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An instrumental is a recording without any vocals, although it might include some inarticulate vocals, such as shouted backup vocals in a Big Band setting. Through semantic widening, a broader sense of the word song may refer to instrumentals. [1] [2] [3] The music is primarily or exclusively produced using musical instruments. An instrumental can exist in music notation, after it is written by a composer; in the mind of the composer (especially in cases where the composer themselves will perform the piece, as in the case of a blues solo guitarist or a folk music fiddle player); as a piece that is performed live by a single instrumentalist or a musical ensemble, which could range in components from a duo or trio to a large Big Band, concert band or orchestra.


In a song that is otherwise sung, a section that is not sung but which is played by instruments can be called an instrumental interlude, or, if it occurs at the beginning of the song, before the singer starts to sing, an instrumental introduction. If the instrumental section highlights the skill, musicality, and often the virtuosity of a particular performer (or group of performers), the section may be called a "solo" (e.g., the guitar solo that is a key section of heavy metal music and hard rock songs). If the instruments are percussion instruments, the interlude can be called a percussion interlude or "percussion break". These interludes are a form of break in the song.

In commercial popular music, instrumental tracks are sometimes renderings, remixes of a corresponding release that features vocals, but they may also be compositions originally conceived without vocals. One example of a genre in which both vocal/instrumental and solely instrumental songs are produced is blues. A blues band often uses mostly songs that have lyrics that are sung, but during the band's show, they may also perform instrumental songs which only include electric guitar, harmonica, upright bass/electric bass and drum kit.

Opposite concept

The opposite of instrumental music, that is, music for voices alone, without any accompaniment instruments, is a cappella, an Italian phrase that means "in the chapel". In early music, instruments such as trumpet and drums were considered outdoor instruments, and music for inside a chapel typically used quieter instruments, voices, or just voices alone. A capella music exists in both Classical music choir pieces (for choir without any accompanist piano or pipe organ) and in popular music styles such as doo wop groups and Barbershop quartets. For genres in which a non-vocal song or interlude is conceived using computers and software, rather than with acoustic musical instruments or electronic musical instruments, the term instrumental is still used for it.

