noun \ˈprel-ˌyüd, ˈprāl-; ˈpre-ˌlüd, ˈprā-; sense 1 also ˈprē-ˌlüd\

: something that comes before and leads to something else

: a short piece of music that introduces a longer piece

Full Definition of PRELUDE

:  an introductory performance, action, or event preceding and preparing for the principal or a more important matter
a :  a musical section or movement introducing the theme or chief subject (as of a fugue or suite) or serving as an introduction to an opera or oratorio
b :  an opening voluntary
c :  a separate concert piece usually for piano or orchestra and based entirely on a short motif

Examples of PRELUDE

  1. <an eruption of sectarian violence that proved to be the prelude to all-out civil war>
  2. <the musical had a brief prelude to get the audience in the proper mood>

Origin of PRELUDE

Middle French, from Medieval Latin praeludium, from Latin praeludere to play beforehand, from prae- + ludere to play — more at ludicrous
First Known Use: 1561

Other Music Terms

cacophony, chorister, concerto, counterpoint, madrigal, obbligato, presto, presto, refrain, riff, segue



Definition of PRELUDE

transitive verb
:  to serve as a prelude to
:  to play as a prelude
intransitive verb
:  to give or serve as a prelude; especially :  to play a musical introduction
pre·lud·er noun

First Known Use of PRELUDE



noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Musical composition, usually brief, generally played as an introduction to another piece. The prelude originated as short pieces that were improvised by an organist to establish the key of a following piece or to fill brief interludes in a church service. Their improvisatory origins were often reflected in rhythmic freedom and virtuosic runs. A section in this style would often lead to a closing fugal section; in time this turned into a separate movement, and preludes came to be paired with fugues. In the 17th century, preludes began to be frequently written for lute or harpsichord. In later years the term came to be used for short piano pieces, often in sets, by composers such as Frédéric Chopin, Aleksandr Scriabin, and Claude Debussy.


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