Pronunciation: PRAY-lood

What is a Prelude?

Prelude is a term in music that defined an introductory performance preceding or preparing for the principal. It comes from the Latin word, “praeludium,” which means “play beforehand.”

Key Takeaways

  1. Preludes are musical performances that introduce the principal piece of music that is to be played.
  2. Preludes feature rhythmic and melodic motifs of the principal piece.
  3. Preludes are mostly an orchestral opening to an act of an opera.

Understanding Prelude

The first notated preludes were used to introduce church music, and it involved a musical section that introduced the theme of the chief subject. It is different than an overture, for example, which is played before the start of a program or orchestral performance.

Preludes usually feature a short piece of music that acts as an introduction to a longer piece. While an overture is played before the start of the program, preludes can be played throughout the program, as an introduction to a specific musical piece.

Related Terms

Gospel Music Gospel music is composed and performed for the purpose of Christian worship and is typically sung by a choir. more

Bridge  A bridge is a section of a musical composition that contrasts the rest of the composition of the song. more

Encore An encore is a performance played at the end of a concert, which is often a response to an audience’s prolonged applause or request. more

Overture An overture is a short musical composition played before the official beginning of a musical program. more

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