What is a Song?

Song is a musical composition with vocals, typically performed at distinct and fixed pitches. It is composed of two elements: a melody (composed by the musician) and words written by a songwriter.

Music is pervasive in our modern lives1. It serves many functions such as relieving boredom, filling silences, fostering social cohesion and communication, and regulating emotions2. In fact, people prefer music that makes them feel good and can be highly emotive. Lyrics are an important aspect of a song that enhance its ability to evoke emotion and can be used as a medium for storytelling3.

Singing voice is often considered to be the soul of a song4. Songs may be created for personal enjoyment, as in folk or choral music, or for formal performances such as opera or ballet. They can also be didactic, as in a religious hymn or an educational song for children5.

The defining characteristics of a song can vary between genres, reflecting variables such as ideals of social interaction and perceptions of the spirit world, as well as the degree to which a culture writes and uses writing as a primary means of communication. For example, some cultures value a natural sound and a relaxed vocal quality with loosely articulated lyrics while others cultivate a more trained and tense voice for highly emotional articulation.

Although a song may consist only of the melodic component and its corresponding text, it is protected by copyright as an artistic work when it is ‘fixed’ in a tangible medium such as on record or film. This is because it combines the author’s originality of the melody and lyrics and is therefore distinct from other works, such as literary novels or plays, that are not fixed in a particular form.