Instrumental music

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Instrumental music is music that is performed exclusively with instruments . It is the opposite of vocal music .

Classical instrumental music

Historical development

Music without singing has been and is often underestimated and is often dance music at all times . In classical music , in contrast, there is instrumental music that is not subordinate to language or body movement. Such music has by definition been around since the 19th century (see following section). Music researchers have tried to set their origins much earlier. Ludwig Finscher, for example, limits his article instrumental music in the music lexicon The music in the past and present to the 13th-16th centuries. Century.

Vocal music dominated the music up to the baroque music of the late 16th century. Between 1480 and 1580 the instrumental movement gradually broke away from the vowel movement. Instrumental music on a par with vocal music originated in Venice with the canzons and sonatas by Giovanni Gabrieli . The decisive turning point in the development of independent instrumental music took place in the canzone from 1597. Since then, instrumental music has been a feature

  • an extensive separation between the vocal and instrumental parts,
  • the development of an idiomatic notation taking into account instrument-specific technology,
  • the use of timbre as a constituent element and
  • the development of figured bass practice .

In addition to mixed vocal-instrumental music, the term concerto is also applied to pure instrumental music from around 1607. Instrumental music increasingly freed itself from the suspicion of being empty and meaningless noise because it was viewed as language itself.

There were two types of instrumental music, namely independent instrumental movements ( Sonata and Canzona da sonar ) and instrumental pieces with subsequent vocal movements ( Intrada , Symphonia , Ritornello ). At the end of the 16th century, instrumental music was able to emancipate itself from vocal music. This emancipation took place much later in Germany than in Italy.

In Germany, too, organ music contributed to the advance of instrumental music. The instrumental concerto (Concerto grosso) like the Brandenburg Concerts by Bach (March 1721) was one of the main forms of expression. The preludes and fugues by Bach already tended to detachment of the harmony of polyphonic harmony of individual votes. The independent instrumental music caused the receding of the reed instruments while at the same time emphasizing instruments with a modulatable , dynamic and affective sound as well as the advance of the violin family. Above all, Beethoven's work provided an occasion for discussion as to whether his instrumental music had overcome vocal music.

Overtures represent typical instrumental parts, which, however, were still subordinate to the following operas . The symphony of the Viennese classical music forms the pinnacle of European orchestral music and remains as a historicist genre into the 20th century.

Aesthetic fonts

In the course of the 18th century there were musical aesthetic discussions about the importance of vocal and instrumental music. French ( Jean-Baptiste Dubos ) and German ( Johann Mattheson ) music writers declared that in addition to vocal music, symphonic instrumental music can also arouse certain affects in the listener. The view that vocal music took precedence over instrumental music persisted for a long time. In his attempt at an instruction to play the flute traversiere (1752) Johann Joachim Quantz assigns a higher priority to vocal music:

“Singing music has certain advantages which instrumental music has to do without. With the former, the words and the human voice give the composer the greatest advantage, both with regard to the invention and the exception. "

In 1786, for the lexicographer Johann Christoph Adelung, instrumental music expressed "the tones combined by the composer to excite pleasant sensations through the inarticulate tones of the instruments". For him, music is performed in a "double way", namely by singing or by instruments, from which the vocal and instrumental music arise. He was of the opinion that unmusical listeners still listen to singing, while instrumental music - if not unbearable - finds them extremely boring. Wilhelm Traugott Krug defined it in 1827 as “simple musical art, which is exercised by means of certain sound tools (“ instrumenta musices ”) because one only hears inarticulate tones or mere sounds.” For him, vocal music was the “higher musical art”. The philologist Ferdinand Gotthelf Hand wrote in 1841: "Vocal music is easier and therefore more generally understood than instrumental music, which requires a musical abstraction." The instrument replaces the human voice, the use of which is dictated by nature.

The literary romanticism valued instrumental music because it understood the independence of song texts as freedom. Eduard Hanslick explained in his work Vom musisch Schönen (1854) that music consists of "soundly moving forms", which frees them from linguistic meanings and from exaggerated emotional expression. Friedrich Nietzsche understood music primarily as instrumental music - the separation of music from language. In 1874 he coined the term “ absolute instrumental music”. Richard Wagner countered this provocatively by saying that it was "a quasi empty bell".


