Instruments Used in Pop Music

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Discover clues to the music formula that builds most successful pop groups and understand some of the basic instruments that persist in the sounds of pop music. Pop music is difficult to classify because it is always changing with the musical preferences of the radio-listening public, but it does have some similarities. Though the sound of pop music changes, at its basic levels it involves many of the same instruments.


Throughout history, the guitar has been a dominant sound in pop recordings.
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Guitars are common in pop music. Types of guitars used in this type of music include bass guitars, acoustic guitars and electric guitars. A guitar is a stringed instrument. Bass guitars generally have four strings. Electric and acoustic guitars usually have six or 12 strings. Electric guitars, including electric bass guitars, must be used with a guitar cable and powered amplifier to output an audible level of sound.


A drum beat is an essential part of pop songs.
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Drums in pop music can be played by a drummer on a drum kit or they can be produced electronically by a computer. Computer drums have a more digital sound that can feel robotic and less natural than drums played by a person. Drums are essential to establish the beat and keep the song moving forward.


The singer is often the central figure in pop music.
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Vocals are the leading force of pop music. Music is often structured to fit around the lyrics written by the vocalist. Types of vocals can include singing, screaming, rapping or spoken word. Pop music without vocals is called instrumental pop music. Notable pop vocalists include Mariah Carey, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Celine Dion, Justin Bieber and Madonna.

Wind Instruments

The wind-driven saxophone adds a sultry sound.
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Wind instruments such as saxophones, trumpets and flutes help give pop music a realistic and full sound. Saxophones make their most prominent appearances in smooth, sexy 1970s-style songs in the vein of performers such as Barry White and Isaac Hayes.

Orchestral Strings

The tender violin has been known to lend its sound to pop songs.
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Orchestral string instruments such as the violin, viola and cello are occasionally featured in pop music. Orchestral string instruments are often used to accompany solo vocalists in slow songs, but they occasionally make an appearance in pop rock and metal songs as well. Many songs from the band Queen feature strings, and so do many songs by the Beatles.


About the Author

Heather Bliss has been writing professionally since 1998, specializing in technology, computer repair, gardening, music and politics. Bliss holds an Associate of Arts in journalism from Moorpark College. She also has a Bachelor of Arts from California State University, San Marcos, completed with a focus on music and performing arts technology.

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