Please your input on how to set the type for an original instrumental work of modern music

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:slight_smile: @Freso
and thank you :slight_smile:


You are right I do apologise


:slight_smile: @Multi_Musician
and thank you :slight_smile:

How do we or should we define the term "work"?

After this interruption, shall we please go on now with our discussion?

I have the impression that we have no consensus among us about the meaning of the term “works” and that is why we have difficulties agreeing on the different “types” of works. I have no authority to split forum topics, so I will make a separate topic about “what do we mean with the term work”. When that topic is solved, I am sure we all here in this topic can find a solution for adding appropriate types for works :wink:

So, let’s first get consensus on what is a "work " okay? And then we all go back to this forum topic to solve it okay? :slight_smile:


I don’t think that’s quite correct. Works themselves are reasonably well defined. The work type field, on the other hand, is not.

So far it’s been used mainly for musical forms, but no definition was formalized (that I’m aware of).

As I understand it, nobody is saying that “instrumental” isn’t a valid descriptor for a work, but some people are saying that it doesn’t belong in a list of musical forms (which is the current de facto use of work type).


There are two things you can do to mark a work as “instrumental” in the meantime.

  1. (as @Torc, @outsidecontext and others have suggested) use tags, which are meant for all kinds of description.
  2. (as @jesus2099 suggested) use annotations, which are meant to hold data that doesn’t fit anywhere else

How do we or should we define the term "work"?

Well said @CallerNo6 :sunny: because I think that you mean the same with “work” as I do though others might have a different opinion so that’s why I said that I think there is no consensus, and I am working on a new thread about “work” and “work type field” right now :slight_smile: because there seems to be confusion among us about the meaning of “work type” related to the meaning of “work”!!

Isn’t that confusing :frowning:
And also so difficult to explain, when English is not my native language…
here is the new thread:
How to define work


I completely agree. I was basing my comment on the Work type field as it currently exists, which is mostly a list of Classical forms. “Instrumental” is valid as a work attribute, but it absolutely should not be added to the Work Type list as long as it’s a single-selection field. I don’t think the solution is to make it multi-select either; I think we should make it clear “Work Type” refers to form (and make it hierarchical) and add Instrumental to attributes.

Yes and no. “Type” is definitely ambiguous, but the current usage tends more towards forms and structural descriptions. Adding additional descriptive terms to that list would make its purpose more ambiguous; creating a separate list for musical descriptions would actually help clarify the purpose of the Type field, and allow more flexible searches. Anything that makes it easier for users to understand how the system works is an improvement.

I’d recommend checking out RYM’s music descriptors, which aren’t perfect, but are much better than what we have here.


The term “song” in the Work Type list refers to form, not content. Whether or not something has vocals or lyrics is something that something that should be documented somewhere other than the Work Type field. I pointed this out, and you accused me of wanting to deprive future generations of the ability to find instrumental compositions. If you want a serious reply, please stick to serious arguments.

[quote=“Samsom_Productions, post:55, topic:164558”]
@Torc I can understand you go not along with the Wikipedia articles, but then how would You name the two kind of original works, the ones with and the ones without lyrics?[/quote]

A few methods have already been discussed. I’d prefer to add it as an attribute, but currently you have tags and can set the lyrics to [no lyrics].

There isn’t even consensus over what constitutes an Instrumental. Is it based on vocals or the presence of lyrics? Is “Fitter, Happier” an instrumental? It has words, but no vocalist. Is “Great Gig in the Sky” an instrumental? It has vocals, but no lyrics.

They didn’t classify it as an established form because it wasn’t an established form. “Solo piano” is descriptive information, not a statement of form or even genre. (FWIW, “Images” was a series of works, not just the solo piano pieces in sets 1 and 2. Set 3 was orchestral.]

You’re interpreting the word “song” as meaning “with vocals” and trying to create something that covers everything outside of that category. But the presence of singing alone does not make something a song. A mass is not a song. Beethoven’s 9th is not a song. Einstein on the Beach is not a song, either in whole or the individual movements. “Song” is used ubiquitously with rock music because that’s overwhelmingly the most common form in in the genre, though it’s not always correctly used.


You’re both talking about genres, styles, and performance techniques, not forms. “Blues” is not a form; a “blues progression” is a form that can be used in any genre. “Baroque” is not a form; if you wanted to write a Baroque piece, you’d probably choose one of the common forms they used. You may have written “jazz” on one of your compositions, but if somebody played the notes on the page in a rock style, it’s still the same work; you may not want the performers to choose the style of performance, but ultimately they can. And before you say “then it’s not the same work”, would you refuse a royalty check?

Oh, and if we’re brandishing our credentials here, I have a PhD in composition, so I’ve done my fair share of musical analysis.


I agree, by hierarchical do you mean something like this? (from the MusiCHI tagging software)


[quote=“Torc, post:63, topic:164558”]
I’d recommend checking out RYM’s music descriptors, which aren’t perfect, but are much better than what we have here.[/quote]
This is pretty awesome, though maybe a bit much.
That said I’m sure our data nerds/ AcoustID people are salivating over the datasets you could get with these kind of emotive descriptors :open_mouth:

Anyway, I don’t really see a problem with Torc’s suggestion that we should add ‘instrumental’ but maybe keep ‘form’ to its own category. Does that sound okay to you @Samsom_Productions?

Also if we really want to nail down that ‘types’ = classical forms, can we make that clear?
Myself (and the biggest portion of layman users I’m sure) have no use for anything in there. Unless you count setting everything to ‘song’. If we decide it’s something basically reserved for classical, then can we make it look like it?
Because “type” is not the same word as “form”, so whenever Torc says “but that’s not a form” I really can’t help but think - “what’s that got to do with it?”. Which I don’t think is an unreasonable thought with how it currently looks.


It’s even worse with song, to be honest, where we say it refers to sung works while others say it includes instrumentals as well.
If it is so much without consensus, we still have it but not instrumental yet.
Maybe song was added too quick and without same discussion and maybe we should not have it.


We should definitely have it, since “Song” is an established musical form. What it should definitely have is an actual definition added to it (but that applies to most of our work types really).


Is our work type the same as Wikipedia (cf. above) — when you type Song in their search bar they suggest Song: composition for voice(s)?
In which case we lack the instrumental type, which could easily be defined in mirror: composition for instruments (if it includes voices, please use Song, instead.

Or is our work not following the primary Wilipedia approach?
In which case it is urgent to have a definition because most non English people like me will look for English definitions in English Wikipedia or will translate to what they have always been told: song means chanson means sung composition.


Good morning to you all :slight_smile:

I am really happy that the confusion about “what is a work” has been solved because it makes it a lot easier for people like me to list music here on Music Brainz.

I am also happy that we came so far in our discussion about the types of a work here in this thread, though the discussion has not always been pleasant, and I am really sorry for that.

I think that a good solution @Torc because when you make clear in the documentation that “work type” refers to “musical intrinsic form” and has nothing to do with instruments, vocals, and lyrics, then the Music Brainz website will be a lot more comprehensible for people like me, who only are here to list some music. And @Torc, that is good that you mention that you have a PhD in music composition, because now we all know that we have a real expert among us, and that you are the perfect person to implement the outcome of our discussions in the website.

Yep I agree with that :slight_smile:

And I also agree with you @jesus2099 :slight_smile:


I just come home from work and had a discussion with Anita about this all.

First of all; To dismiss Wikipedia is foolish to say the least. I do not know if anybody has ever tried to publish something on Wikipedia, but if your statements can not be backed up by serious reviewers; your claims or writing will be dismissed and taken of the site immediately. And yes ‘‘to quote torc’’ they without exception have a degree too in the field of interest. For Torc it might be an idea to try to join this elite kind of people.

To me I feel the discussion is awkward because

  • Torc addresses musical forms to be found at
    where instrumental nor song is represented

  • Jesus2099 samsom_productions and others address problems of categorisation; one of the big problems in informatics. To be more precise; how to define a database without redundancy to allocate everything properly. This goes beyond musical forms; its an informatics thing…

At the moment the musicbrainz musical forms is a mix up of the above two; some are musical forms( Sonata and what have you… ), some are ways of categorisation (e.g. Songs, Instrumental).

Therefore in my view (and apparently so) ,the two viewpoints are unlikely to find common ground.

I hope this might help to clear up this mess.
Credentials I’am not the person to boast about my abilities. For those who are curious I’m sure you can dig your way through google.


Yeah. I was thinking more in terms of Aggregate > Part (like Symphony > Movement), but now that I think about it, it really wouldn’t work. The list you shared is worth consideration though.

I’m trying to think of any popular forms that could make it more useful and kinda drawing a blank. Maybe something along the lines of ‘concept album’ or ‘power ballad’, but even those are more about content than structure. I also mentioned the idea of adding “film cue” (or just “cue”) as a form for individual parts under “soundtrack”.

“Chanson” in medieval and Renaissance times was a specific song form: secular, polyphonic, and based on a one of the standard poetic forms (a couple of which actually were fairly similar to modern song structures), Chanson didn’t just refer to any sung composition – motets and madrigals were also sung forms, but weren’t called chansons. The German ‘lied’ falls into a similar category: it literally translates as ‘song’, but also refers to a specific poetic setting.

Actually, the list does include “Popular song”, though it just redirects to the Popular music article. Wikipedia also this article on song structure.

Strict formal structures simply aren’t a part of modern pop music, and we don’t ascribe cultural meaning to musical forms like they did a few hundred years ago. Pop music has some structural components like verses, bridges, choruses, intros and outros, but their use and arrangement is very flexible. Audiences are content to call any rock record a “song” as long as it’s constructed out of these parts. If it seems like we’re just dumping all pop music under “song”, it’s because that’s almost always what it really is.


Perhaps but when I say chanson or song, I’m thinking about the vocal works that are released everyday. :slight_smile:


You are so very right @jesus2099 :smile: :sunny: :wink:


[quote=“Torc, post:72, topic:164558”]
I’m trying to think of any popular forms that could make it more useful and kinda drawing a blank.[/quote]
That drop down list is not called ‘forms’, and hasn’t been established as a container for such. A few people have said this now.
An example of a general ‘type’ that would be useful to some users without music related PhD’s is ‘instrumental’.


And, @Torc, I am now completing @aerozol’s statement, not only for some users without such a PhD but even and more likely also for some users with such a kind of PhD “it” would be appreciated I am so sure! So without any doubt, I totally agree with you @aerozol :smile: :stuck_out_tongue: