Multilingual Music Glossary

# 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

  • cabaletta [Italian] A form of aria within 19th century Italian opera. It is usually found as the last part of a double aria, with the scena, cantabile and the tempo di mezzo preceeding it. It is often in a fast tempo.
  • cadence A sequence of chords that terminates a musical phrase or section.
  • cadencia [Spanish] See cadence.
  • cadens [Dutch] See cadence.
  • cadenza [Italian] See cadence.
  • cadenza [Italian] An improvised or written-out ornamental passage played or sung by a soloist or soloists, usually in a free rhythmic style, and often allowing for virtuosic display.
  • caesura [Latin] Break or interruption in music, with complete cessation of musical time. It is notated by two diagonal lines across the top line of a staff.
  • cakewalk Traditional, syncopated African-American form of music and dance which originated among slaves in the Southern United States.
  • calando [Italian] See diminuendo.
  • calcando [Italian] Stressing, emphasizing.
  • calderón [Spanish] See fermata.
  • calmando [Italian] Getting calm or quiet.
  • calmato [Italian] Calm.
  • calmo [Italian] Calm.
  • calypso A style of Afro-Caribbean music which originated in Trinidad and Tobago in the beginning of the 20th century.
  • camminando [Italian] Literally, “walking”. With easy and gentle progression.
  • canción [Spanish] A popular genre of Latin American music, particularly in Cuba, where many of the compositions originate.
  • canon Strict imitation, in which one voice imitates another at a staggered time interval.
  • canone [Italian] See canon.
  • cantabile [Italian] Songful, in a singing style.
  • cantando [Italian] Singing.
  • cantata [Italian] A baroque genre for voice(s) and instruments based on a poem, including recitatives, arias, and sometimes choruses.
  • canticle A sacred hymn or song.
  • cantico [Italian] See canticle.
  • cantio [Latin] A religious, monophonic, Latin song of the later Middle Ages.
  • canto [Italian] Literally, “singing”. The highest vocal part in choral music.
  • cantor [Latin] Solo singer or singing leader in Jewish and Christian liturgical music.
  • cantoris [Latin] Literally, “of the cantor”. In Anglican church music, referring to the half of the choir sitting on the cantor's side of the church.
  • cantus [Latin] See treble.
  • cantus firmus [Latin] “Fixed melody”, usually of very long notes, often based on a fragment of Gregorian chant that served as the structural basis for a polyphonic composition, particularly in the Renaissance.
  • canzona [Italian] A 16th-century multipart vocal setting of a literary canzone, or a 16th- and 17th-century instrumental composition.
  • canzone [Italian] Literally, “song”. An Italian or Provençal song or ballad. It is also used to describe a type of lyric which resembles a madrigal. Sometimes a composition which is simple and songlike is designated as a canzone, especially if it is by a non-Italian.
  • capo [Italian] See da capo.
  • capriccio [Italian] A piece of music, usually fairly free in form and of a lively character. The typical capriccio is fast, intense, and often virtuosic in nature.
  • caprice [French] See capriccio.
  • carol A festive song, generally religious but not necessarily connected with church worship, and often with a dance-like or popular character.
  • carrée [French] See double whole note.
  • cassation Classical instrumental genre related to the serenade or divertimento, often performed outdoors.
  • castrato Male singer who was castrated during boyhood to preserve the soprano or alto vocal register, prominent in seventeenth and early eighteenth century opera.
  • Cäsur [German] See caesura.
  • catch A humorous composition for three or four voices common in England during the 16th century. The parts are written so that each singer catches up to the other parts, giving the words different meanings than if each line was sung alone, usually to a humorous or bawdy effect.
  • cavatina [Italian] Originally, a short song of simple character, without a second strain or any repetition of the air. It is now frequently applied to a simple melodious air, as distinguished from a brilliant aria or recitative, and often forms part of a large movement or scena in oratorio or opera.
  • cavatine [French] See cavatina.
  • Cecilia [Italian] Saint honored as the patroness of music.
  • cédez [French] See rallentando.
  • cent A logarithmic unit used in measuring the difference between two pitches in an equal-tempered scale. One cent is one one-hundredth of an equal-tempered semitone.
  • cent-vingt huitième [French] See one hundred and twenty-eighth note.
  • centoventottesimo [Italian] See one hundred and twenty-eighth note.
  • central C See middle C.
  • cesura [Italian] See caesura.
  • césure [French] See caesura.
  • chace [French] See canon.
  • chaconne [French] Baroque form in 3/4 time similar to the passacaglia, in which the variations are based on a repeated chord progression.
  • chamber music Ensemble music for two to about ten players, with one player to a part and usually without a conductor, intended for performance in a room or chamber as opposed to a church or larger building.
  • chamber sonata See sonata da camera.
  • chanson [French] French polyphonic song of the Middle Ages and Renaissance set to either courtly or popular poetry.
  • character piece Term used for a broad range of 19th century piano music based on a single idea or program.
  • Charakterstück [German] See character piece.
