden change from a soft dynamic to a loud dynamic can create a sense of surprise or excitement, while the use of staccato articulation can create a sense of urgency or tension.

On the other hand, legato articulation can create a sense of smoothness and flow, while accents and slurs can add nuance and shape to the music, conveying the intentions and interpretations of the composer or performer.

Phrasing and Tempo

Phrasing and tempo also play a crucial role in expressing emotions and shaping the musical structure. Phrasing refers to how musical phrases are shaped and articulated, creating a sense of musical syntax and structure.

The way in which phrases are connected or separated can greatly impact the overall expression of a piece of music. For example, long phrases with smooth connections can create a sense of continuity and flow, while short and detached phrases can create a sense of fragmentation or abruptness, conveying different emotional nuances.

Tempo, or the speed of the music, is another important element of expression. The manipulation of tempo, including changes in speed and rhythm , can convey different emotional states and dramatic effects.

For instance, a faster tempo can create a sense of excitement, urgency, or agitation, while a slower tempo can evoke emotions such as calmness, serenity, or sadness. Gradual changes in tempo, known as rubato, can also add expressiveness to the music, allowing for subtle variations in tempo and rhythm that reflect the emotional interpretation of the performer or the mood of the music.

Timbre and Ornamentation

Timbre, or the quality of sound , is another element of expression in music. Different instruments and vocal techniques produce unique timbres that can convey different emotions, moods, and artistic interpretations.

For example, a bright and brassy timbre of a trumpet can convey a sense of boldness or triumph, while a soft and warm timbre of a cello can evoke feelings of melancholy or nostalgia. The timbral choices made by composers and performers can greatly impact the emotional impact and overall expression of the music.

Ornamentation is also a significant element of expression in music. Ornamental techniques, such as trills, grace notes, and vibrato, are used to add embellishments and nuances to the music, enhancing its expressiveness.

For example, a trill, which is a rapid alternation between two adjacent notes, can add a sense of excitement or tension to a melody . Grace notes, which are quick, ornamental notes played before a main note, can add a sense of ornamentation or ornamentation to a melody.

Vibrato, which is a slight variation in pitch, can add warmth, depth, and emotion to a sustained note. These ornamentation techniques are used by composers and performers to convey their artistic interpretations and add expressive nuances to the music,allowing for a rich and nuanced interpretation of the composer’s intentions or the performer’s artistic expression.

Throughout history, musicians and composers have utilized these elements in various ways to convey emotions, tell stories, and evoke different moods in their music, resulting in the diverse and rich tapestry of musical expression that exists today.

Furthermore, the ways in which these elements are used have evolved over time, influenced by changes in musical styles, technological advancements, and cultural influences.

For example, in Baroque music, dynamics were generally terraced, meaning abrupt changes from loud to soft, while in Classical music, composers started to use more gradual changes in dynamics to create a more nuanced expression. In Romantic music, dynamics were used extensively to convey intense emotions and dramatic contrasts. In contemporary music, there is often a wide range of dynamics used to create unique soundscapes and expressiveness.

Similarly, articulation has evolved over time, from the stylized and precise articulations of Baroque music to the more varied and expressive articulations of Romantic music, where performers are given more freedom for interpretation. Changes in musical styles and genres have also influenced the use of phrasing and tempo.

For instance, in early music, phrasing was often based on the rules of rhetoric, while in jazz and popular music, syncopation and swing rhythms have been used to create unique expressions. Tempo changes have also become more prevalent in contemporary music, with composers and performers exploring complex and experimental tempo variations to create unique and expressive musical experiences.

Technological advancements, such as the development of instruments, recording technology, and production techniques, have also had a significant impact on the expression in music. For example, the invention of the piano in the 18th century with its ability to play a wide range of dynamics and produce sustained tones greatly expanded the possibilities for expressive playing.

The advent of recording technology in the 20th century allowed for precise control over dynamics, articulations, and other expressive elements in the studio, leading to new possibilities for musical expression in recordings. Today, with advancements in digital technology and production techniques, musicians have even more tools at their disposal to shape and manipulate the expression in their music.

Cross-cultural influences and expressions in music have also played a vital role in the development of musical expression. Different regions and traditions around the world have their own unique ways of expressing emotions and telling stories through music.

For example, Indian classical music uses intricate melodic ornamentations and improvisations known as “gamakas” to convey emotions, while African music often employs complex rhythms and percussive techniques to create a sense of energy and vitality. These cross-cultural influences have enriched the vocabulary of musical expression, allowing for a diverse range of styles and techniques to be incorporated into various musical genres and traditions.

Techniques of Expression in Music

Vibrato, portamento, and glissando.

Vibrato, a slight variation in pitch, is a widely used technique in music to add expressiveness and warmth to a musical performance. By oscillating the pitch of a note, vibrato can create a sense of life and emotion, adding depth and richness to the sound. Vibrato is commonly used in vocal performances, string instrument playing (such as violin or cello), and wind instrument playing (such as flute or saxophone), among others. The speed, width, and intensity of vibrato can be varied to convey different emotions and moods, making it a versatile tool for musical expression.

Portamento and glissando are techniques that involve sliding from one pitch to another. Portamento refers to a smooth and seamless transition between pitches, usually applied to adjacent notes, while glissando involves sliding across multiple notes, often covering a larger pitch range. These techniques are commonly used in string instruments, such as guitar or slide guitar, as well as in vocal performances and keyboard playing (such as piano or synthesizer). Portamento and glissando can create a sense of fluidity and continuity in the music, adding a sense of connection and expressiveness between notes or phrases.

Rubato and Fermata

Rubato is a technique that involves rhythmic freedom and flexibility in timing, allowing the performer to stretch or compress the tempo for expressive purposes. Rubato is often used to convey emotions, interpretations, or musical ideas, allowing for subtle nuances and personal expression in the performance. It can create a sense of spontaneity and improvisation, adding a human touch to the music. Rubato is commonly used in solo piano playing, vocal performances, and in small ensemble settings, where the performers can interact and respond to each other’s musical ideas.

Fermata is a notation symbol that indicates a pause or hold on a note or rest. It allows the performer to prolong a note or pause in the music, creating suspense, emphasis, or dramatic effect. Fermatas can be used to create a sense of tension or anticipation, adding a sense of drama and intensity to the music. Fermatas can be applied to individual notes, rests, or even entire phrases, and their duration can be left to the performer’s interpretation, giving them creative freedom to shape the musical expression.

Crescendo, Decrescendo, and Sforzando

Crescendo and decrescendo are techniques that involve a gradual increase or decrease in loudness, respectively. These techniques are commonly used to create dynamic contrasts in music, shaping the overall expression and emotional impact of a piece. Crescendos can create a sense of building tension, anticipation, or excitement, while decrescendos can create a sense of release, relaxation, or calmness. Crescendos and decrescendos can be applied to individual notes, phrases, or even entire sections of music, allowing for a wide range of expressive possibilities.

Sforzando is a technique that involves a sudden and strong accent on a specific note or phrase. It is used to add emphasis and intensity to a particular musical element, creating a sense of drama or impact. Sforzandos are often used to highlight important moments in the music, creating a sense of surprise or tension. Sforzandos can be applied to various instruments and voices, and their dynamic intensity can be varied to suit the musical context.

Emotional and Artistic Interpretation in Expression

Expression in music plays a pivotal role in conveying a wide range of emotions and moods. Music has the power to evoke deep emotions, and expression is the key element that brings these emotions to life. Whether it is the joy of a lively dance, the sadness of a mournful melody, the anger of a powerful anthem, the love in a tender ballad, or the nostalgia of a reflective piece, expression allows musicians to infuse their performances with emotional depth and resonance. Through the use of various expressive techniques, such as dynamics, articulation, phrasing, and tone color , musicians can create a rich tapestry of emotions and moods in their music, inviting the listeners to connect with and experience the intended emotional journey.

Expression in music also has the power to create different moods, atmospheres, and tonalities. By carefully manipulating expressive elements, musicians can shape the mood and atmosphere of a piece, creating a specific emotional and aesthetic impact. For example, a serene and peaceful mood can be achieved through gentle phrasing, soft dynamics, and smooth legato playing. On the other hand, a dramatic and intense mood can be conveyed through bold articulation, strong dynamics, and sudden accents. Playful, mysterious, joyful, or melancholic moods can all be crafted through skillful expression, allowing musicians to paint a vivid emotional landscape through their performance.

Expression in music also allows for artistic interpretation and individuality, allowing performers to convey their unique perspective, creativity, and personality. Music is not just a set of notes on a page, but an art form that invites interpretation and personal expression. Musicians bring their own experiences, emotions, and artistic sensibilities to the music they perform, making it a deeply personal and individual expression.

Expression empowers musicians to make artistic choices that reflect their interpretation and intention in the music. It allows for creative freedom in shaping the nuances of a performance, such as phrasing, dynamics, and tempo. Musicians can emphasize certain notes, highlight specific melodies, or bring out particular harmonies to convey their artistic vision. Expression also allows for flexibility in the interpretation of a piece, allowing musicians to adapt and respond to the music in real-time, making it a living, breathing art form.

Furthermore, expression plays a significant role in shaping the overall aesthetic and stylistic characteristics of a musical performance, making it distinct and memorable. It is through expression that musicians can infuse their performances with their own artistic voice, creating a signature style and leaving a lasting impression on the listeners. Expression allows for the exploration of different interpretations, styles, and approaches to a piece of music, making it a dynamic and ever-evolving art form that is constantly shaped by the individuality and creativity of the performers.

Role of Expression in Music Performance and Interpretation

Expression plays a vital role in live music performance, as it enhances the emotional connection and communication between the performer and the audience. In a live performance, expression allows musicians to convey their emotions, thoughts, and artistic intentions in a direct and immediate way. It adds a layer of authenticity and vulnerability to the performance, creating a profound impact on the listeners.

Expression allows musicians to go beyond the technical aspects of music and communicate on a deeper level, connecting with the audience on an emotional and experiential level. It is through expression that musicians can elicit emotions, create an immersive experience, and forge a meaningful connection with the audience, making live music performance a powerful and transformative art form.

Expression also plays a significant role in improvisation, allowing musicians to spontaneously express themselves and create unique musical moments. Improvisation is a form of musical expression that involves creating music on the spot, without predetermined notes or structures. It requires a high level of skill, creativity, and emotional connection to the music.

Expression in improvisation allows musicians to convey their thoughts, emotions, and musical ideas in real-time, responding to the moment and engaging in a dynamic musical dialogue with other performers or the audience. It is through expression in improvisation that musicians can create memorable and captivating performances, showcasing their artistic voice and individuality.

Expression in music interpretation can vary depending on different interpretive approaches, such as historically informed performance, contemporary interpretations, and personal interpretations. Historically informed performance involves recreating the music in a way that is faithful to the historical and cultural context in which it was composed. It requires extensive research and knowledge of the performance practices, styles, and instruments of the time, and aims to convey the intended emotions and meanings of the music as the composer intended. Expression in historically informed performance involves understanding and interpreting the expressive markings, ornamentations, and other stylistic features that were commonly used during the time the music was composed.

Contemporary interpretations, on the other hand, involve applying a modern perspective and approach to the music, taking into account the cultural and contextual influences of the present time. It may involve reinterpreting the music in a new style, experimenting with different expressive techniques, or incorporating personal artistic choices to create a fresh and unique interpretation. Expression in contemporary interpretations allows musicians to bring their own artistic sensibilities and interpretations to the music, creating performances that are relevant and resonant with the contemporary audience.

Personal interpretations in music performance involve the unique artistic choices and expressions of the performer. It allows musicians to interpret the music based on their own emotions, thoughts, and artistic intentions, bringing their individuality and creativity to the forefront. Expression in personal interpretations allows musicians to convey their own emotional and artistic interpretations of the music, creating performances that are deeply personal and unique to their artistic voice.

Furthermore, the influence of cultural, contextual, and personal factors also shapes the expression in music interpretation. Different cultures have their own unique expressive traditions, and musicians often draw on these traditions to convey the intended emotions and meanings of the music. The contextual factors, such as the venue, occasion, and audience, also impact the expression in music performance, as musicians adapt their interpretation to suit the specific context of the performance.

Additionally, personal factors, such as the emotions, experiences, and artistic sensibilities of the performer, also play a significant role in shaping the expression in music interpretation, making it a deeply personal and subjective process.

Expression in Different Genres and Styles of Music

Expression in classical music and its various styles.

Classical music, spanning different periods such as Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and contemporary, is known for its rich and complex expression. In Baroque music, expression is often manifested through elaborate ornamentations, intricate melodies, and the use of contrasting dynamics and tempos. In Classical music, expression is characterized by balanced and structured compositions, with a focus on clarity, proportion, and emotional restraint. In Romantic music, expression takes on a more emotive and passionate tone, with sweeping melodies, dramatic harmonies, and intense dynamics. In contemporary classical music, expression can be experimental and avant-garde, pushing the boundaries of traditional musical conventions.

The use of expression in different classical forms, such as symphonies, concertos, sonatas, and operas, also varies. In symphonies, expression is often conveyed through the interplay of different sections of the orchestra, with contrasting dynamics, tempos, and timbres creating a wide range of emotions and moods. In concertos, expression is evident in the virtuosic solo performances, where the soloist’s interpretation and expression add a personal touch to the music. In sonatas, expression is manifested through the interaction between the different instrumental voices, with phrasing, articulation, and dynamics shaping the overall interpretation. In operas, expression is central to the portrayal of characters and their emotions, with the music serving as a powerful tool for storytelling and emotional communication.

Expression in Jazz and its Distinctive Styles

Jazz, a uniquely American musical genre, is known for its improvisatory nature and emphasis on individual expression. In different jazz styles, such as swing, bebop, cool jazz, and free jazz, expression plays a central role in shaping the music. In swing music, expression is evident in the syncopated rhythms, dynamic contrasts, and improvisation of solos, allowing musicians to add their own personal touch to the music. In bebop, expression is characterized by complex harmonies, intricate melodies, and virtuosic improvisations, where individuality and creativity are highly valued. In cool jazz, expression is manifested through laid-back and understated performances, with an emphasis on subtlety, nuance, and mood. In free jazz, expression is pushed to the extremes, with musicians experimenting with unconventional tonalities, structures, and improvisation techniques, creating a boundary-breaking and avant-garde form of expression.

Expression in Rock, Pop, and Hip-Hop and their Evolving Styles

Rock, pop, and hip-hop are popular music genres known for their wide appeal and evolving styles. In these genres, expression is conveyed through the lyrics, melodies, and instrumentation, as well as the performance and presentation of the music. The emotions, attitudes, and social messages conveyed through the music are central to the expression in rock, pop, and hip-hop. In rock music, expression is often characterized by powerful and emotive vocals, electrifying guitar solos, and energetic performances that convey a wide range of emotions, from angst and rebellion to love and longing. In pop music, expression is often manifested through catchy melodies, polished productions, and emotive vocal performances that connect with a broad audience. In hip-hop, expression is conveyed through the lyrics, rhythm, and delivery of the vocals, as well as the beats and samples used in the music, reflecting the cultural, social, and political experiences of the artists.

Expression in these genres also evolves over time, with different subgenres and styles emerging and pushing the boundaries of musical expression. For example, punk music is known for its raw and rebellious expression, with fast-paced and energetic performances, DIY aesthetics, and anti-establishment lyrics challenging the status quo. Grunge music, on the other hand, is known for its darker and introspective expression, with moody melodies, gritty guitar tones, and anguished vocals conveying a sense of emotional turmoil. Electronic music, as a genre that heavily relies on technology and sound manipulation, explores new frontiers of expression through experimental sounds, textures, and beats that push the boundaries of traditional music. Hip-hop, with its diverse styles and subgenres, continues to evolve, with expressions ranging from conscious and socially aware lyrics to catchy and upbeat party anthems, reflecting the ever-changing cultural and societal landscape.

