Vocal music
Overview
 
Vocal music is a genre of music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

 performed by one or more singers, with or without instrumental accompaniment, in which singing
Singing
Singing is the act of producing musical sounds with the voice, and augments regular speech by the use of both tonality and rhythm. One who sings is called a singer or vocalist. Singers perform music known as songs that can be sung either with or without accompaniment by musical instruments...

 (i.e. vocal performance) 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
Gustav Holst
Gustav Theodore Holst was an English composer. He is most famous for his orchestral suite The Planets....

's The Planets
The Planets
The Planets, Op. 32, is a seven-movement orchestral suite by the English composer Gustav Holst, written between 1914 and 1916. Each movement of the suite is named after a planet of the Solar System and its corresponding astrological character as defined by Holst...

) as is music without singing.
Encyclopedia
Vocal music is a genre of music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

 performed by one or more singers, with or without instrumental accompaniment, in which singing
Singing
Singing is the act of producing musical sounds with the voice, and augments regular speech by the use of both tonality and rhythm. One who sings is called a singer or vocalist. Singers perform music known as songs that can be sung either with or without accompaniment by musical instruments...

 (i.e. vocal performance) 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
Gustav Holst
Gustav Theodore Holst was an English composer. He is most famous for his orchestral suite The Planets....

's The Planets
The Planets
The Planets, Op. 32, is a seven-movement orchestral suite by the English composer Gustav Holst, written between 1914 and 1916. Each movement of the suite is named after a planet of the Solar System and its corresponding astrological character as defined by Holst...

) as is music without singing. Music without any non-vocal instrumental accompaniment is referred to as a cappella
A cappella
A cappella music is specifically solo or group singing without instrumental sound, or a piece intended to be performed in this way. It is the opposite of cantata, which is accompanied singing. A cappella was originally intended to differentiate between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque concertato...

.

Vocal music typically features sung words called lyrics
Lyrics
Lyrics are a set of words that make up a song. The writer of lyrics is a lyricist or lyrist. The meaning of lyrics can either be explicit or implicit. Some lyrics are abstract, almost unintelligible, and, in such cases, their explication emphasizes form, articulation, meter, and symmetry of...

, 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
Song
In music, a song is a composition for voice or voices, performed by singing.A song may be accompanied by musical instruments, or it may be unaccompanied, as in the case of a cappella songs...

.

Vocal music is probably the oldest form of music, since it does not require any instrument besides the human voice
Human voice
The human voice consists of sound made by a human being using the vocal folds for talking, singing, laughing, crying, screaming, etc. Its frequency ranges from about 60 to 7000 Hz. The human voice is specifically that part of human sound production in which the vocal folds are the primary...

. All musical culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

s have some form of vocal music.

World traditions

  • Elaborate untexted vocal improvisation was and still is an important element in Turkish
    Music of Turkey
    The music of Turkey includes diverse elements ranging from Central Asian folk music and has many copies and references of Byzantine music, Greek music, Ottoman music, Persian music, Balkan music, as well as more modern European and American popular music influences...

     and Middle Eastern music traditions. Such music existed prior to the 13th century and the First Crusade
    First Crusade
    The First Crusade was a military expedition by Western Christianity to regain the Holy Lands taken in the Muslim conquest of the Levant, ultimately resulting in the recapture of Jerusalem...

     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
    Africa
    Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

     utilize similar traditional music
    Music
    Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

     techniques.
  • A form of improvisation known as thillana
    Thillana
    Thillana is a rhythmic piece in Carnatic music, from which the Hindustani tarana originated, generally performed at the end of a concert and widely used in dance performances. A thillana uses tala-like phrases in the pallavi and anupallavi, and lyrics in the charanam...

     is a very important feature of Carnatic music
    Carnatic music
    Carnatic music is a system of music commonly associated with the southern part of the Indian subcontinent, with its area roughly confined to four modern states of India: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu...

     from South India
    South India
    South India is the area encompassing India's states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu as well as the union territories of Lakshadweep and Pondicherry, occupying 19.31% of India's area...

    .
  • Tuvan
    Tuvans
    Tuvans or Tuvinians are Turkic peoples living in southern Siberia. They are historically known as one of the Uriankhai, from the Mongolian designation...

     throat singing
    Overtone singing
    Overtone singing, also known as overtone chanting, or harmonic singing, is a type of singing in which the singer manipulates the resonances created as air travels from the lungs, past the vocal folds, and out the lips to produce a melody.The partials of a sound wave made by the human voice can be...

     often features wordless and improvised song. The sygyt technique is a particularly good example of this.
  • The Anglo-Saxon and Gaelic
    Gaels
    The Gaels or Goidels are speakers of one of the Goidelic Celtic languages: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx. Goidelic speech originated in Ireland and subsequently spread to western and northern Scotland and the Isle of Man....

