Glossary C


Caberet | A form of entertainment featuring comedy, song, dance, and theatre, typically in a restaurant or nightclub.

Cadence | A sequence of chords that brings a temporary or permanent point of rest in a harmonic progression; there are several types, each with a different formula of two chords. (See also authentic cadence, deceptive cadence, half cadenceand plagal cadence.)

Cadential six-four chord | The second inversion of a tonic chord (or, functionally, a suspended dominant chord) that precedes a root-position dominant chord in an authentic cadence. (See also passing six-four chord and pedal six-four chord.)

Cadenza | A solo passage performed in a free, improvisatory style.

CAGED chords | The main open chord positions on a guitar that are used to play any major chord on the fretboard.

Cakewalk | A lively dance from the early nineteenth century featuring syncopated rhythms.

Calando | A tempo marking that means ‘getting slower and softer or dying away.’ (Also deficiendo, mancando, morendo, sminuendoor smorzando.)

 Call and response | The alternation of musical phrases between groups of musicians, whether drummers, singers, or instrumentalists. (Also responsorial singing.)

Calliope | A loud keyboard instrument that resembles an organ but with notes produced by steam whistles; mainly used on showboats and in traveling fairs. (Also steam organ.)

Cambiare | A general term that means ‘to change.’

Canon | A melody that is repeated at regular intervals, so that the imitations overlap. The individual parts may enter at different measures, pitches, or speeds. (See also round).

Cantabile | A general term that means ‘in a singing style.’

Cantata | A piece of music in the baroque style for multiple sections of voices and instruments; based on sacred or secular texts.

Capo | (See capo tasto.)

Capo tasto | (Abbreviation: capo) A device that clamps to the neck of a guitar (near a fret) in order to raise the pitch of each string without having to adjust any tuning pegs; also used on instruments like the mandolin or banjo.


Carol | A festive song often associated with x-mas.

Case | A protective container designed to store or transport a musical instrument.

Castanets | Small concave pieces of wood, ivory, or plastic, joined in pairs by a cord and clicked together by the fingers as a rhythmic accompaniment to Spanish dancing.

Castrato | A male singer who was castrated (!) as a child to preserve his alto or soprano vocal range; prominent in seventeenth and early eighteenth century opera. (The practice of castration was banned in 1903.)

Catalog | The complete collection of songs by a musician.

C-clef | (See alto clef and tenor clef.)

CD | (See compact disc.)

Celesta | A small keyboard instrument resembling an upright piano with felted hammers that strike a row of steel plates suspended over wooden resonators, producing an ethereal bell-like sound.

Cello | (See violoncello.)

Celtic harp | (See Irish harp.)

Cha-cha-cha | A style of Cuban dance music that became popular in the early 1960s.

Chamber choir | A small group of between five to fifteen singers, who usually perform a cappella or with piano accompaniment.

Chamber music | Art music played by small ensembles of two to 10 players with one performer to a part (example: a string quartet).

Chance music | (See aleatory.)

Changing tone | A combination of two non-chord tones; the first non-chord tone is approached by step and then jumps a generic third to the second non-chord tone, which then resolves by step.


Channel | (See bridge.) Also, in electronics, a path for passing data. Also, on a harmonica, a hole into which a performer blows air.

Chant | The rhythmic speaking or singing of words or sounds, often using only one or two pitches. (See also Gregorian chant.)

Charleston | A lively dance of the 1920s that involved turning the knees inward and kicking out the lower legs to a syncopated rhythm; named after the city of Charleston, South Carolina.

Chart | (See chord chart.) Also a diagram illustrating note patterns like scales or chords on an instrument.

Chimes | A set of tuned metal tubes of various lengths suspended from a frame and struck with a hammer; sometimes used in an orchestra. (Also tubular bells.)

China cymbal | A type of cymbal that produces a dark, crisp, ‘trashy,’ and explosive tone; similar in sound and shape to a Chinese gong; often used in a drum kit.

