Glossary Of Musical Terminology

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There are 34 names in this directory beginning with the letter P.
Parlando Singing
A style where the rhythm–and often the pitch–of the tune are usually observed, but the “singing” sounds more like the speaking voice than the singing voice. Notes are often shortened, and the ends of phrases often have a downward inflection, simulating natural English speech. Rex Harrison was a master of this technique and used it in his role in My Fair Lady, among other musicals.

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

Passaggio
The parts of a singing voice where register transitions occur.

Patter
A “patter song” is one with many lyrics sung rapidly. Patter also refers to the brief periods in-between songs where a singer talks to the audience.

Pause
To suspend or stop momentarily.

Pedal
To engage the piano or keyboard pedal and cause the respective notes or chords to sound for a longer duration

Pentatonic Scale
A musical term referring to a musical scale consisting of only 5 basic tones.For example: the five black keys of a keyboard make up a pentatonic scale. Often used in Oriental or Chinese music.

Phrase
A single line of music played or sung. A musical sentence.

Phrasing
Essential in singing to give life and expression to your sound, instead of it sounding monotonous or robotic. Phrases are formed through different inflections extremely similar to natural speech, however these may vary slightly depending on the genre or style of music being sung.

Phrasing (stops)
Refers to the breaths or “stops” in between notes. Natural phrasing will include “stops” after all periods, commas, semicolons, or colons. Additional phrasing may be necessary for the singer to take catch breaths or to achieve a certain style. It’s an excellent idea for singers to sit down with sheet music in hand and mark their phrasing before they begin to sing. This helps prevent unexpected losses of breath and awkward phrasing that draws attention to itself.

Pianissimo
Very soft.

Piano
An instruction in sheet music to play softly. Abbreviated by a “p”.

Pit
A sunken area in front of the stage where the members of the orchestra play.

Pitch
The frequency of a note determining how high or low it sounds. It can also refer to being “on” or “off” pitch. This means the singer is either singing in tune or is off by being singing too sharp or flat.

Piu
More. eg piu piano would mean more softly.

Placement
A singing technique that uses the sensation of vibrations in the head to achieve healthy sound that resonates and carries well. Most healthy singing is done in what is often referred to as “forward placement” (or “the mask”), with vibrations behind the teeth/lips, on the cheekbones, and sometimes the forehead and/or nose. The resulting sound is full, not nasally or thin.

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

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

Portamento
A mild glissando (sliding from one pitch to another) between two notes for an expressive effect.

Pre Chorus
The section of a song between the verse and the chorus.

Prelude
A short introduction that leads into an act without a break. However not lengthy enough to be considered an overture.

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

Prima Donna
Literally “first lady;” the leading woman singer in an opera. Because of the way some have behaved in the past, it often refers to someone who acts in a superior and demanding fashion. The term for the leading man is primo uomo.

Principle
A major singing role, or the singer who performs such a role.

Production
The combination of sets, costumes, props, lights, music, etc to put on a show.

Production Manager
The administrator responsible for coordinating the sets, costumes, rehearsal facilities and all physical aspects of a production. Often, the person who negotiates with the various unions representing stage hands, musicians, etc.

Progression
The movement of chords in succession.

Projection
The strength of singing whereby the voice is used loudly and clearly so it can be heard by the audience. It commands respect and attention. Also refers to the ability to communicate emotion to the audience, eg. she projects great sadness.

Prompt
To help a singer remember lines, some opera houses will place a person (prompter) in a box below and at the very front of the stage.

Pronunciation
The result of producing sounds of speech and the accepted standard of the sound and syllable.

Props
Small items carried or used by performers on stage.

Pure Note
A clear, sustained note with a controlled breath and without vibrato.  To create a true pure note, everything needs to be in balance.  Placement of the note and vowel, diaphragmatic control and vocal cords energized yet relaxed.

PV
Abbreviation for Piano Vocal Score.  It is a sheet music of a song which comprises of a vocal line and the treble and bass lines for piano accompaniment.

PVG
Abbreviation for Piano Vocal Guitar Score.  It is a sheet music of a song which comprises of a vocal line and the treble and bass lines for piano accompaniment and also the guitar chords or tablature.