What Is a Song?

Song, or sung piece of music, usually performed by a single voice with or without accompaniment. Works for several voices are called duets, trios, and so on; larger ensembles sing choral music.

Singing, as contrasted with speech, has been a part of human culture from earliest times; the combination of words and music heightens their impact. Singing style differs among and within cultures; some societies value a relaxed, natural vocal quality, while others cultivate a highly trained, tense sound.

Art songs are composed for performance by professional or carefully-trained singers, often accompanied by piano or instrumental ensemble. They require strong vocal technique, an understanding of language, diction, and poetry for interpretation.

Popular songs stand midway between folk and art songs in terms of technical difficulty, complexity of musical structure, and resistance to change. They may also be sung in more intimate settings, as in sea shanties, which were sung on sailing ships to coordinate sailors’ activities and help them work together.

A verse is a musical section of a song that usually takes place between choruses. Its lyrics are more detailed than those in the chorus and are mainly written to advance a story.

A song’s verse is often the most underrated and overlooked part of a song, but it is an essential part of advancing a story. Unlike the chorus, the instrumentation for a verse is typically less catchy and tends to be toned down so it doesn’t distract from the narrative.