In Portuguese, instrumental music is the version of a piece of music without a singer's voice.

Is this the same term in English? I don't know if there is a specific word because, for example, when searching about the music transcript we need to search for lyrics.

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    All of the answers below are correct; but when you are talking about the score of a piece intended to be performed by both voice and music, the instrumental portion is called the accompaniment. A new score inteneded to be performed only by instrumentalists (with, for instance, the singer's part transferred to another instrument) is an instrumental version. Mar 10, 2013 at 22:22

4 Answers 4


Yes, a vocal song can have an instrumental version, in which the lyrics are missing. Instrumental can mean two things:

  1. a "karaoke" version with the vocals removed; or
  2. a song which was written without vocals in the first place.

Incidentally, some people insist a "song" must have vocals. These people use the word "piece" to refer to a song without singing, which is traditional and etymologically correct. In common use, people use "song" to refer to instrumental songs as well.

How is this relevant? If you're talking about an instrumental metal group or the instrumental version of a pop song, people say "instrumental song"; if you're talking about classical music with no singing, people usually say "piece".

A "backing track" is a track without all the instruments for a musician to play over, which is somewhat different. A guitarist may have a backing track consisting of bass and drums that they play over.


Not exactly--instrumental music refers to a song that is designed to be played by only instruments. The original version of an instrumental song has no singer, it is played by instruments only.

The word you're looking for is karaoke. A karaoke song refers to a version of a song that usually has lyrics, where the singer's voice has been removed (and is specifically produced for people to sing along to it).

Something which might also be of interest: A capella is the opposite of instrumental; it contains the singer's voice only, and no instruments.


In English there are a few terms for this, but the most common term is backing music or backing track, although instrumental music is also usually unambiguous.

When referring to a song whose vocals have been omitted so that someone else can sing to the backing music, the usual English term is karaoke music or a karaoke track.

Note that the opposite (i.e. vocals but no backing) is usually called a cappella.

  • Backing track doesn't mean instrumental. It means a mixdown without every track included that you can play an instrument or sing over. It may be instrumental, or it may not.
    – user230
    Mar 10, 2013 at 21:39
  • @snailplane: You're right – some backing tracks leave in the background vocalists, so, technically, these would not be purely instrumental versions of the song.
    – J.R.
    Mar 10, 2013 at 21:52
  • @J.R. There are also backing tracks consisting entirely of backing vocals, used for example when a band wants to add vocal harmony to their live performance.
    – user230
    Mar 10, 2013 at 22:13
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    @snailplane: The OP asked for a word meaning "the version of a piece of music without a singer's voice.", which I took to mean "the version of the music without the lead singer's voice" such as in the context of karaoke or when a Pop song is used in a movie/advert without wanting the singer's melody to take attention away from the visual elements. To that end, the backing track or instrumental track is a common English word to describe such a piece of music
    – Matt
    Mar 10, 2013 at 23:07

I think it is called "minus one" in Karaoke. The answer to Why are instrumental tracks also called “minus one tracks”? on the Music SE site explains:

Accompaniment tracks are called "minus one" tracks because one part has been subtracted. There is a part that is missing.

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    Hi, please edit your post to include why you think this is a valid answer. It may help the original poster understand better. You may also share the sources you used to post this answer. Cheers !
    – Varun Nair
    May 10, 2017 at 10:26
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    Welcome to ELL, I've taken the liberty of editing your post as an example of what sorts of detail you could add to your answer. Feel free to edit it to add more explanation in your own words.
    – ColleenV
    May 10, 2017 at 11:10

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