The term paraphrase in music seems quite clearly defined.

Right coming from searching another term for the fill-ins, echo-ing, answering in a musical dialog of 2 instruments, a singer and piano or guitar, I proposed the term "paraphrasing". Now I've found paraphrasing used in of other answers and comments.


Now in opposite or better saying in difference to the noun paraphrase and the verb to paraphrase I propose to use the gerund form paraphrasing (adapted from the use by therapists when counselling clients) to distinguish the short comments of an instrument at the phrases of the lead singer.

I'm not sure whether there is evidence for a definition of paraphasing. If yes, thank you for answering.

3 Answers 3


One usage that comes to mind is Liszt's piano arrangements of other computer's works which were sometimes title 'Paraphrase.'

That usage is not necessarily a definition, and wouldn't really make any meaningful distinction between 'paraphrase' as a title word and 'paraphrasing' being the act of arranging other than noun and verb forms of the word.

  • Liszt: this is what I was thinking of when saying the term is well defined in music. It means the title of a variation of a longer sentence. If you look up “paraphrasing” and “therapy” you will recognize that the gerund form en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerund (that functions as noun here) is used to describe the therapists short and summarizing answers to confirm, reinforce and encourage the client going ahead his self exploration. And it seems to me that’s exactly whats happening in music when an istrument is commenting and describing (paraphrasing) the motives of a soloist. Feb 22, 2019 at 6:46

It's possible you mean "call and response". "To paraphrase" is to restate in a different way, and in music, it means exactly the same thing. One could "paraphrase" a motif from an earlier section of a work, for example. I wouldn't necessarily say two instruments in a duet "paraphrase" each other, but it would likely be understood.

Paraphrase can be conjugated and the like just as it can in other contexts (paraphrased, paraphrasing, etc.)

Edit: Using "Paraphrase" in the title is probably similar to the musical statement "Theme and Variations" (with obvious differences). In a title, "paraphrase" is nonstandard, but frankly you can title a piece whatever you want. Legally, maybe "derivative work". And the perennial "to the tune of" in childrens' music...

No English speaker would recognise your proposed use of "paraphrasing" as a noun. "-ing" is a common ending for verbs, and in the noun form, "a paraphrasis" would be more correct (puh-RAH-fra-SIS; RAH rhymes with Cat), though that's not really an accepted word.

  • Yes, it’s typically the same as call and response. This we had already in that other question. I am speaking about a Paraphrase as a noun and specifically as a titel of a musical arrangement or fantasy about an original composition like Michael Curtis is mentioning. But it is not true that the conjugated verb or the - ing form as verb derived noun is always expressing the same meaning as the original verb. Feb 21, 2019 at 19:49
  • So a paraphrase is a piece of a duration of some minutes or longer while paraphrasing would mean a short fill-in or as you say a response -but free variation - between the phrases or motives of the leading voice. Feb 21, 2019 at 19:50
  • @AlbrechtHügli I've edited my answer accordingly.
    – user45266
    Feb 22, 2019 at 5:18
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerund ...Mind that paraphrasing is translated in german as a noun: paraphrasing = Umschreibung. and that there are always subtle differences between 2 similar nouns derived from the same verb. I.g. in german: transformieren = verb -> das Transformieren, die Transformierung, die Transformation Feb 22, 2019 at 7:04
  • @AlbrechtHügli Interesting! I don't speak German, but perhaps German speakers would understand "paraphrasing" differently than I do... Regardless, I've yet to come across that one in gerund form, but perhaps you have? And thank you for clarifying the question!
    – user45266
    Feb 22, 2019 at 15:55

I don't think it's right to use the term paraphrase to describe "call and response" type of situation in music.

It could apply to a specific type of "response" that you call "echoing". But what can happen in call and response interplay is much broader. It's more of a musical version of question and answer. Where answer is not a paraphrase of question. It's more likely a contrasting phrase resolving the "question".

  • I agree that call and response was not my solution, in this case I wouldn‘t search any longer. I can post some examples of a psychotherapy session. Intersting is the term session also used in music! Feb 22, 2019 at 17:34

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