Standard (music)

In music, a standard is a musical composition of established popularity, considered part of the "standard 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 become particularly static, giving rise to a divide between "standard-repertoire performers" and contemporary music advocates.[6]

Formal aspects

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 have one of four basic song structures: strophic form (AAA), twelve-bar blues progression (AAB),[3] thirty-two-bar form (AABA) or a verse–chorus form (ABAB).[7]

See also


  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. Baerman, Noah (2003). The Big Book of Jazz Piano Improvisation. Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Publishing. p. 136. ISBN 9780739031711.
  4. Citron, Marcia J. (1993). Gender and the Musical Canon. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 27. ISBN 9780521392921.
  5. Beckwith, John (1997). Music Papers: Articles and Talks, 1961-1994. Ottawa, Canada: Golden Dog Press. pp. 90–110. ISBN 9780919614727.
  6. Hamilton, Kenneth (2008). After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 62–63. ISBN 9780195178265.
  7. Davies, Sheila (1985). The Craft of Lyric Writing. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. p. 61. ISBN 0898791499.

Further reading

Printed music
  • Greatest Rock Standards, published by Hal Leonard ISBN 0-7935-8839-1
  • Jazz Standards, published by Hal Leonard ISBN 0-7935-8872-3
  • Blues Standards, published by Hal Leonard ISBN 0-634-09260-X
  • Latin Standards, published by Hal Leonard ISBN 0-634-06939-X
  • Folk Standards, 3 Guitars, arranged by Karl Bruckner. Published by Universal Edition ISBN 3-7024-5953-7
  • Country Standards, published by Hal Leonard ISBN 0-634-06906-3
  • Pop Standards, published by Hal Leonard ISBN 1-4234-2191-4
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
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