What Is Music?


Music is an art form that uses a combination of sound, harmony, melody and rhythm to convey some kind of emotional message. Different cultures use music to celebrate or grieve, or as an expression of their culture and social identity. Music is also a form of entertainment that can be enjoyed by many people. The word “music” is derived from the Greek words msica (beautiful sound) and phona (song).

Most musicians have a deep emotional connection to the music they play or sing. They are often passionate about the power of music to transform their lives. Some of the greatest musicians have written about their experiences with music and what it means to them.

Music has several rudimentary elements that can be identified and learned by students in their early school years. These include rhythm, pitch, melodic contour and harmony. These are important foundations that students should be familiar with in order to be able to enjoy and understand music.

Pitch is the audio vibration that determines how high or low a sound is. It is what distinguishes one note from another. In written music, a staff shows which pitches to play and for how long. Rhythm is the organization of sounds into short and long durations, including rests. Children can easily learn to feel the strong beats in a song like Frere Jacques, and understand how they are grouped into measures. Musical rhythm can also be analyzed to determine the relationship between the rhythm and the melody, and how a composer may change the melody to create a new rhythm.

Melody is the arrangement of notes in a sequence that sound harmonious. Most compositions consist of more than one melody that repeat. Musical melodies can move in two ways: stepwise or leapwise. When a melodic line moves stepwise, it sounds more mellow and smooth and is easier to play or sing. Leapwise movements require larger leaps between notes, and are more dramatic and energetic.

Musical harmony is the relationship between two or more melody lines played at the same time. Harmonies can be created in a variety of ways, from simple chords to complex counterpoint. Counterpoint is when the melodies are dependent on each other to create harmonies, but they are independent in terms of rhythm and contour.

Musical styles have evolved over the centuries, from folk music to Classical music in the 17th and 18th century, to Jazz and pop music in the 20th century. Some composers promoted nationalistic pride with orchestral music inspired by folk songs, while others focused on the emotional and expressive qualities of music. Regardless of how or why music is composed, it continues to be an essential part of most cultural identities around the world. As our understanding of music evolves, it is important to remember that the power of this universal communication can transform lives and bring about positive social change.