Online Music Dictionary of Musical Terms Beginning With C
C: The key of C.
C Clef: A clef that indicates which line represents C on a staff, as opposed to a G clef, or an F clef.
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.
Cambiata: In counterpoint, a nonharmonic tone inserted between a dissonance and its resolution.
Camera: Secular chamber music, as opposed to church music, or chiesa.
Camerata: Small art or music schools dating from the 16th century.
Cancel: A natural sign, used to remove a previously applied accidental.
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.
Cantus Firmus: "Fixed Song". A pre-existing melody, used as the foundation for a polyphonic work. Used in counterpoint, Canti Firmus were usually based on ecclesiatical chant.
Canzona: A Song, or ballad, or "in the style of a Song".
Cappella: See a cappella.
Cello: In the violin family, the tenor instrument, played while held between the knees.
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.
Chiesa: "Church". Church music, as opposed to chamber music, or camera.
Chorale: A German Lutheran hymn tune.
Chord: A set of notes, usually three or four, played simultaniously; usually containing a root, and other tones which have a tonal relationship to that root.
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.
Comic Opera: An opera with light-natured music, comedy, and a happy ending. In contrast to grand opera.
Common Chord: A chord composed of a root, third, and fifth.
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.
Composition: An original musical work or production, or the process of creating or writing a musical work or production.
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.
Consequent: The second phrase in a musical period, in a fugue, the answer.
Consonance: Sounds that are in agreement in terms of physical generation of sound; i.e. sounds found in the harmonic series of a pitch being harmonized, in contrast to dissonance.
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.
Last updated: 3/6/2023