In written music, the songwriter writes N.C. (no chord) where the chord symbol would go, as an indicator that the chord instruments should take a break. This can happen for several different musical reasons:
- A melodic riff has taken over.
- A breakdown, with a simplified beat continuing but most instruments dropping out.
- A brief rest, with all instruments dropping out for dramatic punctuation.
- An a capella (vocals only) section, where all instruments drop out to focus full attention on the vocal line.
- A contrapuntal section of music: two or more interweaving melody lines, but no chords.
Here are a few examples of songs that make artful use of N.C. in a minimalistic In each case, you can hear that adding chords would ruin the effect.
- Tori Amos' "Me and a Gun" powerfully relates the stark emotions of a traumatic experience
- Queen's "We Will Rock You" uses a primitive beat and a pentatonic melody to create a memorable singalong
- the first minute of Yes's "Tales from Topographic Oceans": vocal tone-painting evokes the emerging light of the dawn