Expression in Folk Music and its Regional and Cultural Styles from Around the World

Folk music, deeply rooted in regional and cultural traditions from around the world, is known for its authentic and heartfelt expression. Folk music often conveys the cultural, historical, and emotional aspects of a particular region or tradition, and expression plays a vital role in shaping the music. Different folk music styles, such as traditional, contemporary, and fusion, manifest expression in distinct ways. In traditional folk music, expression is often conveyed through the use of indigenous instruments, vocal styles, and storytelling techniques that have been passed down through generations. The melodies, rhythms, and lyrics of traditional folk songs reflect the experiences, beliefs, and emotions of the local community, serving as a means of preserving and sharing cultural heritage.

In contemporary folk music, expression takes on a more modern and personal approach, with artists drawing from traditional folk music while incorporating their own unique perspectives and experiences. Expression is often evident in the lyrics, melodies, and vocal performances, as contemporary folk artists use their music as a platform for storytelling, social commentary, and emotional exploration.

Fusion folk music, as a genre that blends folk music with elements from other musical traditions, creates a unique expression that transcends cultural boundaries. Expression in fusion folk music is often manifested through the fusion of different styles, instruments, and techniques, resulting in a distinctive sound that reflects the diverse influences and creative expressions of the artists.

In addition to regional and cultural styles, folk music also varies in its expression based on the themes and subjects explored in the music. Folk songs about love, loss, nature, social justice, and other topics convey a wide range of emotions and meanings, with expression playing a pivotal role in conveying the intended messages and sentiments.

Expression in Music Composition and Appreciation

Expression plays a crucial role in music composition, allowing composers to convey their intended emotions, ideas, and artistic interpretations in their music. Composers utilize various techniques and elements to infuse their compositions with expression, creating a unique sonic landscape that captures their creative vision.

Composers often use melody, harmony , rhythm, and form to convey emotions and ideas in their compositions. For example, a tender and lyrical melody may convey a sense of sweetness or nostalgia, while dissonant harmonies and complex rhythms can create tension or unease. Composers also use dynamics, articulation, and tempo markings to guide performers in interpreting the music and bringing their intended expression to life. Markings such as forte (loud), piano (soft), staccato (short and detached), legato (smooth and connected), and ritardando (gradually slowing down) provide instructions to performers on how to shape the music expressively.

Additionally, composers may use specific musical forms, such as sonata form, rondo form, or theme and variations, to structure their compositions and convey their artistic intentions. These structural choices impact the emotional flow and overall expression of the music, allowing composers to communicate their intended emotions and ideas to the listener.

Expression is crucial in music appreciation as it enhances the listener’s emotional connection and appreciation of the music. When music is performed with expressive nuances, it becomes more engaging and evokes a deeper emotional response from the listener. Expression allows the listener to connect with the emotions and ideas conveyed by the composer, creating a meaningful and memorable listening experience.

Expression in music also engages the listener’s imagination and intellect. Through the use of dynamics, phrasing, articulation, and other expressive elements, music can paint vivid soundscapes, evoke imagery, and stimulate the listener’s imagination. It allows the listener to interpret the music in their own unique way, creating a personal connection and interpretation of the piece.

Moreover, expression in music can convey cultural, historical, and social messages, providing insights into the context and meaning of the music. For example, in genres like jazz, rock, pop, and hip-hop, the expression is often intertwined with the lyrics, conveying social commentary, personal experiences, and messages of empowerment or protest. This adds depth and relevance to the music, making it more relatable and resonant for the listener.

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What is Form in Music? Explore Musical Structure and Production

Explore the structure and creativity of musical form in music production. enhance your compositions with this in-depth guide. unleash your musical potential..

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It’s crucial to understand the various elements that contribute to a composition’s overall structure and coherence. Form, in particular, plays a fundamental role in shaping a piece of music and guiding the listener’s experience. In this blog post, we will explore the essential aspects of musical form, including its definition, common forms found in different genres, and the impact it has on our perception of music.

What is form in music? In simple terms, form in music refers to the structure and organization of a musical composition. It encompasses the arrangement of musical elements, such as melody, harmony, and rhythm, and determines how they come together to create a cohesive piece.

What are the types of forms in music?

There are several types of musical forms that are commonly used in compositions. Here are some examples:

  • Strophic form (AAA): In the strophic form, the same music is repeated for each stanza or verse of the lyrics. It is commonly used in folk songs, hymns, and some popular music.
  • Through-composed form (ABCDE…) : Through-composed form involves continuous music where each section is distinct and does not repeat. It is often found in art songs and some instrumental compositions.
  • Binary form (AB): Binary form consists of two distinct sections (A and B) that are usually repeated. Each section presents different musical material, and the form often creates a sense of contrast.
  • Ternary form (ABA): Ternary form has three sections, where the first section (A) is followed by a contrasting section (B), and then the initial section (A) is repeated. It is commonly used in classical music and many dance forms.
  • Rondo form (ABACA or ABACABA) : Rondo form features a recurring main theme (A) that alternates with contrasting sections (B, C, etc.). The main theme (A) reappears several times throughout the composition.
  • Sonata form (Exposition, Development, Recapitulation): Sonata form is a complex and widely used form in classical music. It consists of an exposition section where themes are introduced, a development section where the themes are developed and varied, and a recapitulation section where the themes are restated.
  • Theme and variations: In theme and variations form, a theme is presented and then followed by a series of variations that explore different musical ideas while maintaining the underlying theme.

These are just a few examples of musical forms, and there are many other forms and variations used in different musical genres and styles. It’s worth noting that musical forms can be combined, modified, or expanded upon by composers to create unique compositions.

Musical FormDescriptionApplication in Music Production
Binary FormConsists of two distinct sectionsUseful for creating contrasting sections in songs and compositions
Ternary FormFeatures three sections: A-B-AIdeal for creating a clear and balanced structure in music
Rondo FormMain theme (A) returns repeatedly with contrasting themes (B, C, D…)Offers opportunities for creative variations and thematic development
Sonata FormInvolves an exposition, development, and recapitulationCommonly used in classical music compositions and longer structures
Theme and VariationsOriginal theme undergoes creative transformationsAllows for exploration and development of musical ideas and motifs

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Why is form important in music?

Form in music is a fundamental element that provides structure and organization to musical compositions. It shapes the arrangement, repetition, and variation of musical ideas, allowing composers to effectively communicate their artistic vision and engage listeners in a meaningful musical experience. Form in music serves several important purposes:

Structure and organization

The form provides the overall structure and organization of a musical composition. It determines how the different sections, phrases, and themes are arranged and connected within the piece. The form gives the composition coherence and helps listeners navigate through the music.

Communication and expression

The musical form allows composers to communicate their ideas and express their artistic vision effectively. By shaping the form, composers can create tension, release, contrast, and other emotional or narrative effects. The form provides a framework for the development and presentation of musical ideas, allowing composers to convey their intended message to the listeners.

Unity and variation

The form allows composers to create a balance between repetition and variation. It provides a framework for the repetition of musical ideas, motifs, or themes, which helps create unity and coherence within the composition. At the same time, the form also allows for variations and developments of these ideas, bringing variety and interest to the music.

Related Posts:

  • What Is Harmony? Unveiling the Power of Musical Cohesion
  • What Does Instrumentation Mean? Everything You Need to Know
  • What Does Homophonic Mean? Exploring the Simplicity…

Listener engagement

Form in music plays a crucial role in engaging and involving the listener. By establishing recognizable patterns and structures, the form provides listeners with reference points and expectations. It allows listeners to anticipate and appreciate the development, contrast, and resolution within the music, enhancing their overall listening experience.

