performed by one or more singers
, with or without non-vocal instrumental
accompaniment, in which singing
provides the main focus of the piece. Music which employs singing but does not feature it prominently is generally considered instrumental music
(e.g. the wordless women's choir in the final movement of Holst
's The Planets
) as is music without singing. Music without any non-vocal instrumental accompaniment is referred to as a cappella
Vocal music typically features sung words called lyrics, although there are notable examples of vocal music that are performed using non-linguistic syllables or noises, sometimes as musical onomatopoeia. A short piece of vocal music with lyrics is broadly termed a song.
Vocal music is probably the oldest form of music, since it does not require any instrument besides the human voice. All musical cultures have some form of vocal music.
Vocal music without lyrics
- Elaborate untexted vocal improvisation was and still is an important element in Turkish and Middle Eastern music traditions. Such music existed prior to the 1200s and the First Crusade into Palestine and the city of Jerusalem, possibly even before the year 900.
- The modern descendants of the ancient Kung tribes and clans of Southern Africa utilize similar traditional music techniques.
- A form of improvisation known as thillana is a very important feature of Carnatic music from South India.
- Tuvan throat singing often features wordless and improvised song. The sygyt technique is a particularly good example of this.
- The Sámi yoik is a predominantly wordless form of vocal expression.
- The musical tradition of mouth music (Puirt á beul) was used in various forms of traditional music in the Anglo-Saxon and Gaelic communities.
- Hasidic Jews use a form of voice improvisation called nigunim. This consists of wordless tunes vocalized with sounds such as "Bim-bim-bam" or "Ai-yai-yai!", often accompanied by rhythmic clapping and drumming on the table.
- Puirt a beul, also known as "Mouth Music", is a Scottish technique based around imitating the sounds of bagpipes, fiddles, and other instruments used in traditional Scottish music. It was popularized in North America by Scottish immigrants, and has been incorporated into many forms of American music from roots music to bluegrass.
European classical vocal music
, a vocalized musical scale
, assigns various syllables such as Do-Re-Mi
to each note. A variety of similar tools are found in traditional Indian music
, and scat singing
Jazz and popular music
Hip hop music
has a very distinct form of vocal percussion known as beatboxing
. It involves creating beats, rhythms, and scratching
The singer of Icelandic group Sigur Rós, Jón Birgisson, often uses vocals without words, as does Icelandic singer/songwriter, Björk. Her album Medúlla is composed entirely of processed and acoustic vocal music, including beatboxing, choral arrangements and throat singing.
Singer Bobby McFerrin has recorded a number of albums using only his voice and body, sometimes consisting of a texted melody supported by untexted vocalizations.
Vocal music with lyrics
and Song forms
for short forms of music with sung words.
Extended techniques that involve lyrics
The Second Viennese School
, especially Alban Berg
and Arnold Schoenberg
, pioneered a technique called Sprechstimme
in which singers half-talk, half-sing, and only approximate pitches.