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Music glossary - Letter P

Music Glossary



Panpipe: Wind instrument consisting of a series of small vertical tubes or pipes of differing length; sound is produced by blowing across the top.

Parody: A composition based on previous work. A common technique used in Medieval and Renaissance music.

Part song: Secular vocal composition, unaccompanied, in three, four or more parts.

Partial: A harmonic given off by a note when it is played.

Pas de deux: A dance for two that is an established feature of classical ballet.

Pentatonic Scale: A musical scale having 5 notes. For example: the 5 black keys of a keyboard make up a pentatonic scale.

Perpetuum mobile: Type of piece characterized by continuous repetitions of a rhythmic pattern at a quick tempo; perpetual motion.

Phrase: A small section of a composition comprising a musical thought. Comparable to a sentence in language.

Piano quartet: Standard chamber ensemble of piano with cello, violin and viola.

Pitches: a term referring to the high-low quality of a musical sound. The pitch is determined by the frequency of the tone, i.e., the number of vibrations per second.

Pizzicato: Performance direction to pluck a string of a bowed instrument with the finger.

Polyphony: Combining a number of individual but harmonizing melodies. Also known as counterpoint.

Polytextual: Two or more texts set simultaneously in a composition.

Polytonality: Combination of two or more keys being played at the same time.

Prelude: A piece of music designed to be played as an introduction; too used for operatic overtures.

Presto: A direction in sheet music indicating the tempo is to be very fast.

Program symphony: Multimovement programmatic orchestral work, typically from the nineteenth century.

Progression: The movement of chords in succession.

Psalms: Book from the Old Testament of the Bible; the 150 psalm texts, used in Jewish and Christian worship, are often set to music.

Punto: A style of Cuban folk music reflecting a more European than African influence.

Pure music: See absolute music.