Music Without Words: 21 of Our Favorite Tracks

The music without words definition states that any song without lyrics, vocals, or backup vocals qualifies. Moreover, using the term for songs without words, this list offers you some insight into the most popular instrumental tracks of all time. 

We made sure to span all the most popular genres, proving that music without words does not fall under a straightforward category. 

So what is the best music without words?

21 Most Popular Music Pieces Without Words

Instrumental music exceeds a specific genre, but it’s ubiquitous to stumble upon two or even twenty classical songs that you recognize. 

If we venture outside of classical pieces, let’s see what popular music without words youtube offers. The songs listed below are in chronological order for your viewing and listening pleasure.

“Walk, Don’t Run” – The Ventures 

Released in the year 1960, Walk, Don’t Run became a staple for the hit comedy classics Aloha Summer (1988) and American Pie (1999). The track initially hit the studio when a jazz guitarist named Johnny Smith recorded it in 1954. 

In 1956, country artist Chet Atkins recorded a version of his own that inspired the instrumental created by The Ventures. For decades, many artists remade and revamped the iconic song.

The group later released a stereo version that many still bump today.


“Green Onions” – Booker T. & The M.G.’s 

Initially recorded in 1962, Green Onions by Booker T. & The M.G. ‘s became the most popular instrumental rock and soul song of its time. Additionally, the track achieved the 183rd spot on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest songs of all time in 2004

With rippling effects from the organ and riffs from the guitar, this mellow piece is one you’ll recognize the moment you hear it. Interestingly enough, many believed “Green Onions” to reference marijuana. The band’s guitarist Steve Cropper later debunked this rumor. 


“Miserlou” – Dick Dale 

1962 was quite a year for the rock and R&B artists at the time. You don’t need to be a fan of surf rock to acknowledge this classic. Richard Anthony Monsour, better known as Dick Dale, composed and recorded Misirlou in the 1960s, not understanding the impact it would hold by the 1990s. 

The two-minute track left a mark on music for good, featuring a musically chaotic blend of guitar, drums, piano, and trumpet.

Older listeners may recognize the piece from Quentin Tarantino’s hit film “Pulp Fiction,” but the song’s reach doesn’t stop there. In 2005, the musical group called The Black Eyed Peas sampled the legendary track in their song “Pump It.” 


“Soulful Strut” – Young-Holt Unlimited 

Young-Holt Unlimited created nothing short of pure soulful bliss with their 1968 “Soulful Strut.” The song replaces any need for voices with a piano for melody.

However, the most iconic part of this track stems from the trumpets and saxophones in the background.

The musical artwork received the gold record award from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 1969.


“Black Mountain Side” – Led Zeppelin 

Unceremoniously, this list features a handful of legendary guitar solos. So, we naturally had to include Jimmy Page’s Black Mountain Side. The instrumental piece took inspiration from Blackwaterside’s Irish folk song “Down.” 

Recorded in 1968 but released in 1969, the two-minute piece is just one example out of many regarding Page’s guitar work.


“Frankenstein” – Edgar Winter 

If you participated in your high school’s pep band during football games, then Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” should be very familiar. In 1972, Edgar Winter desired to emulate the energy of Victor’s iconic monster using more than just your average guitar. 

It’s understandable why this track charted so quickly, featuring solos from the guitar, the drums, the saxophone, and even Winter’s iconic synthesizer.

Both jazzy and edgy, the experimental rock track is a staple of the 1970s. It received a gold certification from the RIAA just a year after its initial release.


“Eruption” – Van Halen 

For any old school metalheads, Van Halen is an “OG” band for the metalcore genre. As promised, this is yet another guitar solo worth mentioning.

Recorded and performed by Eddie Van Halen himself in 1978, this hard rock instrumental takes shredding to the next level.

In just under two minutes, Van Halen inspired a signature move known as tapping that many expert guitarists utilize today.


“Axel F”- Harold Faltermeyer 

It would be near impossible to have a list of iconic instrumentals without any authentic pop tracks included. Whether you lived through the 1980s or presently take in the music from the era, the futuristic pop sound became a must.

In 1984, Harold Faltermeyer recorded “Axel F,” a three-minute track that inspired the early 2000s hit “Crazy Frog.” 

The song is entirely done using synthesizers and is wholly recorded in F minor, which explains its title.


“Your Hand In Mine” – Explosions In The Sky 

If you have some time to spare a few tears, then any song from Explosions In The Sky’s 2003 album “The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place” will get the job done.

Your Hand In Mine is the most notable, being a whopping eight minutes long. While peaceful, it might invoke some sadness, making it less of a go-to out of any tracks featured on this list. 


“Electric Worm”- Beastie Boys 

Of course, it’s only fair to include at least one hip-hop-esque instrumental piece. The Beastie Boys’ 2007 hit “Electric Worm” takes just three minutes to display its worthiness in the hearts of many funk, hip-hop, and psychedelic sound lovers.

Given that it’s the youngest track featured on this list, its impact is tremendous, becoming an instrumental hip-hop staple in such a short period.


“Soul Sacrifice” – Santana

Carlos Santana released Soul Sacrifice in 1969 on the album Santana.  It’s an instrumental song that epitomizes the essence of Santana’s fusion of Latin rhythms and rock n roll. 

“Soul Sacrifice” became an iconic symbol of the 1960s as Santana played it as the final song in the historical Woodstock Festival. His performance is one of the highlights of Woodstock, documented in the famous Woodstock documentary, which launched the relatively unknown band into the limelight. 

Consequently, “Soul Sacrifice” is also a song on the Woodstock documentary’s soundtrack, which hit Billboard’s number one spot on the LP chart. 


