As a former piano player, someone who has accompanied a singer, and a choral singer, I’ve noticed over time that if there’s a vocalist in a song, the listener’s ear tends to be drawn immediately to the vocalist. Which is actually super unfair to the instrumentalists, who are often crazy talented, and have practiced just as much, if not more, than the singers.
There are also stereotypes against some instruments (cello, violin) that they are only classical instruments which are stuck with the songs would never make the top 40. The reality is that’s totally not the case, and ingenuity might surprise you.
So in honor of challenging expectations, here are nine songs that don’t feature a word, but will go straight to the top of your “to put on repeat” list. Many of these artists also have other amazing covers, so check out their work.
1. Wide Awake || Taylor Davis
The melody of this song and the catchy riffs in the background really draw me into this song. Davis created her own backing for this track, and then played multiple tracks of violin over it. It all blends seamlessly. It’s catchy, upbeat and light.
2. Stitches || Nicholas Lee
If Davis was light and upbeat, Lee starts his song slow and soulful, letting the low tones of the cello sing with a light background beat and a simple baseline. Really it’s the catchiness of the melody itself and the rhythm and the simplicity of the piece that draw you in.
3. 7 Years || Brooklyn Duo
This cello piano duo has set out to conquer all sorts of popular songs. The cellist and pianist are both equally talented, with the cello singing out like the “voice.” What’s more, the couple is married in real life. Music goals and relationship goals, guys.
4. Begin Again || The Piano Guys
You wouldn’t expect a pair of Mormon dads to be quite so popular or upbeat, but this duo defies all expectations, making this song relentlessly moving from the very start. Once again, the skill of the musicians is amazing, and I love the way that the cello and piano switch off for the role of the melody throughout the song.
5. All of the Stars || teeteetow1
In many of the songs the piano has taken a background role, just serving as the accompaniment. Not so in this piece, where the solo pianist shines. This piece starts off soft and sweet, with a crystal clear melody and then builds into something more powerful for the chorus.
6. Bastille || Bryson Andres
Two words: violin loop. Oh, three: ingenious violin loop. Seriously, you may not recognize the melody of this song right away, as the violinist builds up the loops right in front of you, but it’s fascinating to listen to it all come together. Sometimes my favorite is picking what I recognize out of the beginning. And when the melody you know comes in it’s clear and high energy and an all-around delightful romp.
7. My Favorite Things || John Coltrane
My only jazz song on the list, and by far the longest song. Also, arguably the original song is not as pop as some of the others, but come on, everyone knows “My Favorite Things”, right? What’s fascinating here is how the artist improvises on a familiar theme, but always comes back to it soon enough that we never lose sight of the melody. Also, can we talk technical skill?
8. Viva la Vida || 2CELLOS
Another duo, this one a cello-cello duo. The two men make the instruments sing out all over their range, while capturing the catchy rhythms in increasingly complex ways, letting the song gradually build. Plus the cellists are easy on the eyes, if you’re into guys.
9. Rather Be || D Sharp
This violinist puts on a simple backing track, and then adds a track or two of his own on top, starting with the melody of this catchy rhythmic tune, but eventually improvising on the melody in fascinating ways. What’s more, he sets it up as a violin duel between himself and himself, driving the tune into more and more complex iterations.
Because we love you, we compiled all of these songs on one playlist. We hope you enjoy!