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Online Music Dictionary of Musical Terms Beginning With C


Click on a letter of the alphabet from the list below to go to the page of musical terms that begin with that letter.

 

A B C D E F G H I J K L M

 

N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 

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".

Capellmeister: Kapellmeister.

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.

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.