Chinese block | (See wood block.)

Chiuso | A general term in horn playing that means ‘stopped.’

Choir | A group of singers who perform together, usually in parts, with several on each part; often associated with a church. (Also chorus.)

Chord | A group of two or more notes played at the same time.

Chordal space | A graph or diagram that outlines the relationships between chords; typically used only for analysis.

Chord chart | (Abbreviation: chart) A jazz term for a song written in musical shorthand listing only chord names divided into bars. (Also jazz chart.)

Chordophone | A world music classification for stringed instruments (like a guitar, violin, or harp).

Chord progression | A series of chord changes that forms the underlying harmony of a piece of music; the motion gives the music a sense of direction by moving through different levels of tension and relaxation. (Also harmonic progression or progression.)

Chord substitution | The use of a chord in the place of another similar or related chord in a chord progression. (Also substitution.)


Chord symbol | An alpha-numeric abbreviation for a chord name that identifies the root of the chord, its quality, and sometimes its function in relation to the key center.

Chorus | (See choir.) Also the main section of a popular song that often follows a verse and includes repeated lyrics and music. (Also refrain.)

Chorus effect | An ‘out-of-phase’ sound quality created by instruments (or audio signals) that are not exactly tuned to one another; often used to add interest to a recording or performance.

Chromatic | A term that describes a melody or harmony built from the 12 semitones of an octave. Also refers to the non-diatonic notes in a given key.

Chromatic instrument | An instrument that can play all the notes of the chromatic scale.

Chromatic modulation | A change from one key to another using a secondary dominant or another chromatically altered chord that leads a progression chromatically up or down toward a new key.

Chromatic scale | The scale that contains all 12 tones within the interval of an octave.

Circle of fifths | The natural sequence, or progression, of all 12 musical keys.

Circle progression | A common chord progression where the root motion moves up a fifths or down a fourth. (Also normal progression.)

Circular breathing | A technique used to produce a continuous sound on a woodwind or brass instrument, where the player breathes in through the nose while the cheeks push air out into the instrument.

Clarinet | A woodwind instrument with a single-reed mouthpiece, a cylindrical tube of dark wood with a flared end, and holes stopped by keys.

Classical guitar | An acoustic guitar strung with nylon strings that are plucked with the fingers.

Classical music | Technically, European music of the Classical Period (1750-1820). Also considered ‘art music’ of any culture, as opposed to folk, jazz, or popular music.

Claves | A pair of short hardwood sticks that produce a bright clicking noise when struck together; often used as a percussion instrument in Latin-American music.

Clavier | They keyboard of a musical instrument. Also a generic term for any keyboard instrument (including a harpsichord, piano, organ, etc.).


Clef | In musical notation, a symbol at the beginning of a staff that identifies the pitches on that staff. The most common clefs are the treble clef (for indicating pitches mostly above middle C) and the bass clef (for indicating pitches mostly below middle C).

Cliche | A phrase, expression, or idea that has been overused or become common.

Click track | In multitrack recording, a series of repeated audio cues that help a performer follow the beat; basically the recorded sound of a metronome.

Climb | (See pre-chorus.)

Clockwise | In a curve, motion that follows the same direction as the hands of a clock.

Close harmony | A type of harmony in which the notes of the chord are close together; typically used in vocal music.

Closely-related keys | Keys that share many common tones with one another; a tonic along with its subdominant and dominant keys and their respective relative keys; for example, C major (and A minor) are closely related to G major (and E minor) as well as F major (and D minor).

Coda | A section (often four to eight measures long) near the end of a piece of music that brings the piece to a close; technically an expanded cadence that provides a strong conclusion. (Also outro or tag.)

Colla | (See con.)

Collaboration | The process of writing a song with one or more partners.

Coloratura | An elaborate singing style that showcases the upper register of a soprano voice; commonly used in opera.

Color wheel | An organized pattern of colors around a circle that shows the relationship between colors.

