P-R Terms

Pacato - Calm, quiet.

Passing tones - Unaccented notes which move conjunctly between two chords to which they do not belong harmonically.

Pausa - A rest.

Pensieroso - Contemplative, thoughtful.

Percussion family - Instruments made of sonorous material that produce sounds of definite or indefinite pitch when shaken or struck, including drums, rattles, bells, gongs, and xylophones.

Perfect - A term used to label fourth, fifth, and octave intervals. It corresponds to the major, as given to seconds, thirds, sixths, and sevenths.

Perfect cadence - The chordal progression of dominant to tonic, in a major key V-I, in minor V-i.

Perfect interval - Interval of an octave, fifth, or fourth without alteration.

Perfect pitch - The ability to hear and identify a note without any other musical support.

Pesante - Heavy.

Petite - Little.

Peu a peu - Little by little.

Phrase - A relatively short portion of a melodic line which expresses a musical idea, comparable to a line or sentence in poetry.

Pianissimo - Very soft.

Pianississimo - Very, very soft; the softest common dynamic marking.

Piano - Soft. Pianoforte.

Pianoforte - "Soft-loud." A keyboard instrument, the full name for the piano, on which sound is produced by hammers strikin s when keys are pressed. It has 88 keys.

Picardy third - The term for the raising of the third, making a major triad, in the final chord of a composition which is in a minor key. The practice originated in c. 1500 and extended through the Baroque period.

Pitch - The highness or lowness of a tone, as determined by the number of vibrations in the sound.

Piu - More. Used with other terms, e.g. piu mosso, more motion.

Pizzicato - "Pinched." On string instruments, plucking the string.

Plagal cadence - Sometimes called the "amen" cadence. The chordal progression of subdominant to tonic, in a major key IV-I, in minor iv-i.

Poco - Little. Used with other terms, e.g. poco accel., also, poco a poco, little by little.

Poco ced., Cedere - A little slower.

Poco piu mosso - A little more motion.

Poi - Then or afterwards, e.g. poi No. 3, then No. 3.

Postlude - "Play after." The final piece in a multi-movement work. Organ piece played at the end of a church service.

Prelude - "Play before." An introductory movement or piece.

Premiere - First performance.

Prestissimo - Very, very fast. The fastest tempo.

Presto - Very quick.

Primo - First.

Principal - Instrumental section leader.

Prologue - An introductory piece that presents the background for an opera.

Quarter note/rest - A note/rest one half the length of a half note and one quarter the length of a whole note.

Quartet - A piece for four instruments or voices. Four performers.

Quasi - Almost. Used with other terms, e.g. quasi madrigal, almost or as if a madrigal.

Quintet - A piece for five instruments or voices. Five performers.

Rallentando, rall - Gradually slower. Synonymous with ritardando.

Range - The gamut of pitches, from low to high, which a singer may perform.

Rapide - Rapidly.

Re - In solmization, the second degree of the major scale.

Recital - A performance by one or more performers.

Refrain - A short section of repeated material which occurs at the end of each stanza.

Relative major and minor scales - Major and minor scales which have the same key signature.

Renaissance - The period c. 1450-1600.

Repeat - The repetition of a section or a composition as indicated by particular signs.

Repeat of a section:

Repeat from the beginning:

Also D.C., repeat from the beginning and D.S., repeat from the sign.

Resonance - Reinforcement and intensification of sound by vibrations.

Rest - A symbol used to denote silence.

Rhapsody - A free style instrumental piece characterized by dramatic changes in mood.

Rhythm - The term which denotes the organization of sound in time; the temporal quality of sound.

Rinforzando - A reinforced accent.

Risoluto - Resolute.

Ritardando, rit - Gradually slower. Synonymous with rallentando.

Ritenuto - Immediate reduction in tempo.

Ritmico - Rhythmically.

Roll - On percussion instruments, a sticking technique consisting of a rapid succession of notes:

Romanticism - The period c. 1825-1900.

Root - The note upon which a triad or chord is built.

Root position - The arrangement of a chord in which the root is in the lowest voice.

Round - Like the canon, a song in which two or more parts having the same melody, starting at different points. The parts may be repeated as desired.

Rubato - The term used to denote flexibility of tempo to assist in achieving expressiveness.

Rudiments - On drums, the basic sticking patterns.

Ruhig - Quiet.

Run - A rapid scale passage.

Rustico - Pastoral, rustic, rural.

Search our System


S-Z Terms

Tell us what you're looking for! Immediate Response!

Toll Free 877-712-4747