Analytical understanding

Analyzing the form of a musical composition helps musicologists, scholars, and performers gain a deeper understanding of the composer’s intentions, techniques, and the historical context of the piece. Form analysis can reveal patterns, relationships, and structural elements that contribute to the overall meaning and impact of the music.

Form in music serves as the structural framework that gives shape, coherence, and expressive power to a composition.

Form in music serves as the structural framework that gives shape, coherence, and expressive power to a composition. It helps composers communicate their ideas, engage listeners, and create a meaningful musical experience.

Dos and don’ts of music production with form in mind:

  • Consider the form of your composition when arranging and selecting instruments for recording.
  • Pay attention to the structure of your mix, highlighting different sections and emphasizing musical contrasts.
  • Use the form as a guide when making creative decisions about effects, dynamics, and overall production choices.
  • Don’t overlook the importance of form in music production. Embrace it as a tool for enhancing your productions.
  • Don’t limit your creativity solely to one form. Experiment with different forms and structures to bring uniqueness to your music.
  • Don’t forget to revisit the overall structure and form during the mixing and mastering stages to ensure a cohesive and impactful final product.

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How do you find a form of a song?

By following these steps and actively analyzing the song’s structure, you can determine its form and gain a deeper understanding of its composition.

  • Listen to the song attentively, focusing on its structural elements.
  • Identify recurring sections such as verses, choruses, bridges, pre-choruses, or instrumental interludes.
  • Look for patterns in the arrangement of these sections throughout the song.
  • Analyze repetitions and variations within sections, noting if they are identical or modified.
  • Use labeling systems like letters (A, B, C) to indicate repeated sections and superscript numbers (A1, A2) for variations.
  • Consider transitional sections, instrumental solos, or breakdowns that provide contrast and connect different sections.
  • Take note of the overall flow and progression of the song.
  • Be aware that song forms can vary depending on genre, style, and era.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using musical forms in music production?

Understanding and utilizing musical form in music production can have both advantages and disadvantages. Let’s explore the benefits and considerations of incorporating musical form into your creative process.

  • Enhanced structure : By following musical form, your compositions gain a clear and well-defined structure, providing a framework for creativity.
  • Increased cohesion : Musical form helps create coherence within a piece, allowing listeners to follow and engage with your music more effectively.
  • Creative limitations : Musical form provides a foundation for creative exploration by setting boundaries within which you can experiment and innovate.
  • Listener engagement : Familiarity with musical form allows listeners to anticipate and appreciate the unfolding of musical ideas, creating a more engaging experience.

Disadvantages

  • Potential rigidity : Strict adherence to specific musical forms may restrict artistic freedom and limit experimental or unconventional approaches.
  • Lack of originality : Following predefined structures can sometimes lead to predictable compositions that lack distinctiveness and uniqueness.
  • Balancing creativity and form : Striking a balance between creative exploration and adhering to the structural requirements of musical form can be challenging.

If you want even more great tips and information, check the video below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Summary: Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about musical form and its relevance to music production and composition.

How can understanding musical form benefit my music production process?

Understanding musical form provides a solid foundation for structuring your compositions, enhancing cohesion, and engaging your listeners. By incorporating musical form, you can create a clear and well-defined structure that guides your creative decisions.

Can I experiment with different forms and structures in my compositions?

Absolutely! A musical form is a flexible tool that allows for creative exploration. While there are established forms, such as binary or ternary, you have the freedom to push boundaries and experiment with variations and unconventional structures to add your unique touch to the music.

How can I apply the concept of theme and variations in my music production?

Theme and variations offer endless possibilities for creative transformations. Take a familiar motif or melody and explore different variations, such as changing the instrumentation, rhythm, or harmony. This approach can bring depth, interest, and artistic flair to your compositions.

From understanding the levels of organization in musical form to exploring themes and variations, we’ve journeyed through the captivating world of musical form and its impact on music production. Remember, understanding musical form empowers you to shape your musical ideas effectively and create captivating compositions. Embrace the possibilities, experiment, and let your music thrive!

Let me know your question in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment) . If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and remember, when it comes to creating music, let your imagination soar!

Key Takeaways

This article covered the topic of musical form and its relevance to music production. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Musical form refers to the structure and organization of a composition, providing guidelines for creative decision-making.
  • Levels of organization in musical form include measures, phrases, passages, and whole pieces or movements.
  • Analyzing musical form involves assigning letters to different sections and identifying patterns.
  • Theme and variations offer a platform for creative transformations and artistic exploration in composition and production.

Helpful Resources

  • Musical Form
  • Binary and Ternary Forms
  • Form and Structure

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Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I'm relatively new to music production, but I've been learning a ton, and documenting my journey along the way. That's why I started this blog. If you want to improve your home studio setup and learn more along with me, this is the place for you!

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  • Music Theory

What Is a Theme in Music? (Meaning, Explanation & Examples)

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  • April 28, 2024
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Music can make us feel festive and full of energy, or angry, dejected, and wistful. The range of emotions that music can make us feel is pretty wide, and what a magical thing that is.

Songs can even take us back in time. Listening to the intro of a certain song can bring back memories of a happy time in your life, and the sad times as well.

Music isn’t only powerful, it’s also universal. Every single person on the face of the planet enjoys listening to one type of music or another.

So, are you into hip-hop or rap? Or do you prefer classical music and chilling back to soft jazz? The noteworthy thing is that all the musical pieces ever composed have something in common: theme.

“What’s a theme in music?” you ask. Keep reading to find out.

What Is a Theme in Music?

The quick answer is that a theme in music is a short and simple tune repeated throughout a piece of music. In simpler terms, the theme is the foundation of any musical composition.

This foundation is made up of a sequence of notes that generate a tune. Once the tune is set, composers repeat it to create a unified theme throughout the whole piece.

The theme in music is the first melody you hear. Its main aim is to set the tone for the rest of the composition. It’s what’s known as the ‘main melody’ and is repeated from beginning to end . Even though the melody is the same, the alterations make it much more captivating.

What Is Variation?

Variations always work hand in hand with themes. Together, they create a musical form , or structure, called Theme and Variation.

With this form, the theme repeats itself, but with some distinctive changes. As a result, the composer prevents the music from sounding mundane and monotonous.

Themes are short and simple , lasting for a brief eight bars in length or for much longer. Next, comes the first type of variation, which is referred to as Variation 1.

Once Variation 1 is played, the composer repeats the theme again. This modification is usually different from the first one, which is why it’s called Variation 2.

The composer can repeat the process for as long as they want. Yet, no matter how many variations there are, each one must contain remnants of the original theme in one form or another.

Now that we know what variations are, here are a few techniques used to create musical variations :

  • Melody: adding or taking away notes, and going up or down in pitch are all variations
  • Harmony: playing a theme in a major key and harmonizing in a minor key and vice versa
  • Time signature: playing a theme in 4/4 then changing it to 3/4 leads to variation
  • Rhythm: changing the rhythm of the theme is a common variation

The Most Common Themes in Music

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Music is a powerful communication tool. It doesn’t matter if there are no lyrics; music is enough to convey emotions.

The main elements that help tell the story are the key signatures , the way notes are played, and the instruments used. By combining these elements together, we get a wide range of emotions and themes.

A study was carried out by researchers at North Carolina State University on the themes in music. First, they put together a list of every hit that made the No.1 on the Billboard charts. They started in January 1960 and worked their way up to December 2009.

Their goal was to find what turned these songs into such big hits. Another aspect of their study was to find the top themes that these songs talked about.

Their findings showed that during the 1960s and 70s, songs mostly focused on rebellion. Anger and desperation were also two popular themes. Then, with the start of the new century, songs were more about hope, aspiration, and friendship.

The research team was able to put together a list of 12 major themes . No matter the singing style, lyrics, or melody , these themes have repeated themselves over the years.

Here are the top 12 themes in music.

The pain that comes with ending a relationship is the same anywhere you are in the world. That’s why songs about heartbreak are so successful.

We’ve all had our hearts broken at one point or another in our lives. Even though we get over it after a while, all it takes is one song and we’re right back there.

A couple of well-known examples are Adele’s Someone Like You and Rolling in the Deep .

However, not all songs about heartbreak are pensive. Some of them evoke emotions of resilience like I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor and Elton John’s I’m Still Standing .

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Everyone connects with the theme of friendship, no matter where they are in the world. It’s why almost every single artist has sung about friendship at least once in their lifetime.

One of the best songs that talks about friendship is Mariah Carey’s Anytime You Need a Friend . Then, there’s the beloved Lean on Me . Released in 1972 by Bill Withers, this song became an ode to friendships all over the world.

Studies show that music can be a powerful catharsis. Anytime you feel angry and annoyed with the world around you, your first reaction is to rebel.

Musicians use lyrics and melodies to express their frustration and feelings of abandonment . Here are just a few famous examples:

  • Byrds, Turn! Turn! Turn!
  • REM, Losing My Religion
  • Radiohead, Creep

The theme that deals with how we look back on our childhood and younger years is pretty common. Some songs are about fond memories of when the artist was a child. Other songs are reflections of when a singer was just starting in their careers.

A popular song that deals with the theme of growing older is Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots. Another one that tackles the issue of getting older is Dream On by Aerosmith.

This is one theme no one likes dealing with. Unfortunately, everyone has had to deal with losing a loved one at one time or another.

One of the most well-known songs about death is one we all remember listening to as an ode to a lifetime of friendships. See You Again by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth was sung as a tribute to the death of Paul Walker in 2013. Another example is There is a Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths.

theme and variations music examples

Desire and longing are pretty much what many songs were about at the beginning of the 20th century. We all still can’t get enough of those slow, romantic ballads that evoke emotions of love, lust, and longing.

Like all the other themes, there are too many songs to count. Yet, the two that immediately come to mind are Love to Love You Baby by Donna Summer and Beast of Burden by The Rolling Stones.

Hope and aspiration are important motivators in life. What better way to get pumped up before a test or interview than listening to a song with inspiring lyrics?

Even if you just need a pick-me-up, listening to the right song can change your mood for the better. It can give you the motivation you need to appreciate what you have and give you that lift you need.

Here are our favorite hopeful and encouraging songs of all time:

  • Bon Jovi, It’s My Life
  • Queen, We Are the Champions
  • Irene Cara, What a Feeling

Desperation

Listening to songs that talk about despair and loneliness can bring great relief and can even be cathartic. They’re intense at times, but they’re excellent at conveying what the listener is going through.

The Bee Gees have a famous song that deals with desperation. I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You is deep, reflective, and full of profound emotions.

Pain and Disillusionment

This theme has become more and more widespread in the past few years. In the past, it used to be more of a punk-style theme. Now, it’s spread to almost every music genre .

One of the most listened-to songs about pain and disillusionment is American Idiot by Green Day. Another one is Ohio by Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

famous theme and variation songs

The first thing that pops into our minds when we hear the word escapism is running away from their reality. While that may be true, songs dealing with escapism aren’t all morbid. Some of them deal with this touchy subject by combining the emotional lyrics with an upbeat melody.

Avril Lavigne’s Birdie is one great example. Also, let’s not forget Xscape by Michael Jackson.

Have you ever felt confused about a specific situation or person in your life? Listening to these songs will help you make sense of the world:

  • INXS, Devil Inside
  • Coheed and Cambria, Island
  • Killing Joke, Pandemonium

When you feel jaded, you’re not interested in doing certain things. You lose your joie de vivre , or joy for life. Being unmotivated by anything can rob you of enjoying all that life has to offer.

Hurt by Nine Inch Nails is a song about feeling at a loss. Another song that deals with dejection is Ed Sheeran’s Save Myself .

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news category created 13 May 2008 written by Mick Glossop

Definition of Music

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The definition of music is a contested evaluation of what constitutes music and varies through history, geography, and within societies. Definitions vary as music, like art, is a subjectively perceived phenomenon. Its definition has been tackled by philosophers, lexicographers, composers, teachers, semioticians or semiologists, linguists, scientists, and musicians.

Music may be defined according to various criteria including organization, pleasantness, intent, social construction, perceptual processes and engagement, universal aspects or family resemblances, and through contrast or negative definition. Contents

* 1 The term “music” o 1.1 Etymology o 1.2 Translations * 2 Definitions o 2.1 As organized sound + 2.1.1 As language o 2.2 As subjective experience o 2.3 As social construct o 2.4 As a category of perception o 2.5 As musical universals * 3 Specific definitions o 3.1 Clifton’s phenomenological definition o 3.2 Nattiez’s tripartite definition o 3.3 Xenakis’s definition * 4 Sources * 5 See also * 6 External links

The term “music”

The word music comes from the Greek mousikê (tekhnê) by way of the Latin musica. It is ultimately derived from mousa, the Greek word for muse. In ancient Greece, the word mousike was used to mean any of the arts or sciences governed by the Muses. Later, in Rome, ars musica embraced poetry as well as instrument-oriented music. In the European Middle Ages, musica was part of the mathematical quadrivium – arithmetics, geometry, astronomy and musica. The concept of musica was split into three major kinds by the fifth century philosopher, Boethius: musica universalis, musica humana, and musica instrumentalis. Of those, only the last – musica instrumentalis – referred to music as performed sound.

Musica universalis]or[musica mundana] referred to the order of the universe, as God had created it in “measure, number and weight”. The proportions of the spheres of the planets and stars (which at the time were still thought to revolve around the earth) were perceived as a form of music, without necessarily implying that any sound would be heard – music refers strictly to the mathematical proportions. From this concept later resulted the romantic idea of a music of the spheres.

Musica humana ,designated the proportions of the human body. These were thought to reflect the proportions of the Heavens and as such, to be an expression of God’s greatness. To Medieval thinking, all things were connected with each other – a mode of thought that finds its traces today in the occult sciences or esoteric thought – ranging from astrology to believing certain minerals have certain beneficiary effects.

Musica instrumentalis, finally, was the lowliest of the three disciplines and referred to the manifestation of those same mathematical proportions in sound – be it sung or played on instruments. The polyphonic organization of different melodies to sound at the same time was still a relatively new invention then, and it is understandable that the mathematical or physical relationships in frequency that give rise to the musical intervals as we hear them, should be foremost among the preoccupations of Medieval musicians.

Translations

The languages of many cultures do not include a word for or that would be translated as music. Inuit and most North American Indian languages do not have a general term for music. Among the Aztecs, the ancient Mexican theory of rhetorics, poetry, dance, and instrumental music, used the Nahuatl term In xochitl-in kwikatl to refer a complex mix of music and other poetic verbal and non-verbal elements, and reserve the word Kwikakayotl (or cuicacayotl) only for the sung expressions (Leon-Portilla 2007, 11).

In Africa there is no term for music in Tiv, Yoruba, Igbo, Efik, Birom, Hausa, Idoma, Eggon or Jarawa. Many other languages have terms which only partly cover what Europeans mean by the term music (Schafer). The Mapuche of Argentina do not have a word for music, but they do have words for instrumental versus improvised forms (kantun), European and non-Mapuche music (kantun winka), ceremonial songs (öl), and tayil (Robertson 1976, 39).

In Czech, hudba is instrumental music and only by implication vocal music. Some languages in West Africa have no term for music but the speakers do have the concept (Nettl 1989,[citation needed]).

