What Is a Song?


A song is music and poetry, or a melody with lyrics. It can be any length, but a typical one lasts three minutes or more and is structured in verses and choruses. Most songs have a beat, harmony and rhythm, and are usually played with instruments, though rhyming poems are also called songs. A popular phrase describing the price of something is to say that it is “for a song,” although this usually means inexpensive or bargain-priced, rather than the literal meaning of the term.

The word song is often used as a broad generalization, and it can be applied to any musical piece with lyrics, including purely instrumental pieces. However, it is important to use it with caution because the characteristics of different genres of music vary greatly and a general definition can misrepresent or confuse listeners.

In the context of this article, the term “song” is restricted to a piece with lyrics (or words) that are accompanied by music. This includes songs in English, as well as the lyrics of other languages whose text is translated to English, but not merely transcribed into English without the benefit of the music. Similarly, the terms orchestral piece and symphony are not synonymous with song and may be used for very different types of music.

The following articles describe aspects of the song that are not covered in this article. For example, the song might be categorized by its producer, composer, or record-label per applicable sales certification bodies. This is a useful supplementary way to classify songs. However, it is important not to overextend the category, as it is generally inappropriate to include subjective interpretations of lyrics or a songwriter’s intent in a song article.