  • Charleston A fast syncopated American dance popular in the 1920s.
  • chart Colloquial or jazz term for a score or arrangement.
  • chest voice The lowest register of the voice.
  • chiave [Italian] See clef.
  • chiffrage [French] See time signature.
  • chœur [French] See choir.
  • choir A group of singers who perform together, usually in parts, with several on each part.
  • Chor [German] See choir.
  • Choral [German] See chorale.
  • choral prelude Short baroque organ composition in which a traditional melody is embellished.
  • chorale Baroque congregational hymn of the German Lutheran church, usually written for four voice harmony.
  • chord A set of three or more (according to certain definitions, even two) different notes that sound simultaneously.
  • chord progression Series of chords played in order.
  • chorinho [Portuguese] See choro.
  • choro [Portuguese] Literally, “cry”, or “lament”. Brazilian popular music instrumental style, born in 19th-century Rio de Janeiro. In spite of the name, the style has often a fast and happy rhythm, characterized by the improvisations of the musician.
  • chorus See refrain.
  • chromatic Any music or chord that contains notes not belonging to the diatonic scale.
  • chromatic scale A scale consisting of all 12 semitones.
  • chromaticism Use of tones extraneous to a diatonic scale (major or minor).
  • chromatique [French] See chromatic.
  • chromatische [German] See chromatic.
  • chromatisme [French] See chromaticism.
  • church mode A term used for the categories of modes used in Gregorian chant.
  • church sonata See sonata da chiesa.
  • ciaccona [Italian] See chaconne.
  • ciciliano [Italian] See siciliana.
  • Ciprian scale See gypsy scale.
  • circulaire ademhaling [Dutch] See circular breathing.
  • circular breathing Technique used by players of some wind instruments to produce a continuous tone without interruption. This is accomplished by breathing in through the nose while simultaneously blowing out through the mouth using air stored in the cheeks.
  • cirkulationsandning [Swedish] See circular breathing.
  • claque [French] A group of people employed to stimulate applause and other expressions on the part of the audience.
  • classical The music of the period circa 1750–1825. The Classical period falls between the Baroque and the Romantic periods.
  • clave [Spanish] See clef.
  • clavier [French] Any keyboard instrument.
  • clé [French] See clef.
  • clef In musical notation, a symbol at the beginning of a staff that determines the pitches of the lines and spaces. The most common clefs are treble, for indicating pitches mostly above middle C, and bass, for indicating pitches mostly below middle C.
  • clos [French] The second ending of a repeated section.
  • close The ending of a composition or passage.
  • close harmony Harmony written so that the parts are as close together as possible, usually with the upper voices very tight together, and the bass somewhat more distantly spaced.
  • close position See close harmony.
  • closed-hole A flute finger key which is fully covered.
  • coda [Italian] Literally, “tail”. The last part of a piece, usually added to a standard form to bring it to a close.
  • codetta [Italian] Literally, “little tail”. A passage similar to a coda, but on a smaller scale, concluding a section of a work instead of the work as a whole.
  • cogli [Italian] See col.
  • col [Italian] “With the”
  • coll' [Italian] See col.
  • colla [Italian] See col.
  • colle [Italian] See col.
  • collo [Italian] See col.
  • coloratura soprano [Italian] A type of operatic soprano who specializes in music that is distinguished by agile runs and leaps.
  • coma [Spanish] See comma.
  • combination tone See difference tone.
  • come prima [Italian] “As before”. A directive to return to a previous tempo or to play a particular passage in the manner of a previous passage.
  • come sopra [Italian] “As above”. See come prima.
  • comic opera A sung dramatic work of a light or comic nature, usually with a happy ending.
  • comma [Italian] Difference in pitch between a note derived from pure tuning and the same note derived from some other tuning method.
  • commodamente [Italian] See comodamente.
  • commodo [Italian] See comodo.
  • common chord A chord consisting of the root, third, and fifth.
  • common chord A chord that appears in more than one key. Frequently used in modulation.
  • common time 4/4 time.
  • comodamente [Italian] Comfortably.
  • comodetto [Italian] Diminutive form of comodo.
  • comodo [Italian] Comfortable.
  • comp Jazz term used to describe the accompaniment backing up a soloist.
  • compás [Spanish] See measure.
  • compás ternario [Spanish] See compound meter.
  • compound harmony Regular harmony with an added octave in the bass.
  • compound interval An interval greater than an octave.
  • compound meter Meter in which each beat is divisible by three rather than two.
  • compound time See compound meter.
  • con [Italian] “With”.
  • con amore [Italian] “With love”, lovingly.
  • con anima [Italian] “With soul”, with feeling.
  • con brio [Italian] With vivacity or spirit.
  • con disperazione [Italian] Desperately.
  • con forza [Italian] “With force”, vigorously.
  • con fuoco [Italian] Literally, “with fire”. A directive to play with vehement energy or fervid emotion.
  • con furia [Italian] “With fury”.
  • con grazia [Italian] “With grace”.
  • con impeto [Italian] See con forza.
  • con islancio [Italian] See con slancio.
  • con mala grazia [Italian] Ungracefully, awkwardly.
  • con malinconia [Italian] With melancholy.
  • con ostinazione [Italian] With stubbornness. See ostinato.
  • con passione [Italian] “With passion”.
  • con semplicità [Italian] “With simplicity”.
  • con slancio [Italian] With energy.
  • con tenerezza [Italian] “With tenderness”.
  • concert A public musical performance.
  • concert pitch The tuning pitch of an ensemble, typically A440.
  • concertante [Italian] A part that calls for some element of solo performance, as in a classical concerto.
  • concertino [Italian] The small group of solo instruments used in a concerto grosso in contrast to the whole body of the orchestra.
  • concertmaster The term used to address the principal first violinist of an orchestra.
  • concerto [Italian] A three-part musical work in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an orchestra.
  • concerto grosso [Italian] A baroque style of music in which a small group of solo instruments (the concertino) plays in opposition to a larger ensemble (the ripieno).
  • concierto [Spanish] See concerto.
  • concord See consonant.
  • concordance See consonance.
  • concordant See consonant.
  • congiunto [Italian] See conjunct.
  • conjoint [French] See conjunct.
  • conjunct Smooth, connected, moving in stepwise motion.
  • conjunto [Spanish] See conjunct.
  • connecting note A note held in common by two chords.
  • console [French] Keyboard, stops and foot pedals of an organ.
  • consonance An accord of sounds sweet and pleasing to the ear.
  • consonant A chord (or an interval) that is pleasing and harmonious to the ear.
  • continuo [Italian] See basso continuo.
  • continuous bass See basso continuo.
  • contralto [Italian] The lowest female voice.
  • contrappunto [Italian] See counterpoint.
  • contrapunt [Dutch] See counterpoint.
  • contrapunto [Spanish] See counterpoint.
  • contrary motion Simultaneous motion of two voices, one of which is in opposition to the other, with one voice rising in pitch while the other one falls in pitch.
  • contratenor [Spanish] See countertenor.
  • contre-tenor [French] See countertenor.
  • contrepoint [French] See counterpoint.
  • controtenore [Italian] See countertenor.
  • corale [Italian] See chorale.
  • corante [Italian] See courante.
  • coranto [Italian] See courante.
  • corchea [Spanish] See eight note.
  • corchete [Spanish] See brace.
  • cori spezzati [Italian] Literally, “broken choirs”. A style of performance with groups of singers placed in different locations of a building.
  • coro [Italian] See choir.
  • corona [Italian] See fermata.
  • corpo [Italian] See corps.
  • corps [French] Literally, “body”. May indicate the body of an instrument or a company of performers.
  • corrente [Italian] See courante.
  • cotillion [French] A popular dance in the French Courts in the 18th and 19th century, that preceded the Quadrille style of dancing.
  • cotillon [French] See cotillion.
  • coulé [French] See slur.
  • countermelody A sequence of notes, perceived as a melody, written to be played simultaneously with a more prominent melody.
  • counterpoint The art of combining two or more melodies to be performed simultaneously. In counterpoint, the melody is supported by another melody rather than by chords.
  • countersubject The secondary theme of a fugue, heard against the subject.
  • countertenor A male voice of unusually high range, generally achieved through falsetto. The countertenor has the range of either the female alto or soprano.
  • countertheme See countersubject.
  • couplet [French] A term used in the 1600s and 1700s for the intermediate sections of a rondeau.
  • courante [French] A family of triple meter dances from the late Renaissance and the Baroque era.
  • cover Recording that remakes an earlier, often successful, recording.
  • cr. [Italian] See crescendo.
  • cresc. [Italian] See crescendo.
  • crescendo [Italian] A directive to smoothly increase the volume.
  • croche [French] See eight note.
  • croma [Italian] See eight note.
  • cromatico [Italian] See chromatic.
  • cromatismo [Italian] See chromaticism.
  • crossover Recording or artist that appeals primarily to one audience but becomes popular with another as well.
  • crotchet See quarter note.
  • crown The cap at the end of the head joint of a flute that unscrews to expose the cork, and which helps keep the head joint cork positioned at the proper depth of insertion.
  • crushed note See acciaccatura.
  • cuadrada [Spanish] See double whole note.
  • cuarta [Spanish] See fourth.
  • cuatrillo [Spanish] See quadruplet.
  • cue-notes In a separate part, notes belonging to another part with the purpose of hinting when to start playing. Usually printed in a smaller type.
  • cupo [Italian] Dark, obscure.
  • curved bracket See brace.
  • custodes [Latin] See custos.
  • custos [Latin] (Plural: custodes.) A symbol that appears at the end of a staff line with a single voice). It anticipates the first note of the following line and thus helps the player or singer to manage line breaks during performance. Custodes were frequently used until the 16th century.
  • cut off An arm and hand motion by a conductor that indicates to an ensemble that they stop performing. This is normally done at the end of a composition, at the end of a movement or section, or on a fermata.
  • cut time See alla breve.