Is there terminology for the below type of vocals, without words, where it almost sounds like the singer functions even more like an instrument rather than singing lyrics, if that makes sense? The first example shows where this is the main focus, while in the second it blends more into the background. For clarity, I am not referring to when the end of a word is held for an extended period of time.

Example 1:

Example 2:


2 Answers 2


This is called vocalise (vo - ka - lees)

a singing exercise using individual syllables or vowel sounds to develop flexibility and control of pitch and tone.
a vocal passage consisting of a melody without words.

(From Oxford Languages via Google search)

A particularly famous such piece is titled, appropriate enough, "Vocalise", by Rachmaninoff.

Vocalise should not be confused with vocalese (vo - ka - leez), which is when singers put words to instrumental jazz solos. For more on vocalese, see this answer to another question on this site.

  • What about scat?
    – Tim
    Feb 17, 2021 at 7:12
  • @Tim Scat is distinct from vocalese. Vocalese is the placement of lyrics; scat is improvised syllables.
    – Aaron
    Feb 17, 2021 at 7:14

For the particulars of music, these "non-lexical vocables," that is, mouth noises that have a purpose but aren't words.

Of course, musicians don't call them that. They call them by the particular sound or affect they are going for. Go to a MIDI workstation and look for the voice-like settings; you will find "aahs" and "oohs." I'll tell my singer, "then do a scream like you are dying in A minor." It's eefing. It's beatboxing. There isn't a general name that musicians actually use. But if you want a general name, it's non-lexical vocables.

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