For other uses see Song (disambiguation).
A song is a musical composition which contains vocal parts that are performed, 'sung,' and feature words (lyrics), commonly accompanied by musical instruments (exceptions would be a cappella songs). The words of songs are typically of a poetic, rhyming nature, although they may be religious verses or free prose. The words are the lyrics.
Songs are typically for a solo singer, though there may also be a duet, trio, or more voices (works with more than one voice to a part, however, are considered choral). Songs can be broadly divided into many different forms, depending on the criteria used. One division is between "art songs", "popular music songs", and "folk songs". Other common methods of classification are by purpose (sacred vs secular), by style (dance, ballad, Lieder, etc), or by time of origin (Renaissance, Contemporary, etc).
Colloquially, song is sometimes used to refer to any music composition, even those without vocals. In European classical music, jazz, brass band, popular music, and many other musical styles however, this usage is considered incorrect. In music styles that are predominantly vocal-based, a composition without vocals is often called an instrumental. A musical piece that may be either with or without vocals can be called a melody, a tune, or a composition.
Art Song are songs created for performance in their own right, or for the purposes of a European upper class, usually with piano accompaniment, although they can also have other types of accompaniment such as an orchestra or string quartet, and are always notated. Generally they have an identified author(s) and composer and require voice training for acceptable performances. The German-speaking communities to refer to the serious art song, whereas in German-speaking communities the word "Kunstlied" (plural: "Kunstlieder") is used to distinguish art song from folk song ("Volkslied"). The lyrics are often written by a lyricist and the music separately by a composer. Art songs may be more formally complicated than popular or folk songs, though many early Lieder by the likes of Franz Schubert are in simple strophic form. They are often important to national identity.
Art songs feature in many European cultures, including but not limited to: Russian (romansy), German (Lieder), Italian (canzoni), French (mélodies), Scandinavian (sånger), Spanish (canciones). There are also highly regarded British and American art songs in the English language. Cultures outside of Europe may have what they consider to be a classical music tradition, such as India, and thus feature art songs.
The accompaniment of pieces of this period is considered as an important part of the compoasaasition. The art song of this period is often a duet in which the vocalist and accompanist share in interpretive importance. The pieces were most often written to be performed in a home or salon setting although today the works enjoy popularity as concert pieces. The emergence of poetry during this era was much of what inspired the creation of these pieces by Brahms, Schumann, Schubert and other period composers. These composers set poems in their native language. Many works were inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Heinrich Heine. Another method would be to write new music for each stanza to create a unique form, this was through-composed form known in German as durchkomponiert. A combination of both of these techniques in a single setting was called a modified strophic form. Often romantic art songs sharing similar elements were grouped as a song cycle. (Kamien, 217 - 18)
Folk songs are songs of often anonymous origin (or are public domain) that are transmitted orally. They are frequently a major aspect of national or cultural identity. Art songs often approach the status of folk songs when people forget who the author was. Folk songs are also frequently transmitted non-orally (that is, as sheet music), especially in the modern era. Folk songs exist in almost every, if not all, culture(s). For more on folk songs, see Folk music.
Modern popular songs are typically distributed as recordings, and are played on the radio, though all other mass media that have audio capabilities are involved. Their relative popularity is inferred from commercially significant sales of recordings, ratings of stations and networks that play them, and ticket sales for concerts by the recording artists. A popular song can become a modern folk song when members of the public who learn to sing it from the recorded version teach their version to others. Popular songs may be called pop songs for short, although pop songs or pop music may instead be considered a more commercially popular genre of popular music as a whole.
For a list of influential popular songs, see: