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 cadence, and 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.
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.)
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.’
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.)
CD | (See compact disc.)
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.
Chance music | (See aleatory.)
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.)
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.)
Chinese block | (See wood block.)
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.
Chord chart | (Abbreviation: chart) A jazz term for a song written in musical shorthand listing only chord names divided into bars. (Also jazz chart.)
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.)
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 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.
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.
Come | (See alla.)
Commercial | A term that refers to marketable music that has mass appeal.
Common chord modulation | (See pivot chord modulation.)
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.’
Complex meter | (See odd meter.)
Composer | A person who creates or writes music.
Compound division | The subdivision of a beat into three equal parts. (See also simple division.)
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Continuous bass | (See figured bass.)
Contour | The shape, or rise and fall, of a melody.
Contrabass | (See double bass.)
Contralto | The lowest female singing voice, between a tenor and a mezzo-soprano.
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 motion, and similar motion.)
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.
Cor anglais | (See English horn.)
Cornet | A valved brass instrument similar to the trumpet but shorter, wider, and more mellow in sound.
Count | (See beat.)
Counterclockwise | In a curve, motion that follows the opposite direction as the hands of a clock.
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 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.)
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 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.