Musiqi is the Persian word for the science and art of music, muzik being the sound and performance of music (Sakata 1983,[citation needed]), though some things European influenced listeners would include, such as Quran chanting, are excluded. Actually, there are varying degrees of “musicness”; Quran chanting and Adhan is not considered music, but classical improvised song, classical instrumental metric composition, and popular dance music are. However, from a European influenced musicological analysis, or from the standpoint of an untrained European influenced listener, Quran chanting is structurally similar to classical singing (Nettl 1989,[citation needed]).

Definitions

As organized sound

An often-cited definition of music, coined by Edgard Varèse, is that it is “organized sound” (Goldman 1961, 133). The fifteenth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica describes that “while there are no sounds that can be described as inherently unmusical, musicians in each culture have tended to restrict the range of sounds they will admit.” Michael Linton, took the definition a step further to add that the form in which music is organized is an important element of the music itself. His definition of music is “the organization of sound and silence into forms that carry culturally derived meanings, cultivated for aesthetic or utilitarian purposes”.

“Organization” also seems necessary because it implies purposeful and thus human organization. This human organizing element seems crucial to the common understanding of music. Sounds produced by non-human agents, such as waterfalls or birds, are often described as “musical”, but rarely as “music”. See zoomusicology.

This definition determines music according to the poetic and the neutral levels (it must be composed sonorities), or more aesthetically, ‘the artful or pleasing organization of sound and silence’, which determines music according to the esthesic. This definition is widely held to from the late 19th century forward, which began to scientifically analyze the relationship between sound and perception.

Additionally, Schaeffer (1968, 284) describes that the sound of classical music “has decays; it is granular; it has attacks; it fluctuates, swollen with impurities—and all this creates a musicality that comes before any ‘cultural’ musicality.” Yet the definition according to the esthesic level does not allow that the sounds of classical music are complex, are noises, rather they are regular, periodic, even, musical sounds. Nattiez (1990, 47-48): “My own position can be summarized in the following terms: just as music is whatever people choose to recognize as such, noise is whatever is recognized as disturbing, unpleasant, or both.” (see “music as social construct” below)

As language

Many definitions of music implicitly hold that music is a communicative activity which conveys to the listener moods, emotions, thoughts, impressions, or philosophical, sexual, or political concepts or positions. “Musical language” may be used to mean style or genre, while music may be treated as language without being called such, as in Fred Lerdahl or others’ analysis of musical grammar. Levi R. Bryant defines music not as a language, but as a marked-based, problem-solving method such as mathematics (Ashby 2004, 4).

Because of its ability to communicate, music is sometimes described as the “universal language”. Yet the “meaning” of music is obviously culturally mediated. For example, in Western society, minor chords are often perceived as “sad”, an understanding other cultures rarely share.

There is significant complexity in the structural elements of music which warrant the perception of music as a language. For example, genres of music can be characterized by the manner in which sound and silence are articulated, organized, and disseminated. The composition of these elements gives rise to a system which is on par with the complexities and subtleties of ‘language’.

See also: Musical language

As subjective experience

Main article: Aesthetics of music

Another commonly held definition of music holds that music must be ‘pleasant’ (determined by the esthesic level) or ‘melodic’ (determined by the neutral and/or esthesic levels).[citation needed] This view is often used to argue that some kinds of organized sound ‘are not music’, while others are, based on type of organization or its aesthetic effect. Since the range of what is accepted as music varies from culture to culture and from time to time, more elaborate versions of this definition admit some kind of cultural or social evolution of music, granting that definitions may vary but universals hold. This definition was the predominant one in the 18th century, where, for example, Mozart stated that “music must never forget itself, it must never cease to be music.”[citation needed] One example of shifts in the music/noise dichotomy, what organization is considered musical, is the emancipation of the dissonance, while Luciano Berio (1976[citation needed]) describes how the Tristan chord was noise in 1859 since it was a sonority unexplainable by contemporary harmonic conventions.

This view of music is most heavily criticized by proponents of the view that music is a social construction (directly below), defined in opposition to “unpleasant” “noise”, though this view may be subsumed in the one below in that a listener’s idea of pleasant sounds may be considered socially constructed.

A subjective definition of music need not, however, be limited to traditional ideas of music as pleasant or melodious. Luciano Berio defined music as, “everything one listens to with the intention of listening to music.”[citation needed] This approach to the definition focuses not on the construction but on the experience of music. Thus, music could include “found” sound structures—produced by natural phenomena or algorithms—as long as they are interpreted by means of the aesthetic cognitive processes involved in music appreciation. This approach permits the boundary between music and noise to change over time as the conventions of musical interpretation evolve within a culture, to be different in different cultures at any given moment, and to vary from person to person according to their experience and proclivities. It is further consistent with the subjective reality that even what would commonly be considered music is experienced as nonmusic if the mind is concentrating on other matters and thus not perceiving the sound’s essence as music (Clifton 1983, 9).

See also: extreme music.

As social construct

Main article: Ethnomusicology

Post-modern and other theories argue that, like all art, music is defined primarily by social context. According to this view, music is what people call music, whether it is a period of silence, found sounds, or performance. Cage, Kagel, Schnebel, and others, according to Nattiez (1987, 43), “perceive [certain of their pieces] (even if they do not say so publicly) as a way of “speaking” in music about music, in the second degree, as it were, to expose or denounce the institutional aspect of music’s functioning.”

Cultural background is a factor in determining music from noise or unpleasant experiences. The experience of only being exposed to a particular type of music influences perception of any music. Cultures of European descent are largely influenced by music making use of the Diatonic scale. Most modern music still uses this scale and due to constant exposure, the music of other cultures is not held with the same regard. What would be accepted as music in Indonesia may be dismissed by many westerners as just “a din.”

It might be added that as well as cultural background, historical era is also a determining factor in what is regarded as music. What would today be accepted as music in the west without the blinking of an eye, would have been ridiculed in the 17th century. And what would be music to The Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious, who is said to have commented, “you just pick a chord, go twang, and you’ve got music,” would almost certainly not have been music to William Congreve, who wrote that, “Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Beast” (The Mourning Bride, 1697). All of which is to say that there can be no absolute definition of music that will be accepted by everybody.

Many people do, however, share a general idea of music. The Websters definition of music is a typical example: “the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity” (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, online edition). There are a number of potential objections to such a definition.

While some may find this definition too restrictive, arguing that “unity” and “continuity” are unnecessary, it is likely that more will find it too broad, thinking of music as being made of pitched sounds, and containing melody, harmony and rhythm. The idea that music must contain these elements is widespread, but there are several examples of what would be widely regarded as music, which lack one or more of them. Plainsong for instance, or monophonic music in general, has no harmony. Much percussion music lacks both harmony and melody; it is true that drums are tuned, but their pitches are indefinite, and they cannot be said to produce a melody in the traditional sense. If one takes rhythm to mean a regular pulse underpinning music, then many kinds of modern electronic music can be said to lack rhythm.

Some attempts to define music concentrate on the method of producing it. Even though some of the first “instruments” in prehistory must have been rocks and bits of wood, it is only in the past one hundred years or so that the idea that music could only be produced by a singer or a traditional musical instrument (such as a violin in Europe, a sitar in India or a koto in Japan) has been challenged. Erik Satie challenged what constituted a musical instrument, and therefore a musical sound, when he wrote the ballet Parade which included a part for a typewriter. His justification was that since the typewriter made a noise, it was a musical instrument. In a lighter vein, Leroy Anderson also wrote music that included a manual typewriter, played with strict rhythm.

The composer John Cage challenged traditional ideas about music in his 4’ 33″, which is notated as three movements, each marked Tacet (that is, “do not play”). The implication, as expanded upon by Cage himself, is that the background noises which are normally a distraction from the music (the humming of the lights, the shuffling of the audience, the sound of traffic outside) are to be regarded as the actual music in this case.

This is contrary to the usual view that music is, if nothing else, deliberate. Furthermore, Cage does not state the length of the piece – the duration of the first performance (given by David Tudor seated at a piano) was arrived at by consulting the I Ching, but it is not stated in the score (although whenever the piece is performed nowadays, the original duration is usually maintained). Some people deal with the challenges posed by 4’ 33″ by simply refusing to consider it as music.