The symphony since the late 18th century and the string quartet are the most highly regarded genres in classical instrumental music .

Classical instrumental works that are still known to a wider audience today include, for example, the 40th Symphony by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (composed in July 1788), the 5th Symphony by Ludwig von Beethoven (world premiere: December 22, 1808), the Hell Cancan by Jacques Offenbach ( October 21, 1858), the 1st piano concerto in B flat minor op 23 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (October 25, 1875), Dance of the Hours by Amilcare Ponchielli (April 8, 1876; third act of the opera La Gioconda ), the Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky (18 December 1892), Thus spoke Zarathustra by Richard Strauss (27 November 1896), flight of the Bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (3 November 1900), Bolero by Maurice Ravel (22 November 1928) and the saber dance by Aram Khachaturyan (December 3, 1942). Many of these works were later taken up as a paraphrase of jazz and pop music.


The Big Band - Jazz got along from the start, mainly as a purely instrumental music, while at the same time the "Vocal Jazz" constituted an important part of jazz music and jazz vocalists such as Louis Armstrong , Ella Fitzgerald , Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra brought forth. They toured with swing bands, which also appeared independently as instrumental bands. However, at no time was "vocal jazz" privileged over instrumental jazz. For Billboard , jazz is "one of the great instrumental genres", many jazz standards are among the instrumental recordings. With the solos of one instrument or several instruments in a row, instrumental jazz brought its own tension into the music and dispensed with vocal contributions.

One of the first instrumental hits in jazz was the El Capitan March by the Sousa's Band (recorded until April 30, 1896). The first jazz music recording came from the original Dixieland Jass Band , whose first instrumental recordings Livery Stable Blues / Dixie Jass Band One Step on February 26, 1917 in New York City with Nick LaRocca (cornet), Eddie Edwards (trombone), Larry Shields ( Clarinet), Henry Ragas (piano) and Tony Spargo (drums). The Victor - recording studios on the 46 West 38th Street in Manhattan had been opened previously only weeks. At the time, the expression “jass” still had vulgar, sexual undertones. The single reached number 4 on the US charts. With their strongly syncopated and wild sound, the instrumental band developed into the most commercial band of the time and had a number one hit for 2 weeks with the Tiger Rag / Skeleton Jangle (recorded on March 25, 1918) . By 1923 she had a total of 14 instrumental hits in the charts.

The first commercial instrumental hit was Dardanella by Ben Selvin (November 20, 1919), which achieved total sales of 6.5 million records. One of the successful instrumental bands was Paul Whiteman , whose Whispering (23 August 1920) was number one for eleven weeks and sold 2 million copies. Irving Mills Stardust (September 20, 1929, rank 20) ​​with the composer Hoagy Carmichael on the piano is one of the jazz classics, Duke Ellington's Cocktails For Two (April 12, 1934) immortalized himself at first place in the list of classical jazz hits with 5 weeks. Count Basie's first hit parade was the evergreen One O'Clock Jump (July 7, 1937), Benny Goodman's most successful instrumental piece Don't Be That Way (February 16, 1938) took first place for 5 weeks. Glen Miller's instrumental hit In the Mood (August 1, 1939), the original of which was a vocal song, stayed at number one in the US charts for 12 weeks and became a million seller . Artie Shaws Frenesi (March 3, 1940) sold three million copies and, at 13 weeks in the United States, was the longest of all jazz instrumental recordings. Dave Brubeck's Take Five (August 18, 1959) reached number 6 in Great Britain when it was released in August 1961. Mongo Santamaría presented his version of the Herbie Hancock composition Watermelon Man (February 1963), Hancock himself published his Cantaloupe Island a year later (LP Empyrean Isles ; June 17, 1964); Us3 presented a rap version with a sample of passages from the original (September 1993). The Ramsey Lewis Trio , whose instrumental jazz versions of pop hits were very successful in the USA, held a special position . His biggest hit, The 'In' Crowd , reached number 5 on the US pop hit parade in August 1965.