Number-one instrumentals

TitleArtistCountryReached number-one
Frenesi Artie Shaw USDecember 21, 1940
Song of the Volga Boatmen Glenn Miller USMarch 19, 1941
Piano Concerto in B Flat Freddy Martin USOctober 4, 1941
A String of Pearls Glenn Miller USFebruary 7, 1942
Moonlight Cocktail Glenn Miller USFebruary 28, 1942
Heartaches Ted Weems USMarch 15, 1947
Twelfth Street Rag Pee Wee Hunt USAugust 28, 1948
Blue Tango Leroy Anderson USMay 17, 1952
The Song from Moulin Rouge [4] [5] Mantovani UKAugust 14, 1953
Oh Mein Papa [note 1] [5] [6] Eddie Calvert UKJanuary 8, 1954
Let's Have Another Party [5] [7] Winifred Atwell UKDecember 3, 1954
Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White) [5] [6] Perez Prado UKApril 29, 1955
Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White) [8] Perez Prado USApril 30, 1955
Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White) [6] Eddie Calvert UKMay 27, 1955
Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White) Perez Prado GermanyOctober 8, 1955
Autumn Leaves Roger Williams USOctober 29, 1955
Lisbon Antigua Nelson Riddle USFebruary 25, 1956
The Poor People of Paris Les Baxter USMarch 17, 1956
The Poor People of Paris [5] [7] Winifred Atwell UKApril 13, 1956
Moonglow and Theme from Picnic Morris Stoloff USJune 2, 1956
Tequila [note 2] The Champs USMarch 17, 1958
Patricia [8] Perez Prado USJuly 28, 1958
Patricia Perez Prado GermanyOctober 18, 1958
Hoots Mon [note 3] [5] [9] Lord Rockingham's XI UKNovember 28, 1958
Side Saddle [5] [10] Russ Conway UKMarch 27, 1959
The Happy Organ [11] Dave "Baby" Cortez USMay 11, 1959
Roulette [5] [10] Russ Conway UKJune 19, 1959
Sleep Walk Santo & Johnny USSeptember 21, 1959
Theme from A Summer Place [12] Percy Faith USFebruary 22, 1960
Apache [5] [11] [13] The Shadows UKAugust 25, 1960
Wonderland by Night [12] Bert Kaempfert USJanuary 9, 1961
Calcutta [12] Lawrence Welk USFebruary 13, 1961
On the Rebound [5] [14] Floyd Cramer UKMay 18, 1961
Kon-Tiki [5] [15] The Shadows UKOctober 5, 1961
Mexico Bob Moore GermanyJanuary 27, 1962
Wonderful Land [5] [11] The Shadows UKMarch 22, 1962
Nut Rocker [5] [16] B. Bumble and the Stingers UKMay 17, 1962
Stranger on the Shore Acker Bilk US/UK
[note 4]
May 26, 1962
The Stripper [12] David Rose USJuly 7, 1962
Telstar [5] [11] The Tornados UKOctober 4, 1962
Telstar [17] The Tornados USDecember 22, 1962
Dance On! [5] [18] The Shadows UKJanuary 24, 1963
Diamonds [5] [13] [19] [20] Jet Harris and Tony Meehan UKJanuary 31, 1963
Telstar The Tornados FranceFebruary 9, 1963
Foot Tapper [5] [18] The Shadows UKMarch 29, 1963
Il Silenzio Nini Rosso GermanyJuly 19, 1965
A Taste of Honey [17] Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass USNovember 27, 1965
Love is Blue [21] Paul Mauriat USFebruary 10, 1968
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly [21] Hugo Montenegro USJune 8, 1968
Grazing in the Grass [21] Hugh Masekela USJuly 20, 1968
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly [5] [22] Hugo Montenegro, his Orchestra and ChorusUKNovember 13, 1968
Albatross [5] [11] Fleetwood Mac UKJanuary 29, 1969
Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet [21] Henry Mancini USJune 28, 1969
Amazing Grace [5] [11] Royal Scots Dragoon Guards UKApril 15, 1972
Popcorn Hot Butter FranceJuly 13, 1972
Mouldy Old Dough [note 5] [11] Lieutenant Pigeon UKOctober 14, 1972
Frankenstein [21] The Edgar Winter Group USMay 26, 1973
Eye Level [5] [11] Simon Park Orchestra UKSeptember 29, 1973
Love's Theme [23] Love Unlimited Orchestra USFebruary 9, 1974
TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) [note 6] MFSB featuring The Three Degrees USApril 20, 1974
Pick Up the Pieces [note 7] [23] Average White Band USFebruary 22, 1975
The Hustle [note 8] [23] Van McCoy and the Soul City OrchestraUSJuly 26, 1975
Fly, Robin, Fly [note 9] Silver Convention USNovember 29, 1975
Theme from S.W.A.T. [23] Rhythm Heritage USFebruary 28, 1976
A Fifth of Beethoven [23] Walter Murphy USOctober 9, 1976
Gonna Fly Now [note 10] Bill Conti USJuly 2, 1977
Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band [note 4] Meco USOctober 1, 1977
Rise [23] Herb Alpert USOctober 20, 1979
One Step Beyond Madness FranceMarch 7, 1980
Chariots of Fire [23] Vangelis USMay 8, 1982
Miami Vice Theme [23] Jan Hammer USNovember 9, 1985
Song of Ocarina Jean-Philippe Audin and Diego ModenaFranceJanuary 18, 1992
Doop [note 11] [5] [24] Doop UKMarch 19, 1994
The X-Files Mark Snow FranceJune 8, 1996
Flat Beat [note 12] [5] [25] Mr. Oizo UKApril 3, 1999
Harlem Shake Baauer USMarch 2, 2013

Borderline cases

Some recordings which include brief or non-musical use of the human voice are typically considered instrumentals. Examples include songs with the following:

Songs including actual musical—rhythmic, melodic, and lyrical—vocals might still be categorized as instrumentals if the vocals appear only as a short part of an extended piece (e.g., "Unchained Melody" (Les Baxter), "Batman Theme", "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)", "Pick Up the Pieces", "The Hustle", "Fly, Robin, Fly", "Get Up and Boogie", "Do It Any Way You Wanna", and "Gonna Fly Now"), though this definition is loose and subjective.

Falling just outside of that definition is "Theme From Shaft" by Isaac Hayes.

"Better Off Alone", which began as an instrumental by DJ Jurgen, had vocals by Judith Pronk, who would become a seminal part of Alice Deejay, added in later releases of the track.

