Pacato - Calm, quiet.
Passing tones - Unaccented notes which move conjunctly between two chords to which they do not belong
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
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.
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