Listening to much of modern music, it’s easy to notice patterns repeated in different songs such as chord progressions and time signatures. Another commonality is the use of instrumentation with many bands including a combination of drums, electric guitar, bass guitar, acoustic guitar, and keyboard.
While there is an array of musical possibilities within this limited instrumental palette, incorporating classical instruments like trumpet, violin, flute, cello, French horn, clarinet, and glockenspiel adds color to modern music.
Fortunately, I have noticed a trend in musical artists embracing classical instruments in their songs for a fresh, imaginative take on various modern genres. Whether it is a brief xylophone feature during the verse or a prominent saxophone solo driving the chorus, the use of orchestral instruments adds new textures and layers to songs.
While there is a wide selection of orchestral instruments that have been included in modern music, there are a few instruments that show up more than others.
I’m kicking off this list with the classical king that is featured more often than any other instrument: the violin. With its ability to lightly accent music or add a driving pulse that ramps up the momentum of a song to a spectacular climax, many artists ranging from JVKE to Laufey have opted to use violins in a variety of genres.
Bold, bright, and powerful, trumpets have a tendency to take up space every time they appear. If artists want to immediately grab listeners’ attention, trumpets are a popular pick to add that desired pomp and circumstance. The trumpet is a favorite of artists like AJR and Jon Bellion who are looking to make a statement and stand out from other bands.
As an instrument that has a tone similar to the human voice, the cello creates an intimate depth and passion that reels people into a piece. Like its cousin the violin, the cello is versatile and pairs well with many combinations of instruments. Gabe Baker and Adele understand the way cello can transport you to another world and often implement them in their most heartfelt numbers.
With its distinct sound and status as a staple of jazz music, the saxophone brings a dramatic flair to every song. Artists who have a playful tone and are looking to get people up on their feet find the saxophone accomplishes just that. Lawrence and Mark Ronson often write leading saxophone lines into their music for a melody that will get listeners moving and grooving.
If you want to enrich your playlists with contemporary music that has a classical spin, check out the playlist below to get started with a sample of over 100 songs that feature orchestral instruments.
While there are many brilliant cover bands that incorporate classical instruments for reimagined versions of popular songs (such as Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, The Piano Guys, and Vitamin String Quartet to name a few), this playlist sticks to original songs. With diverse musical artists such as Cody Fry, AJR, Lizzy McAlpine, Adele, JVKE, Laufey, and Skillet, you are sure to find the right song for you.
Add a song or two from The Classical Comeback to your own playlists to create a soundtrack for your main character moments.