Of course, even in conventional music, the “silent” gaps between notes are part of the music. The pianist Artur Schnabel, when asked what made him a great pianist, said “The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes? Ah, that is where the art resides!” In Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 45, Farewell, the entire composition anticipates the silence at the end as the musicians one by one stop playing and walk from the stage.

The American composer La Monte Young took this line of thought to an extreme by suggesting that even sound itself was not necessary for a piece of music to exist. In Composition 1960 #5, one of a series of similar pieces, he instructed the performer to “Turn a butterfly (or any number of butterflies) loose in the performance area,” the piece being considered complete when the butterflies have flown away. The choice of a butterfly is significant in that it is perceived as a silent animal. During the performance, there will be background noises, just as there are in a performance of 4’ 33″, but this is not the thrust of the piece. Rather, Young is interested in the theatrical element of music.

Young’s point in this instance is that when one goes to a performance of a piece of music, seeing the musicians perform is as much a part of the music as hearing them, so why not remove the hearing element altogether?[citation needed] In this sense, his interest is similar to that of Mauricio Kagel, who carefully notates the theatrical element of performance in his works (although he usually maintains a significant sonic element also).[citation needed]

As a category of perception

Main articles: Music cognition and Music psychology

Less commonly held is the cognitive definition of music, which argues that music is not merely the sound, or the perception of sound, but a means by which perception, action and memory are organized. This definition is influential in the cognitive sciences, which search to locate the regions of the brain responsible for parsing or remembering different aspects of musical experience. This definition would include dance. The Boulangers established a school of thought centered around this concept which included the idea of eurhythmics, which is gesture guided by music.

As musical universals

Main article: Aspect of music

Often a definition of music lists the aspects or elements that make up music under that definition (see Definition of music#As musical universals). However, in addition to a lack of consensus, Jean Molino (1975, 43) also points out that “any element belonging to the total musical fact can be isolated, or taken as a strategic variable of musical production.” Nattiez gives as examples Mauricio Kagel’s Con Voce [with voice], where a masked trio silently mimes playing instruments. In this example sound, a common element, is excluded, while gesture, a less common element, is given primacy. In classical music of the common practice period, for instance, melody and harmony are often considered to be given more importance at the expense of rhythm and timbre. John Cage considers duration the primary aspect of music as, being the temporal aspect of music, it is the only aspect common to both “sound” and “silence”.

The categorization of what is and isn’t music through definition or universal aspects dates back to Aristotle. Anything up for consideration as music is compared to the category definition of music through analysis of and comparison of their properties. Ludwig Wittgenstein however questioned this hypothesis for category formation by noting that for any universal aspect proposed for the category “game” an example which does not share that aspect may be found. He proposed that categorization is by family resemblance and not definition. Turned, by Wittgenstein, from philosophy to cognitive psychiatry Eleanor Rosch proposes that categories are not clean cut but that something may be more or less a member of a category. As such the search for musical universals would fail and would not provide one with a valid definition (Levitin 2006, 136–39).

Specific definitions

Clifton’s phenomenological definition

In his 1983 book, Music as Heard, which sets out from the phenomenological position of Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, and Ricœur, Thomas Clifton defines music as “an ordered arrangement of sounds and silences whose meaning is presentative rather than denotative. . . . This definition distinguishes music, as an end in itself, from compositional technique, and from sounds as purely physical objects.” More precisely, “music is the actualization of the possibility of any sound whatever to present to some human being a meaning which he experiences with his body—that is to say, with his mind, his feelings, his senses, his will, and his metabolism” (Clifton 1983, 1). It is therefore “a certain reciprocal relation established between a person, his behavior, and a sounding object” (Clifton 1983, 10).

Clifton accordingly differentiates music from nonmusic on the basis of the human behavior involved, rather than on either the nature of compositional technique or of sounds as purely physical objects. Consequently, the distinction becomes a question of what is meant by musical behavior: “a musically behaving person is one whose very being is absorbed in the significance of the sounds being experienced.” However, “It is not altogether accurate to say that this person is listening to the sounds. First, the person is doing more than listening: he is perceiving, interpreting, judging, and feeling. Second, the preposition ‘to’ puts too much stress on the sounds as such. Thus, the musically behaving person experiences musical significance by means of, or through, the sounds” (Clifton 1983, 2).

In this framework, Clifton finds that there are two things that separate music from nonmusic: (1) musical meaning is presentative, and (2) music and nonmusic are distinguished in the idea of personal involvement. “It is the notion of personal involvement which lends significance to the word ordered in this definition of music” (Clifton 1983, 3–4).

This is not to be understood, however, as a sanctification of extreme relativism, since “it is precisely the ‘subjective’ aspect of experience which lured many writers earlier in this century down the path of sheer opinion-mongering. Later on this trend was reversed by a renewed interest in ‘objective,’ scientific, or otherwise nonintrospective musical analysis. But we have good reason to believe that a musical experience is not a purely private thing, like seeing pink elephants, and that reporting about such an experience need not be subjective in the sense of it being a mere matter of opinion” (Clifton 1983, 8–9).

Clifton’s task, then, is to describe musical experience and the objects of this experience which, together, are called “phenomena,” and the activity of describing phenomena is called “phenomenology”. (Clifton 1983, 9).

It is important to stress that this definition of music says nothing about aesthetic standards. “Music is not a fact or a thing in the world, but a meaning constituted by human beings. . . . To talk about such experience in a meaningful way demands several things“:

1. “we have to be willing to let the composition speak to us, to let it reveal its own order and significance” 2. “we have to be willing to question our assumptions about the nature and role of musical materials.” 3. “we have to be ready to admit that describing a meaningful experience is itself meaningful.”

(Clifton 1983, 5–6)

Nattiez’s tripartite definition

“Music, often an art/entertainment, is a total social fact whose definitions vary according to era and culture,” according to Jean Molino (1975, 37). It is often contrasted with noise. According to musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez: “The border between music and noise is always culturally defined—which implies that, even within a single society, this border does not always pass through the same place; in short, there is rarely a consensus…. By all accounts there is no single and intercultural universal concept defining what music might be” (Nattiez 1990, 47-8 and 55).

Given the above demonstration that “there is no limit to the number or the genre of variables that might intervene in a definition of the musical,” (Molino, 1987, 42)[citation needed] an organization of definitions and elements is necessary.

Nattiez (1990, 17; see sign (semiotics)) describes definitions according to a tripartite semiological scheme similar to the following: Poietic Process     Esthesic Process Composer (Producer)     →     Sound (Trace)     ←     Listener (Receiver)

There are three levels of description, the poietic, the neutral, and the esthesic:

* ” By ‘poietic’ I understand describing the link among the composer’s intentions, his creative procedures, his mental schemas, and the result of this collection of strategies; that is, the components that go into the work’s material embodiment. Poietic description thus also deals with a quite special form of hearing (Varese called it ‘the interior ear’): what the composer hears while imagining the work’s sonorous results, or while experimenting at the piano, or with tape.” * “By ‘esthesic’ I understand not merely the artificially attentive hearing of a musicologist, but the description of perceptive behaviors within a given population of listeners; that is how this or that aspect of sonorous reality is captured by their perceptive strategies.” (Nattiez 1990:90) * The neutral level is that of the physical “trace”, (Saussere’s sound-image, a sonority, a score), created and interpreted by the esthesic level (which corresponds to a perceptive definition; the perceptive and/or “social” construction definitions below) and the poietic level (which corresponds to a creative, as in compositional, definition; the organizational and social construction definitions below).