Even the Trad Jazz celebrated with his instrumental recordings first success in the pop charts. Chris Barbers cover version of Petite fleur (September 3, 1955), Acker Bilk with Stranger on the Shore (August 12 / November 8, 1960) or Kenny Ball with the cover Midnight in Moscow (April – September 1961; erroneously called "Traditional" named) placed in the top 3 of the British pop charts. The trad jazz wave emerged in Great Britain at a time when instrumental pieces from pop music were also successfully making their way into the charts .

Instrumental in pop music

Unlike in jazz, pop instrumentals ([ ɪnstʀuˈmɛntəl ]) are less common, vocal music is clearly in the foreground. In pop, instrumental music is structured differently, because it usually requires a continuous melody , which in vocal music is taken over by the singing and often lets the instruments take a back seat. Here there is a text-music relationship in which the instrumental music at most selectively gains the upper hand.

For radio music from around 1930 to 1970, the popular vocal music was arranged instrumentally and recorded by its own radio orchestras, from which so-called upscale entertainment music arose. During this time, some originally instrumental music titles made it into the charts, such as " Sleigh Ride " by Leroy Anderson .

Early phase

In the past, instrumental cover versions of vocal recordings predominated. That was true of Eddie Calvert , who turned the original vocal hit Oh, mein Papa (December 1953) into one of the great instrumental hits of the early 1950s. With three million singles sold and nine weeks at number one, it was the most successful instrumental record in Great Britain to date. This was particularly true of some instrumental pieces that were able to achieve great commercial successes in the United States in quick succession between 1954 and 1956. Billy Vaughn started with his million-seller Melody of Love (November 1954), Pérez Prado followed with the million-seller Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White (March 1955), Roger Williams brought out Autumn Leaves in August 1955 and achieved sales of 2 million records, Nelson Riddle made Lisbon Antigua (December 1955) the number one hit for four weeks and a million-dollar hit, and Les Baxter even took first place with Poor People of Paris (February 1956) for eight weeks and sold a million records of this.

Pop instrumentals usually present - as in jazz - at least one instrument in the middle section as a solo instrument, with the guitar predominating. Important tracks with guitar solos are Rebel 'Rouser ( Duane Eddy ; March 1958), Apache ( The Shadows , June 17, 1960) or Walk Don't Run ( Ventures , August 1960). Some instrumental hits with the organ leading the way ( Bill Doggett's Honky Tonk , June 16, 1956; Dave Cortez in The Happy Organ , February 1959; The Tornados ' Telstar , July 15, 1962, the most successful instrumental hit of all time and booker with seven million records sold T. & the MG's Green Onions , August 1962) led Billboard to believe that the Hammond organ's breakthrough in pop music was due to its success in jazz. Billboard prematurely praised the German record label Teldec as Germany's most important instrumental hit supplier after Billy Vaughn in Germany sold a million from Wheels and Bob Moore here with Mexico 300,000 copies. The saxophone was also in the foreground in some instrumentals ( The Champs : Tequila , February 1958; Mar-Keys : Last Night , July 1961). Even drum solos were successful ( Cozy Cole : Topsy II , August 1958; Sandy Nelson : Teen Beat , September 1959); both musicians were jazz drummers. The most unusual instrument of an instrumental hit was the zither in The Third Man Theme by Anton Karas , which is one of the best-selling instrumentals of all time with four million copies sold (December 1949). Al Hirt released a trumpet solo with Java (December 1963).

Instrumental groups

Purely instrumental groups favored the occupation often two guitars, bass and drums. Instrumental hits enjoyed great commercial success in Great Britain between 1960 and 1965, when trad jazz was also popular here. The Shadows made it to 12 top 10 listings between 1960 and 1965, Jet Harris & Tony Meehan had three hits. In addition, several foreign instrumentals such as Tokyo Melody ( Helmut Zacharias , October 1964), A Walk in the Black Forest ( Horst Jankowski , July 1965), Zorba's Dance (Marcello Minerbi, August 1965) or Il Silenzio ( Nini Rosso , September 1965) made it Jump into the British top 5. In some cases, instrumental hits turned out to be random products ( soundtracks : Percy Faith with Theme From A Summer Place , January 1960; Ferrante & Teichers Theme From Exodus , July 1961; Hugo Montenegro's The Good the Bad And the Ugly , September 1968).

