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An instrumental is a musical composition or recording without lyrics, or singing, although it might include some inarticulate vocals, such as shouted backup vocals in a Big Band setting. The music is primarily or exclusively produced by 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 herself 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 size 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. An instrumental version of a song which otherwise features vocals is also known as a -1 (pronounced minus one).
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.
Some recordings which include brief examples of the human voice are typically considered instrumentals. Examples include singles 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");
- A short spoken passage (e.g., "To Live Is to Die" by Metallica);
- Wordless vocal effects, such as drones (e.g., "Rockit" or "Flying");
- Vocal percussion, such as beatbox B-sides on rap singles;
- Yodeling (e.g., "Hocus Pocus");
- Whistling (e.g., "I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman" or "Colonel Bogey March").
- An ominous statement at the end (e.g., God Bless the Children of the Beast by Mötley Crüe, For the Love of God by Steve Vai)
- Inclusion of 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.)
A few songs categorized as instrumentals may even include actual vocals, if they appear only as a short part of an extended piece (e.g., "Unchained Melody" (Les Baxter) or "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" or "Pick Up the Pieces" or "The Hustle" or "Fly, Robin, Fly" or "Get Up and Boogie", or "Do It Any Way You Wanna" or "Gonna Fly Now" (Bill Conti)). Falling just outside that definition is "Theme From Shaft" by Isaac Hayes.
- Instrumental hip hop
- Instrumental rock
- List of rock instrumentals
- Easy listening
- Post Rock
- 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 amount of lyrics of any instrumental song to hit #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".
- Huey, Steve. "Mantovani: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
- "Instrumental #1s". ukcharts.20m.com.
- Mawer, Sharon. "Eddie Calvert: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
- Mawer, Sharon. "Winifred Atwell: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
- Huey, Steve. "Pérez Prado: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
- Mawer, Sharon. "Lord Rockingham's XI: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
- "Pianist Russ Conway dies". BBC News. 16 November 2000. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
- McNair, James (10 December 2009). "Whatever Happened To The Hit Instrumental?". Mojo. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
- "All Instrumental Top 20 Songs, every top 20 instrumental, Dec 1959 - Jun 1962". Tunecaster.
- "The Shadows founder member dies". BBC News. November 29, 2005.
- "Country Music Hall of Fame To Welcome Floyd Cramer and Carl Smith". Broadcast Music Incorporated. 13 August 2003. Retrieved 13 May 2010. Cite error: Invalid
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- Perrone, Pierre (23 September 2008). "Obituary: Earl Palmer". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
- "All Instrumental Top 20 Songs, every top 20 instrumental, Sep 1962 - Oct 1966". Tunecaster.
- "Rhythm magazine". Rhythm. March 2001.
- "The Shadows founder member dies". BBC News. 29 November 2005. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
- Unterberger, Richie. "Jet Harris – Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
- "All Instrumental Top 20 Songs, every top 20 instrumental, Oct 1966 - Jun 1973". Tunecaster.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Hugo Montenegro: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
- "All Instrumental Top 20 Songs, every top 20 instrumental, Nov 1973 - now". Tunecaster.
- "All the No.1s: Doop – Doop". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
- Siegler, Dylan (April 2000). "Mr. Oizo". CMJ New Music Monthly. College Media Inc. (80): 39. ISSN 1074-6978.
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- Every instrumental top 20 hit song from 1960 to the present from Tunecaster.com with a sample of each