     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
    Puirt à beul
    Puirt a beul is a traditional form of song native to Scotland, Ireland, and Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.-Name:The Scottish Gaelic for such a tune is port à beul: "a tune from a mouth—specifically a cheerful tune—which in the plural becomes puirt à 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
    Traditional music
    Traditional music is the term increasingly used for folk music that is not contemporary folk music. More on this is at the terminology section of the World music article...

     to bluegrass
    Bluegrass music
    Bluegrass music is a form of American roots music, and a sub-genre of country music. It has mixed roots in Scottish, English, Welsh and Irish traditional music...

    .

European classical vocal music

Solfege
Solfege
In music, solfège is a pedagogical solmization technique for the teaching of sight-singing in which each note of the score is sung to a special syllable, called a solfège syllable...

, 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
Music of India
The music of India includes multiple varieties of folk, popular, pop, classical music and R&B. India's classical music tradition, including Carnatic and Hindustani music, has a history spanning millennia and developed over several eras. It remains fundamental to the lives of Indians today as...

, and scat singing
Scat singing
In vocal jazz, scat singing is vocal improvisation with wordless vocables, nonsense syllables or without words at all. Scat singing gives singers the ability to sing improvised melodies and rhythms, to create the equivalent of an instrumental solo using their voice.- Structure and syllable choice...

 of jazz.

Jazz and popular music

Hip hop music
Hip hop music
Hip hop music, also called hip-hop, rap music or hip-hop music, is a musical genre consisting of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping, a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted...

 has a very distinct form of vocal percussion known as beatboxing
Beatboxing
Beatboxing is a form of vocal percussion primarily involving the art of producing drum beats, rhythm, and musical sounds using one's mouth, lips, tongue, and voice. It may also involve singing, vocal imitation of turntablism, and the simulation of horns, strings, and other musical instruments...

. It involves creating beats, rhythms, and scratching
Scratching
Scratching is a DJ or turntablist technique used to produce distinctive sounds by moving a vinyl record back and forth on a turntable while optionally manipulating the crossfader on a DJ mixer. While scratching is most commonly associated with hip hop music, since the late 1980s, it has been used...

.

The singer of the Icelandic group Sigur Rós
Sigur Rós
Sigur Rós is an Icelandic post-rock band with classicaland minimalist elements. The band is known for its ethereal sound, and frontman Jónsi Birgisson's falsetto vocals and use of bowed guitar. In January 2010, the band announced that they will be on hiatus. Since then, it has since been announced...

, Jón Þór Birgisson
Jón Þór Birgisson
Jón “Jónsi” Þór Birgisson is the guitarist and vocalist for the Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós. He is known for his use of a cello bow on guitar and his falsetto voice. He is also blind in his right eye and is openly gay. His boyfriend Alex Somers has done much of the graphic design for...

, often uses vocals without words, as does Icelandic singer/songwriter, Björk
Björk
Björk Guðmundsdóttir , known as Björk , is an Icelandic singer-songwriter. Her eclectic musical style has achieved popular acknowledgement and popularity within many musical genres, such as rock, jazz, electronic dance music, classical and folk...

. Her album Medúlla is composed entirely of processed and acoustic vocal music, including beatboxing
Beatboxing
Beatboxing is a form of vocal percussion primarily involving the art of producing drum beats, rhythm, and musical sounds using one's mouth, lips, tongue, and voice. It may also involve singing, vocal imitation of turntablism, and the simulation of horns, strings, and other musical instruments...

, choral arrangements and throat singing
Overtone singing
Overtone singing, also known as overtone chanting, or harmonic singing, is a type of singing in which the singer manipulates the resonances created as air travels from the lungs, past the vocal folds, and out the lips to produce a melody.The partials of a sound wave made by the human voice can be...

.

Singer Bobby McFerrin
Bobby McFerrin
Robert "Bobby" McFerrin, Jr. is an American vocalist and conductor. He is best known for his 1988 hit song "Don't Worry, Be Happy". He is a ten-time Grammy Award winner.-Life:...

 has recorded a number of albums using only his voice and body, sometimes consisting of a texted melody supported by untexted vocalizations.

Extended techniques that involve lyrics

The Second Viennese School
Second Viennese School
The Second Viennese School is the group of composers that comprised Arnold Schoenberg and his pupils and close associates in early 20th century Vienna, where he lived and taught, sporadically, between 1903 and 1925...

, especially Alban Berg
Alban Berg
Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer. He was a member of the Second Viennese School with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and produced compositions that combined Mahlerian Romanticism with a personal adaptation of Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique.-Early life:Berg was born in...

 and Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

, pioneered a technique called Sprechstimme in which singers half-talk, half-sing, and only approximate pitches.

Wide-ranging voices

  • Lucrezia Aguiari: C4 - C7.

  • Elizabeth Billington
    Elizabeth Billington
    Elizabeth Billington was a British opera singer born in London, her father being a German clarinetist named Carl Friedrich Weichsel , and her mother Fredericka Weichsel née Weirman , a popular singer. Her brother, Charles Weichsel Elizabeth Billington (1765 or 1768 in London – 25 August 1818 in...

    : A3 - A6.

  • Maria Callas
    Maria Callas
    Maria Callas was an American-born Greek soprano and one of the most renowned opera singers of the 20th century. She combined an impressive bel canto technique, a wide-ranging voice and great dramatic gifts...

