Multilingual Music Glossary

# 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

P

  • palautusmerkki [Finnish] See natural.
  • pantomime Theatrical genre in which an actor silently plays all the parts in a show while accompanied by singing.
  • pantonality Term used to describe music that is not in one tonality or key, but shifts freely among many or all keys.
  • parallel keys Two keys, one major and one minor, having the same tonic.
  • parallel motion In part writing, parallel motion occurs when two voices move keeping exactly the same interval between them.
  • Paralleltonart [German] See relative key.
  • paraphrase In the Renaissance, a melody borrowed from another source (usually chant) and then elaborated freely. In the 19th century, a virtuoso composition using popular melodies, usually from operas, in an elaborated manner.
  • parlando [Italian] “Speaking”.
  • parody A humorous or satirical composition which exaggerates the features of some other composition.
  • paroles [French] See lyrics.
  • part In instrumental or choral music, the music for a single instrument or voice.
  • part song A vocal composition for two or more voices, usually unaccompanied.
  • part writing The component of counterpoint that recognizes each voice as an individual, horizontal melody rather than as a part of the resultant, vertical chords.
  • parte [Italian] See part.
  • partial See overtone.
  • partie [French] See part.
  • partij [Dutch] See part.
  • partita [Italian] In the 18th and 19th century, a multi-movement composition consisting of dances and non-dance movements or entirely of non-dance movements.
  • partita [Italian] See suite.
  • partition [French] See score.
  • Partitur [German] See score.
  • partitura [Italian] See score.
  • pas [French] “Not”.
  • pas de deux [French] An established item in ballet consisting of a dance performed by two dancers.
  • pas trop [French] “Not too much”.
  • paso doble [Spanish] Literally, “double step”. A Spanish dance in a brisk duple meter, typically 2/4 time.
  • passacaglia [Italian] Baroque form in moderately slow triple meter, based on a short, repeated base-line melody that serves as the basis for continuous variation in the other voices.
  • passamezzo [Italian] A 16th and 17th century Italian dance similar to or identical to the pavane.
  • passecaille [French] See passacaglia.
  • passepied [French] A baroque dance in triple meter.
  • passing note In part writing, A non-harmonic note that appears between two notes in stepwise motion. Usually it is a link between a melodic interval of a third in one of the voices.
  • passionato [Italian] See appassionato.
  • pasticcio [Italian] A composition assembled from passages taken from numerous other sources by various composers.
  • pastiche [French] See pasticcio.
  • pastorale [Italian] Pastoral, country-like.
  • patetico [Italian] “Pathetic”, with great emotion.
  • patetique [French] See patetico.
  • patter song A comic song in opera and operetta, characterized by a moderately fast to very fast tempo with a rapid succession of rhythmic patterns in which each syllable of text corresponds to one note (there are few or no melismatic passages).
  • paus [Swedish] See rest.
  • pausa [Italian] See rest.
  • pavan See pavane.
  • pavana [Italian] See pavane.
  • pavane [French] Stately Renaissance court dance in duple meter.
  • pedal See drone.
  • pedal note See drone.
  • pedal point See drone.
  • penny whistle A folk wind instrument similar to the recorder, but usually made of tin. It generally has six finger holes, and is prominent in British and Irish folk music.
  • pentagramma [Italian] See staff.
  • pentatonic scale A scale of five tones. Commonly, these tones correspond to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th of a major scale.
  • perdendo [Italian] Losing volume.
  • perdendosi [Italian] See perdendo.
  • perfect Term applied to the intervals of a unison, octave, fourth, and fifth when they are exactly in tune and not augmented nor diminished.
  • perfect pitch The ability of certain people to identify a given pitch without reference to any other pitch.
  • performance directions Words or symbols provided by composers to instruct performers in how their music is to be played, including articulation, dynamics, expression, and phrasing.
  • performer The musician that brings a composition to reality.
  • Permanentatmung [German] See circular breathing.
  • perpetuum mobile [Latin] See moto perpetuo.
  • pesante [Italian] “Heavy”, slow or with importance.
  • petite reprise [French] Repetition of the last few measures of a piece after a larger repetition. The starting point of the section to be repeated is usually indicated with a small “segno”.
  • peu [French] See poco.
  • peu à peu [French] See poco a poco.
  • pf [Italian] See pianoforte.
  • phantasie [French] See fantasia.
  • phantasy See fantasia.
  • phrase A natural division of the melodic line, comparable to a sentence of speech.
  • phrasé [French] See phrasing.
  • Phrasierung [German] See phrasing.
  • phrasing The clear rendering in musical performance of the phrases of a melody.
  • phrygian The mode based upon the third note of the major scale. In the key of C major, phrygian mode would start on the key of E, and include all the notes of the C major scale.
  • piacere [Italian] See a piacere.
  • piangendo [Italian] Literally, “crying”. In a tearful, mournful or plaintive manner.
  • pianissimo [Italian] Very soft, softer than piano.
  • pianississimo [Italian] Extremely soft, softer than pianissimo.
  • piano [Italian] Softly, quietly.
  • pianoforte [Italian] A dynamic marking (fp) directing the performer to attack the written note at the dynamic level of piano (soft) followed by an immediate increase in volume to forte (loud).
  • pibroch Scottish traditional theme and variation form music to be performed on the bagpipe. This term refers to the more serious, courtly music rather than to dance music and military music.
  • picado [Spanish] See staccato.
  • Picardy third See tierce de Picardie.