There were only a few purely instrumental groups in the individual genres .

While the guitar with Bill Justis Raunchy (November, 1957) did not act as a melodic instrument, this changed when striking Duane Eddy's guitar sound with Staccato - riffs on the bass strings, which populated the charts from 1958 to 1963. The ventures with their Fender guitars ( Fender Stratocaster , Fender Jazzmaster and Fender Precision Bass ) were particularly successful with their instrumental covers of vocal hits where the English language was a barrier, for example in Japan. Ekseption took over well-known classical instrumental music works in the form of the paraphrase and rearranged them into rock music. She opened up the classical music to her rock and pop audience. In Germany, especially after the Second World War, dance orchestras established themselves , which covered well-known hits in the form of instrumental music and played them on the radio.

Vowel groups

Many beat bands demonstrated their instrument mastery with instrumental recordings , but placed them as B-sides or album fillers: The Beatles ( Cry for a Shadow ; June 22, 1961 as a parody of the Shadows), The Rolling Stones ( 2120 South Michigan Avenue , October 8, 1964 for the BBC), Small Faces ( Grow Your Own , January 1966; Plum Nellie , June 1967) or The Dave Clark Five ( Five by Five , June 1970). The instrumental Albatros by the blues-oriented vocal group Fleetwood Mac (December 1968) became a commercial success.

Instrumental hits

Building on Joel Whitburn's hit parade statistics, the instrumentals that have stayed at number one for the longest time between 1940 and 1987 can be filtered out, resulting in the 100 best instrumental titles of all time:

  1. Artie Shaw: Frenesi (1940; 13 weeks)
  2. Glenn Miller: In the Mood (1940; 12 weeks)
  3. Anton Karas: The Third Man Theme (1950; 11 weeks)
  4. Guy Lombardo : The Third Man Theme (1950; 11 weeks)
  5. Peres Prado: Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White (1955; 10 weeks)
  6. Glenn Miller: Moonlight Cocktail (1942; 10 weeks)
  7. Percy Faith: Theme From A Summer Place (1960; 9 weeks)
  8. Glenn Miller: Tuxedo Junction (1940; 9 weeks)
  9. The Harmony Cats: Peg o 'My Heart (1947; 8 weeks)
  10. Freddy Martin : Piano Concerto in B Flat (1941; 8 weeks)

Freddy Martin adapted Tchaikovsky's 1st Piano Concerto in B flat minor for his hit; Van Cliburn's LP version from August 1958 stayed at number 1 for 7 weeks and 297 weeks on the LP charts, selling over 1 million; it is thus the first and so far only classical LP with this turnover. A total of over 1000 instrumentals were identified between 1940 and 1987, of which only 45 achieved number one hit status. According to this chart analysis, 19 instrumentals made it into the charts in the 1940s, 28 in the 1950s, the 60s held the record with 31, the 1970s only produced 18 and the 1980s only 4 instrumentals.

