Is the recording an "instrumental" if it never had words?

Quick question: I am adding in a boxset of Ozric Tentacles early works and these don’t have words. Just music - no one sings on them.

When I am entering the recordings, are these “instrumentals” when there are no words? Or is that a tick box for when a song with words is played without them?


I usually don’t use the “instrumental” attribute if the work being performed doesn’t have any lyrics.


Thanks. This is what I was starting to realise. It is a bit pointless for a band who never sing.

I assume Classical Music doesn’t tick this either.

I’ll wait for a bit more feedback before unticking it from all of those six CDs!! (Or hunt for a script to toggle them en-masse)

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Sometimes I check this box, even if the track is linked to an instrumental.
I didn’t find any better way (carefully reading credits is not as fast) to see from release page which tracks are instrumentals and which are songs.

But I agree it’s redundant.
I wish it would be more obvious which works, and thereby which tracks, are instrumentals.


I don’t. I have some playlists that I use for when reading literature. Those playlist have one essential condition in common: ‘must be instrumental’, since songs with words are distracting when reading.

So I would ask/vote for always checking the ‘instrumental’ box when there are no words sung in a song.


This kind of note needs to get into the definitions in the help files.

I do think it makes more sense to have the “instrumental” tick any time there are no vocals.


Oh dear… I think I opened a can of worms.

From this page in the documentation:

" Type is generally only useful for classical music. Most non-classical works will either be of the type Song or have no type at all. Please don’t use Song for instrumental works, since this is quite controversial with the community."

So if I am not supposed to use “Song”, then what “type” are these? Almost everything in that list of “Type” seems to be related to Classical.

Or is that controversial warning to do with the Classical editors? (A world that I stay away from due to confusion)

Relationship Types / Recording-Work / Performance

Use the “instrumental” attribute only for works that have lyrics.

As for the work type, just leave it blank if none of the options are applicable.


As mentioned above, instrumental is specifically to say “this is an instrumental recording of a non-instrumental work”. For works that have no lyrics, that can be indicated with the “no lyrics” language option.

And yes, please just don’t select any type if you’re not sure - there’s a reason why that’s not a mandatory field! :slight_smile:


Thanks everyone and @reosarevok, that kinda makes sense. And now I have a few follow up questions as I had previously read these using standard English meanings of the words. I had thought I had been selecting these correctly. And now I have heaps of “instrumental” recordings of “English” language “songs” that need correcting.

1\ Can the main documentation be updated to say this a bit clearer? Ideally on the How To Use Works page as that database relationship page quoted above is harder to find and read?

2\ Has anyone got a script or two so I can bulk fix this? I have dozens of releases marked like this. Works that I am now told are not “songs” if no one sings and language that has to change from “English” to “no lyrics” (I had never seen that option before).

Then I have hundreds of recordings with “instrumental” ticked as I had been thinking like @hiccup that an Instrumental is an Instrumental. Now I realise it is “No Lyrics”.

If there is any script out there that can work at least at Release level to flip those three settings I can buzz through and untangle these. Otherwise doing them one by one will take days. :confounded: I’ll complete the mission, but any assistance with tools would be appreciated.

Edit: Okay - I think I have the scripts I need to correct this from here: I’ll look into this this evening and start correcting my muddled errors.

Thanks to those brilliant scrips, the “instrumental” flags now stripped from 80% of the recordings I changed at the weekend. Will manually check to see if I missed any this evening.

Now to the Works, but I can’t get this script to work in Violentmonkey ( )

I am still confused by some of the language. So a song writer who writes a song without lyrics is not writing a song in MB eyes? Sometimes language is a little weird in this MB World. :laughing:


He writes a song with [no lyrics]. That’s what I always thought. If it’s not written for a song it can’t be a song, right?


Well, in that case, I’d call them a “tunewriter”, not a songwriter! ;p

The Wikipedia page for “Instrumental” does say that “Through semantic widening, a broader sense of the word song may refer to instrumentals” and that’s certainly true, but that widening makes it so that an organ piece is also “a song”, so it’s not very useful if you want types to be meaningful :slight_smile:

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I’m not editing classical though. I am editing non-classical music. And I had assumed, as noted above, that a song writer writes songs even if there are no words. When the song is played on the radio he is paid for that performance even though he doesn’t sing.

This is why I am asking - what is he writing if that one “thingy without lyrics” is in the middle of an album of songs. It is not a “song” and it is not “instrumental”. This is where my understanding of the use language is breaking down. Puzzled :confused:

What about a composer writing a tune for a song, the lyricist takes too much time and the tune is published without lyrics? Still not a song?
I’m saying this because I know of instances where the music was composed first. For me, then, it’s a song without lyrics.


Hang on… but how does that Wikipedia page start?

" An instrumental is a musical composition or recording without lyrics, or singing, although it might include some inarticulate vocals, such as shouted backup vocals in a Big Band setting."

That tells me these musical pieces without words should be “instrumental”. But MB says no.

And the “Song” page tells me that a piece with words is a song. Which is what MB is saying, but as @rey200 mentions there are often songs without words. :crazy_face:

I am going to turn this off and leave it to settle in as too many definitions are clashing in my head here.

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No, no, MB doesn’t say that they’re not instrumental :slight_smile: If we had a work type for instrumental, you could use it! (we don’t currently because that’s also tricky, but that’s a different issue! :smiley: ).

MB only says “do not set this ‘instrumental’ attribute that is meant to separate instrumental and vocal recordings of works with lyrics” :slight_smile:

I am not sure I would agree with that.
To me it seems like that interpretation of ‘instrumental’ could be an additional annotation.

If you have a recording/work/composition, and there are no vocals on it, to me it seems an obvious and unambiguous choice to label it as ‘instrumental’.
It would also not be prone to cause confusion or doubt by an editor or others evaluating it.
It’s basic and simple: 'No vocals?, > instrumental.

When it is considered to be a relative concept and something you would only be able to make a decision on after the recording has been compared to some other recording, it becomes a bit vague, and also more prone to discussions and/or differences in opinions.

Hm, having read some more comments, I am getting some doubts if I have a correct understanding where and how this ‘instrumental’ attribute is set. I should probably read some more before having ‘an opinion’ :wink:


@IvanDobsky, more about this strangeness of song not sung:

I mean, I think I was the one to create it, but even if I wasn’t, we did add it specifically for that. You might want to redefine it, but for now, that’s what it’s supposed to mean :slight_smile:

In fact, IIRC it was supposed to mean more precisely “the lyricist and other similar relationships for the work don’t apply to this recording”, since there’s otherwise no way of telling that. To the point that the general agreement was not to use it for karaoke tracks, even though they’re actually instrumental, because they are meant to be sung on so the lyrics are relevant :smiley:

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What wiki says is irrelevant, because we do not have a type “Instrumental”. Instrumentals, as said above have in general no type in MusicBrainz outside classical. But you can (only) add “instrumental” as a property of a recording, on the same level as “live” or “partial”, saying: we have here a performance of a given Work/Song which differs from the original by being performed “instrumental”, or “live”, or “as part of a medley”.

Off topic – as this is really another can of worms: The definition of “Song” as Work with lyrics only is still controversial. An instrumental track in an album of a singer/songwriter is not the only doubtful case; in classical also several composers have published Works explicitly called “Songs without words”…