Are instrumentals 'songs'?

rob aylestone

Well-known member
I was just listening to the 1975 pick of the pops on BBC radio and one of the songs was Van McCoy - "Do the Hustle" It has the words "Do the Hustle" spoke-sung, every now and then. The rest is just instruments in a disco style. It's to me, a song, but not an instrumental because there are voices but they don't really sing - the tune is on a flute of all things!
 
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TAE

All you have is now
Hmmmm I didn't read this thread all through the 7 other pages.
After reading the Websters dictionary definition of the word "song" the answer ( at least what I think is a practical conclusion is ) to the OP's question is answered in the question. Songs and Instrumentals are two absolutely different things.

Both are musical compositions but instrumentals by default are written to be performed by humans using inanimate instruments to create the harmonic vibrations of the composers musical intentions. They have no lyrics to be sung along with said composition.

A song is a musical composition with lyrics and melody.

That said English words like other languages sometimes can be used not exactly as originally defined. When the melody of that instrumental is whistled or hummed by a "living" / animate creature ( I had a cockatiel that I would teach songs to) How should I have described what the bird was doing ..I always said I taught the bird to sing the "leave it to beaver" theme melody and the four non blondes "what up" melody. I guess the proper description should have been I taught it to perform the melodies to those two melody lines.

Interestingly when we speak of TV show THEME SONGS we group both theme songs with lyrics and instrumentals as "theme songs"

Examine the motive of the OP...Why did he ask the question? I suspect it was because either he or someone he knew was not able to write lyrics but wanted to call themselves a songwriter...no lyrics..you're not a songwriter you're a composer...if you team up with a lyricist you are part of a songwriting team but you yourself individually are not a songwriter. Elton and Bernie Taupin are a perfect example of a songwriting team / match made in heaven. Elton could compose music like a madman but couldn't write lyrics. Bernie conversely was a brilliant lyricist but could not compose music to go with them. Together magic was made.

Of course there are many fortunate folks that can do both.

Songwriters write musical compositions with lyrics to be sung along with the composition = Song....making them...Songwriters
Composers write musical compositions to be played with musical instruments = Instrumental....making them ...Composers
You are not a songwriter per se if you are unable to write lyrics to go along with your composition.
Only if you add lyrics to that instrumental can it legitimately be defined as a song and you be considered a songwriter.

The End.
 

TAE

All you have is now
Oh yeah and Rob...you're correct Do the Hustle, albeit a damn short lyric line certainly by the definition of what a song is, is a song.
 

gecko zzed

Grumpy Mod
Certainly people can bastardize language and twist meanings to the point that dictionaries will change a definition out of necessity. How sad for language that people are unable to educate themselves on terms so that they are not misused. However, I'm still waiting for a dictionary NOW to indicate that a song can be anything other than that with a voice, or any of the 'scholars' writing papers on the subject that suggest as much. We have to live in the NOW, rather than what we think it should be or could be years from now. Currently, I'm typing on a computer keyboard and not a cucumber.
Dictionaries can only report on what was. They cannot report accurately on what is. The present is ever in a state of flux, driven by the swirling chaos of humanity. Some new usages are ugly, others are the opposite. Some are enduring, and others fade quickly into obscurity. Those that prove useful persist. My earlier example of 'mileage' is a good example of usefulness. Its metric equivalent, 'kilometerage' is tongue-twistingly bad, and vanished pretty much before it even started. But mileage . . . well, we're getting great mileage out of it.
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
But mileage . . . well, we're getting great mileage out of it
And this thread is getting a new lease of......kilometerage.
Songs and Instrumentals are two absolutely different things
Unless the instrumental is an instrumental song............🦻
Examine the motive of the OP...Why did he ask the question?
Ask mjb photos ~ he's the OP, he's pretty sound {no pun intended} and he still🗣 regularly contributes.
Songwriters write musical compositions with lyrics to be sung along with the composition = Song....making them...Songwriters
Composers write musical compositions to be played with musical instruments = Instrumental....making them ...Composers
You are not a songwriter per se if you are unable to write lyrics to go along with your composition.
Only if you add lyrics to that instrumental can it legitimately be defined as a song and you be considered a songwriter.

The End
Bernie Taupin is a songwriter. Elton John 🤓 is a songwriter. They both contribute to the finished article of this dictionary definition of a song. 😹

It's quite interesting in rock and pop's chequered past, where you have a particular band member replaced by a particular instrumentalist "to help with the songwriting." ✍🏻
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
George Gershwin was a composer - but his songs are pretty famous. As his brother wrote the words, surely Gershwin shouldn't be called a songwriter - but clearly he is.

We are in three camps. No, Yes and who cares! Great fun though.
 
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UNTIL DICTIONARIES CHANGE THE MEANING, NOTHING HAS BEEN ALTERED. A song is a song is a song. It's no different than referring to a minuet as an aria. Yes, there is a difference between a symphony and a concerto, although both use the same instruments. Dictionaries are NOT supportive, they DEFINE actual concepts. You do NOT bypass a dictionary to understand a term or word, since the word is explained in the dictionary. Where else are you to look... what logical source of information do you look to, to define a word or concept if not a dictionary? Guitar Player monthly? What grandma told you? And are you aware that the terms in the Oxford Dictionary are based on usage, origins and essential characteristics? Look into that last aspect, and you will realize why an instrument is NOT a song. Some people want their feelings and desires to be supportive, which is subjective and not objective. Seriously, this is basic LOGIC AND REASONING, which some could do with a few classes (and I'm well versed, having written the book Logos, which is Greek for Logic). And Rob, what countries or cultures refer to a song as including instrumentals? Blah, blah, blah. Talk is cheap, but I'm also waiting on those scholarly papers you spoke about. I'm done with this argument, since there is no argument, unless you think defined terms are to be thrown out and YOUR own established as truth. Freaking sad, and people wonder why the West lack intelligence like other countries. They can't even believe their own eyes and ability to comprehend simple terms in a dictionary.
 
