I've been searching for the word, which is used for describing parts of lyrics, where the singer sings for example the whole refrain only using words of syllables without any meaning. Maybe you could help? (here's one song with that type of refrain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIgrwyLU3Ck)


2 Answers 2


According to Wikipedia, this phenomenon is known as non-lexical vocables in music, and includes various styles like doo-wop and scat, as well as terms like la la la and da da da.

Non-lexical vocables, which may be mixed with meaningful text, are a form of nonsense syllable used in a wide variety of music. A common English example would be "la la la", "na na na" or "da da da":

It can also be called lilting in some cultures. Also from Wikipedia:

Lilting is a form of traditional singing common in the Goidelic speaking areas of Ireland and Scotland. [...] It in some ways resembles scat singing.

  • I've never heard this use of lilting, but +1 for scat, which I'd say is the "standard" term these days. Aug 15, 2019 at 14:56
  • @FumbleFingers glossolalia? vocalization? Aug 16, 2019 at 11:02

The example you give is partially in English and partially in what I undestand is Gaelic: I couldn't tell you if the refrain has words in it or not: the song Nil 'Na Lá is a traditional song, whose title means "Daybreak has not yet come". https://brendannolan.com/lyrics/nilnala.html

  • Scat is the term used for jazz non-word singing Wikipedia
  • Lilting is for Gaelic non-word singing Wikipedia
  • Yodelling is the Alpine form of non-word singing Wikipedia

Wikipedia lists many other forms at Non-lexical vocables.

  • Ok, sorry for not finding a better translation of that song. As a non-gaelic speaker, many of the words seem to me only as filling of the lyrics. I'm aware of those two styles of singing, my question was more general. Perhaps should have raised that question on some musicology website, or perhaps there really isn't any other term for it :) Thanks anyway!
    – Aron
    Aug 15, 2019 at 12:45
  • @Aron, you can ask at music.stackexchange.com if you like.
    – Davo
    Aug 15, 2019 at 13:29

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