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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. 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 popular music
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.
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.
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Some recordings which include brief or non-musical use of the human voice are typically considered instrumentals. Examples include songs with the following:
- Short verbal interjections (as in "Tequila" or "Topsy" or "Wipe Out" or "The Hustle" or "Bentley's Gonna Sort You Out")
- Repetitive nonsense words (e.g., "la la..." (as in "Calcutta") or "Woo Hoo")
- Non-musical spoken passages in the background of the track (e.g., "To Live Is to Die" by Metallica; "Wasteland" by Chelsea Grin)
- Wordless vocal effects, such as drones (e.g., "Rockit" or "Flying")
- Vocal percussion, such as beatbox B-sides on rap singles
- Yelling, (e.g. "Cry for a Shadow")
- Yodeling (e.g., "Hocus Pocus")
- Whistling (e.g., "I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman" or "Colonel Bogey March")
- Spoken statements at the end of the track (e.g., God Bless the Children of the Beast by Mötley Crüe, For the Love of God by Steve Vai)
- Non-musical vocal recordings taken from other media (e.g., "Vampires" by Godsmack)
- Field recordings which may or may not contain non-lyrical words. (e.g., many songs by Godspeed You! Black Emperor and other post-rock bands.)
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.
- Instrumental hip hop
- Instrumental rock
- List of rock instrumentals
- Easy listening
- Beautiful music
- Smooth jazz
- A cappella, vocal music or singing without instrumental accompaniment
- Backing track is a pre-recorded music that singers sing along to or a karaoke without vocals
- Contains several vocal interjections of the title track.
- Features vocal interjections of the title track at the end of each chorus.
- Contains several Scottish sounding grunts at the end of each chorus and immediately beforehand.
- 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.
- Contains vocal interjections before, during, and immediately after the choruses.
- Contains vocals at the beginning and during the fade-out.
- Contains vocal interjections at the end of the second and third verses.
- Contains screams of "do the hustle!" at the end of each chorus.
- Contains vocal interjections of the title track at the end of each chorus and "up, up to the sky" as an ending.
- Contains vocals, which total thirty words and thus contains the most lyrics of any instrumental song to hit number 1.
- Contains, during its choruses, several nonsensical vocal interjections of the title.
- 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".
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