What is a Serenade?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The term “serenade” is used to refer to several different kinds of musical composition, from an intimate song composed for a lover to an orchestral piece. Many English speakers use the term to refer to a song which is composed and performed for a lover, visualizing a musician standing under a loved one's window and singing a song in the evening hours. Many people have romantic associations with this form of serenade, understandably, since it implies a great deal of devotion on the part of the musician involved.

Some of Mozart's serenades are still performed.
Some of Mozart's serenades are still performed.

The love serenade also appears to be the oldest form of the serenade, and it seems to have arisen during the medieval era. Ideally, when someone is serenaded, the musician also composes the piece, and accompanies it with an instrument such as a guitar. Modern musicians may choose to play pieces which are composed by others, while people who lack musical ability sometimes try to get into the spirit of things by hiring musicians or bringing a stereo to play a piece of favored music.

Historically, many serenades have been written to celebrate love and romance.
Historically, many serenades have been written to celebrate love and romance.

In this sense, a serenade is a piece of music which is intended to honor someone and to celebrate love. Some people find such vocal and public displays of love a bit embarrassing, but others greatly enjoy them; if you are thinking of serenading someone, you may want to do some research on the sly to make sure that your performance will be well received. When playing a piece of your own composition, you can also add more depth of feeling to the song, personalizing it for the person you sing it for.

During the Baroque era, musicians began to compose pieces designed for a few instruments and meant to be performed outdoors. Many also included singers, and featured instruments which can be overpowering indoors, such as brass instruments. Baroque serenades included several movements, and sometimes they were staged, telling a story through the music in a style similar to opera.

In classical music, a serenade is a piece of light music composed for a full orchestra and meant to be performed indoors. Like Baroque serenades, the classical serenade contains several movements, and this musical form grew quite popular in Germany. Among many others, Mozart wrote a number of serenades which continue to be performed today.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Oceana - That is really terrible what happened to your friend. I think that some people are just so shallow that they don't really understand what an amazing gesture he was making. I feel sorry for those that aren't able to grasp at the sincerity behind such a romantic gesture.

It sounds to me that the girl he liked was a bit too popular for her own good. Unfortunately this can be a lesson for those who fall for someone without really getting to know him or her first. Sometimes people seem pretty awesome on the outside, but they just don't live up to your expectations.


My brother composes music for a living. He is very good at many instruments, and that gives him a good understanding of what arrangements will work together. He writes pieces for the orchestra that he directs.

His girlfriend a few years ago taught ballroom dancing, so they made a good pair. The dance studio where she worked had their yearly dance banquet, and they hired my brother's orchestra to provide the music.

The last song of the night was one he had composed just for her. He came out onto the floor and asked her to dance with him. When the song reached its climax, he dropped to one knee and asked her to marry him. It worked.


I am convinced that serenading someone is a romantic gesture that really takes a brave person to go through with it. I had a friend who had a massive crush on her classmate and she decided she would serenade him since they were both in the same music theory class and had a passion for the same kind of music.

I remember her practicing for what seemed like ages before she sang for him. She chose a public forum and did her thing at an open mic night at one of the local bars. She knew he would be there and dedicated her song to him. Needless to say, with her awesome voice and choice of song, he was really impressed and they ended up quite happy together.


I have musical ability, but I stay far away from serenades. This is mostly because of what happened to my cousin when he serenaded his crush.

He didn't have the greatest voice, but he had a huge heart, and it beat with love for Karalee. He wrote a song that even included her name, and most girls would kill for that kind of affection. Karalee was popular, though, and she had plenty of attention.

He sat outside her house just after twilight and serenaded her. She opened the window, started laughing, and then called her friends next door and said, "Come over and see what this dork is doing outside my window!" They ran outside and started laughing at him. He got red in the face and left.


My brother was in high school band for many years. He had gotten quite good at playing the flute.

He had a mad, life-altering crush on a girl who loved music. They were just friends, because he was too shy to make a move. He had overheard her telling her friend that she would be all alone on Valentine's Day, so he decided to go to her house that morning.

He played a serenade on his flute in front of her window. The piece was beautiful and haunting. I'm not sure what she loved more, the music itself or the method he used to deliver it. Either way, they both got a date for Valentine's Day.


My best friend serenaded me once. He had fallen in love with me, and I had no clue until he showed up at sunset outside my window.

I was inside my room watching TV when I heard music. At first, I thought my roommate had her radio on, but then I noticed it sounded like it was right outside.

I looked out the window to find my best friend and his brother playing along to the serenade with a violin. My friend had his guitar, and when I looked out, he started to sing. These things might not usually work, but I fell for him right then.


@JessicaLynn - I've never been personally serenaded but it does sound fun. Your story reminds me of that movie "Just Friends." The main characters rival for his friend Jamies affection serenades her and she loves it. He tells her he even wrote the song especially for her! However later in the movie it comes out that the song is his "serenading standard song" so to speak and he just changes the girls name every time!


I was actually once serenaded by a guy with a guitar when I was in college. It wasn't exactly a traditional serenade though. We were both sitting on a balcony and we were a little bit tipsy. It was quite romantic though.

Later I found out the gentlemen in question was a bit of a player and the serenade was just part of his m.o. I still think it was a fun experience even if I wasn't the only lady serenaded with that song!


I believe the serenade is the thing of the past. But there was a time, when young men would with the help of his friends sing under his love's window. It was very romantic.

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