Glossary Of Musical Terminology

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There are currently 55 names in this directory beginning with the letter C.
Cue
A signal to a singer or orchestra member to begin singing or playing.

Cut
To omit some of the original material from the score.

Capo
Head; the beginning.

Cave
The round shape at the back of the mouth.

Clef
In sheet music, a symbol at the beginning of the staff defining the pitch of the notes found in that particular staff. Most common clefs are the treble and bass clef.

Coda
Closing section of a movement.

Canon
Musical form where a melody or phrase is imitated by individual instrument or voice parts at various intervals of the song. The melody or phrase may be repeated backwards, inverted, or even at various tempos.

Carol
A song or hymn celebrating Christmas.

Chant
Singing in unison, texts in a free rhythm. Similar to the rhythm of speech.

Choir
A group of singers in a chorus with 3 or 4 notes sung simultaneously in specific harmony.

Chord
When two or more notes or pitches are sounded simultaneously a chord is created.

Cover
The name given to an understudy in opera; someone who replaces a singer in case of illness or other misfortune.

Chorus
A group of singers, singing together, who sometimes portray servants, party guests or other unnamed characters; also the music written for them.

Claque
A group of people hired to sit in the audience and either applaud enthusiastically to ensure success or whistle and boo to create a disaster. In past years, leading singers were sometimes blackmailed to pay a claque to insure that claqueurs would not create a disturbance. Even now, a claque is sometimes used but rarely acknowledged.

Cadence
A musical term referring to a chord sequence that brings an end to a musical phrase either in the middle or the end of a composition.

Cadenza
Initially an improvised cadence by a soloist; later becoming an elaborate and written out passage in an aria or concerto, featuring the skills of an instrumentalist or vocalist.

Cantata
Music written for chorus and orchestra. Most often religious in nature.

Canzone
(Canzonetta) A folk-like song commonly used in opera buffa.

Centred
Everything balanced, working as one. Getting the greatest amount of power from your voice, using the least amount of effort.

Chorale
A hymn sung by the choir and congregation. Originally refers to a German Protestant hymn tune. In composition, it typically means a choral composition for voices or instruments, such as a Bach chorale. The word “Chorale” is also sometimes used as the name of a choir or chorus.

Clavier
The keyboard of a stringed instrument.

Castrato
Male singers who were castrated to preserve their alto and soprano vocal range.

Cavatina
A short and simple melody performed by a soloist that is part of a larger piece. It now usually refers to the opening, slow section of a two part aria.

Composer
A person who writes music.

Concerto
A composition written for a solo instrument. The soloist plays the melody while the orchestra plays the accompaniment.

Covering
A term used mostly in opera to describe a darker tone.

Crotchet
Quarter-note; 1 beat in duration.

Cabaletta
Second part of a two-part aria, always in a faster tempo than the first part.

Cantabile
A style of singing which is characterized by the easy and flowing tone of the composition.

Capriccio
A quick, improvisational, spirited piece of music.

Classical
The period of music history which dates from the mid 1700’s to mid 1800’s. The music was spare and emotionally reserved, especially when compared to Romantic and Boroque music.

Coda Tail
Closing section appended to a movement or song.

Conductor
The leader who directs a group of performers. An accomplished musician with a strong sense of rhythm and an in-depth understanding of the voice and instrument, the conductor indicates the tempo, phrasing, dynamics, and style by gestures and facial expressions. Sometimes called Maestro.

Consonant
A speech sound produced as the result of a temporary partial or complete constriction of airflow (b d f g l etc.).

Contralto
Lowest female classical singing voice part. Often known simply as “alto.”with a range extending from the F below middle C to the second G above middle C.

Crescendo
A musical term for dynamics direction; gradually getting louder or a swelling of sound.

Catch Breath
A quick, short, unobtrusive breath.

Chamber music
Written for 2 to 10 solo parts featuring one instrument to a part. Each part bears the same importance.

Chest Resonance
The resonance sounds it comes from the chest area.

Chest Voice
The lower notes of a singer’s range; in the same general range as the speaking voice. When singing in the chest voice, the vocal cords become naturally thick, and the resulting sound is generally associated with deep, warm tones. Also known as chest register.

Chiaroscuro
The voice-pedagogy term that is used universally to refer to the balancing of the light or clear (chiaro) and dark (oscuro) aspects of timbre, or balancing tonal brilliance and depth of the resonance.

Chord Progression
A series of chords played in succession.

Chorus Master
The one in charge of choosing chorus members and rehearsing them for performance. If there is a backstage chorus, it is usually conducted by the chorus master who is in communication with the conductor of the orchestra.

Chromatic Scale
A musical scale that includes all the notes within an octave, including sharps and flats. Total of 12 distinct notes within a chromatic scale.

Classicism
The period of music history which dates from the mid 1800’s and lasted about sixty years. There was a strong regard for order and balance.

Coloratura
Elaborate ornamentation of vocal music written using many fast notes and trills. Can also refer to a Soprano voice suited for such colouration or ornamentation.

Commedia dell-arte
A type of comic opera popular in Italy in the 16th to 18th centuries that involved improvisation using stock characters and gestures. The characters were often masked to represent certain archetypes.

Common Time
The time signature of 4/4; four beats per measure, each beat a quarter note (a crotchet) in length. 4/4 is often written on the musical staff as ‘C’.

Compound Time
Metrical time such that 3 beats are counted as one; each beat is divisible by 3.

Comprimario
A secondary or supporting role or a person singing such a role.

Concertato
A large ensemble of soloists and chorus generally found in the second movement of a central finale, to which it forms the lyrical climax.

Consonance
Groups of tones that are harmonious when sounded together as in a chord.

Counterpoint
Two or three melodic lines played at the same time.

Countertenor
Highest male classical singing voice part with an elevated range. With training and practice this higher range, similar to that of a woman’s alto, becomes the natural voice.

Curtain Call
At the end of a performance, all of the members of the cast and the conductor take bows. Sometimes this is done in front of the main curtain, hence the name curtain call. Often, however, the bows are taken on the full stage with the curtain open.


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