In music, a prelude is a short piece, usually in no particular form.
An instrumental prelude was originally a short extemporised piece of music played before the piece to be performed. It developed out of the musician's natural tendency to play a few notes on his instrument before commencing, and eventually became a recognised art form in its own right, with publishers advertising books of pre-written preludes appearing in the 17th century.
In Baroque music, the prelude was often paired with a fugue. For example, Johann Sebastian Bach composed two sets of preludes and fugues in all twenty-four major and minor keys, called the Well-Tempered Clavier. The French harpsichordists following Louis Couperin developed a form of unmeasured prelude in which the duration of each note is left to the performer. It was used until the first decade of the 18th century (Rameau's first printed piece (1706) is in this form).
Likewise Shostakovich wrote a set of 24 Preludes and Fugues as well as an earlier set of 24 Preludes for piano.
Other composers who have written preludes for the piano in all twenty-four keys include Frederic Chopin, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Alexander Scriabin.
The term prelude is also used to refer to an overture, particularly to an opera or oratorio.
Prelude is also the name of a country-rock band best known for their 1974 a cappella rendition of Neil Young's "After The Goldrush".
Honda_Prelude is also the name of an automobile produced by Honda corporation from 1978 to 2001.