See also


  1. Contains several vocal interjections of the title track.
  2. Features vocal interjections of the title track at the end of each chorus.
  3. Contains several Scottish sounding grunts at the end of each chorus and immediately beforehand.
  4. 1 2 Stranger on the Shore hit #1 on the end of year UK charts, but NOT the weekly UK charts. Despite this, it is the highest selling instrumental single worldwide and in the UK; in the US, this honor falls to Meco's Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band.
  5. Contains vocal interjections before, during, and immediately after the choruses.
  6. Contains vocals at the beginning and during the fade-out.
  7. Contains vocal interjections at the end of the second and third verses.
  8. Contains screams of "do the hustle!" at the end of each chorus.
  9. Contains vocal interjections of the title track at the end of each chorus and "up, up to the sky" as an ending.
  10. Contains vocals, which total thirty words and thus contains the most lyrics of any instrumental song to hit number 1.
  11. Contains, during its choruses, several nonsensical vocal interjections of the title.
  12. At the beginning, before the main piece begins, it features the lyrics "Oh yeah, I used to know Quentin, he's a real, he's a real jerk".

Related Research Articles

A cappella music is group or solo performance without instrumental accompaniment, or a piece intended to be performed in this way. The term a cappella was originally intended to differentiate between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque concertato style. In the 19th century, a renewed interest in Renaissance polyphony coupled with an ignorance of the fact that vocal parts were often doubled by instrumentalists led to the term coming to mean unaccompanied vocal music. The term is also used, albeit rarely, as a synonym for alla breve.

Music Form of art using sound and silence

Music is an art form, and cultural activity, whose medium is sound. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική . See glossary of musical terminology.

Musical ensemble Group of people who perform instrumental and/or vocal music, with the ensemble typically known by a distinct name

A musical ensemble, also known as a music group or musical group, is a group of people who perform instrumental or vocal music, with the ensemble typically known by a distinct name. Some music ensembles consist solely of instruments, such as the jazz quartet or the orchestra. Some music ensembles consist solely of singers, such as choirs and doo wop groups. In both popular music and classical music, there are ensembles in which both instrumentalists and singers perform, such as the rock band or the Baroque chamber group for basso continuo and one or more singers. In classical music, trios or quartets either blend the sounds of musical instrument families or group together instruments from the same instrument family, such as string ensembles or wind ensembles. Some ensembles blend the sounds of a variety of instrument families, such as the orchestra, which uses a string section, brass instruments, woodwinds and percussion instruments, or the concert band, which uses brass, woodwinds and percussion.

Rhythm guitar Guitar used to provide rhythm

In music performances, rhythm guitar is a technique and role that performs a combination of two functions: to provide all or part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section ; and to provide all or part of the harmony, i.e. the chords from a song's chord progression, where a chord is a group of notes played together. Therefore, the basic technique of rhythm guitar is to hold down a series of chords with the fretting hand while strumming or fingerpicking rhythmically with the other hand. More developed rhythm techniques include arpeggios, damping, riffs, chord solos, and complex strums.

A songwriter is a musician who professionally composes musical compositions and writes lyrics for songs. A songwriter can also be called a composer, although the latter term tends to be used mainly for individuals from the classical music genre and film scoring, but is also associated writing and composing the original musical composition or musical bed. A songwriter who mainly writes the lyrics for a song is referred to as (a) lyricist. The pressure from the music industry to produce popular hits means that song writing is often an activity for which the tasks are distributed between a number of people. For example, a songwriter who excels at writing lyrics might be paired with a songwriter with the task of creating original melodies. Pop songs may be composed by group members from the band or by staff writers – songwriters directly employed by music publishers. Some songwriters serve as their own music publishers, while others have outside publishers.

Iridescent (song) 2011 single by Linkin Park

"Iridescent" is a song by American rock band Linkin Park. It was announced as the band's third US, fourth international and overall final single from their fourth studio album, A Thousand Suns, which was released on September 14, 2010. A music video for the song was directed by Joe Hahn, the band's turntablist. "Iridescent" serves as the theme song for the film Transformers: Dark of the Moon, continuing the streak of the band's songs serving as the theme songs of the Transformers films. The song received positive reviews and became a moderate success.

Guitar solo

A guitar solo is a melodic passage, instrumental section, or entire piece of music written for a classical guitar, electric guitar or an acoustic guitar. In 20th and 21st century traditional music and popular music such as blues, swing, jazz, jazz fusion, rock and metal, guitar solos often contain virtuoso techniques and varying degrees of improvisation. Guitar solos on classical guitar, which are typically written in musical notation, are also used in classical music forms such as chamber music and concertos.

