Losfer Words: Why isn’t instrumental music more popular amongst heavy metal listeners

This was originally on the LotFP: Metal blog, and I want to make sure this response isn't lost in the archive there:

From "Ace Herostratus Warloch":

"An intersting point of view but I think you have overlooked a few things including the most crucial element of all - WHY people listen to music in the first place.

There are obviously many reasons WHY people listen to music but a major one is that most people don't like to be alone even if it is just at the subconscious level. A human voice always gives people a sense of connectedness to some extent or another. The problem with instrumental music is that it often comes across as missing it's soul; once again, maybe not at a conscious level, but as I'm sure you know, the subconscious plays a very large part in a persons day to day decisions and behavior.

As far as lyrics affecting a persons taste, I feel this is largely personal. A lot of people actually have no idea what they're favorite songs are about and don't even care - they just like singing along, which is another factor you overlooked.

With vocals, anyone can join in any song anywhere anytime provided they know the lyrics or at least most of them. Who doesn't like to sing along to their favorite songs while driving to or from work? This is often when people like to sing - when no one else can hear them. People also like to sing along to their favorit songs while working. This helps take their mind off their work and get through the day.

Generally speaking, instrumental music is just too 'alien'for most. They can't connect to it or become one with it like they can with music with a human voice.

This brings me to yet another point. People like music with vocals even if they don't understand what is being said. One example is Rammstein, the band who sing in German. American kids have no idea what the hell they are singing about but still like them anyway. Also, back when I produced a radio show on KRPR 89.9, I would play the French version of Anthrax's cover of "Antisocial" and the German version of Manowar's "Heart of Steel" among other non-english sung songs. People loved this even if they didn't know those languages. Basically what I am saying is that a human voice, no matter what it says or how, allows a soul to soul connection that is impossible to get with instrumental music.

Another thing I would like to bring to attention is that one never hears an instrumental piece of music being referred to as a song. And this is because it's not. For a piece of music to be a song requires a human voice. So in a way you are trying to compare two very different beasts.

For the most part, I feel instrumental music is more often than not better off when used with movies, power point presentations etc... My reasoning: when I was a kid I used to love the music that went with my favorite TV shows so when I found a TV themes audio cassette with the music for these shows I bought it - and boy was I disappointed when I listend to it on my walkman. The music was hardly appealing or interesting without the images, voice overs and anticipation of watching the shows they were associated with.

Of course there are exceptions to this and one of them is Joe Satriani's Surfing With the Alien album. People that don't like instrumental music like this album. The tracks "Surfing with the Alien," "Crushing Day" and "Always With Me, Always With You" are all played on the radio.

So it is possible for instrumentals to successfully make it into people's regular listening habits. As for why, well that could be an article all to itself.

As far as metal's image and lyrics destroying it's musical credibility in the eyes of outside observers: WHO CARES! The mainstream is notoriously shallow and trendy and the people who make up this demographic tend to only like bands their friends like because their friends like them or because the mainstream has brainwashed them into thinking they are cool. Or because they are afraid of being uncool by not liking them.

That said you can often 'convert' these people to a higher awareness of metal if you do it right. Basically you start them out with an intelligent band that is easy for them to sink their ears into such as Shadow Gallery or Kamelot then you slowly work them up to harder stuff such as Grave Digger or Alestorm for example. Don't try to force your personal tastes on them. Instead, try to match their personalities up to whatever metal direction you think might appeal to them. Vocal style will be a primary element in doing this.

You see, vocals and vocal styles add a lot to music besides the aforementioned SOUL. For instance, what would the Scottish pirate metal of Alestorm be without the vocals or lyrics? Would it even be possible to hear their music as "Scottish pirate metal" without the vocals and lyrics?

Not to mention people want to listen to music they can relate to and 'speaks' to them in some way. This is a hard thing to accomplish for an instrumental and is largely why instrumentals will never be as popular; or be the deciding factor whether someone likes a certain band or not.

In the end, I feel that instrumentals are to be appreciated for what they are and should not be unfairly compared to songs. Really, like comparing zebra's to kangaroos."