Vocal music is a type of music performed by one or more singers, either with instrumental accompaniment, or without instrumental accompaniment (a cappella), 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, sounds, 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
- Indian classical music is based on a rich vocal tradition, wherein even instruments are evaluated on their ability to follow the human voice, imitate it, or recreate the same expressions.
- Elaborate untexted vocal improvisation was and still is an important element in Turkish and Middle Eastern music traditions. Such music existed prior to the 13th century 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 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 vocal technique 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.
- The Cante Alentejano is just based on vocal music. It's one of two Portuguese music traditions part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists, the other being Fado.
European classical vocal music
Solfege, 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 of jazz.
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 the Icelandic group Sigur Rós, Jón Þór 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
See Song and Category: 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 are half-talk, half-sing, and only approximate pitches.
- Lucrezia Aguiari: C4 - C7.
- Elizabeth Billington: A3 - A6.
- Elvis Presley: B1 - A5. Elvis' B1 may be heard on the song "Such a Night", and on "Mystery Train" an A5 is reached towards the end. Towards his later career, he developed a rich baritone voice which still mastered the higher register with immense power, such as on "American Trilogy", "Unchained Melody" or the joking "Little Darlin'".
- Daniel Gildenlöw: A1 - A5. Top range may be heard on songs such as "Dea Pecuniae", "A Trace of Blood" or "This Heart of Mine"; for low range, "Imago", "Of Dust" and "Beyond the Pale" are good examples.
- Maria Callas: F♯3 - F6. In his review of Callas's June 11, 1951 concert in Florence, 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's maestro Francesco Siciliani speaks of Callas's voice going to high F.
- Isabella Colbran: G3 - E6.
- Ewa Podle?: A2 - E♭6.
- Michael Jackson: F2 - E♭6
- Clara Butt: A2 - B♭5
- Avi Kaplan: E♭1 - C♯5
- Farinelli: C3 - C6.
- Yma Sumac: 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: A2 - F6
- Mariah Carey: A♭2 - A♭7. Carey has hit an A♭2 while talking on an interview and an A♭7 in a live performance of her song "Emotions" in 1991 at the MTV Music Awards, making hers a vocal range of exactly five octaves.
- Axl Rose: C♯1 - B♭7 (F♯1 - A5 in full voice)
- Georgia Brown - G2 to G10
- Adam Lopez - Eb2 to E?8
- Beyoncé - F2 to F6
- ^ Titze, I. R. (2008). The human instrument. Sci.Am. 298 (1):94-101. PM 18225701
- ^ "Cante Alentejano, polyphonic singing from Alentejo, southern Portugal". unesco.org. UNESCO. Retrieved 2015.
- ^ "Fado, urban popular song of Portugal". unesco.org. UNESCO. Retrieved 2015.
- ^ "Lucrezia Aguiari, dite La Bastardella ou La Bastardina ou Lucrezia Agujari, dite La Bastardella ou La Bastardina. Encyclopédie Larousse"
- ^ a b "Encyclopédie Larousse. Chant"
- ^ Video demonstrating Elvis' vocal range through the years
- ^ Ira Siff, « I vespri siciliani » in Opera News, March 2008.
- ^ Ardoin, John (1991). The Callas Legacy. Old Tappen, New Jersey: Scribner and Sons. ISBN 0-684-19306-X.
- ^ a b L'Invité Du Dimanche, The Callas Conversations, Vol. 2 [DVD] 2007, EMI Classics.
- ^ David A. Lowe, ed (1986). Callas: As They Saw Her. New York: Ungar Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8044-5636-4.
- ^ F Haböck, Die Gesangkunst der Kastraten, (Vienna, 1923), p. 209
- ^ Soto-Morettini, D. (2006), Popular Singing: A Practical Guide To: Pop, Jazz, Blues, Rock, Country and Gospel, A & C Black, ISBN 978-0713672664
- ^ Saint Bris, Gonzague (2009). La Malibran (in French). Belfond. p. 25. ISBN 978-2-7144-4542-1.
- ^ Saint Bris, Gonzague (2009). La Malibran (in French). Belfond. pp. 37 and 104. ISBN 978-2-7144-4542-1.
- ^ Nicholas E. Limansky
(Translated from English by Jean-Jacques Groleau): Mado Robin, soprano (1918 - 1960) Archived 2011-07-19 at the Wayback Machine.
- ^ Ellen Highstein: 'Yma Sumac (Chavarri, Emperatriz)' Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy. (Accessed 8 August 2006)
- ^ Clarke Fountain, "Yma Sumac: Hollywood's Inca Princess (review). Allmovie, reproduced in the New York Times. 1992. 
- ^ David Richards, "The Trill of a Lifetime; Exotic Singer Yma Sumac Meets a New Wave of Fans." The Washington Post, March 2, 1987, STYLE; PAGE B1. Accessed August 6, 2006, via Lexis Nexis,