    : F#3 - E6. Some said she has hit an F6. In his review of Callas's June 11, 1951 concert in Florence
    Florence
    Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

    , music critic Rock Ferris of ''Musical Courier said, "Her high E's and F's are taken full voice." In a 1969 French television interview with Pierre Desgraupes on the program L'invité du dimanche, La Scala
    La Scala
    La Scala , is a world renowned opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the New Royal-Ducal Theatre at La Scala...

    's maestro
    Maestro
    Maestro is a title of extreme respect given to a master musician. The term is most commonly used in the context of Western classical music and opera. This is associated with the ubiquitous use of Italian vocabulary for classical music terms...

     Francesco Siciliani speaks of Callas's voice going to high F.

  • Isabella Colbran
    Isabella Colbran
    Isabella Colbran was a Spanish opera singer, who was known in her native country as Isabel Colbrandt. Many sources note her as a dramatic coloratura soprano but, some believe that she was a mezzo-soprano with a high extension, a soprano sfogato...

    : G3 - E6.

  • Farinelli
    Farinelli
    Farinelli , was the stage name of Carlo Maria Broschi, celebrated Italian castrato singer of the 18th century and one of the greatest singers in the history of opera.- Early years :...

    : C3 - C6.

  • Manuel Garcia
    Manuel García (tenor)
    Manuel del Pópulo Vicente Rodriguez García was a Spanish opera singer, composer, impresario, and singing teacher.-Biography:...

    : G or A2 - D5.

  • Maria Malibran
    Maria Malibran
    The mezzo-soprano Maria Malibran , was one of the most famous opera singers of the 19th century. Malibran was known for her stormy personality and dramatic intensity, becoming a legendary figure after her death at age 28...

    : G3 - E6.

  • Mado Robin
    Mado Robin
    Madeleine Marie Robin, known as Mado Robin , was a French coloratura soprano.She was born in Yzeures-sur-Creuse, Touraine, where she owned the Château Les Vallées. A star of television and radio in the 1950s, she was well known in France...

    : E4 - D7.

  • Yma Sumac
    Yma Súmac
    Yma Sumac was a noted Peruvian soprano. In the 1950s, she was one of the most famous proponents of exotica music. She became an international success based on her extreme vocal range, which was said to be "well over four octaves" and was sometimes claimed to span even five octaves at her peak.Yma...

    : her range was said to be "well over four octaves" and was sometimes claimed to span even five octaves at her peak. From B2 to C#7

  • Cher
    Cher
    Cher is an American recording artist, television personality, actress, director, record producer and philanthropist. Referred to as the Goddess of Pop, she has won an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, three Golden Globes and a Cannes Film Festival Award among others for her work in...

    : A2 - F6

  • Mariah Carey
    Mariah Carey
    Mariah Carey is an American singer-songwriter, record producer, and actress. She made her recording debut with the release of her eponymous studio album in 1990, under the guidance of Columbia Records executive Tommy Mottola, whom she later married in 1993...

    : Ab2 - Ab7. Carey has hit an Ab2 while talking on an interview and an Ab7 in a live performance of her song "Emotions" in 1991 at the MTV Music Awards, making hers a vocal range of 5 octaves on the dot.


See also

  • Choir
    Choir
    A choir, chorale or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform.A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus...

  • Human Voice
    Human voice
    The human voice consists of sound made by a human being using the vocal folds for talking, singing, laughing, crying, screaming, etc. Its frequency ranges from about 60 to 7000 Hz. The human voice is specifically that part of human sound production in which the vocal folds are the primary...

  • National Center for Voice and Speech
    National Center for Voice and Speech
    The National Center for Voice and Speech , is a multi-site research and teaching organization dedicated to studying the characteristics, limitations and enhancement of human voice and speech. The NCVS is located in Salt Lake City, Utah with the Lead Institution located at the University of Utah...

  • Phonation
    Phonation
    Phonation has slightly different meanings depending on the subfield of phonetics. Among some phoneticians, phonation is the process by which the vocal folds produce certain sounds through quasi-periodic vibration. This is the definition used among those who study laryngeal anatomy and physiology...

  • Sweet Adelines International
    Sweet Adelines International
    Sweet Adelines International is a worldwide organization of women singers committed to advancing the musical art form of barbershop harmony through education and performances. This independent, nonprofit music education association is one of the world's largest singing organizations for women...

  • Vocable
    Vocable
    In speech, a vocable is an utterance, term, or word that is capable of being spoken and recognized. A non-lexical vocable is used without semantic role or meaning, while structure of vocables is often considered apart from any meaning...

  • Vocal registration
    Vocal registration
    A vocal register is a particular series of tones in the human voice that are produced by one particular vibratory pattern of the vocal folds and therefore possess a common quality....

  • Vocal learning
    Vocal learning
    Vocal learning is the ability of animals to modify vocal signals in form as a result of experience with those of other individuals. This can lead to signals that are either similar or dissimilar to the model...

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