Raman scattering and photoluminescence (PL) spectroscopy with sub-bandgap excitation has been applied to explore tracing of common impurities (in particular of oxygen) in AlN. Bulk AlN crystals grown by the high temperature sublimation method were studied. PL bands have been observed at around 375 nm and at 560–660 nm and have been attributed to oxygen and to nitrogen vacancy/aluminium excess defects, respectively. The 375 nm UV PL band was found to shift with oxygen concentration. Micro-Raman spectra of the bulk AlN samples were measured in different polarisations. Besides normal Raman modes of AlN the presence of additional vibrational modes was detected. The modes were discussed and tentatively attributed to oxygen and silicon local vibrational modes (LVMs) in AlN.