10 Types Of Instrumental Music

Instrumental music is the common name for music made without any vocals. Short vocal parts, either sung or spoken, can be used in instrumental music as an accompaniment, but the main focus of the pieces is instrumental melodies, solos, and harmony.

Instrumental music does not have audible lyrics or main parts with vocals singing the song. Instrumental music can be played and composed with all kinds of instruments depending on the genre and style. In short, all kinds of music focused on melodies and solos played by instruments can be considered instrumental.

As the definition of the name covers a very wide variety of genres, there are many different types of instrumental music. 

1. Classical

Classical music is one of the first types that come to mind when talking about instrumental music. It is often referred to as the formal side of western music, and a large part of classical music relies exclusively on instruments and doesn’t include vocals.

Classical music has many forms that are typically instrumental. Forms such as concerto, sonata, and symphony, typically do not involve vocals. 

Classical music uses many different instruments from all the branches of the musical instrument family tree, such as brass, wind, percussion, and string instruments. The main instruments used in classical music are piano, violin, and cello

There are many famous names in classical instrumental music like Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and so on.

2. Jazz

Jazz is one of the genres that does not typically rely on vocals and focuses on instruments. Instrumental jazz is the largest part of jazz music. The emphasis is always on the instruments, and the flow is mainly improvised.

Instrumental jazz requires the musicians to be highly skillful with their instruments as the music features many tempo changes, beat, harmony, texture, and progressions. As improvisation is a big part of jazz, jazz musicians must be very advanced with their general musical knowledge and their mastery of instruments.

There are many different subgenres in jazz music, both instrumental and with vocals. But the common ground is that all have unique rhythms, harmonic refinement, and improvisation.

Jazz music is mainly played with four instruments: bass, drums, guitar, and keyboard. Instruments like saxophones and trumpets are also very common.

The first instrumental jazz musicians that come to mind involve names like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Chick Corea.

3. Post-Rock

Post-rock or instrumental rock is the type of rock music that emphasizes an instrument. It does not have singing or vocals, and the melody is created by the solo instrument, typically the electric guitar with a shredding melody.

Post-rock incorporates many common rock instruments like drums, bass, and electric guitar. However, various accessories are frequently used like e-bows, slides, and reverb is almost a must!

Post-rock has taken off in a way with artists like Sigur Rós, Explosions In The Sky, God Is An Astronaut, and many more. The beauty of this genre is the melodious nature that does not require vocals, but the instruments and their melodies tell the story.

4. Post-Metal

Post-Metal or instrumental metal is very similar to Post-Rock. It came about roughly the same time as the previous genre and continues to grow. Post-metal songs don’t have vocals, and the music is often led by guitars. 

The tones and the structures of the songs are similar to progressive metal with heavily distorted guitars, aggressive rhythms, many rhythm changes, and complex riffs, melodies, and solos.

Some notable names associated with the Post-Metal genre are Russian Circles, Cult Of Luna, Rosetta, and others.

5. Post-Punk

Instrumental punk is not as common as instrumental rock, but there are many instrumental songs, especially in the post-punk genre. While the main lines of the style are similar to punk with aggressive power chords and high tempo, post-punk songs have different influences from other genres like funk, electronic music, jazz, and dub.

Post-punk songs may or may not have vocals and are great blends of different production techniques and different influences from various genres. 

While post-punk has many instrumental punk tunes, there are different instrumental punk songs outside the post-punk subgenre. Some names are Killing Joke, Ours to Kill, Black Flag, and Fugazi.

6. Electronic Dance Music

Electronic Dance Music is the name of a wide range of percussive electronic music genres that are often played in raves, festivals, and nightclubs. Typically EDM does not feature vocals, and the main focus is on the beat. The music is produced by DJs who create selections of tracks in a mix.

Electronic Dance Music has many genres inside it, including house music, techno, trance, dubstep, and many more. Often EDM songs do not have vocals or lyrics, but of course, it depends on the subgenre, the artist, and the particular song. As EDM songs are created for dancing, the emphasis is on the beats and the rhythm rather than lyrics or melody.

