Vocal music

Vocal music is music that is performed with the human voice, as opposed to instrumental music. Your underlie usually literary seals that were set to music by a composer; of modern composers also vocalise or fantasy texts are used sporadically.

The support by tools is not excluded in the vocal music. Works in which the instrumental portion clearly predominate, are still classified as instrumental (eg choirs in symphonies ). Music that is produced only by the human voice, is called a cappella.

For purely vocal music includes a cappella chants secular and spiritual character. The sacred vocal music, unaccompanied as well accompanied, is a significant aspect of church music.

  • 2.1 Prehistoric and Ancient
  • 2.2 First Class in the Middle Ages
  • 2.3 Medieval polyphony
  • 2.4 Renaissance
  • 2.5 Baroque
  • 2.6 Classical
  • 2.7 19th century
  • 2.8 20th century
  • 4.1 America
  • 4.2 Africa
  • 4.3 Asia 4.3.1 South Asia
  • 4.3.2 East Asia
  • 4.3.3 Southeast Asia

European art music

Unaccompanied Sacred vocal music

The most important genres of unaccompanied sacred vocal music are the song or chant, the motet and the Mass; a special form of Gregorian chant and other chants psalmodische dar.

As variants of the choir Instrumentation men 's, women's or mixed choirs are conceivable, which differ according to the number of votes. For women's choirs of the three-part set has thereby emerged as a rule, for the men's and mixed choir of four voices. Particularly for mixed choir and the occupation of two or more be faced choral groups will occasionally required, they " double " or " polychoral " way of making music enjoyed great popularity especially during the Renaissance; their most striking characteristics, it takes place in the so-called Venetian polychorality.

To expand the sound space or for multiplication of linear, contrapuntal and harmonic possibilities of vocal music was also repeatedly experimented with an increase in the number of voices within a choir group of the four-part addition in history.

Gregorian chant is traditionally the unanimous, unaccompanied singing of a ( male) Schola.

The Gregorian " Ave Maria "? / I

Instrumental accompanied sacred vocal music

The instrumentally accompanied sacred vocal music impresses itself from especially in the forms of the motet, the fair, the cantata or oratorio. The individual records in particular the cantata or oratorio, but also the cantata mass of the Baroque in turn differentiated according to their invoice and on the number of singing voices:

The motet requires a choral occupation usually.

Unaccompanied secular vocal music

The most important genres of unaccompanied secular vocal music are the choral song in its various historical and regional characteristics as well as the madrigal.

Instrumental accompanied secular vocal music

The accompanying secular vocal music can also be further divided into arias, recitatives, duets, etc., and the various forms of choral music. They correspond to the respective forms of sacred music, but them here is a secular text based. Also in the field of secular music may be formed of recitatives, arias, ensembles and choirs large forms like the cantata or opera.

History of European vocal music

Prehistoric and Ancient

The exact origin of vocal music is closely associated with the use of the human voice. Shouts and sounds were often used for signaling among the nations of the earth; A further area of ​​application could be the reputation of various deities. The step of a long, upscale reputation for singing is not far. Just as the yodel their specific calls used in the Alps for identification over large distances, were chanting the same purpose.

Later it developed in parallel with the spoken language songs that were part of all aspects of everyday life: hunting songs, war songs and lullabies, community strengthening tribal chants, songs for weddings or funerals, heroic tales, nursery rhymes, songs for the maturation of young men and women, work songs for each occupational group, tribute songs for the rulers or deities, each particular aspect of human life was greeted with chants. Later they gave these songs the term folk songs because they are easy, well known and sanglich were and came directly from everyday life, without being able to call a writer - the transfer occurred for the most part orally. Roving Singer - called the European Middle Ages minstrel, bard, troubadour and Trouvères - dominated a variety of songs they recited publicly at fairs, festivals, princes and royal courts.

First Class in the Middle Ages

The written transfer of music was made ​​more difficult because a long time only the nobility and clergy of reading and writing were powerful. The first attempts of notation have therefore been made by monks, in a sense reproduced the necessary for the management of her singing hand movements on the parchment, which is symbolic character for "up", "down", "long " or similar. as approximate features of the melody of her singing, also known as Gregorian Chant, found. For these " neumes " is implied at first the particular direction of movement of the melody, read out melodic high and low points as well as different shades, for example with regard to the rhythm of the song, but not the respective relative pitch or intervals between the notes of the song. To fix the pitch of a letter writing, which was attached to the neumes developed ( to share the melodies of learners ). Such a double notation is Antiphonary St. Benign Cathedral in Dijon, the so-called Codex Montpellier ( after its storage is in the library of the Medical Faculty of the University of Montpellier).

In addition to this experiment on less ambiguous notation of Gregorian chant eventually Guido of Arezzo invented a system of first two (F and C marking ) colored, later four in the third interval arranged staves that could define the exact height of tones based on a Stammtons. These lines were designated by a C- or F- key. However, with respect to the pitch as increasingly more precise notation led indirectly to coarsening in the presentation of the song, as the subtleties of the original neumic notation in the newly invented system of lines were only difficult to portray or the focus of the font just not on these aspects of the was singing. In addition to that, the previously memorized dominated by the monks, extensive Gregorian repertoire was now apparently clearly fixed, thereby no longer was a need to use an equally great care as before on the correct tradition of singing. This situation should not due to a faulty tradition lead more and more to the alienation of the actual Sing ways and later to a deep crisis of the chorale. However, the so contrived line system is the basis of modern musical notation.

Medieval polyphony

Between the 9th and the 11th century first polyphonic arrangements of the unanimous Gregorian chant are documented. The earliest evidence of this so-called Organa found in Musica enchiriadis; two votes are combined as a quart or as Quintorganum in the ascribed in this treatise Hucbald pieces described first. Your most artistic expression experience the Organa in the 12th century in the schools of St. Martial ( Limoges ) and Notre Dame. The most important masters of the now three - and four-voice organum are active at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris Master Leonin and Perotin.

From around 1230, the ornate Organa of Notre Dame school will be replaced by the newly emerging form of the motet, the most important musical genre of the Ars antiqua. In addition, the forms of conductus and Hoquetus come on, which also go back to their invoice on models of the Notre Dame school. The previously incurred Organa are still sung, but no new Organa be created. In practice, however, assumes to be the unanimous execution by far the most of the space.

The Ars antiqua goes into the epoch of the Ars Nova in the early 14th century. The name of the era is the title of a treatise Philippe de Vitrys, herein explains the basics of his new, rhythmically as well as harmonically highly complex compositional style, which should be groundbreaking for the era.

In addition to its unchanged central position claiming motet develop different polyphonic song forms such as the ballade, the rondeau or the Virelais. As a basic formal principles of composition to Isoperiodik and Isorhythmik develop. The highlight of the compositional development is achieved with the isorhythmic motet. The most important composers of the Ars Nova were, inter alia, Philippe de Vitry and Guillaume de Machaut.


In Renaissance music frankoflämische polyphony experienced especially in their expression of polyphonic vocal music ( Orlando di Lasso ). The highlight of that mass compositions of the settings of Palestrina ( Missa Papae Marcelli ) apply.


At the transition from Renaissance to Baroque first is Giovanni Gabrieli, teacher of Heinrich Schütz and one of the main masters of the Venetian polychorality. As the first opera in the history of music is often referred to L' Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi, who also writes a significant sacral work with the Vespers. In the early Baroque period also witnessed the oratorio its first heyday. Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a large number of cantatas in addition to his most famous oratorio, the St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion. After numerous operas Handel wrote oratorios also significant, including the Messiah.

Opera and oratorio often use the shape of the da capo aria.


In European classical music, the opera and oratorio dominance continues. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote Italian ( " Don Giovanni ", " Le Nozze di Figaro " and " Cosi fan tutte " ) and German operas ( " The Abduction from the Seraglio " and " The Magic Flute" ), and in the sacral region, the Great Mass in C minor and the Requiem. With " Orfeo ed Euridice" Christoph Willibald Gluck realized his operatic reform. Among the most remarkable late works by Joseph Haydn include his oratorio "The Creation" and "The Seasons ". A close connection between instrumental and vocal music creates Ludwig van Beethoven in his 9th Symphony with the final chorus on Schiller's poem Ode to Joy.

19th century

In the romance of a hand, the small shapes are maintained. Franz Schubert and submit with his song cycles " The Beautiful Miller " and " Winterreise" the benchmark for all future art songs. The folk song research begins. In the 19th century, the operetta developed with couplets as vocal deposits. Besides arise cabaret and revue.

On the other hand, the traditional forms be further developed and enhanced in part to the monumental Verdi's operas (such as " Aida " ) and his Requiem, Brahms ' German Requiem. Richard Wagner characterizes the music drama as a completely through-composed form of opera, which he referred to as a work of art.

20th century

In addition to more and more split off herself, partly highly artificial, experimental and often consciously elitist tendencies of contemporary vocal music that wants to develop targeted new expression and application possibilities of the human voice, a popular music, which largely represents itself as a vocal music developed and the the lyrical tradition of European vocal music remains formally arrested and also blend in an extended sense.

Origins of jazz in North America. Follow gospel, blues, barbershop, boogie woogie, and rhythm and blues. As of the 1950 takeover of black music by white artists. Rock ' n' Roll, Pop and successor as grunge and punk arise.

In Europe, flowering of French chanson (Georges Brassens, Jacques Brel ) and the German pop before the Beatles start their unprecedented global career. The classically influenced contemporary vocal music and cabaret are increasingly using the chant.

More small vocal ensembles are the four-part Barbershop and Doo Wop, being sung well beyond close harmony. Today's a cappella groups are found in all occupations, with mixed and all-male groups dominate. Through a tendency to complex rhythmic arrangements, imitation of instrumental tone (partly by electronic means, studio technology ) and the extension of the ensemble to mouth drummer ( see also under Beatboxing ) changed at the end of the 20th century, the sound of a cappella music significantly.

European folk music

  • Ganga, song form in Croatia
  • Iso - polyphony, folk style in southern Albania
  • Leelo, polyphonic singing of Setukesen in Estonia
  • Paghjella, polyphonic singing men in Corsica
  • Saeta, Christian Bittgesang in Spain

Non-European vocal music


  • Native American


  • Isicathamiya


South Asia

  • Qawwali, Sufi style of singing in Pakistan and North India
  • Dhrupad, strict vocal style of classical Hindustani music in North India
  • Khyal, developed in the 17th century lighter North Indian style, originally mostly singers with sarangi accompaniment
  • Thumri and Dadra, two styles that belong to the light classical Indian music

East Asia

  • Chinese Opera, combines singing, acting and dance
  • Gagok, classical singing style of Korean music
  • Pansori, folksy style of Korean music
  • Shōmyō, Buddhist ritual chant in Japan

Southeast Asia

  • Bangsawan, Malay opera in Malaysia, are listed in the Zapin dances


  • Music of Aboriginal