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

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Can we all agree on this:

Music pieces can be divided in two kinds, no matter how old, what type or style they are:

  1. music without lyrics
  2. music with lyrics

If you can agree with this statement, please say so or give a like. If you do not agree, please give a motivation.

See you all tomorrow again, my friends! :sunny:


Can’t agree because it is obviously untrue. You can play any piece that “usually” has lyrics as an instrumental. Symphonies usually don’t have lyrics, but there is Beethoven’s Ninth with its famous chorus. Etc.


No problem. I guess on soundtrack discussion I should have written “majority at MusicBrainz” and with “commonly accepted” I should have listed documents used by thousands of professionals. For example American Music Library Association defines song as a type of composition but there’s no mention about instrumental as a type.

I believe “instrumental” as a type would be used similarly as “other” is used with many MB entities. When there’s no suitable type editors select it. They tend to believe that it’s better to select at least something instead of leaving field unselected. There’s no need for type which would be used like “select this if it isn’t a song”.


[quote=“, post:23, topic:164558”]
I believe “instrumental” as a type would be used similarly as “other” is used with many MB entities. When there’s no suitable type editors select it. They tend to believe that it’s better to select at least something instead of leaving field unselected. There’s no need for type which would be used like “select this if it isn’t a song”.[/quote]

This is possible, but I don’t think that’s a good reason to leave it out. Especially when ‘other’ is still available.
It’s a bit of a kick in the teeth for committed editors to deny them access to features because of lazy editors.

There are other possible solutions, like a disambig/description field for these types that could help people choose the right one.


IMO it should be:

  1. Music without vocals → instrumentals
  2. Music with vocals → songs

Currently we only can set zxx lyrics but scat, humming, etc. are not instrumentals, they are with vocals, they are songs IMO.
I want an instrumental type. :metal:

What tells me that TAKE 5 is an instrumental and not a scat song?
Nothing except my own tags, because the instrumental type is still missing.


If I have understood correctly (please correct me if necessary, I’m no developer and have no connection with them) there’s already some plans to remove option “other”. Problem with “other” is that definition of it changes when more types are being added. Also searches like “what places are missing a type” aren’t possible when type is already selected.

My problem with proposed type is that it’s a vague term which covers more than a half of music written during the last 500 years. While doing that it doesn’t describe the structure, usage or tempo of a work. Hopefully soon we are able to store detailed data about used instruments/vocals but adding a type for “this work was composed for instruments” feels too vague and useless to me. I’m just wondering what is the definition of “MusicBrainz work type?”

As a compromise I could imagine this being used with brackets like with lyric language [No lyrics]. For me instrumental isn’t a valid type but I wouldn’t go totally mad if I would see [Instrumental] listed as an option. And if I could also get a guideline which prevents using it with classical works I could just smile and stop spamming this topic :grin:.


@aerozol,, we don’t have Other as a work type.


Thanks but I guess I wasn’t clear enough when I said [quote=“, post:23, topic:164558”]
I believe “instrumental” as a type would be used similarly as “other” is used with many MB entities.
I tried to compare proposed type to how “other” is currently been used with entities having it on their attributes. I know well that it’s not a type of work (I’ve made over 20 000 edits adding new works/parts). For example we got “other” as packaging type for release and as a type for a place.


Ach, OK. :slight_smile:
BTW, Other for packaging is quite useful.
It is blocking it until the new packaging type exist and you are preventing a wrong auto edit in the mean time (leaving it blank allows auto edit).
I have the same problem with leaving the work type blank, as if it was unknown, but the instrumental works I create are not of unknown type.


A post was split to a new topic: Work removed while still having pending edits?


But as soon as the type is eventually added, the existing entry becomes wrong: It will then say “This release is packaged in a packaging that is not listed above”, when in fact “super mega jewel case” is now listed.

Work removed while still having pending edits?

Well, having the ability to add Other with an associated string would help a lot. It would show up as just “Other” in most cases, but on the work page you’d get “Other (foo)” the way you get disambigs. A bit like you can already enter aliases for instruments pending the addition of a specific new instrument.

It would avoid the need for tags to keep track, and would allow automating cleanups when a new work type is added.

I’m certainly in favour of a generic Instrumental type, because leaving the type blank suggests “I don’t know what this is”. Alternatively, if the consensus is that “Work”, especially in conjunction with [no language], already means Instrumental, why not add a special purpose type like [unknown] or [undefined] (to make it clear that “blank” does not mean one of those)?

As for lazy editors, the instrument tree allows both generic and specific cases; even “string instrument” is better than just “instrument”, and a later editor can improve it further. The same would go here, just because “sonata” is more specific, that does not mean that “instrumental” is not already better than “dunno, don’t care”.


I’m working on a long rant about work type and why I’m unhappy with the field as it currently exists.

In the meantime, here’s a partial list of “types” that some of us generated a few years ago, originally in a google doc.

It’s currently broken down into vocal | non-vocal| maybe-vocal, which is probably not a useful taxonomy.


Instrumental is a descriptor, not a work type distinct from “song”. True, the word “song” has its roots in the act of singing, but the definition of the word as used here is more about structure than content – a song is typically a short, independent piece, common in popular music, usually with a distinct melodic line. It makes sense: the word “sing” can be used to describe any pure tone sound, not just voices.

Many named work types or genres move away from their roots. “Canzona” literally means “song”, but is a genre of instrumental works. You can’t really dance to later a Chopin mazurka or most IDM, Preludes no longer always precede another work, and lyrics have very little to do with lyres. In modern songs, a verse can be a guitar solo, and the chorus might just have one singer. So don’t get too caught up on the etymology of the word “song” – it doesn’t require vocals.

If you don’t want to accept that, leave it blank. There are dozens of work types that aren’t covered by that list, and no obligation to fill in a work type that doesn’t fit. However, it’s definitely not wrong to label something like “Jessica” or “Feels So Good” as songs.

I’m not really thrilled with having “Soundtrack” as a work type either – it’s a functional description, not a structural one. A work can be a Soundtrack and just about any other category on that list.


I think “soundtrack” might be a useful descriptor for a “super-work”, in the same way that you might use “suite”. e.g. Star Wars

I agree that it seems out of place alongside forms and genres.


IMHO, the root problem is the (non) definition of the Type property and the associate guideline: It is evasive, whereas most of the current types actually are classical forms (appropriate term?) which should probably be gathered in the same fashion than Ottoman/Turkish forms (see the undocumented Work Attributes field group in work editor) added after STYLE-662.

I agree with @Torc that song has a broader meaning. Unfortunately, it is not documented in MusicBrainz, misleading most of non native English speakers. From the examples in the style guideline, I figure that the initial intent was to cover songs in classical music too.

I agree that soundtrack is not a musical form. From what I have seen so far, soundtrack release groups are linked to the IMDb entry for the corresponding movie(s). Why not do the same for soundtrack works? @CallerNo6’s example would be linked to the movie at IMDb then.

Last but not least, I feel like instrumental type would be totally redundant with [No lyrics] language. Edit: not anymore, now I just feel comfortable. :wink:


But this will not happen for at least another half a year. I don’t think I’ve even seen this suggested before(?). Is there a ticket for this feature?

Regardless, while this may be a solution in the future, it isn’t something that’s possible within the current schema as far as I am aware, which means that until a schema change release which includes this comes around, we’ll have to deal with it another way. And until then, what @chirlu said holds true:
As soon as another type is added, any entries which is of that type but currently set to “Other” become wrong. So it is better to not set a type at all. (“If in doubt, leave it out.”)


No @Yvanz, you forgot about works with vocals but without lyrics (scat, humming, screaming, whatever). I know quite several of those in bold, in particular.

Is it that important now that we have this?
Maybe it’s less important that when we didn’t have that zxx[no lyrics], but still. :slight_smile:


It was just an idea I had while typing up my response. If you feel it has legs, I’ll create a style ticket for it.

Introduction thread!

Hi folks! :slight_smile: I am so very happy that so many of you are giving such valuable input on the topic “how to set the type for a modern instrumental piece of music” ! Because, in my opinion, it is an important topic, regarding humans living not only now but also in the (far) future and looking for certain types of music( created by their ancestors). And isn’t that what Music Brainz is all about? Becoming an informative all time and complete online Encyclopedia?

My original request and subject of discussion was, if we should and could have a new “type” for works, classifying them as “instrumental”, because many modern instrumental works are hard or impossible to classify as one of the types given in the drop down box, now that those types mostly refer to classical pieces of instrumental music.

My motivation to add such a new type is, that Music Brainz pretends to become a complete Music Encyclopedia, (and now I am going to repeat my earlier words to make it extra clear) that people living not only today but also in the far future can use to look up certain types of music compositions (of their ancestors). When leaving the “type” field blank, a lot of compositions won’t come out of future search results, because people won’t look for an "unknown type" of music. The same for using “other” as a type, in my opinion.

That is what I wanted to share today with you, to keep in mind, in this discussion that in my opinion is progressing very well :wink:

P.S.: I do not care if we are going to name the new type “instrumental” or another term, because “what’s in a name” ? as long as everybody can understand the meaning of the new type, not only today, but also in the future :slight_smile: