Click on a letter of the alphabet from the list below to go to the page of musical terms that begin with that letter.
C: The key of C.
Cabalistic Numerological Symbolism: A method of inbedding hidden messages in music, by using a code of numbers based on which notes are used, their durations, arrangement, subdivision, etc., whereby the composer made symbolic referrence to specific persons, places, or things and/or events in some way associated with the music.
Cacophony: A discordant or dissonant sound.
Cadence: The melodic or harmonic ending of a piece, or the sections or phrases within a piece. A chord progression that gives a feeling of resolution, or conclusion.
Cadenza: An extended solo passage, usually near the end of a piece, improvised by the performer, or sometimes written out by the composer.
Camera: Secular chamber music, as opposed to church music, or chiesa.
Camerata: Small art or music schools dating from the 16th century.
Cannon: "Rule". In counterpoint, a melody that is repeated exactly by a different voice, entering a short interval after the original voice.
Cantata: "Sung". A multi-movement vocal work for concert or church performance by a choir, sometimes soloists, and an instrumental ensemble.
Canticle: A non-metrical hymn or song.
Canto Fermo: A cantus firmus.
Canzona: A song, or ballad, or "in the style of a song".
Cappella: See a cappella.
Chamber Music: Music for small ensemble.
Chanson: A song, usually secular. This term is usually applied to works composed during the Medieval and Renaissance periods, though many twentieth-century composers have also applied the term to their own works.
Chorale: A German Lutheran hymn tune.
Chordal: A form of music in which a single melody is accompanied by sets of chords, rather than a competing counter melody.
Chromatic: Motion by half steps; or pitches used outside of the diatonic scale in which they normally occur.
Classical Era: The musical period from the late 1700s to the mid 1820s, characterized by more rigidly defined musical forms, increased attention to instrumental music, and the evolution of the symphony.
Clef: The symbol used at the beginning of a staff to indicate which lines and spaces represent which notes. In modern practice, only three clefs are commonly used, the G clef or treble clef, the F clef or bass clef, and the C clef, when used as an alto clef.
Close Harmony: A harmonic voicing technique in which all the parts involved remain as close together as the chords allow, often within a single octave.
Clusters: Groups of notes that are the interval of a second apart from one another.
Coloratura: "Coloring". Elaborate coloration of the melodic line, usually by a vocalist.
Common Time: 4/4 meter.
Common Tone: A note that remains the same between two different chords.
Compound Interval: An interval greater than an octave, such as a ninth, or eleventh.
Concert: A public performance of music.
Concertante: A piece for two or more instruments with orchestral accompaniment.
Concerto: A piece for soloist(s) and orchestra.
Consort: A Renaissance chamber group.
Continuo: Basso continuo.
Counterpoint: The combination of two or more melodic lines played against one another. A horizontal structure built upon competing melodic lines, rather than a chordalsetting.
Countertenor "Against the tenor". The highest male singing voice, above tenor.
Crab Cannon: A contrapuntal piece in which one part is identical to another, but backwards.
Crecendo: A gradual increase in volume.
Cue: Indication by the conductor or a spoke word or gesture for a performer to make an entry. Small notes that indicate another performer's part.
Cut time: 2/2 meter.