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The Musical Adjectives Project
was founded in 2010 by Dr. Gail Fischler of Piano Addict together with her students. Today, this wiki is a collaborative effort between pianists from many countries. We collect and categorize descriptive words and images to aid pianists and musicians in understanding and depicting the emotions and character within repertoire. The original inspiration was a wonderful reference handout (now dog-eared and very, very faded) by Maurice Hinson which consisted of an entire page full of adjectives. Playful With a Hint of Brooding Sound Images

How can these descriptives be used?E5B0CBF5-E446-47F3-AD24-3E9A41D3FEE2.jpg

One way to start out is to simply write words that describe sections or phrases of a piece directly on the score. Start with large sections and then gradually move into finding the character in smaller sections. As each person matures, they will be increasingly able to describe subtle differences between phrases, motives, and repetitions.

Alison Mathews' students, Ben, Amy, Amelia, and Megan, wrote words on their scores, created word clouds, and chose images to prepare their pieces for performance.
Megan & Ben were even inspired to create videos!

Here's a favorite activity from my studio. Each student chooses words to illustrate a mood in which another student must play a scale, arpeggio, progression, short improvisation etc. Warning: imaginative descriptions, such as Playful but never giddy with a mere hint of brooding, may happen. Of course this activity is loads of fun. But on the serious side, not only do students really have to know their musical elements, they must also simultaneously conceive of the sound they want in their heads and listen out into the room.
Enjoy! Check out the ways others are thinking about and using musical adjectives on the Ideas & Tips page and please share the ways you use the adjectives here at The Musical Adjectives Project. (BTW, a few adverbs, phrases, and other descriptives have come along for the ride but we are not prejudiced and do not discriminate against them)

Have you seen Musical Words, the popular board game based on the descriptives found here at The Musical Adjectives Project?

Robyn's students enjoying a round of Musical Words

It's a fun way to get your students started describing and connecting to musical emotion and character!

Individual or team play
• Add your own words 

• Great for all instruments, levels & group sizes

• Secret word challenges

• Obstacle & reward cards 

• Play improv style or use recordings

• Perfect for all styles of music
• Laminated for years of fun
• Downloadble format available

Don't forget to look at the Ideas & Tips page for super creative ways to use The Musical Adjectives Project in both one-on-one and group settings.


We are always glad to hear how pianists and teachers use these descriptives. If you have words, tips, resources, or advice you want to share please click on the Contact tab on Piano Addict .


We would love to add your images and original artwork. However, the Sound Images page is locked so you won't
be able to add images directly. Please click on the Contact tab on Piano Addict to arrange to add images. Remember, the images must pertain to a specific work of music. Please submit only one image per piece or movement. Images should be in jpg format with good resolution (width 1500), and no larger than 2.0 MB.