->''"And, inevitably, there is the Soulful Syllable Stretch. The Soulful Syllable Stretch involves elongating words with flashy arpeggios and trills: "love" becomes "lo-oh-ho-HEY-ah-ho-HO-ho-hoooooooOOOOOOOOVE!" A Soulful Syllable Stretch Grand Mistress, such as Music/{{Beyonce}} Knowles of Music/DestinysChild, can make one word last a week. Keys alternates Soulful Syllable Stretches with pregnant pauses. How Come You Don't Call Me? is so rife with the latter, you suspect the involvement of Creator/HaroldPinter."''
-->'''Alexis Petridis''' [[http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2002/oct/25/artsfeatures.popandrock1 reviewing]] an Music/AliciaKeys concert.

When it comes to singing, there are basically two approaches you can take: syllabic or melismatic.

'''Syllabic''' means that if you have lyrics, each syllable gets one note. Pretty straightforward enough. In fact, it's so straightforward it's basically the universal way of singing.

This also includes the songs where for a certain syllable the note sung goes through a bit of tremolo, or there's a glissando between one syllable and the next one. You can throw in flourishes if you want, but the rule of thumb remains "one syllable = one note".

'''Melismatic''' means that you hold down one syllable while moving through several notes. This is called ''[[DepartmentOfRedundancyDepartment melisma]]''. It's very common in religious, Arab, Middle Eastern, African, Balkan, Indian and various other types of music, especially {{Folk}} music (such as the Portuguese genre Fado).

Melisma migrated over to pop music at some indistinct point (credit[[note]]or blame[[/note]] for popularising it varies between Music/StevieWonder, Music/MariahCarey or some others), and now it's pretty common in R&B or R&B-influenced pop music. Remember Music/WhitneyHouston's "I Will Always Love You"? That's melisma.[[note]]Though to be fair, Music/DollyParton did it in the original version, too, though not nearly as much.[[/note]] It's easy to see why it ended up in pop music: used properly it can have a great effect. The only problem is that there have been many singers recently who just blindly abuse it to lend their songs some sort of "soulfulness" or whatever, and it just becomes annoying, as demonstrated by the above quote. A frequent way to deride these singers is to note that they take simple words like "yeah", "I" or "whoa" and stretch it to something like [[MemeticMutation over 9000]] syllables. But the real problem is that some artists don't have the skill or vocal range to actually pull it off.

Some singers who practise melisma also often sing {{Incredibly Long Note}}s, such as Whitney Houston. However, another criticism leveled at melisma is that singers who ''can't'' pull off Incredibly Long Notes sometimes use the technique to give the illusion that they are doing so; stretching the syllable out without having to actually hold a particular note for very long.

More info about the abuse of this technique can be found [[http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6791133 here]].