“Wipe Out” – The Surfaris

“Wipe Out” is the name of The Surfaris’ 1963 album and the first song, which is by far their biggest hit. Surfaris musicians Jim Fuller, Ron Wilson, Pat Connolly, and Bob Berryhill composed and recorded the song in Cucamonga, California. 

It’s the ultimate surf rock song, the phrase itself alluding to a wave overpowering a surfer and knocking them off their mid-surf. The famous scream heard before the music begins comes from the band’s manager. 

“Wipe Out” was the song of the summer in 1963, spending several months on the Billboard chart.


“Jessica” – The Allman Brothers Band

An homage to the famous gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, “Jessica” is an instrumental single on The Allman Brothers Band’s 1973 album Brothers and Sisters. Lead guitarist Dickey Betts wrote the song, naming it after his daughter who was a toddler at the time. Betts named it after her as he composed the song, watching her dance around the room in approval. 

“Jessica” reached the US 100 Billboard and Easy Listening Billboard and appeared in countless soundtracks, including Field of Dreams and Lassie.


“Tequila” – The Champs

Written by The Champs’ member Chuck Rio in 1958, “Tequila” topped the charts on both the R&B and Pop Billboard charts. “Tequila” was an unexpected success, recorded almost as an afterthought. 

Rio was a part of a band called the Rios Trio, and after a recording session with the Champs, the trio began jamming, using the riff from a famous Cuban mambo song.

The result was “Tequila”, which became the Champs’ most famous hit. Famous artists like Dizzy Gillespie and The Ventures have covered the song.


“Albatross” – Fleetwood Mac

Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac’s lead guitarist, composed “Albatross” to showcase his own skills while paying respects to his favorite musicians. Green drew inspiration from Blues guitarist Floyd Smith, Santo and Johnny’s instrumental song “Sleep Walk”, and fellow guitar contemporary Eric Clapton.

“Albatross” debuted as an instrumental single in 1968, topping the UK singles Chart and peaking at number four on the US Billboard charts. It has received praise from critics and fellow artists alike, receiving mention from Q Magazine as one of the greatest guitar tracks of all time.


“Sleep Walk” – Santo and Johnny

Written and recorded by brothers and guitar duo Santo and Johnny Farina, “Sleep Walk” showcases the unique sounds of the steel guitar that create long, screaming pitches evoking sad nostalgia. They named the song “Sleep Walk” because the brothers wrote it late at night after a show to capitalize on their collective insomnia. 

“Sleep Walk” was released in 1959, only reaching the number one spot for two weeks, halfway through its four-month stint on the Top 100 Billboards. 


“Star Wars Soundtrack” – London Symphony Orchestra

Perhaps the most famous instrumental score of any movie, the Star Wars title song, was released with the first Star Wars movie in 1977. Composer and London Symphony Orchestra conductor John Williams wrote and conducted the song, which became the theme song for the subsequent movies in the trilogy. 

The soundtrack reached number ten on the US Billboard charts and is a certified Gold and Platinum album that has sold more copies than any other soundtrack in history. The score is also one of the most decorated, winning Grammys, Academy Awards, and a spot on the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. 


“Apache” – The Shadows

Originally a ukulele song written by Jerry Lordan, “Apache” reached worldwide acclaim as a surf rock adaptation when The Shadows recorded and released it in 1960. Lordan named the song after an American Western film he watched in the 50s, which inspired him to write a song that reflected the brave and wild spirit of Native American culture.

“Apache” has been adapted into an instrumental rock and funk version, reaching widespread popularity in rap and hip-hop in the 90s and 2000s.  


“Speed of Life” – David Bowie

Recorded in 1977 for Bowie’s album Low, “Speed of Life” is the first song. Bowie had prepared lyrics for the song but eventually decided the song sounded best as an instrumental rock track. This song is his first instrumental song. 

The song is guitar-forward, backed by overlapping synthesizers, some sounding like spaceships taking off. 


“Alone in Kyoto” – Air

From French electronic duo Air’s hit 2004 album Talkie Walkie, “Alone in Kyoto” became widely recognized for its use as a track on the soundtrack for the popular independent film Lost in Translation, starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.

Air’s album went Gold in four countries and reached top positions in various US, Asian, and European Billboard charts. The song’s ethereal sound features a slow guitar riff interspersed with subtle dings and ambient noises, evoking a Zen-like mood.

“Alone in Kyoto” mirrors the feelings of lonely wonder felt by the young Johansson as she marveled at Tokyo’s fast-paced cityscapes while meandering through the streets in Lost in Translation


“Cliffs of Dover” – Eric Johnson

Written by guitarist Eric Johnson in the 1980s, “Cliffs of Dover” is an instrumental rock song that Johnson didn’t officially record until 1990. He had been performing it live since 1984, claiming to have composed it hastily in five minutes. It’s a unique song that doesn’t stick to a time signature and uses various guitar-playing techniques.

Guitar World Magazine praised “Cliffs of Dover” as one of the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos, and in 1992, the song won a Grammy Award for the best instrumental rock song. 


How to Find Songs Without Words?

Music without words genre-bends often, so it is effortless to stumble upon instrumental pieces in every subgenre under the sun. 

With apps such as YouTube, Spotify, and SoundCloud, the music without words free download options are limitless.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, after reviewing this list of instrumental pieces, you take inspiration and go on a journey to produce some independent music without words of your own.

Writer

Born and raised in Austin, David is a dedicated writer and avid fragrance lover. When he's not trying out perfumes, he enjoys traveling and exploring new restaurants.

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