Generic name for various types of Italian secular song of the late 15th and early 16th centuries.  The most important source consists of the eleven books of "frottole" published by Petrucci (1504-1514).  The "frottole" are often in a simple, essentially chordal style in three or four parts, with the upper part standing out as a melody.  Since only the upper part has a text, they were probably performed as accompanied songs, the lower parts being played on instruments (viols, lute, harpsichord, etc.).  However, purely vocal performance cannot be ruled out, particularly for the numerous examples written in a strictly homophonic style.  The late "frottole" are of interest as forerunners of the madrigal.

Specifically, "frottola" is one of the various poetic-musical types represented in Petrucci's collections.  It is a late offspring of the 14th-century "ballata."  Similar to this form, it frequently consists of an initial four-line stanza and several six-line stanzas between which the first half of the initial stanza is repeated as a refrain.  The most common musical form is the following (each letter represents two lines of the poem; refrain in capital letters):  A b   a a b   A--   a a b   A--   ...  (A-- is essentially the same as A but includes a coda-like extension.