Until the end of the 1950s, instrumental hits were still novelty hits such as Martin Denny, who achieved million seller status with Quiet Village (April 1959), Santo & Johnny with the slow Sleep Walk (July 1959) or Wonderland by Night by Bert Kämpfert (November 1960; 2 million sales). In the early sixties, instrumental recordings were part of the hit parade, although they retained their rarity status. Dominant dance rhythms or catchy melodies later characterized the hits Classical Gas ( Mason Williams orchestral piece with acoustic guitar; August 1968), Groovin 'With Mr. Bloe ( Mr. Bloe ; with melody-leading harmonica ; May 1970), Amazing Grace ( Royal Scots Dragoon Guards with bagpipes ; March 1972; 2 million sales), popcorn ( hot butter with staccato on the Moog synthesizer ; July 1972), Moldy Old Dough ( Lieutenant Pigeon ; September 1972 with 2 million sales), Also sprach Zarathustra ( Deodato ; March 1973 ), Eye Level ( Simon Park Orchestra ; September 1973), Love's Theme ( The Love Unlimited Orchestra ; November 1973), Dan the Banjo Man ( Dan the Banjo Man ; November 1973, 1st place in Germany), Pick up the Pieces ( Average White Band ; December 1974), The Hustle ( Van McCoy ; April 1975), Magic Fly ( Space ; August 1977), Oxygene ( Jean Michel Jarre ; August 1977), Chi Mai ( Ennio Morricone ; sales of 900,000 in France alone, April 1981 ), Axel F ( Harold Faltermeyer ; January 1985) or Miami Vice Theme ( Jan Hammer , August 1985).

Instrumental recordings have continued to decline in importance since the 1990s. Only a few managed to make the leap into the charts, such as Cryin ' ( Joe Satriani ; July 1992), Cruisin' (Booker T. & the MG's; May 1994), Mission: Impossible ( Adam Clayton & Larry Mullen ; May 1996), El Farol ( Santana ; June 1999), Auld Lang Syne ( BB King ; November 2001), Guitar Connection ( Jean Pierre Danel ; July 2006) or Mornin ' ( George Benson & Al Jarreau ; October 2006). Since the 2000s, trance musicians in particular have regularly made it into the charts with instrumental music. These include artists such as Armin van Buuren, Tiësto and Paul van Dyk.

Importance of instrumental music

The Federal Association of the Music Industry divides sales into 12 repertoire categories. He differentiates between Pop International, Rock, Classical Music, Schlager, Pop German, Folk Music, Dance, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Children's Products, Audio Books and “Others”. Within the latter collective category there is soundtrack / film music, country / folk, instrumental music, Christmas music, comedy, musicals and others. The subordination of instrumental music in rock and pop to the collective category “other” proves the niche function of instrumental music from a commercial point of view. This is also reflected in the listener reception. To the question “What is pop music?” In 1975 almost 45% of the US students surveyed answered with rock & roll, 17% with folk / folk rock, 15% with R & B / soul, only 3% mentioned Jazz and Instrumentals. Instrumentals are rare in pop; instrumental music accounts for only about 1% of all published titles in western countries. Since there is a lack of lyrics that can be singed out, the instrumental music is dependent on common melodies ( catchy tunes ), distinctive instrumentation or striking rhythms. For background music in department stores, instrumental music is preferred because it attracts the shopper's attention less than vocal music.

Instrumental music is considered at the Grammy Awards . The Grammy category "Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance" (awarded 1969–2011) has been awarded since 2012 within the Grammy Award for Best Pop Solo Performance or the Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo / Group Performance . The Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album has been honoring instrumental music albums since 2001. The “Best instrumental composition” category also refers to vocal recordings in which the composition and / or its arrangement is in the foreground. In jazz there is the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album category .


  • Ludwig Finscher: Instrumental Music , in: Ders. (Ed.), The Music in Past and Present, Sachteil Vol. 4, Kassel: Bärenreiter 1996, pp. 874–911.
  • Markus Grassl: instrumental music. In: Oesterreichisches Musiklexikon . Online edition, Vienna 2002 ff., ISBN 3-7001-3077-5 ; Print edition: Volume 2, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna 2003, ISBN 3-7001-3044-9 .
  • Stefan Kunze: Instrumental music , in: Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht (Ed.): Riemann Musik-Lexikon , Sachteil, Mainz: Schott 1967, pp. 402–404.

