Instrumentals are fairly easy to understand. You take everything except the vocals (or everything except the lead vocals) and export that.
What defines an instrumental?
Instrumentals are tracks missing the lead vocals, but contain at least 1 non-vocal instrument that can be used to tell which song is playing.
BG Vocals and FX is not and instrumental. (FX meaning the rises and falls of noise in most songs - not vocal effects)
BG Vocals and Guitar is an instrumental. (and also some sort of band track, technically.)
Guitar and FX is an instrumental. (and a stem, by definition)
All instrumentals are stems unless unaltered exports of the master tracks or multitracks.
Instrumentals can contain some parts of the lead vocals, as long as they are missing for a whole verse or chorus. These would be called "Instrumental with Hook" in most cases. The Hook is the chorus.
Instrumentals can contain any amount of vocals except for the rule above.
Instrumentals can contain any amount of non-vocal instruments that is 2 or more if no vocals are present.
Instrumentals can contain nearly any non-vocal stem alongside any non-lead vocal stem and still be considered an instrumental (although they're not commonly called that)
Instrumentals can be DIY.
Where do instrumentals come from?
Like stems and multitracks and acapellas, instrumentals come from their producers, or the agents managing those producers. They are usually found in big lists of other instrumentals. Sometimes people will get their hands on stems or multitracks and export the instrumental to share it.
TV commercials and shows use instrumentals quite often, and so anytime a song is made (in the main studios) both an instrumental and acapella version are also made. Those are given to TV stations and radio stations at a cost, and then are sometimes leaked out either by the person who bought it, or someone they gave/sold it to.
Selling instrumentals that you bought/received could be illegal. Read the terms.
People also get instrumentals from full albums that are sold by the artist full of only the instrumentals. Sometimes a few are added to "deluxe" CDs
Movie companies that have their own songs (Disney as an example) usually release instrumentals for their karaoke apps, or release an entire karaoke album. They are also on the "deluxe" albums that Disney releases.
What's the use of instrumentals?
- Karaoke (either just to jam in your car or home or to make karaoke CDGs to karaoke to)
- DIY Acapellas
- DIY Stems
- Vocal Covers
- Used as a band track to make DIY anything, or to cover the song.
- Simple Listening
- BG Music for anything
- Showing Off
- Teasers (for a song, in this case)
- Re-recording the vocals
- Surround Sound Audio Engineering
...and many more
Who gets instrumentals?
- Radio hosts
- TV hosts
- TV managers
- Mashup Artists
- Paying customers
- Video Game companies (part of the last one)
- Other song artists
- Everyday people
How can I get some instrumentals?
Legally? Call and email artists and their agents. Have a good reason to get one, and ask for it. You could also get an account for a publication site such as Universal Music Publications (umusicpub) which comes with a license to use the instrumentals non-commercially.
You can also buy them from iTunes.
Otherwards it's all guesswork whether what you're doing is legal for the following:
- SoundCloud (search for them and see if they've got downloads)
- Google Searches
- YouTube (although downloading from there is never high-quality - look for links in the description)
- MP3 Searches (you never know what's coming)
- Spotify (or other streaming services) - Use a downloader.
Other methods exist however I won't be covering those. If anyone would like to edit this page to add more methods for getting instrumentals, please do.