Vocal music is a musical form in which the Daoist priests chant or recite the Tones for Chanting (經韻 jingyun) . According to the different musical forms of the tones and the ways of chanting and recitation, they can be divided into "Singing (詠唱式 yongchang shi) ", "Intoning (念唱式 nianchang shi) ", "Chanting (吟唱式 yinchang shi) ", and "Reciting (朗誦式 langsong shi)".
Singing is a way of reciting Tones for Chanting that has strong singing qualities. It has exquisite, mellifluous, lyric characteristics. The tones for chanting employing this method of performance are the largest in number and the most melodious.
A variety of "Tones (韻 yun)" (e.g., Pure and Clear Tone (澄清韻 chengqing yun) , Dark Hell Tone (幽冥韻 youming yun) , Lamentation Tone (悲嘆韻 beitan yun) ), "Odes (贊 zan)" (e.g., Major Ode, Minor Ode, Zhongtang Zan Tune (中堂贊 zhongtang zan)), "Preludes (引 yin)" (e.g., Ghost Prelude (幽魂引 youhun yin), Plum Blossom Prelude (梅花引 meihua yin), Minor Prelude on Salvation from Misery (小救苦引 xiao jiuku yin), Major Prelude on Salvation from Misery (大救苦引 da jiuku yin)), and "Hymns (偈 ji)" (e.g., Major Hymn (大偈子 dajizi), Minor Hymn (小偈子 xiaojizi), Hymn on Suffering from War (刀兵偈子 daobing jizi)), as well as Pacing the Void (步虛 buxu) and Hanging Rhythm (吊挂 diaogua), are intoned with this method. Intoning is usually accompanied by Magical Instruments (法器faqi) and musical instruments such as the sheng (a reed pipe wind instrument), the flute, the xiao (a vertical bamboo flute), and plucked or stringed instruments.
The vocal music form of Hymning1 is a form between reciting and singing. Its music does not have apparent ups and downs; its tones are steady and regular; its melody is brief, its structure is a formulized and regular couple of lines. This sort of singing is usually used in the "Precious Declaration (寶誥 baogao) ", the deities' and immortals' declarations of commandments recited in the daily Morning and Evening Rites (早晚功課 zaowan gongke) of the Daoist priests. The form of this kind of singing is determined by the features of the tone structure and the melody of the tones for precious declaration, i.e., a simple melody, no inserted characters or words, no lengthened tones, and a regular structure of coupled sentences.
"Chanting " is a kind of vocal music that is formed specially for reciting incantations. Its Tones for Chanting do not have a distinct melody and proceed within a rather narrow register in line with a five-tone scale with a tone similar to that of voices, one tone for one word. The end tone at the end of a sentence tends to be normal. Chanting can be further classified into the "metered" category and the "unmetered" category. A couple of lines are repeated indefinitely throughout the recitation of incantations. Some Daoist priests call this form of tones for chanting the "Stick Beating Tone (棒棒經 bangbang jing) ".
"Reciting " is a kind of vocal music that mingles spoken parts in the singing. It is a kind of Tone for Chanting that is slightly dramatized according to the natural voice. Its melody is essentially focused on a few notes. Generally, after the singing of one or several tones for chanting, a metrical recitation of scriptures or incantations is inserted, followed by another singing of tones for chanting.