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An instrumental is a recording normally 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.

Example from Free Music Archive, Steve Combs, Delta Is - Theme Q,
bass, drum, guitar, keyboard,
4 min 53 s

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.

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 [note 11] 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 12] [5] [24] Doop UKMarch 19, 1994
The X-Files Mark Snow FranceJune 8, 1996
Flat Beat [note 13] [5] [25] Mr. Oizo UKApril 3, 1999
Bromance [note 14] Tim Berg (Avicii)Belgium (Flanders)September 18, 2010
Harlem Shake [note 15] Baauer Australia/New ZealandFebruary 25, 2013
Harlem Shake Baauer USMarch 2, 2013
Animals [note 16] Martin Garrix Belgium (Flanders)August 17, 2013
Animals Martin Garrix Belgium (Wallonia)August 31, 2013
Animals Martin Garrix Scotland/UKNovember 17, 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.
  2. Features vocal interjections of the title 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 vocal interjections of "do the hustle!" at the end of each chorus.
  9. Contains vocal interjections of the title 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 song classified as an instrumental which has hit number 1.
  11. Includes spoken introduction, and background chant of, "Here we go" at several points during the song.
  12. Contains, during its choruses, several nonsensical vocal interjections of the title.
  13. 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".
  14. Bromance was an instrumental before being re-released as "Seek Bromance" with vocals by Amanda Wilson from the song "Love U Seek" by Italian DJ Samuele Sartini.
  15. Contains samples of the line "Con los terroristas" from a remix of the 2006 reggaeton single "Maldades" by Héctor Delgado and "Do the Harlem shake" from "Miller Time" by Plastic Little.
  16. "We're the f*cking animals" is said twice.

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