Combo | A small jazz, rock, or pop band (often on piano, guitar, and double bass).

Come | (See alla.)

Commercial | A term that refers to marketable music that has mass appeal.


Common chord | A simple triad. Also a chord that functions in two different keys and can, therefore, act as the pivot in pivot chord modulation.

Common chord modulation | (See pivot chord modulation.)

Common practice period | European art music from the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods.

Common time | Another name for a 4/4 time signature; often marked by a C; the most prevalent meter in classical, rock, jazz, country, and bluegrass music. (Also march time.)

Common-tone modulation | A change from one key to another using a sustained or repeated pitch that is part of both the old and new keys. Usually, this pitch will be held alone before the music continues in the new key (example: a sustained F note in the key of Bb major that transitions into the key of F major.)

Comodo | (See semplice.)

Compact disc | (Abbreviation: CD) A small plastic disc used to store music or other digital information.

Comping | A jazz term that describes accompanying a jazz musician’s improvised solo or melody lines with a keyboard or guitar; an abbreviation of the word ‘accompanying.’

Complete cadence | A cadence that ends on the tonic.

Complex meter | (See odd meter.)

Composer | A person who creates or writes music.

Composition | An original piece of music. Also the process of creating a new piece of music.

Compound division | The subdivision of a beat into three equal parts. (See also simple division.)

Compound duple | In music notation, a time signature that includes two beats per measure and three notes per beat.

Compound interval | An interval that is greater than an octave. (See also simple interval.)


Compound meter | A meter in which each beat is subdivided into three parts rather than two. (See also compound division.)

Compound quadruple | In music notation, a time signature that includes four beats per measure and three notes per beat.

Compound triple | In music notation, a time signature that includes three beats per measure and three notes per beat.

Compression | The process of limiting the dynamic range or an audio signal; used in sound recording and live sound reinforcement to improve the perceived quality of audio.

Computer music | Music generated by, or composed with, the aid of computers.

Con | A general term that means ‘with.’ (Also colla.)

Con 8 | (see con 8ve.)

Con brio | A general term that means ‘with brilliance or vigor.’ (Also brillante.)

Concept album | A popular music album featuring songs that express a unified theme or idea.

Concert | A live musical performance in front of an audience.

Concert band | A relatively large group of brass, woodwind, and percussion players that performs in a concert hall, as distinguished from a marching band.

Concert hall | A cultural building used as a performance venue for classical instrumental music.

Concert music | (See art music.)

Concertina | A small polygonal instrument played by stretching and squeezing a central bellows between the hands to blow air over reeds that are sounded by buttons.

Concertmaster | The first violinist in an orchestra, who serves as the leader of the string section and is responsible for the orchestra’s tuning.


Concerto | A composition written for a solo instrument accompanied by an orchestra; similar in scope to a symphony, but usually containing only three movements.

Con dolore | a general term that means ‘with sadness.’ (Also dolente, lacrimoso, lamentoso, mesto, pateticamente, piangevole, solennemente.)

Conductor | The person who directs the performance of an orchestra, choir, or band using gestures and facial expressions.

Con forza | A general term that means ‘with force or strength.’ (Also vigoroso.)

Con fuoco | (See con passione.)

Conga | A Latin American dance of African origin, usually with several people in a single line, one behind the other.

Conga drum | A tall, narrow, low-toned drum that is beaten with the hands.

Con giusto | A general term that means ‘with taste, fitting mood and tempo.’

Conjoint interval | (See step.)

Conjunct interval | (See step.)

Conjunct motion | The movement of a melody in small, stepwise intervals without large jumps; as opposed to disjunct motion.

Con moto | A tempo marking that means ‘with motion, or a certain quickness.’

Con passione | A general term that means ‘with passion.’ (Also appassionato, con fuoco, espressivo, impetuoso.)

Console | That part of an organ that is within the reach and control of an organist (including the keyboard, stops, pedals, etc.).

Consonance | A combination of two or more pitches that creates a sense of relaxation and stability, not requiring resolution; the opposite of dissonance.


Con sordino | A dynamic marking that means ‘with the muse(s).’

Con spirito | A general term that means ‘with spirit.’ (Also animato, spiritosoor vivo.)

Contemporary music | Any music being written in the present day.

Continuous bass | (See figured bass.)

Contour | The shape, or rise and fall, of a melody.

Contra | A Latin prefix that means ‘against,’ usually used to indicate the pitch of an instrument is one octave lower (examples: contrabassoon, contrabass trombone, etc.).

Contrabass | (See double bass.)

Contralto | The lowest female singing voice, between a tenor and a mezzo-soprano.

Contrapuntal | A musical texture that employs counterpoint (that is, two or more melodic lines).

Contrary motion | The movement of a two melody lines in opposite directions; that is, when one melody ascends (moves up), the other descends (moves down), and vice versa. (See also oblique motion, parallel motionand similar motion.)

Contrast | In a composition, the quality of each section being different enough to maintain the listener’s interest. (See also repetition and variation.)

Con 8ve | In music notation, a marking under a note that means the written note and its lower octave are played at the same time. (Also con 8.)

Cool jazz | A sophisticated, restrained, and mellow kind of jazz with lush harmonies and moderate volume levels and tempos.

Copyright | The exclusive legal right to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same; often indicated using the © symbol.

Cor anglais | (See English horn.)


Cornet | A valved brass instrument similar to the trumpet but shorter, wider, and more mellow in sound.

Coro | A general term that means ‘chorus.’

Count | (See beat.)

Counterclockwise | In a curve, motion that follows the opposite direction as the hands of a clock.

Countermelody | In counterpoint, a subordinate melody that accompanies the main melody.

Counterpoint | The technique of setting, writing, or playing a melody or melodies in conjunction with another, according to fixed rules; the term means ‘point against point’ or ‘note against note’; applies to music of this style written in the Baroque period and later. (See also polyphony.)

Country and western | (Abbreviation: C&W) (See country music.)

Country blues | A simple form of blues in which the singer is accompanied by an acoustic guitar. (Also downhome blues, folk bluesor rural blues.)

Country music | A form of popular music from the rural southern U.S.; traditionally a mixture of ballads and dance tunes played on fiddle, guitar, steel guitar, drums, and keyboard. (Also country and western.)

Course | On a stringed instrument, a set of adjacent strings tuned to the same note or the same note an octave apart; usually played together as if they are a single string.

Cover version | (Abbreviation: cover) A recording or performance that creates a new version of a song originally performed by someone else.

Cowbell | A rectangular metal bell that is struck with a drumstick; often used in Latin-American music; often used in a drum kit.

Crash cymbal | A type of cymbal that produces a loud, sharp ‘crashing’ sound; used mainly for occasional accents; part of a standard drum kit.

Creative license | The liberty artists take when interpreting another artist’s work.

Crescendo | (Abbreviation: cresc.) A dynamic marking that means ‘gradually getting louder.’

Cross-fade | The gradual fading out of one sound or track, while another is faded in to create a seamless transition between two sounds.

Crossover | A recording or artist that appeals mostly to one audience but also becomes popular with another (example: a jazz musician who also makes classical recordings.)

Crosspicking | A technique for playing a stringed instrument using a flatpick or plectrum in a rolling, syncopated style across three strings; common in bluegrass music.

Cross-tuning | (See scordatura.)

Crotchet | (See quarter note.)

Crotchet rest | (See quarter rest.)

Cup | A mute used in brass instruments. Also part of the mouthpiece used in brass instruments.

Cut | A slang term for a record album, a selected song from an album, or the process of recording.

Cut time | Another name for a 2/2 time signature; often marked by a ¢. (Also alla breve.)

Cymbal | A percussion instrument consisting of a thin metal plate that is struck to produce a ringing or clashing sound. Standard cymbals in a drum kit include hi-hat, crash, and ride cymbals.


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