People who love melisma:
* Hell, throw a rock in R&B, you're gonna hit somebody who does this.
** Music/StevieWonder
** Music/MariahCarey
** Music/WhitneyHouston
** BoyzIIMen
** Music/ArethaFranklin
* Music/ReginaSpektor
* Music/{{Beyonce}}
* Music/ChristinaAguilera
* Music/AlanisMorissette
* Edward Shippen Barnes gave us the most famous arrangement of the Christmas hymn "Angels We Have Heard On High", which features a 16-note melisma in its chorus that, while far from the most impressive example on this page, is probably the most well-known example of a melisma going beyond what most people would consider average.
-->''Glo-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-ri-a in Ex-cel-sis De-o!''
* George Ratcliffe Woodward's arrangement of "Ding Dong Merrily on High" ups the ante by featuring a 31-note melisma in its chorus (also involving "Gloria").
* This type of singing was very prevalent in ClassicalMusic, especially during the Baroque period (c. 1600--1750) and a bit less so in the Classical (c. 1730--1820) and Romantic period (c. 1810--1910). The term 'coloratura' is used, which often means not only melismatic melodies but also wide leaps, [[PatterSong difficult words or diction (especially at a fast tempo)]] and trills (and other ornaments).
** Delibes ''Lakmé'' has some famous pieces for its titular character, who is always sung by a coloratura soprano.
*** [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPRwjLwRFhQ L'Air des Clochettes]], also known as the Bell Song is a favourite recital song for coloratura sopranos.
*** Her death aria [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66RVd5NIKYs Tu m'as donné le plus doux rêve]] has several notes like this.
*** The Berceuse she sings while healing Gérald, [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYeeOZcAJDo Sous le ciel tout étoilé]], also contains such vocals.
** Handel's ''Messiah'' takes this UpToEleven with a ''[[http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e0/Handel_Messiah_-_For_Unto_Us_a_Child_is_Born_excerpt.JPG 57-note melisma]]''.
** Handel was pretty fond of melisma in general--the rest of the ''Messiah'' alone is full of examples.
** Bach takes this UpToEleven even more with his ''64-note melisma'' in the [[http://youtu.be/o73shN739YU?t=17m57s 4th movement of ''Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen'' (BWV 66)]]. Take a gander at the score [[http://petrucci.mus.auth.gr/imglnks/usimg/f/fd/IMSLP24236-PMLP03821-bwv066.pdf here]] (on page 30-31). Bach also has many other examples in all of his other religious works.
*** Something he had in common with a lot of Baroque composers. [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HAUNbNSYEA "Vittoria mio core"]] is a notable example.
*** The seventh movement of the cantata ''Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut'' (BWV 113) is infamous for its abuse of melisma. In fact, it is considered almost unperformable due to the melisma instances being excessively long.
** [[Music/WolfgangAmadeusMozart Mozart]] was very fond of melismatic lines in his operas, usually given to the soprano but on occasion to the tenor (eg originally in ''Idomeneo, Re di Creta'') or bass (''The Abduction from the Seraglio''). The more famous examples include:
*** [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvuKxL4LOqc "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen"]] and [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EUOmdxo2jE "O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn"]] from ''Theatre/TheMagicFlute''.
*** [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwQYXRRkvFk "Martern aller Arten"]] from ''The Abduction from the Seraglio'' -- described by Salieri in ''{{Theatre/Amadeus}}'' as "ten minutes of ghastly scales and arpeggios, whizzing up and down like fireworks at a fairground".
*** He particularly liked writing these for his lifelong muse, one-time love interest and eventual [[SettleForSibling sister-in-law]] Alosiya Weber (she originated Queen of the Night in ''The Magic Flute'', among others). The 'concert arias' (arias where he never actually wrote the whole opera - often having taken lyrics from a work he'd seen and deciding he could do better) are even more extreme.
** The effect of these arias, especially in Baroque work, mean that lyrics are repeated over and over. This may have been so the audience got the message - Baroque opera audiences usually talked, socialised, ate, wondered about and played cards (and made assignations with prostitutes) while at the opera; it wasn't until the 19th century that they were expected to sit still in the dark and pay attention.
* "I'm Gonna Sing 'Till the Spirit" by Moses Hogan. The tenors start and it piles up with Sopranos and Altos and it has more notes than the Handel piece.
* Music/HarryBelafonte: "Daaaay-O! Da-a-ay-O! Daylight come and I wanna go home!"
* DreamPop bands like Music/CocteauTwins, Music/ThisMortalCoil, Music/DeadCanDance and Music/LoveSpiralsDownwards frequently used this trope. Awesomely.
* Music/RoyOrbison, which suited his operatic singing style. The chorus of "Crying" turns the titular word into 5 syllables.
* Religious music was ''amazingly good at this''. In a piece intended to be sung at Christmas Mass from the 1300s, 10 minutes were needed to sing two sentences due to the massive amounts of melisma.
* Lou Gramm from Music/{{Foreigner}}.
* Bobby Kimball from Music/{{Toto}}.
* Music/RozaRymbaeva
* Non-music example: the voice of Nicol Williamson, which John Boorman described with this trope, saying he had "an uncanny knack for putting more syllables in each word than there already were".
* David Draiman of Music/{{Disturbed}} has a good knack for doing this, possibly rooted in his training to be a cantor in Jerusalem during his youth. He rarely has opportunities to use it in the band's music, but it can make surprise appearances.
* ''Series/AmericanIdol'' contestants.
* Music/MartinaMcBride has a powerful soprano, and she's not afraid to use it.
** Of course, she's not standing alone in the Country Music Pantheon. Music/FaithHill, Music/CarrieUnderwood, and Sara Evans all do it as well, and it's fairly common amongst country singers. So much so, in fact, that Kimberly Perry of Music/TheBandPerry received praise for her "unpolished" vocals.
* Gary [=LeVox=] of Music/RascalFlatts is guilty of this from time to time. It's especially egregious in his case, since he has an extremely nasal voice and tends to oversing.
* Music/RebaMcEntire did this throughout most of the 1980s, but stopped doing it around the mid-1990s, mainly because the style was contributing to vocal polyps.
* Music/LanaDelRey on "National Anthem" while she makes "ovation" sound like "[=ohhhVAYsheeunununun=]" and in "Put Me in a Movie" where she turns "action" into "axeeeeyyyhhhyum" and finally in "Yayo" multiple times. She stretches "tattoo" on this so into "tayyayyatoooo"...in fact, just listen to all of her music, it has so much of this.
* Aaron Tippin does it on "My Blue Angel", stretching out "Blue" into God knows how many syllables.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' episode "Dancing Homer", Bleeding Gums Murphy's rendition of the American national anthem at the start of a baseball game is so full of melisma that he manages to make it last 26 minutes: he starts singing at 7:30, he finishes at 7:56, to the great relief of the audience (except for Lisa, the only audience member smiling in rapt attention for the entire 26 minutes).
* One of the most famous instances in musical theater is [[ThePhantomOfTheOpera Christine]]'s ''stunning'' [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fX4H02s2Q0o vocal run]] at the end of "Think of Me." (This particular rendition is performed by Rebecca Caine of the original Canadian production - go to 2:53.)
* Music/AlexandraBurke, but oddly enough the reason why many critics liked her song ''Bad Boys'' was because her she averted this trope and her vocals were very reigned in and controlled, making the melody more intense.
* [[Music/GunsNRoses Axl Rose]] pulls it off at the end of "Don't Cry".
* "[[Music/MaroonFive I've got the mooo-oo-oooo-oo-ooves like Jagger!]]"
* [[Film/NationalLampoonsVacation "Holiday ro-OH-oh-oh-oh-oh-OH-oh-oh-oad, holiday ro-OH-oh-oh-oh-oh-ooooad!"]]
* Plenty of songs by Music/SimonAndGarfunkel used this, though quite a few of their recordings were of traditional folk songs, so this was by necessity at times.
* Corey Glover of Music/LivingColour.
* [=LaJon=] Witherspoon of Music/{{Sevendust}}.
* Mahalia Jackson is probably the UrExample for gospel music.
* Sharon Den Adel (Music/WithinTemptation) does that a whole lot in "Mother Earth".
* AutoTune singers in the realm of Music/TPain use this in order to bring out the "robot" effect of the Auto-Tune.
* Not at all uncommon in the realm of musical theatre.
* Music/DemiLovato
* Music/ArianaGrande
* Music/ChinaAnneMcClain
* During Music/{{NSYNC}}'s heyday, both Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez could absurdly stretch out notes when they sang live. The videos for "Bye Bye Bye" and "It's Gonna Be Me" show JC really belting them out while "Gone" shows that Justin can match JC in that department as well.
* GospelMusic, to the point where you can say that its prevalence in other modern genres like R&B started here with this genre.
* Music/BenjaminBritten's operas have melismas all over the place, especially in the parts written for Peter Pears (who had a talent for them). In ''Literature/TheTurnOfTheScrew'', Peter Quint's repeated melismatic calls of "Miles!" are an important {{Leitmotif}}.
* Japanese-born German yodeler Music/TakeoIschi belted out some pretty impressive vowel extension in his new song ''Chicken Attack''.
* 1930s musical star Jeanette [=MacDonald=] does this in ''Film/{{San Francisco|1936}}'', especially when belting out the TitleThemeTune during her big number near the end. "Sa-a-a-a-a-n Francisco, open your golden gate..."
* Music/SamanthaFish does a strong one singing the word "break" on her cover of Nina Simone's "Either Way I Lose", starting with a long sustain on the tonic, and then going up and down through several notes.
* Patti [=LaBelle=] is known for this.