Standard (music)

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This article is about the musical term. For other uses, see Standard (disambiguation).

In music, a standard is a musical composition of established popularity, considered part of the "stardand repertoire" of one or several genres.[1][2] Even though the standard repertoire of a given genre consists of a dynamic and partly subjective set of songs, these can be identified by having been performed or recorded by a variety of musical acts, often with different arrangements. In addition, standards are extensively quoted by other works and commonly serve as the basis for musical improvisation.[3] Standards may "cross over" from one genre's repertoire to another's; for example, many jazz standards have entered the pop repertoire, and many blues standards have entered the rock repertoire.

Standards exist in the classical, popular and folk music traditions of all cultures. In the context of Western classical music, the standard repertoire constitutes most of what is considered the "teaching canon", i.e. the compositions that students learn in their academic training.[4] The standard repertoire varies according to the different eras, movements and scenes within a genre, meaning that the extent to which a given composition is considered a standard or "repertoire piece" may vary greatly.[5] However, some repertoires (e.g. concert piano) have became particularly static, giving rise to a divide between "standard-repertoire performers" and contemporary music advocates.[6]

Formal aspects[edit]

See also: Song structure

Standards mostly possess "canonical" structures which pervade the repertoire. Thus, classical piano recitals tend to contain Classical-period sonatas, as well as forms from the Baroque, Romantic and contemporary eras.[6] Popular standards in the Western tradition often make use of the twelve-bar blues progression,[3] and have a thirty-two-bar form or a verse–chorus form.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "standard". Merriam Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 3 October 2016. 
  2. ^ Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (6th ed.), Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-920687-2 
  3. ^ a b Baerman, Noah (2003). The Big Book of Jazz Piano Improvisation. Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Publishing. p. 136. 
  4. ^ Citron, Marcia J. (1993). Gender and the Musical Canon. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 27. 
  5. ^ Beckwith, John (1997). Music Papers: Articles and Talks, 1961-1994. Ottawa, Canada: Golden Dog Press. pp. 90–110. 
  6. ^ a b Hamilton, Kenneth (2008). After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 62–63. 
  7. ^ Davies, Sheila (1985). The Craft of Lyric Writing. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. p. 61. 

Further reading[edit]

Printed music
Books on the subject
  • Morath, Max. The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Popular Standards, series Grand Central Press Book[s] and also Perigee Book[s]. First ed. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, cop. 2002. xvi, 235 p. ISBN 0-399-52744-3