Are instrumentals 'songs'?

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
I think it's a brilliant question.

From a purely dictionary definition, a song is something that is sung.
However, when dealing with people in general, there are certain times when you can't dismiss shared colloquial understanding.
So with that in mind, yes, an instrumental can be a song.
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
Some arguments going on with a (primarily) lyric writer saying that unless you have a verse/chorus/etc structure, it's not a 'song'.
That writer seems stuck in a groove. I've written pieces that have lyrics that you sing but there's no chorus or predictable structure. It seems they are stuck in a past definition that has moved on, rather the same way barryc was stuck in a past definition of what constituted a well crafted song.
I disagree with that writer the same way I disagree with Paul McCartney when he says you can't write songs on a bass guitar or the late Jon Lord saying you couldn't write heavy rock on an organ.
Maybe they couldn't.......
 

mass2100

New member
A "song" is sung! Singing is performed by a human voice! Performing a composition on an instrument is never a "song". A classical "song" does have a particular form as does a popular "song" also there are other forms of "songs". A singer performing a "song" may be accompanied by instruments and still be a "song". Hope this has been helpful!
 

Greg_L

Banned
A "song" is sung! Singing is performed by a human voice! Performing a composition on an instrument is never a "song". A classical "song" does have a particular form as does a popular "song" also there are other forms of "songs". A singer performing a "song" may be accompanied by instruments and still be a "song". Hope this has been helpful!

Not only was it not helpful, it was kind of weird.
 

fritsthegirl

Taste of home
My niece plays me 5min worth of freestyle recorder. I say, great SONG little sister, you're going places with that for sure. Thank god no one is standing around with a dictionary. It would crush her tiny little dreams. LOL.

'Song' is surely as ambiguous as 'story'. A song is anything to do with music as much as a story is anything to do with words. You don't hear birds saying any words, and so we call that a song.
 

radiocycle

New member
Well, I don't know about the strict definition of a 'song' but... Every time I finally get an instrumental piece down and bring it over for my 95 yr old father to hear he always respectfully listens to the whole thing. Then his first question is, "where's the words, I was waiting for the words...?". I think in the decades that he was making music, on his 4-string banjo and Uke, singing old hobo train ditties and love ballads, the singing was the part that the gals would swoon over. Lyrics were the part of the tune that the 'hunks' of the time could lay down with passion and style to impress the babes.

That was then, this is now...

r



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BroKen_H

Re-member
And at what point is a song (or a story, for that matter) a composition? Classical music is generally referred to as composition, and not song. Dictionaries define composition as a long or complex piece of music.
On the other hand, Dixie Dregs writes songs. Instrumentals on albums are not redesignated not songs because they have no vocal...
Dictionaries say that a song must be sung with a voice. But human colloquialism says a song is a piece of music, instruments or voice making the melody.
So technically, all music are pieces: some are songs, some are compositions. But we call them all songs.

Great question.
 

citizen77

New member
There are classical pieces called "vocalese" that have no words - just a syllable. Rachmaninov wrote a bunch of those as did other classical composers. They are "songs." Jazz singers do the same thing, kinda. They take instrumental jazz standards and sing and scat to them.

As for pop songs, "Walk don't run" by the Ventures is a song though it doesn't have any lyrics. The melody is "sung" by the guitar.

This is my opinion on what makes a song today: If it has a good melody (that could be very subjective) either by instrument or voice being used like an instrument even without words then it is a song. Something you can sing/hum. If it just has a bunch of riffs, than it could be categorized as something else - like some "dance" tunes or noise/experimental bands that create soundscapes.

This is a little off topic, but I guess keeping in mind that originally, the voice was the first instrument. All other instruments after came as a way of imitation of the voice. 1-2 thousand years ago, when most Western musical instruments were being developed, the voice was the highest form of music. (please don't go into a religious debate here, this is just for historical purposes) Music history directly correlates with Church history. The Catholic Church still holds the voice (chant) as the primary means of worship and then the organ. All other instruments are to be used as exceptions (this is even supposed to be true for today). Going back, Church music is a direct descendant of Jewish worship music, so this tradition of Western religious music holding the voice as the primary means of song has a deep history.

People could argue that drums are not imitating the voice, but drums are less of an musical instrument in Africa and more of a means of communication in their original context (and still used that way now). The drum beat could be heard from great distances to communicate - like using moris code. Does that mean that African drum ensemble performances are "songs?" Not by some definitions; but maybe because it is communicating, it could be.

It probably just comes down to how one categorizes "song" and its sub-genres. Or "song" is a sub-genre. Or all songs are music, but not all music is song. Or "all squares are rhombi but not all...." Or all mammals have bellybuttons, except the platypus which was given a duck bill, venom and electolocation to make up for being hatched. You lucky Australians.
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
It's just semantics. The words 'story' and 'song' both have a fairly broad range of usage. I think if either make sense in context, the word has served its purpose.
I agree with you about songs, but not stories. For me it's more than just semantics. In my head there is a definite difference between a story and a poem even though they involve words. It's easier to make that distinction than where songs, pieces, compositions and music are concerned.
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
originally, the voice was the first instrument.

Drums......musical instrument
I actually think the voice and the drum were. By drum, I mean anything that could be hit or even hands clapping.
If you think about it, most songs have some kind of rhythm/frame/beat/time {drum} and some kind of melody/harmony/riff/shape {Music that could be brought by the voice} and this fits in with the point about instruments replicating the human voice.
A capella bands and drum orchestras just don't cut it after a while !
 

citizen77

New member
I actually think the voice and the drum were.

Yeah, it's something we debated in ethnomusicology.

When you brought up A capella bands... that made me think that just because something has a voice and lyrics doesn't mean it has to be a song either. That's taking the question in the opposite direction, "Are all lyrical pieces songs?"
 

fritsthegirl

Taste of home
I agree with you about songs, but not stories. For me it's more than just semantics. In my head there is a definite difference between a story and a poem even though they involve words. It's easier to make that distinction than where songs, pieces, compositions and music are concerned.

The reason I say that, is because I've read poems that read a lot like stories and stories that read a lot like poems. I still think 'story' is the broadest sense of classification as far as the written word is concerned.

Since the label of story or poem gives no added meaning or value to the words I'm reading, it matters not much to me what someone calls it. You can tell me a story and say it's a poem. Damn, you can sing me a song and call it a story. If I like it, I like it. Call it a poo for all I care. :D
 

XploZiveToyz

All American Un-American
This is a little off-topic, but I've often wondered if the first rhythm was caused by the cadence of human feet walking. Just a thought.
 
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