Isn’t this sort of the idea behind Solfege? Not focusing on the assigned pitch aspect of it right now, but the use of syllables with no intent to form words. Also, I am aware that there has been different consonant vowel (syllable) combinations used for Solmization throughout history. (Syllable: a unit of pronunciation having one vowel sound, with or without surrounding consonants, forming the whole or a part of a word).

I’ve not personally listened to many genres outside of pop, hip hop, country, classical etc. So i’ve been wondering if there are instances of songs where the vocals are written with “Solfege” instead of beginning with actual words (lyrics) first.

By advantage, what I’m thinking is that writing this way would allow a person to begin completely "right brain", not worrying about what words they are saying and the meaning of them. Similar to playing an instrument.

  • 2
    Note there are vocal songs that have no lyrics - certainly the words for those aren't written first! Commented Apr 5 at 17:36
  • 4
    I like to "la la la," and jokingly call it "moveable la" Commented Apr 5 at 17:46
  • Lots of melodies have been written before words were set to them. It’s a very, very common songwriting process. Commented Apr 5 at 18:39

3 Answers 3


Yes, this happens. Ira Gershwin was known initially to write nonsense lyrics to songs George wrote, and the initial lyrics to The Beatles "Yesterday" were "Scrambled eggs ...."

In Jazz there is "scat" singing, which is improvisation using syllabic "lyrics", and Indian Classical music makes extensive use of solfege both for pitch and rhythm.


This question seems to presume that songs are written words first. That's simply not true! Many, many 'songs' start off as tunes, to which words are added later. In fact, there are many examples of tunes that survive as tunes for many years without subsequently having words added.

It's true, however, that some songs are built on the words, which give a structure like how many syllables fit, and the basic rhythm of those words, when spoken. but that's not the only way songs are produced. The 'Scrambled Eggs' cited by Aaron is probably one of the best known. 'Drive my Car' (Beatles again) started life with completely different words.

The concept of solfege in itself is still alive and kicking - I hear it used in a bigband I work with when explaining tricky passages all the time. But the idea used in this question is used with false premises.


Isn’t this sort of the idea behind Solfege? ...the use of syllables with no intent to form words...to begin completely "right brain", not worrying about what words they are saying...Similar to playing an instrument.

So, it seems to me, you are getting at the idea of using the voice, but by not using lyrics, the vocal music would sort of be "instrumental."

There is not one name for that.

In jazz scat singing is exactly the idea.

"Songs without words" is another idea from the classical world. And there are various examples of singing non-word syllables like "ah" or "la", etc.

I have some solfege books, and sight singing books, that indeed have melodies to sing which have no lyrics. But I want to add that I don't think the purpose of solfege is to remove the complication of lyrics. Instead, at least for myself, and in regard to moveable do solfege, the syllables are a way to associate a simple syllable with a scale degree. Those association then become mentally linked with the scale degree functions and actually properly singing them.

It's a bit hard to explain without actually doing it, and I don't know if this is the case for other people, but singing, for example, F, Eb, Db or Db F Ab is bit abstract to me. By comparison MI RE DO or DO MI SOL much more immediately connects the dots for audiation. I can sing a line better, or silently audiate it in my head, if I do it in solfege. If my experience with that is common, I imagine the success of the solfege system is how it apparently leverages language parts of the brain to support pitch training.

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