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Musical Terms Beginning With P

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

Part

The music that each person plays as a member of an ensemble.

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Partita

A set of variations.

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Pastorale

Musical works about country life, often imitating the instruments and music of shepherds.

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Pentatonic

A pentatonic scale only has five notes (unlike the major and minor scales, which have eight notes).

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Percussion

All instruments that are played by being hit with something are percussion instruments.

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Philharmonic

An orchestra that plays symphonies.

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Phrase

A complete musical thought.

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Pianissimo

Italian for “very soft.”

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Piano

1. Italian for “soft.” 2. A stringed keyboard instrument. Its strings are struck by hammers which are connected to the keys. There are 88 keys on a modern piano, and each one is a different note. Originally called pianoforte, because it could play both soft (piano) and loud (forte).

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Piano Four Hands

Music composed for two people to play at one keyboard.

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Pianoforte

An old name for the piano. This is because it can make both soft (piano) and loud (forte) sounds.

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Piccolo

Italian for “little” (short for flauto piccolo, or little flute). A small flute that sounds an octave higher than a regular flute.

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Pitch

How high or low a musical sound is.

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Pizzicato

Italian for “pinched.” To pluck, instead of bow, the strings of an instrument.

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Polka

A lively dance in 2/4 time from Bohemia.

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polonaise

A stately Polish processional dance popular in 19th century Europe; composers also used the polonaise as a form for non-dancing, instrumental pieces.

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Polyphony

Music that has two or more independent melodies woven together. Also called counterpoint. Polyphony comes from the Greek words meaning “many voices.”

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Postlude

A piece of music, many times played on the organ, to end a church service.

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Powwow Drum

A traditional native american drum, made with a large base and covered with rawhide of deer, buffalo or steer

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Prelude

A musical introduction. Organ preludes often introduce church services; instrumental preludes can introduce operas or suites.

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Presto

When someone is playing an instument very quick and fast, they are playing presto.

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Principal

The best player in a section of the orchestra. For example, there is a principal violinist and a principal flutist.

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Program Music

Any piece of instrumental music that is based on a book, story or picture and is trying to tell about it through the music.

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