Choosing the Sounds That Make the Music Unique
The term “instrumentation” has to do with the types of instruments chosen to convey the music created by the performers. Just as a painter chooses colors for the palette for his painting, musicians choose the types of instruments that are appropriate for the style of music and the subjective “feel” of the song they are performing. Often the instrumentation “set” is influenced by the style of music being performed. The same piece of music, though, can have thousands of combinations of instrumentation.
The typical instrumentation for a rock song is built around a drum set, bass guitar, rhythm guitar, and lead guitar, but also may include synthesizers or piano. If the style of the music is in the jazz genre, the instrumentation set most often would include trumpets, trombones, saxophones, drums, stand-up bass, guitar, and piano. When listening to country & western, the instrumentation heard would be built around a steel guitar, electric guitar, drums, and possibly keyboards.
Although all three styles may include vocals, the styles of the vocals being sung are very different when singing rock as compared to jazz or country & western music. Still more stylistic changes happen when a singer shifts to sing pop or musical theatre or folk music.
Each style has its own peculiar set of vocal characteristics that conform to that particular genre of American music. These vocal characteristics are some of the clues that help reveal what type of music is being heard.
The type of instrumentation used in a song, then, is a creative choice of the performers taking these two things into consideration: the style of music being created and the subjective feel of the music and lyrics. A careful attention to the kinds of instruments being played will not only reveal the broad genre of music, but also the narrower subset of the style.