Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Christopher Berg


In Western classical music, there are many types of compositions; some examples include sonatas, symphonies, fugues, and motets, each with a particular form. The prelude stands out as one of the few classical music forms in which the title can also be used as a verb. This is not frequently seen with other compositional types; there is never a case of “sonata-ing,” and an orchestra cannot suddenly burst into “symphony-ing.” However, there is a practice known as preluding. Historically, preluding was a common improvisational practice although many musicians today are unfamiliar with the tradition. Generally unexplored, preluding has played an influential role in the evolution of Western classical compositions and music education.

In these pages, the history of preluding will be revealed, starting from the Middle Ages and continuing through the twenty-first century. In the Renaissance and Baroque periods, preluding was especially important to plucked-stringed instruments such as the lute, an ancestor of the guitar. Lutenists would prelude in order to tune their strings and adjust their frets before a performance. Many of today’s guitarists are unaware of this practice but creating and performing preludes in concert can help their performances acquire aspects of immediacy and spontaneity. This study will look at the history of preluding with the goal of helping modern guitarists practice this art and be able to implement these ideas into performance situations.