For anyone who loves recording and production, digging into the instrumentation of a song is part of the mystery of great music.
Whether or not your list of the top 100 songs of all time aligns with the list Rolling Stone published in 2011, where it listed the top 500 Greatest Songs of all time, a great many of them have to overlap.
Berklee Online went one step further and did an analysis of the instruments used on the top 100 songs from Rolling Stone‘s list. As the Berklee post states, “While a large percentage of the selections 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 would have pulled out of thin air, and the theremin is always a fun one to pick out from the crowd. I recently listened to the original Star Trek theme song with my kids to give them a taste, only to realize it’s not used on the recording! Well, it is 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).