Table describing types of definitions of music: poietic level (choice of the composer)     neutral level (physical definition)     esthesic level (perceptive judgment) music     musical sound     sound of the harmonic spectrum     agreeable sound nonmusic     noise (nonmusical)     noise (complex sound)     disagreeable noise

(Nattiez 1990, p.46)

Because of this range of definitions, the study of music comes in a wide variety of forms. There is the study of sound and vibration or acoustics, the cognitive study of music, the study of music theory and performance practice or music theory and ethnomusicology and the study of the reception and history of music, generally called musicology.

[edit] Xenakis’s definition

Composer Iannis Xenakis in “Towards a Metamusic” (chapter 7 of Xenakis 1971) defined music in the following way:

1. It is a sort of comportment necessary for whoever thinks it and makes it. 2. It is an individual plemora, a realization. 3. It is a fixing in sound of imagined virtualities (cosmological, philosophical, . . . , arguments) 4. It is normative, that is, unconsciously it is a model for being or for doing by sympathetic drive. 5. It is catalytic: its mere presence permits internal psychic or mental transformations in the same way as the crystal ball of the hypnotist. 6. It is the gratuitous play of a child. 7. It is a mystical (but atheistic) asceticism. Consequently expressions of sadness, joy, love and dramatic situations are only very limited particular instances.

(Xenakis 1971, 181)

* Ashby, Arved, ed. 2004. The Pleasure of Modernist Music: Listening, Meaning, Intention, Ideology. Eastman Studies in Music 29. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press. ISBN 1-58046-143-3. * Clifton, Thomas. 1983. Music as Heard: A Study in Applied Phenomenology. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-02091-0 * Goldman, Richard Franko. 1961. “Varèse: Ionisation; Density 21.5; Intégrales; Octandre; Hyperprism; Poème Electronique. Instrumentalists, cond. Robert Craft. Columbia MS 6146 (stereeo)” (in Reviews of Records). Musical Quarterly 47, no. 1. (January):133–34. * Leon-Portilla, Miguel. 2007. “La música de los aztecas / Music Among Aztecs”, Pauta, no. 103:7–19. * Levitin, Daniel J. (2006). This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0525949690. * Molino, Jean (1975). “Fait musical et sémiologue de la musique”, Musique en Jeu, no. 17:37-62. * Nattiez, Jean-Jacques. 1990. Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music . Translated by Carolyn Abbate. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-09136-6. * Nettl, Bruno (1989). Blackfoot Musical Thought: Comparative Perspectives. Ohio: The Kent State University Press. ISBN 0-87338-370-2 * Robertson-De Carbo, C. E. 1976. “Tayil as Category and Communication among the Argentine Mapuche: A Methodological Suggestion”, 1976 Yearbook of the International Folk Music Council, 8, p.35-42. * Sakata, Lorraine. 1983. Music in the Mind, The Concepts of Music and Musicians in Afghanistan. Kent: Kent State University Press. * Schafer, R. Murray. 1996. “Music and the Soundscape,” in Classic Essays on Twentieth-Century Music: A Continuing Symposium, edited by Richard Kostelanetz and Joseph Darby, with Matthew Santa. New York: Schirmer Books; London: Prentice Hall International. ISBN 0-02-864581-2 (pbk) * Xenakis, Iannis. 1971. Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press.

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Hello Music Theory | Learn To Read Music

What Are Dynamics In Music? A Complete Guide

Written by Dan Farrant

Last updated 20th June 2024

Deciding how loud or quietly to play a piece of music can completely change how it sounds. If you play it loudly and forcefully, the music might sound aggressive and attacking; but if you were to play the same piece softly, it’ll have a completely different feel.

For that reason, dynamics are one of the most important parts of playing music. You can express so much emotion with them.

In this post, we’re going to cover all the different types of musical dynamics and how we use them with lots of examples and explanations. But first, let’s define what are dynamics in music.

presentation definition music

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Definition Of Dynamics In Music

presentation definition music

In music, we use the word dynamics to describe the volume of music.

But rather than using words like loud and soft , we use different Italian terms and symbols to describe the volume of the piece.

We group the musical terms for dynamics into two different categories:

  • Static dynamics
  • Changing dynamics

First, we’ll look at the differences between these two types of dynamics.

Static Dynamics

Static dynamics are musical instructions that tell us to play the music at a certain volume that doesn’t change.

In other words, don’t get louder or quieter, play each note at the same volume as the last one.

We use three Italian terms to describe static dynamics:

Let’s start by looking at piano (not the instrument).

The first dynamic we’ll look at is piano , which is pronounced “pi-ah-no.”

Piano is the word we use to describe quiet or soft in music .

When reading music you’ll typically see a letter p , which is telling the musician to play this part of the piece quietly.

presentation definition music

Up next we have forte , which is pronounced “for-tay.”

It’s defined as the musical term for loud , and it comes from the Italian word for “strong.”

Just like piano, when forte is used in a piece of music, you’ll often see it indicated as a letter f .

This means you should play from this point loudly.

presentation definition music

We use another Italian word, mezzo , which is pronounced “met-so.”

The definition of mezzo is “ moderately ” or “ half .”

It is placed in front of the two dynamics: piano and forte, so you get mezzo piano (which means moderately quiet) and mezzo forte (which means moderately loud).

Again, this will most of the time get abbreviated to the first letters of each word: mp or mf .

presentation definition music

Pianissimo And Fortissimo

We can also add the suffix “ issimo ,” which essentially means “very,” on to the end of piano and forte.

We just take off the last letter o from piano and e from forte. This then gives us pianissimo , which means “ very quiet ,” and fortissimo , which means “ very loud .”

Pianissimo will get abbreviated to the double letter ps, and fortissimo will get abbreviated to the double letter fs , as shown below.

presentation definition music

Pianississimo And Fortississimo

Not as common but still worth mentioning is that we can have very, very loud and very, very quiet dynamics.

We just add an extra “iss” to get pianississimo and fortississimo .

presentation definition music

Even More Ps And Fs

You’re unlikely to see static dynamics other than these, but there have been some composers who’ve used even more ps and fs to make some more extreme dynamics.

Holst uses fortissississimo ( ffff ) in “Mars, The Bringer of War” from The Planets .

In the video below, skip to around 7 minutes in and 7:30 minutes, and you’ll hear how loud fortissississimo is!

Hearing a whole orchestra play pretty much as loud as they can is quite a thing to experience, definitely worth going to see it next time it’s on at the proms.

Another example of some extreme dynamics is from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 6. In the first movement, at around 10 minutes in, he writes a lot of ps , (six ps at one point, which is pianississississimo — a bit of a mouthful to say).

You might want to turn your volume up to hear it though…

Changing Dynamics

The other type of dynamic markings that you’ll see has to do with changing dynamics.

This is where the music isn’t staying at one volume but gradually (or suddenly) increasing or decreasing in volume.

We use the Italian word crescendo (pronounced “kruh-shen-doh”), which means to “ gradually get louder .” It comes from the Italian word for increasing.

It is often abbreviated to cresc . in a piece of music, but you can also draw a hairpin sign. This is just two lines starting together and gradually getting further apart as shown below.

presentation definition music

Decrescendo and Diminuendo

The opposite of crescendo is decrescendo, which means to “ gradually get quieter .” It comes from the Italian word for decreasing.

It gets abbreviated to decresc . , but we can also use a hairpin symbol pointing the other way. The two lines start apart and gradually get closer together until they meet.

presentation definition music

Another word that means exactly the same as decrescendo is diminuendo , which means “ gradually get quieter .”

Diminuendo gets abbreviated to dim. , but you can use the decrescendo hairpin or either of these words interchangeably.

presentation definition music

Music Dynamics Chart

Below is a list of all common dynamic markings that you’re likely to come across in a piece of music, along with the symbol and the definition.

presentation definition music

Summing Up Dynamics

I hope this helps you make a bit more sense of dynamics and how we notate volume in music.

It’s a very vital part of performing and can completely change how the music you’re playing sounds.

I’ll be adding some more information on some of the other terms used to describe sudden changes in volume soon.

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Dan Farrant

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.

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