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victoria Williams Music Theory

Victoria Williams

LmusTCL BA Mus (Hons) MISM

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Next UK ABRSM Online Theory Exams Grades 1-5:
16th March 2021
Next UK Trinity Paper-based Theory Exams Grades 1-8:
Sat 8th May 2021

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17. Symbols

Grade One Music Theory Lesson 17: Musical Symbols & Signs 

Suitable for:  ABRSM Grade 1   Trinity Grade 1   GCSE   AP Music Theory Beginners 


Musical Symbols

Symbols in music have many different shapes and uses.

They are useful because they give us information quickly, without us having to read words.

Symbols which are attached to notes are normally written on the opposite side to the stem. 

These are the symbols you need to know for Grade One Music Theory. Make sure you know how to explain each one in words! If the symbol has a foreign name, such as "staccato", you need to know how to explain it in English in the exam, for full marks.


The Tie and the Slur

Ties and slurs look the same, but a tie always joins together two identical notes, and a slur always connects non-identical notes. For more on ties, see Lesson 8 - Tied Notes.


The two (or more) notes should be played as one note.

Tie - music theory

Slur (or "Legato")

The two (or more) notes should be played smoothly.

Slur or legato - music theory


The Accent

Accent - music theory

Accent. Attack the note with a hard force.



Staccato - music theory symbol dot above or under note

Staccato. Play the note short and detached.



Pause - music theory symbol- curved line with a dot

Pause (or "fermata"). Hold on to the note for some time longer than real value of the note.


The Crescendo and Decrescendo

Crescendo - music theory symbol

Crescendo. Gradually getting louder.


Decrescendo - music theory symbol

Decrescendo or Diminuendo. Gradually getting quieter.



Single Repeat Bar - music theory

Single repeat bar. Go back to the beginning and repeat everything up to this bar.


Double Repeat Bars in music theory - bar lines with dots

Double repeat bars. Repeat everything between the two repeat bars.