Some important DJs of EDM are DJ Tiesto, Armin Van Buuren, Martin Garrix, and the Swedish House Mafia.

7. Bluegrass

Played mainly with acoustic string instruments, Bluegrass is another instrumental music type derived from American roots music. Bluegrass tunes may or may not have vocals. It is a great blend of British ballads and dance tunes with traditional Afro-American blues and jazz.

Bluegrass music is often played with a fiddle, five-string banjo, guitar, mandolin, and upright bass. The accompanying instruments can be a selection of various instruments, including a resonator guitar, harmonica, or Jew’s harp.

Some famous instrumental bluegrass musicians are Bela Fleck, Strength in Numbers, and Noam Pikelny.

8. Ambient

Ambient music is an unconventional music genre that highlights the atmosphere and tone over rhythm, melody, and musical structure. Ambient music is typically instrumental, and it can have a fluid form regarding composition, melody, and beat. It features textural sound layers to provoke calmness and contemplation.

Originated in the 1960s and 1970s, ambient music uses piano, strings, and flute as well as synths and natural sounds. There are many subgenres in ambient music like ambient dub, ambient house, ambient pop, and space music.

Ambient music is mainly played in cafes, malls, stores, airports, and public places as it is a great genre for passive listening. Some noticeable ambient music makers are Brian Eno, 

William Basinski, and Stars of the Lid.

9. Film music

As the name suggests, film music is the common name given to the songs created for movies. They are mainly instrumental music as they accompany the scenes in a movie, sometimes with a dialogue. Film music can be close to any genre, from classical to rock music.

Film music can be close to any genre, but the most common type is orchestra music. Some famous names are Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, and Max Steiner.

Film music is specially created to suit the movie so that it can be romantic, epic, dramatic, or uptempo, depending on the movie.

10. Lo-Fi

Short for Low Fidelity, Lo-Fi music refers to the music that is produced with a distinct style that sees imperfections as a good part of music instead of eliminating them for perfection. Often referred to as DIY music, analog warmth and harmonic distortion are cores of the genre. Typically Lofi music is instrumental.

Lo-fi music became popular during the 1990s when artists started producing their songs at home. Msiplayed notes, atmosphere noises, and phonographic imperfections like tape hiss or signal cuts are all welcomed in lo-fi music. 

Beach Boys, Stevie Moore, Paul McCartney, and Todd Rundgren are some famous artists in style. As lo-fi music signals the production style instead of a specific genre, lo-fi music can be close to any genre, from rock to hip-hop.

Does instrumental mean no vocals?

The meaning of instrumental music signals music without vocals, but instrumental songs may have inarticulate vocals, spoken words, and vocal sounds. For example, “Watermelon In Easter Hay” by Frank Zappa is an instrumental piece but starts with an opening narration by Zappa. Another example is God Is An Astronaut’s “Frozen Twilight” where the main high melody is actually sung (with lots of reverb) while many think it’s a guitar melody.

Are there any more instrumental genres?

Technically speaking, any genre can be instrumental. As instrumental music means songs without vocals emphasizing the instrumental melodies, any song from any genre can be instrumental.

There are many instrumental covers of popular songs, which shows that instrumental music can be made with songs from any genre.

Conclusion

Instrumental music is a great musical style for music enthusiasts who like to listen to more melodies, riffs, and solos instead of human vocals. When the emphasis shifts from the human voice to instruments, the songs tend to offer more musical treasures with great harmonies, melodies, and solos that push the limits.

The above list features 10 of the most popular instrumental musical styles for you to explore and decide which one is the ideal style for you.

Berk Öztuna is a handpan player, percussionist, and guitarist. He has been playing multiple instruments over the last 10 years. He started his music career as a guitarist, playing with several bands before putting his main focus into playing the handpan.

Leave a Comment

Leave a reply

Musician Wave
Logo