Rolling Stones Infographic

100 greatest songs and the 58 music instruments that made them [Infographic]

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Timeless songs require a mix of great writing, performances, production, and arrangement. Berklee Online breaks down the music instruments that make up Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest songs of all time in this infographic.

For all of us who are musicians, and anyone who loves music, digging into the instrumentation and arrangement of our favorite recorded songs is part of the wonder and majesty of music production. Whether or not you’re a true believer in Rolling Stone and its notion of what the greatest songs of all time are, its 2011 listing of the top 500 Greatest Songs is pretty comprehensive (I’ll admit, I haven’t been able to read through all of them as yet).

Berklee Online went a step further, and did an analysis of the music instruments used on the top 100 songs from Rolling Stone‘s list. As the Berklee post states, “While a large percentage of the selection use guitar, bass, and drums (no surprise), the 58 instruments in this graphic go beyond the expected. From the swarmandal The Beatles used in ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ to the castanets in The Ronettes’ ‘Be My Baby,’ and mouth harp in The Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations,’ these classic songs tap into more than the typical standby sounds.”

Take a look at the infographic below. Any surprises? The glockenspiel on “Born To Run” wasn’t one I could have pulled out of thin air, and the theremin is always a fun one to pick out from the crowd. I was just listening to the original Star Trek theme song with my kids last night to give them a taste of what it sounds like (and figured out that it’s not even used on the recording!). Well, except in this video.

I also found in the Wikipedia post on the theremin that it wasn’t actually used on the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.” It may be a picky point, but the entry asserts that the sounds on that song were made by a Tannerin (AKA Electro-Theramin).

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9 thoughts on “100 greatest songs and the 58 music instruments that made them [Infographic]

  1. i like Mellotron instrument. its called harmoniam as bengali name in india. this is a very old instrument. thanks ” Andre ” for giving ideas about instruments. hope fully next we will get more helpful info by you.

  2. It comes as no surprise to me, a lifelong Beatles’ fan, that the majority of different instruments were used by them. Even as a teenager I knew they were unique and euphonious.

  3. The instrument at top left is not a mouth harp; mouth harp is slang for harmonica. The instrument pictured is variously known as a Jew’s harp, juice harp, or jaw harp.

  4. While The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” features an instrument that sounds much like a theremin, in fact the sound is made by a unique instrument called the electro-theremin It was re-created in 1999 and renamed the “Tannerin” in honor of the original creator and performer.

    1. It was a Jenco Celeste that he played. It was black and had to be Miced. Some versions had a pick up installed but it was not played on orchestra bells. David Sancious is on the track.

  5. There is no mellotron on Stairway to Heaven (studio version). JPJ played electric piano. The “flutes” at the beginning were recorders played by JPJ. Live, however he would sometimes do the recorder parts on Mellotron, other times on Hammond Organ. In later years he used synth.

  6. VOICE, people– what’s the number one instrument– the instrument nearly every person is born with, but so few learn to utilize well??? VOICE. And shame on the makers of this poster/list, for not listing it as number One.

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