Is there a specific term for when a song has different vocalists singing different melodies at the same time? I know that polyphony refers to multiple simultaneous melodies, but is there a term specific to singing?

A song with an excellent example of what I'm asking about is Hello Seattle by Owl City (Spotify link). At the end of the song, the chorus is sung at the same time as a verse. Another example of this is at the end of Feeling This by blink-182 (Spotify link) (mildly not safe for work).

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    Probably quodlibet is the term you are looking for, even if not restricted to singing. See also this question. – guidot Nov 29 '17 at 20:04
  • I always just call this "vocal harmony", but maybe that's too lowbrow or generic of a term in this context. – Todd Wilcox Nov 29 '17 at 21:51
  • This is done all the time in musicals and opera. Expand your horizons :-) – Carl Witthoft Nov 30 '17 at 12:25
  • The term is “descant”. – jjmusicnotes Nov 30 '17 at 12:56

It's certainly a polyphonic device, and 'polyphony' is another name for 'counterpoint'. 'In harmony' doesn't point out the independence of the two tunes. A 'quodlibet' is a very specific type of humorous song. But I don't really think there's a better way of putting it than: 'The two tunes are sung together'.

Cole Porter was fond of this trick. Nice to see some current pop artists picking it up (though, listening to the track, they've mixed the second tune so far down that it's hardly audible).


I think the word you're looking for is counterpoint. It is from the latin "punctus contra punctum ",point agst point. But it is not restricted to singing.

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