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late 14c., "of the nature of an instrument," from Old French instrumental, from Medieval Latin instrumentalis, from Latin instrumentum (see instrument). Meaning "serviceable, useful" is from c.1600. Of music, c.1500; noun meaning "musical composition for instruments only" is attested by 1940. Related: Instrumentally; instrumentality.
type of popular music performed without a vocalist, in any of several genres but especially prevalent in rock and roll in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Serving primarily as dance music, rock-and-roll and rhythm-and-blues instrumentals began appearing on the pop charts in the mid-1950s, with Bill Doggett's organ- and saxophone-driven "Honky Tonk" (1956) leading the way. Thereafter instrumental records regularly reached number one. Link Wray's "Rumble" and the Champs' "Tequila" hit it big in 1958, the year Duane Eddy began a string of hits featuring his trademark twang guitar sound. In Britain the Shadows had their own run of hits beginning in 1960, though they failed to export their success to the United States (unlike the Tornadoes, who topped the American charts in 1962 with "Telstar").