  • piccolo [Italian] Literally, “small”. A small flute that sounds an octave above the regular flute, and also an octave above its written music.
  • pickup See anacrusis.
  • pidäke [Finnish] See fermata.
  • piece A term for any composition that is a complete work in itself. This could be a self-contained movement of a larger composition, such as an aria of an opera, or the entire composition.
  • pietoso [Italian] Pitiful, merciful, compassionate.
  • pincé étouffé [French] See acciaccatura.
  • piqué [French] See staccato.
  • pisteellinen nuotti [Finnish] See dotted note.
  • pitch Highness or lowness of a tone, depending on the frequency (rate of vibration).
  • più [Italian] “More”.
  • pivot [French] A chord that is placed in a transition between two keys, serving a different function in each key and providing smooth movement between them.
  • placido [Italian] Calm, placid.
  • plainchant See Gregorian chant.
  • plainsong See Gregorian chant.
  • plainte [French] A song or instrumental composition with a slow, lamenting character.
  • planctus [Latin] Medieval style of song and poetry of a lamenting character.
  • plus [French] “More”.
  • pochettino [Italian] A little bit.
  • pochissimo [Italian] “Very little”.
  • poco [Italian] “Not very”, “not much”.
  • poco a poco [Italian] Little by little.
  • poème symphonique [French] See symphonic poem.
  • poikkihuilu [Finnish] See flute.
  • point d'arrêt [French] See fermata.
  • point d'orgue [French] See fermata.
  • pointed arms On a flute, arms connecting the keys to the rods which are pointed and extend to the keys' centers; found on more expensive flutes.
  • polacca [Italian] See polonaise.
  • polka A lively ballroom dance of Bohemian origin in duple meter greatly, popular in the 19th century. Also a short, lyric piano composition.
  • polonaise [French] Stately Polish processional dance in triple meter.
  • polonese [Italian] See polonaise.
  • polychord The simultaneous use of two or more simple chords (such as triads), a technique used in 20th century compositions.
  • polycoral Performance style developed in the late sixteenth century involving the use of two or more choirs that alternate with each other or sing together.
  • polyharmony Two or more streams of harmony played against each other; common in twentieth century music.
  • polyphony Music written in a combination of several simultaneous voices (parts) of a more or less pronounced individuality.
  • polyrhythm The simultaneous use of several rhythmic patterns or meters, common in twentieth-century music and in certain African musics.
  • pomposo [Italian] Pompous, stately, or ceremonious.
  • pop Term born as an abbreviation of popular music, that since the 1950s has been used in the sense of a musical genre, originally characterized as a lighter alternative to rock and roll.
  • popular music Music of the common people.
  • port de voix [French] See portamento.
  • portamento [Italian] Literally, “carrying”. In singing or playing continuous-pitch instruments, the technique of gliding from one note to another without actually defining the intermediate notes: a smooth sliding between two pitches.
  • portando [Italian] See portamento.
  • portée [French] See staff.
  • post-modern A term adopted around the mid-1970s to describe our current eclectic, experimental age.
  • postlude A composition that concludes a larger composition. Also, a composition performed at the end of a church service as the congregation leaves.
  • potpourri [French] See medley.
  • pp [Italian] See pianissimo.
  • ppp [Italian] See pianississimo.
  • praeludium [Latin] See prelude.
  • precisamente [Italian] Precisely, exactly.
  • prelude An instrumental composition intended to introduce a larger composition or a set of compositions.
  • preludio [Italian] See prelude.
  • premier mouvement [French] See a tempo.
  • première [French] Literally, “first”. The first public performance of a musical or dramatic work.
  • presque [French] “Almost”.
  • pressez [French] See accelerando.
  • prestissimo [Italian] Extremely fast tempo marking, usually around 200 BPM.
  • presto [Italian] Fast tempo marking, usually around 168–192 BPM.
  • prima [Italian] See première.
  • prima donna [Italian] Literally, “first lady”. Term used in opera for the principal female singer of the opera or of the opera company.
  • prima volta [Italian] “First time”; may refer to the first ending of a repetition.
  • primo [Italian] See a tempo.
  • principal A section leader in a large ensemble (band or orchestra) also called first chair, except for the first violins, where the leader is termed the concertmaster.
  • prog See progressive rock.
  • program music Music intended to evoke extra-musical ideas, images in the mind of the listener by musically representing a scene, image or mood. By contrast, absolute music stands for itself and is intended to be appreciated without any particular reference to the outside world.
  • program symphony A multi-movement composition with extra-musical content that directs the attention of the listener to a literary or pictorial association.
  • progressive rock A subgenre of rock that reached its peak in the early 1970s and attempted to blend the visceral style of rock music with outside influences: classical, jazz, folk, and world musics, for example.
  • prologue The introduction or preface to a dramatic work. The prologue usually tells the audience the background to the story about to be presented.
  • puhdas viritys [Finnish] See just intonation.
  • pulsation [French] See beat.
  • pulsazione [Italian] See beat.
  • pulse See beat.
  • punk rock Subgenre of rock popular since the mid 1970s, characterized by loud volume levels, driving rhythms and simple forms typical of earlier rock and roll; often contains shocking lyrics and offensive behavior.
  • punkterad not [Swedish] See dotted note.
  • punkteret node [Danish] See dotted note.
  • punktierte Note [German] See dotted note.
  • puolinuotti [Finnish] See half note.
  • puolisävel [Finnish] See semitone.
  • pure music See absolute music.
  • puupuhaltimet [Finnish] See woodwind.