For other uses, see Instrumental (disambiguation).
Artie Shaw and his band playing "Everything's Jumpin'" from Second Chorus (1940)

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 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. Another example of a genre in popular culture is Hip Hop, Pop, and R&B. Many upcoming or rising artists in Hip Hop, Pop, and R&B will find an instrumental online on a website, like, and use it to create a song. An instrumental version of a song which otherwise features vocals is also known as a -1 (pronounced minus one).

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

Title Artist Country Reached number-one
Frenesi Artie Shaw US December 21, 1940
Song of the Volga Boatmen Glenn Miller US March 19, 1941
Piano Concerto in B Flat Freddy Martin US October 4, 1941
A String of Pearls Glenn Miller US February 7, 1942
The Memory of Trees Enya US December 5, 1995
Moonlight Cocktail Glenn Miller US February 28, 1942
Heartaches Ted Weems US March 15, 1947
Twelfth Street Rag Pee Wee Hunt US August 28, 1948
Blue Tango Leroy Anderson US May 17, 1952
The Song from Moulin Rouge[1][2] Mantovani UK August 14, 1953
Oh Mein Papa[note 1][2][3] Eddie Calvert UK January 8, 1954
Let's Have Another Party[2][4] Winifred Atwell UK December 3, 1954
Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White)[2][3] Perez Prado UK April 29, 1955
Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White)[5] Perez Prado US April 30, 1955
Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White)[3] Eddie Calvert UK May 27, 1955
Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White) Perez Prado Germany October 8, 1955
Autumn Leaves Roger Williams US October 29, 1955
Lisbon Antigua Nelson Riddle US February 25, 1956
The Poor People of Paris Les Baxter US March 17, 1956
The Poor People of Paris[2][4] Winifred Atwell UK April 13, 1956
Moonglow and Theme from Picnic Morris Stoloff US June 2, 1956
Tequila[note 2] The Champs US March 17, 1958
Patricia[5] Perez Prado US July 28, 1958
Patricia Perez Prado Germany October 18, 1958
Hoots Mon[note 3][2][6] Lord Rockingham's XI UK November 28, 1958
Side Saddle[2][7] Russ Conway UK March 27, 1959
The Happy Organ[8] Dave "Baby" Cortez US May 11, 1959
Roulette[2][7] Russ Conway UK June 19, 1959
Sleep Walk Santo & Johnny US September 21, 1959
Theme from A Summer Place[9] Percy Faith US February 22, 1960
Apache[2][8][10] The Shadows UK August 25, 1960
Wonderland by Night[9] Bert Kaempfert US January 9, 1961
Calcutta[9] Lawrence Welk US February 13, 1961
On the Rebound[2][11] Floyd Cramer UK May 18, 1961
Kon-Tiki[2][11] The Shadows UK October 5, 1961
Mexico Bob Moore Germany January 27, 1962
Wonderful Land[2][8] The Shadows UK March 22, 1962
Nut Rocker[2][12] B. Bumble and the Stingers UK May 17, 1962
Stranger on the Shore Acker Bilk US/UK
[note 4]
May 26, 1962
The Stripper[9] David Rose US July 7, 1962
Telstar[2][8] The Tornados UK October 4, 1962
Telstar[13] The Tornados US December 22, 1962
Dance On![2][14] The Shadows UK January 24, 1963
Diamonds[2][10][15][16] Jet Harris and Tony Meehan UK January 31, 1963
Telstar The Tornados France February 9, 1963
Foot Tapper[2][14] The Shadows UK March 29, 1963
Il Silenzio Nini Rosso Germany July 19, 1965
A Taste of Honey[13] Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Bass US November 27, 1965
Love is Blue[17] Paul Mauriat US February 10, 1968
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly[17] Hugo Montenegro US June 8, 1968
Grazing in the Grass[17] Hugh Masekela US July 20, 1968
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly[2][18] Hugo Montenegro, his Orchestra and Chorus UK November 13, 1968
Albatross[2][8] Fleetwood Mac UK January 29, 1969
Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet[17] Henry Mancini US June 28, 1969
Amazing Grace[2][8] Royal Scots Dragoon Guards UK April 15, 1972
Popcorn Hot Butter France July 13, 1972
Mouldy Old Dough[note 5][8] Lieutenant Pigeon UK October 14, 1972
Frankenstein[17] The Edgar Winter Group US May 26, 1973
Eye Level[2][8] Simon Park Orchestra UK September 29, 1973
Love's Theme[19] Love Unlimited Orchestra US February 9, 1974
TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)[note 6] MFSB featuring The Three Degrees US April 20, 1974
Pick Up the Pieces[note 7][19] Average White Band US February 22, 1975
The Hustle[note 8][19] Van McCoy and the Soul City Orchestra US July 26, 1975
Fly, Robin, Fly[note 9] Silver Convention US November 29, 1975
Theme from S.W.A.T.[19] Rhythm Heritage US February 28, 1976
A Fifth of Beethoven[19] Walter Murphy US October 9, 1976
Gonna Fly Now[note 10] Bill Conti US July 2, 1977
Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band[note 4] Meco US October 1, 1977
Rise[19] Herb Alpert US October 20, 1979
One Step Beyond Madness France March 7, 1980
Chariots of Fire[19] Vangelis US May 8, 1982
Miami Vice Theme[19] Jan Hammer US November 9, 1985
Song of Ocarina Jean-Philippe Audin and Diego Modena France January 18, 1992
Doop[note 11][2][20] Doop UK March 19, 1994
The X-Files Mark Snow France June 8, 1996
Flat Beat[note 12][2][21] Mr. Oizo UK April 3, 1999
Harlem Shake Baauer US March 2, 2013