George Gershwin was a composer - but his songs are pretty famous. As his brother wrote the words, surely Gershwin shouldn't be called a songwriter - but clearly he is.

We are in three camps. No, Yes and who cares! Great fun though.
Didn't he write the tunes in order to be combined with words to be sung? Hence, both he and the lyricist are SONG WRITERS. No wonder terms in a dictionary are hard to grasp.
 
Dictionaries can only report on what was. They cannot report accurately on what is. The present is ever in a state of flux, driven by the swirling chaos of humanity. Some new usages are ugly, others are the opposite. Some are enduring, and others fade quickly into obscurity. Those that prove useful persist. My earlier example of 'mileage' is a good example of usefulness. Its metric equivalent, 'kilometerage' is tongue-twistingly bad, and vanished pretty much before it even started. But mileage . . . well, we're getting great mileage out of it.
Don't look up the definition of 'dog,' since that is what 'was' and is not 'is.' Brilliant deductive and inductive reasoning.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
So George Gershwin was a song writer but never wrote a word that was sung? Rick Wakeman got a CBE today - his songs don't usually have any words either?

Andrerw Lloyd Webber is in the Songwriting hall of fame and never writes lyrics? Do his songs only get called songs when somebody produces the words? If the award is for writing songs, then shouldn't the person who wrote the lyrics get a credit too? Some actually do, but some don't - indicating the words might not be vital for giving somebody a song writing award? Maybe?
 
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Mickster

Well-known member
Man......another thread that exposes the uniquely human need to be right....and not just right.......but exclusively knowledgeable.

Very interesting.

2 cents worth of......come on man.

Mick
 
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gecko zzed

Grumpy Mod
Don't look up the definition of 'dog,' since that is what 'was' and is not 'is.' Brilliant deductive and inductive reasoning.
You may have not noticed exactly what I wrote: "Dictionaries can only report on what was. They cannot report accurately on what is". The key word in the second sentence is "accurately". Dictionaries are compiled after the event, and they cannot report on usages that have come into being after they've been compiled. Of course not every word changes its meaning, Nor does every word lose a meaning if a new usage for it arises.

The Global Language Monitor reports that about 5,400 neoligisms (which include re-purposed words) pop into being each year, with about 1000 making it into dictionaries.

I did look up 'dog' in the online Oxford dictionary. It provided six definitions plus tweny idiomatic uses. There will be many more uses in street slang that the dictionary hasn't listed.
 

LazerBeakShiek

Well-known member
Speak my version of English and you don't need to worry about any of that. Words are noise.

Oxford never gave me nothing..I hate neoligists, they are panzies.

What was...you lost me. Its not that complicated.

You go to the lady, say..I want a burger hold the ketchup, and large fries...or onion ring. Pay . Eat your food. Kick, everyones ass.
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
BD, lighten up. You're not being disagreed with, but you are dogmatically dismissing any hint of nuance. And the entirety of human existence is shot through with nuance, especially language and its development.
What you really need is to listen to a stack of my 🎹 🥁 🪘 🎷 🎺 🪗 🎸 🪕 🎻instrumental songs.


😆 😅 😂 🤣
 

TAE

All you have is now
So with regard to Elton is a songwriter...yes he is ..and probably always was but just didn't have the confidence to put his own words out there. In the early years for certain he was not a songwriter but part of a songwriting team...two different things. If you can't write lyrics to your musical compositions then you are a composer not a songwriter....Now I say this all tongue n cheek because that is just how I see it...and IMO I am right...that said reality is what we agree we see... In the Jury system we humans have decided it only takes 12 humans to decide what is reality. If all 12 agree then it is reality , if one in 12 says black is white and the other 11 say the opposite...there is no decision made either way. Hard to stomach sometimes because one stupid dumbass can't see what the other 11 see but that's the rules we have set forth in America.

Here in this open forum way more than 12 people have expounded upon their perception / belief of what a song is or isn't and it really is a pretty silly yet fun thing to discuss. I'd never really given it much thought but in doing so I have concluded what I have concluded and it is clear others here have concluded differently. But that's OK cause I am right and and anyone who disagrees with me even one iota ( what's an iota?) is just a "JERK" and doesn't know shit from Shinola. Of course I'm just kidding but on the shit from Shinola thing I figure as a PSA I'd post this video below for a little levity in this dead serious, life or death topic.

 
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LazerBeakShiek

Well-known member
.. In the Jury system we humans have decided it only takes 12 humans to decide what is reality. If all 12 agree then it is reality , if one in 12 says black is white and the other 11 say the opposite...there is no decision made either way. Hard to stomach sometimes because one stupid dumbass can't see what the other 11 see but that's the rules we have set forth in America.

t that's OK cause I am right and and anyone who disagrees with me even one Ray Liotta
That is thankfully not how reality works, what IS true IS, and we keep going.

So you are giving up reality? Bye.

I am one. You and your fantastic college friends don't plot anybodies coarse. My truth is more powerful than your fiction.

Shift this thing into high gear huh? Give up and just go to a jailing society. Jail them all. Whats wrong with that? Bad news.
 
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