Confusing Words: Music vs. Song
One common error in English is confusing the words music and song.
Music refers to the category in general… and a song is a specific piece of music.
- I like pop music.
- Michael Jackson’s music is famous throughout the world.
- “Billie Jean” is one song by Michael Jackson.
- Two more famous Michael Jackson songs are “Beat it” and “Thriller.”
Music is uncountable, and song is countable, so you can say:
- “I like three songs on this CD.”
- “I like three musics on this CD.”
Let’s start with instrumental music, which is played by an orchestra – a group of musicians. The leader of the group who controls the music is called the conductor.
There are three main types of musical instruments:
Percussion instruments such as the drums, cymbals, tambourine, and triangle;
Wind instruments such as the trumpet, flute, clarinet, and trombone;
And string instruments such as the guitar, violin, harp, and cello.
Some instruments play the melody – the main sound of the music. Other instruments play the harmony – the notes that complement the melody. The percussion instruments keep the beat (the rhythm). When an orchestra plays music in public, this event is called a concert.
Now let’s talk about singers and bands.
When a singer or band plays music in public, this can be called either a concert or a show.
Musicians who are not yet famous play “gigs” – that’s a slang word for a small performance. Bands also record albums (CDs). Each song on an album is called a track. Sometimes singers or bands release a single – that’s a CD with just one song.
When you buy a CD, you also get a little booklet with the lyrics – the words to the songs. A CD with all the music used in a movie is called the movie soundtrack. Finally, if a song becomes very popular and famous, it is called a hit.