Vocal music is a genre of music performed by one or more singers, with or without instrumental accompaniment (a cappella), in which singing (i.e. vocal performance) provides the main focus of the piece. Music which employs singing but does not feature it prominently is generally considered instrumental music (e.g. the wordless women's choir in the final movement of Holst's The Planets) as is music without singing. Music without any non-vocal instrumental accompaniment is referred to as a cappella.
Vocal music typically features sung words called lyrics, although there are notable examples of vocal music that are performed using non-linguistic syllables, sounds, or noises, sometimes as musical onomatopoeia. A short piece of vocal music with lyrics is broadly termed a song.
Vocal music is probably the oldest form of music, since it does not require any instrument besides the human voice. All musical cultures have some form of vocal music.
Indian classical music is based on a rich vocal tradition, wherein even instruments are evaluated on their ability to follow the human voice, imitate it, or recreate the same expressions. Alap which usually precedes the texted performance is a Raga based improvisation which centers only around notes.
Elaborate untexted vocal improvisation was and still is an important element in Turkish and Middle Eastern music traditions. Such music existed prior to the 13th century and the First Crusade into Palestine and the city of Jerusalem, possibly even before the year 900.
The modern descendants of the ancient Kung tribes and clans of Southern Africa utilize similar traditional music techniques.
Hasidic Jews use a form of voice improvisation called nigunim. This consists of wordless tunes vocalized with sounds such as "Bim-bim-bam" or "Ai-yai-yai!” often accompanied by rhythmic clapping and drumming on the table.
Puirt a beul, also known as "Mouth Music", is a Scottish technique based around imitating the sounds of bagpipes, fiddles, and other instruments used in traditional Scottish music. It was popularized in North America by Scottish immigrants, and has been incorporated into many forms of American music from roots music to bluegrass.
Mariah Carey: A♭2 - A♭7. Carey has hit an A♭2 while talking on an interview and an A♭7 in a live performance of her song "Emotions" in 1991 at the MTV Music Awards, making hers a vocal range of exactly five octaves.