Music Dictionary

Musical Dictionary

Our Interactive Dictionary of Musical Terms.

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

Cadence
The notes at the end of a song.


Cadenza
A part near the end of a song where the performer plays by himself to show off his/her skill.


Canon
A song made up of different parts that copy each other. Each part uses the same notes, but they start one after the other until everyone is playing a different part of the song at the same time.


Cantata
A musical work sung by a choir with instrumental accompaniment and solo voices.


Canzone or canzona
A song whose words come from medieval poems. They may be sung with musical instruments playing in the background.


Capriccio
A type of music that is short, fast and humorous.


Carillon
Bells in a church tower that are played like an organ.


Celesta
An instrument that is played by striking a key (like a piano), which in turn, makes a hammer hit a flat steel bar to produce the sound.


Cello
An instrument with four strings, that is played by sitting behind the instrument and placing it between your legs with the bottom of the instrument resting on the floor. It plays medium to low notes by drawing a bow across the strings or plucking them.


Chaconne
Originally a French dance, chaconne now refers to a piece of music where chords are played over and over again, but keep getting higher and higher.


Chamber Music
Music written to be played by a small group of people in a small, private room. Today, chamber music is still played by small groups of three or four musicians, but it is played at larger concerts.


Chamber Orchestra
A small orchestra that plays in small concert halls.


Chanson
French for "song." Usually refers to an old French part song, similar to a madrigal.


Choir
A group of singers who perform together.


Chorale
A Lutheran church song.


Chord
When three or more notes are played at the same time.


Chorus
1. A group of singers. 2. The music for a group of singers. 3. The section of a song that is repeated after each verse.


Chromatic
A music scale made up of 12 notes, each a half step apart. For example, on the piano a chromatic scale is played by playing each white and black key between two notes with the same letter name.


Clarinet
A long, black woodwind instrument that has a mouthpiece with one reed and keys down the sides. You play a clarinet by blowing in the mouthpiece and moving the reed. The sound changes by pressing on the keys.


Classical
The term "classical" is often used to describe music that is not rock, pop, jazz or another style. However, there is also a Classical era in music history that includes compositions written from about 1750 to 1825. Music from this period is orderly, balanced and clear. Its form is very important as is its harmony and tonality—that is, the musical key in which a piece was written.


Clavichord
A keyboard instrument whose sound is made when hitting a key causes metal pins to hit the strings inside the instrument.


Clef
A sign put at the start of each line of a piece of music. The clef tells you what pitch the notes on the stave (staff) are in.


Coda
Italian for "tail." A passage added to the final section of a movement or piece of music to give a feeling of ending.


Coloratura
Very fancy vocal music that is sung by a woman with a high voice .


Concert
When any group of musicians plays in front of people.


Concertante
A part of a piece of music written so that a person can show off how good they are at playing an instrument.


Concertina
An instrument with expanding bellows like an accordian, but with buttons, instead of keys, for playing the melody.


Concertmaster
The principal violinist designated as the leader of an orchestra.


Concerto
A piece of music in which one or more solo instruments alternate with the larger orchestra, providing contrast and a the opportunity for virtuoso performance. A concerto can be written for any instrument or groups of instruments. Learn more about the concerto


Concerto grosso
A concerto written during the baroque for era for a group of instruments and the orchestra.


Conductor
The person who makes sure that everyone in the orchestra or choir is playing or singing the right thing, in the right way, at the right time. They stand in front of the orchestra and direct them when they play each song.


Consonance
A combination of sounds that give a pleasing effect, with a feeling of satisfation and rest.


Consort
A group of instruments of the same family or a group of singers or instrumentalists performing together.


Continuo
A way to play instruments together so they sound good. One instrument plays the bass line (the low notes), while other instruments play music that go along with the bass line.


Contrabassoon
A double bassoon. It can play notes lower than a bassoon, but it is played the same way.


Cornet
A brass instrument that looks like a small trumpet. Blowing into the mouthpiece and pressing on the valves makes the music that comes out the bell-shaped end.


Counterpoint
When there are two or more different sounding tunes in the same piece of music.


Countertenor
A male voice that is higher than a tenor. A countertenor sounds very similar to a female voice.


Crescendo
Italian for “growing louder.”


Cycle
A set of songs intended to be performed as a group.


Cymbals
Circular metal instruments that are hit together to make sound. They can also be hit one at a time with a drumstick. The different sizes of the cymbals make different sounds, so a smaller one does not sound like a larger one.


Music Dictionary

Musical Dictionary

Our Interactive Dictionary of Musical Terms.

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

Cadence
The notes at the end of a song.


Cadenza
A part near the end of a song where the performer plays by himself to show off his/her skill.


Canon
A song made up of different parts that copy each other. Each part uses the same notes, but they start one after the other until everyone is playing a different part of the song at the same time.


Cantata
A musical work sung by a choir with instrumental accompaniment and solo voices.


Canzone or canzona
A song whose words come from medieval poems. They may be sung with musical instruments playing in the background.


Capriccio
A type of music that is short, fast and humorous.


Carillon
Bells in a church tower that are played like an organ.


Celesta
An instrument that is played by striking a key (like a piano), which in turn, makes a hammer hit a flat steel bar to produce the sound.


Cello
An instrument with four strings, that is played by sitting behind the instrument and placing it between your legs with the bottom of the instrument resting on the floor. It plays medium to low notes by drawing a bow across the strings or plucking them.


Chaconne
Originally a French dance, chaconne now refers to a piece of music where chords are played over and over again, but keep getting higher and higher.


Chamber Music
Music written to be played by a small group of people in a small, private room. Today, chamber music is still played by small groups of three or four musicians, but it is played at larger concerts.


Chamber Orchestra
A small orchestra that plays in small concert halls.


Chanson
French for "song." Usually refers to an old French part song, similar to a madrigal.


Choir
A group of singers who perform together.


Chorale
A Lutheran church song.


Chord
When three or more notes are played at the same time.


Chorus
1. A group of singers. 2. The music for a group of singers. 3. The section of a song that is repeated after each verse.


Chromatic
A music scale made up of 12 notes, each a half step apart. For example, on the piano a chromatic scale is played by playing each white and black key between two notes with the same letter name.


Clarinet
A long, black woodwind instrument that has a mouthpiece with one reed and keys down the sides. You play a clarinet by blowing in the mouthpiece and moving the reed. The sound changes by pressing on the keys.


Classical
The term "classical" is often used to describe music that is not rock, pop, jazz or another style. However, there is also a Classical era in music history that includes compositions written from about 1750 to 1825. Music from this period is orderly, balanced and clear. Its form is very important as is its harmony and tonality—that is, the musical key in which a piece was written.


Clavichord
A keyboard instrument whose sound is made when hitting a key causes metal pins to hit the strings inside the instrument.


Clef
A sign put at the start of each line of a piece of music. The clef tells you what pitch the notes on the stave (staff) are in.


Coda
Italian for "tail." A passage added to the final section of a movement or piece of music to give a feeling of ending.


Coloratura
Very fancy vocal music that is sung by a woman with a high voice .


Concert
When any group of musicians plays in front of people.


Concertante
A part of a piece of music written so that a person can show off how good they are at playing an instrument.


Concertina
An instrument with expanding bellows like an accordian, but with buttons, instead of keys, for playing the melody.


Concertmaster
The principal violinist designated as the leader of an orchestra.


Concerto
A piece of music in which one or more solo instruments alternate with the larger orchestra, providing contrast and a the opportunity for virtuoso performance. A concerto can be written for any instrument or groups of instruments. Learn more about the concerto


Concerto grosso
A concerto written during the baroque for era for a group of instruments and the orchestra.


Conductor
The person who makes sure that everyone in the orchestra or choir is playing or singing the right thing, in the right way, at the right time. They stand in front of the orchestra and direct them when they play each song.


Consonance
A combination of sounds that give a pleasing effect, with a feeling of satisfation and rest.


Consort
A group of instruments of the same family or a group of singers or instrumentalists performing together.


Continuo
A way to play instruments together so they sound good. One instrument plays the bass line (the low notes), while other instruments play music that go along with the bass line.


Contrabassoon
A double bassoon. It can play notes lower than a bassoon, but it is played the same way.


Cornet
A brass instrument that looks like a small trumpet. Blowing into the mouthpiece and pressing on the valves makes the music that comes out the bell-shaped end.


Counterpoint
When there are two or more different sounding tunes in the same piece of music.


Countertenor
A male voice that is higher than a tenor. A countertenor sounds very similar to a female voice.


Crescendo
Italian for “growing louder.”


Cycle
A set of songs intended to be performed as a group.


Cymbals
Circular metal instruments that are hit together to make sound. They can also be hit one at a time with a drumstick. The different sizes of the cymbals make different sounds, so a smaller one does not sound like a larger one.


 

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