Basic Music Vocabulary

Basic Music Vocabulary

Is there a person who doesn’t like music? Probably not. So, it’s very important to be able to talk about it, because as Louis Armstrong said, music is life itself.

Basic music vocabulary

Arctic Monkeys are a four-piece band from Sheffield, England. They first became well known in 2004 when people were able to download their music from the Internet. Their first two singles went to number 1 in the UK singles chart in 2005, and their first album sold over 350,000 copies in its first week.

The group are: Alex Turner, who is the lead singer and plays the guitar, Jamie Cook and Nick O’Malley, who both play the guitar, and Mathew Helder, who is the drummer and also sings.

  • band = group – small group of musicians; you can use a singular verb or a plural verb after band/group: 1) The group are four talented musicians. 2) The band play pop.
  • single – one song on a CD: “White Christmas”performed by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single worldwide.
  • the charts – an official list of the most popular songs each week: The song topped the charts for 4 weeks.
  • lead singer – the person who sings the main vocal parts in a band; a backing singer/vocalist sings behind or with a main/lead singer: 1) She comes on stage with a five-piece band and two backing singers. 2) He was the lead singer of the band, which performed his compositions.

Basic classical music vocabulary

More example sentences:

  1. A baton /ˈbæt(ə)n/ is an extremely useful tool for conductors.
  2. The job of a conductor is extremely hard and demanding.
  3. A conductor leads an orchestra.
  4. Conductors guide the musicians on when and how fast and loud to play.
  5. Cello is one of the most challenging instruments to learn.
  6. As a violin teacher, one question I get very often is “Am I too old to learn the violin!?” 
  7. You can make a lot of progress in just a few years if you practice hard and stay committed to learning the violin.
  8. Both the cello and violin have similar difficulties in technique and sound production, and neither have frets.
a fret is one of the raised lines across the narrow part of a guitar where you put your fingers to play the different notes

Play guitar or the guitar?

Nouns meaning musical instruments are countable nouns, and when you talk about the instruments as things, you can use a, the or none of the articles, depending on the situation. For example:

  1. My brother gave me an electric guitar.
  2. Where can I buy used drums?
  3. Pianos require a lot of work to maintain them.
  4. There is a flute in the case.

When you talk about someone’s ability to play a musical instrument, you use the before the instrument or no article at all:

  1. I’ve always wanted to play the piano.
  2. Listen! Ella is playing the violin.
  3. Can you play drums?
  4. I’ll teach you to play trumpet.

Further reading: “Articles. Basic Rules”

Classical or classic?

Classic is about having high quality and standards. Classical refers to ancient literature, art, architecture or music:

  1. This is a CD of classic rock ballads.
  2. “At Last” by Etta James is a classic song.
  3. “Abbey Road” is a classic album.
  4. Mozart and Beethoven are classical composers.
  5. Do you prefer classical music or pop music?
  6. At this studio, they teach classical and modern dance.


Click the link here and match the words to the pictures.

Click the link here and choose the right words to complete the sentences.

Materials used: “Oxford Word Skills. Basic” by R.Gairns and S.Reman