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Instrumental Music

Music has been a part of human civilizations from times unaccountable and it is frequently divided - intuitionally as vocalist and instrumental music. Instrumental music simply means the complete absence of articulate vocals and/or lyrics in a musical composition or performance. Although it is easy to deduce that the vocal legacy of music is older than the instrumental, it is the instrumental music that is most prospered and has today become one of the cornerstones of music around the world.

Instrumental music performed by musicians or sometimes known as instrumentalists, invoke and communicate the stories and various phases of emotions through the various harmonic and melodic musical models. The world has a rich history of instrumental music from the Western classical music originated in the Greek culture, to the strange modal structures of the traditional music of the Japanese isles. As a significant part of world music the instrumental compositions from the Middle East Arabia to the plains of China, including the vast culture of Indian classical music also have a strong connection to instrumentalism.

With the end of the 20th century, the conventional distinction between the classical and folk music faded and a new class was created which was called ‘Popular Music’. Instrumental music is the cornerstone of modern Pop music with instrumental versions of almost every popular song being recorded and made available to the audience.


The traditional performances of the instrumental music are made up of a concert with a set programme for performance of instrumental compositions. A well known example can be taken from the ‘Orchestra’ tradition of the Western classical music. A typical orchestra that is supposed to play an instrumental composition is made up of several instruments of different classes, which may be summarized as follows: Four pairs of woodwinds like the oboe, flute and bassoon, pairs of brass horns and percussions and the main section made up string instruments that are classified as first and second violins, cellos and basses.

In the East Asian and Middle Eastern cultures instrumentalist gave no-vocal concerts but those ensembles were considerably smaller than the Western classical orchestras. Those groups basically consisted of a percussion instrument, a string and\or wind instruments and a tone producing instrument that provided a reference tone for that event.

In the modern ‘bands’ the numbers may vary but they commonly are made up of a percussionist (drums), a bassist, a pianist or a keyboard player and a guitarist. 


Probably the most significant feature of Instrumental music is the absence of vocals. Now although it may seem very obvious and intuitive, this distinction is was extremely groundbreaking. The pre-medieval or ancient music was focused around the vocals with a high level of sophistication in vocal music systems and the musical instruments were only regarded as accompaniments to the singers. As with time the instruments became finer and their systems more articulated, the instrumental music was established and new avenues of musical expressions were opened.

Rendition Styles

The stylistic practices are very varied in instrumental music. This stems from the fact that the compositions have absolutely no lyrics and that the musician has to interpret the piece for himself and then invoke a desired emotion in the audience. This becomes more prominent as we look at different musical traditions around the world. For example, while the Western and Chinese music may be based in harmonies, the Indian and related musical cultures depend on the melodies in composition.

In Pop music, the instance of the Jazz classics is very suitable for this point. One may find that each and every classic of the Jazz genre has been ‘covered’ or re arranged and performed by many Pop artists in their styles (that do not always have Jazz roots). As a result a single Jazz standard has hundreds of different instrumental versions.


The methods and formations used in instrumental music are rooted in the respective Classical music tradition. Each culture has a different approach to music and thus develops different systems and instruments for performing and creating music.


Instrumental music is traditionally taught in Classical music schools that have highly developed systems for teaching a student the art of expressing music through an instrument of choice. Although the instruments and systems of teaching or even philosophies differ from culture instrumental music education is always a part of the classical music training including both theory and practice.

In Popular music many self-taught musicians have gained legendary status but these seem to be very basic instruments like guitar and drums.

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