Web links

Commons : instrumental music  - collection of images, videos, and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Ludwig Finscher: "Instrumental Music", in: Ders. (Ed.), The Music in Past and Present, Sachteil Vol. 4, Kassel: Bärenreiter 1996, pp. 874–911.
  2. Barbara Wiermann, The Development of Vocal-Instrumental Composing , 2005, p. 10 f.
  3. a b Karl Heinrich Wörner / Wolfgang Gratzer / Lenz Meierott, History of Music , 1993, p. 251 ff.
  4. Jacob de Ruiter, The Concept of Character in Music , 1989, p. 233.
  5. Jacob De Ruiter, The Concept of Character in Music , 1989, p. 27.
  6. Johann Joachim Quantz, attempt at an instruction to play the flute traversiere , 2nd edition, Breslau 1780, p. 294.
  7. a b Christoph Adelung, Johann Short Concept of Human Skills and Knowledge , 1786, p. 278 f.
  8. Wilhelm Traugott Krug, General Handbook of Philosophical Sciences , Volume 2, 1827, p. 466.
  9. ^ Ferdinand Gotthelf Hand, Ästhetik der Tonkunst 2 , 1841, p. 90.
  10. ^ Ferdinand Gotthelf Hand, Ästhetik der Tonkunst 2 , 1841, p. 85.
  11. ^ Carl Dahlhaus: European Romanticism in Music, Vol. 2, Metzler, Stuttgart 2007, p. 175. ISBN 978-3-476-01982-0
  12. ^ Carl Dahlhaus: Eduard Hanslick and the concept of musical form, in: Die Musikforschung 20/2: 1967, pp. 145–153.
  13. Karl Heinrich Wörner, History of Music: a study and reference book , 1993, p. 469.
  14. Reiland Rabaka, Hip Hop's Amnesia , 2012 S. 104th
  15. Billboard Magazine, December 22, 2007, The Year in Touring and Music 2007 , p. 76
  16. Bob Yuroshko, A Short History of Jazz , 1993, p. 33
  17. ^ Joseph Murrells, Million Selling Records , 1985, p. 17
  18. ^ Joseph Murrells, Million Selling Records , 1985, p. 30
  19. ^ Joseph Murrells, Million Selling Records , 1985, p. 32
  20. Stephan Hammer, Mani Matter and the songwriters , 2010, p. 86; here related to songwriters
  21. ^ Joseph Murrells, Million Selling Records , 1985, p. 77
  22. ^ Don Tyler, Music of the Postwar Era , 2008, pp. 90 ff.
  23. ^ Joseph Murrells, Million Selling Records , 1985, p. 93
  24. ^ Joseph Murrells, Million Selling Records , 1985, p. 92
  25. ^ Joseph Murrells, Million Selling Records , 1985, p. 93
  26. Disk Talent Feature of 'Stars' Show , Billboard Magazine April 14, 1956, p. 36.
  27. ^ Joseph Murrells, Million Selling Records , 1985, p. 94
  28. ^ Joseph Murrells, Million Selling Records , 1985, p. 169
  29. ^ Swingers Go on Organ and All Stops are Out , Billboard Magazine, November 24, 1962, p. 37.
  30. ^ Joseph Murrells, Million Selling Records , 1985, 158
  31. German & English Versions are Hot , Billboard Magazine of February 10, 1962, p. 28.
  32. ^ Joseph Murrells, Million Selling Records , 1985, p. 64
  33. ^ Mark Donnelly, Sixties Britain: Culture, Society and Politics , 2014, p. 44.
  34. ^ Joseph Murrells, Million Selling Records , 1985, p. 130
  35. 70 million records sales, Spiel mir das Lied vom Tod alone sold 10 million copies and is one of the top 5 best-selling instrumental recordings of all time
  36. Bigsby tremolo arm of the Gretsch 6120
  37. ^ Joel Whitburn, Pop Memories 1890-1954 , 1986, pp. 642 ff.
  38. HubPages of October 29, 2014, All-Time Top 100 Instrumental Songs
  39. ^ Joseph Murrells, Million Selling Records , 1985, p. 128
  40. ^ Joseph Murrells, Million Selling Records , 1985, p. 143
  41. ^ Joseph Murrells, Million Selling Records , 1985, p. 355
  42. Jeong-Won Sin, You Are What You Hear , 2014, p. 126.
  43. ^ R. Serge Denisoff, Solid Gold: The Popular Record Industry , 1975, p. 7.