AskDefine | Define instrumental

Dictionary Definition

instrumental adj
1 relating to or designed for or performed on musical instruments; "instrumental compositions"; "an instrumental ensemble" [ant: vocal]
2 serving or acting as a means or aid; "instrumental in solving the crime" [syn: implemental]

User Contributed Dictionary



From Middle English < Medieval Latin instrumentalis < instruere ("to build into, set up, construct, furnish," hence "to train") < in- ("on") + struere ("to put together, arrange, pile up, build, construct") < Proto-Indo-European *streu- ("to spread, extend, stretch out").



  1. Acting as an instrument; serving as a means; contributing to promote; conductive; helpful; serviceable; essential or central.
    He was instrumental in conducting the business.
    • The head is not more native to the heart, The hand more instrumental to the mouth — Shakespeare, Hamlet, I,ii
  2. : Pertaining to, made by, or prepared for, an instrument, especially a musical instrument; as, instrumental music, distinguished from vocal music.
    • He defended the use of instrumental music in public worship. — Macaulay
    • Sweet voices mix'd with instrumental sounds. — Dryden
  3. : Applied to a case expressing means or agency—and is generally indicated in English by by or with with the objective; as, the instrumental case. This is found in Sanskrit as a separate case, but in Greek it was merged into the dative, and in Latin into the ablative. In Old English it was a separate case, but has disappeared, leaving only a few anomalous forms. It continues to be used in Slavic languages.

Derived terms


  1. In the context of "uncountable|grammar": The instrumental case.
  2. In the context of "countable|music": A composition without lyrics.


grammatical case





Extensive Definition

An instrumental is, in contrast to a song, a musical composition or recording without lyrics or any other sort of vocal music; all of the music is produced by musical instruments. Specifically, this term is used when referring to popular music; some musical genres make little use of the human voice, such as jazz, electronic music, and large amounts of European classical music (although in electronic music the voice can be sampled just like anything else). In commercial music, some tracks or songs on a compact disc include instrumental tracks. These tracks are exact copies of the corresponding song, but do not have vocals.
Instrumentals that have reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 include

Borderline cases

Recordings which include brief verbal interjections (e.g. "Tequila"), repetitive nonsense words (e.g. "Woo Hoo"), or wordless vocal effects (such as drones, vocal percussion, Vonlenska, yodeling, or whistling), or in which sung vocals appear in only a short part of an extended piece (e.g. "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)", "La Grange"), are sometimes classed as instrumentals rather than songs.
instrumental in German: Instrumentalmusik
instrumental in Estonian: Instrumentaalmuusika
instrumental in Spanish: Música instrumental
instrumental in French: Musique instrumentale
instrumental in Indonesian: Instrumental
instrumental in Icelandic: Hljóðfæratónlist
instrumental in Hebrew: קטע כליי
instrumental in Dutch: Instrumentale muziek
instrumental in Japanese: 器楽曲
instrumental in Norwegian: Instrumental
instrumental in Norwegian Nynorsk: Instrumentalmusikk
instrumental in Portuguese: Música instrumental
instrumental in Russian: Инструментальная музыка
instrumental in Finnish: Instrumentaali (musiikki)
instrumental in Swedish: Instrumentalmusik
instrumental in Chinese: 器樂

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1