Song structure is the arrangement of a song, and is a part of the songwriting process. It is typically sectional, which uses repeating forms in songs. Common forms include bar form, 32-bar form, verse–chorus form, ternary form, strophic form, and the 12-bar blues. Popular music songs traditionally use the same music for each verse or stanza of lyrics. Pop and traditional forms can be used even with songs that have structural differences in melodies. The most common format in modern popular music is introduction (intro), verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus and outro. In rock music styles, notably heavy metal music, there is usually one or more guitar solos in the song, often found after the middle chorus part. In pop music, there may be a guitar solo, or a solo may be performed by a synthesizer player or sax player.

Pit orchestra

A pit orchestra is a type of orchestra that accompanies performers in musicals, operas, ballets, and other shows involving music. The terms was also used for orchestras accompanying silent movies when more than a piano was used. In performances of operas and ballets, the pit orchestra is typically similar in size to a symphony orchestra, though it may contain smaller string and brass sections, depending upon the piece. Such orchestras may vary in size from approximately 30 musicians to as many as 90–100 musicians. However, because of financial, space, and volume concerns, the musical theatre pit orchestra in the 2000s is considerably smaller.

Us and Them (song) original song composed by Richard Wright and Roger Waters, words by Roger Waters

"Us and Them" is a song by the English progressive rock band Pink Floyd, from their 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon. The music was written by Richard Wright with lyrics by Roger Waters. It is sung by David Gilmour, with harmonies by Wright. The song is 7 minutes and 51 seconds, the longest on the album.

The Unforgiven (song) 1991 single by Metallica

"The Unforgiven" is a power ballad by American heavy metal band Metallica. It was released as the second single from their eponymous fifth album Metallica. Though one of the slower tracks on the album, its chord progression is distinctly one of the heaviest ballads featured on the album. The song deals with the theme of the struggle of the individual against the efforts of those who would subjugate him.

Fat Bottomed Girls 1978 single by Queen

"Fat Bottomed Girls" is a song by the British rock band Queen. Written by guitarist Brian May, the track featured on their 1978 album Jazz and later on their compilation album Greatest Hits. When released as a single with "Bicycle Race", the song reached number 11 in the UK Singles Chart and number 24 in the Billboard Hot 100 in the US.

Sky Pilot (song) 1968 single by The Animals

"Sky Pilot" is a 1968 song by Eric Burdon & the Animals, released on the album The Twain Shall Meet. When released as a single the song was split across both sides, due to its length (7:27). As "Sky Pilot " it reached number 14 on the U.S. pop charts and number 15 on the Canadian RPM chart.

Rosanna (song) 1982 Toto song

"Rosanna" is a song written by David Paich and performed by the American rock band Toto, the opening track and the first single from their 1982 album Toto IV. This song won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year at the 1983 ceremony. "Rosanna" was also nominated for the Song of the Year award. It is regarded for drummer Jeff Porcaro's half-time shuffle, commonly known as the "Rosanna shuffle".

Glossary of jazz and popular music List of definitions of terms and jargon used in jazz and popular music

This is a list of jazz and popular music terms that are likely to be encountered in printed popular music songbooks, fake books and vocal scores, big band scores, jazz, and rock concert reviews, and album liner notes. This glossary includes terms for musical instruments, playing or singing techniques, amplifiers, effects units, sound reinforcement equipment, and recording gear and techniques which are widely used in jazz and popular music. Most of the terms are in English, but in some cases, terms from other languages are encountered.

<i>Madlib Medicine Show</i> album series by Madlib

Madlib Medicine Show was a 13-album series by Madlib originally scheduled to be released monthly on his own imprint, Madlib Invazion throughout 2010 and into 2011. Odd months present releases featuring Madlib's production work while even months showcase DJ work and mixing skills.

Car Radio (song) 2014 single by Twenty One Pilots

"Car Radio" is a song written and recorded by American musical duo Twenty One Pilots, originally released in 2010 as a single, and was included on their second studio album, Regional at Best. It was re-released on March 18, 2014 as the fifth and final single from their third studio album, Vessel.

"Hustle" is a song recorded by American singer Pink for her eight studio album, Hurts 2B Human (2019). Pink co-wrote the song with Jorgen Odegard and Dan Reynolds, the lead vocalist of Imagine Dragons, and also provides additional vocals on the chorus, while the production was handled by Odegard, with additional production from Reynolds. It was released on March 28, 2019 by RCA Records as the album's first promotional single, along with the album pre-order.


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