Borderline cases

Some recordings which include brief examples of the human voice are typically considered instrumentals. Examples include singles with the following:

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.

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 amount of lyrics of any instrumental song to hit #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".


  1. Huey, Steve. "Mantovani: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 "Instrumental #1s".
  3. 1 2 3 Mawer, Sharon. "Eddie Calvert: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  4. 1 2 Mawer, Sharon. "Winifred Atwell: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  5. 1 2 Huey, Steve. "Pérez Prado: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  6. Mawer, Sharon. "Lord Rockingham's XI: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  7. 1 2 "Pianist Russ Conway dies". BBC News. 16 November 2000. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 McNair, James (10 December 2009). "Whatever Happened To The Hit Instrumental?". Mojo. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
  9. 1 2 3 4 "All Instrumental Top 20 Songs, every top 20 instrumental, Dec 1959 - Jun 1962". Tunecaster.
  10. 1 2 "The Shadows founder member dies". BBC News. November 29, 2005.
  11. 1 2 "Country Music Hall of Fame To Welcome Floyd Cramer and Carl Smith". Broadcast Music Incorporated. 13 August 2003. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
  12. Perrone, Pierre (23 September 2008). "Obituary: Earl Palmer". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  13. 1 2 "All Instrumental Top 20 Songs, every top 20 instrumental, Sep 1962 - Oct 1966". Tunecaster.
  14. 1 2 "Rhythm magazine". Rhythm. March 2001.
  15. "The Shadows founder member dies". BBC News. 29 November 2005. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
  16. Unterberger, Richie. "Jet Harris – Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 "All Instrumental Top 20 Songs, every top 20 instrumental, Oct 1966 - Jun 1973". Tunecaster.
  18. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Hugo Montenegro: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  19. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "All Instrumental Top 20 Songs, every top 20 instrumental, Nov 1973 - now". Tunecaster.
  20. "All the No.1s: Doop Doop". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
  21. Siegler, Dylan (April 2000). "Mr. Oizo". CMJ New Music Monthly. College Media Inc. (80): 39. ISSN 1074-6978.
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