The right music can play a critical role at a funeral or memorial service. Music has the power to express emotions we may not have the words to express ourselves. And that is an important point to remember.
Music doesn’t need to have words at all to convey certain feelings. In fact, sometimes, lyrics can even dampen the power of an instrumental piece. Words simply can’t capture some emotional experiences.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Classical Songs for a Funeral
- Sad Instrumental Music for a Funeral
- Upbeat Instrumental Music for a Funeral
- Instrumental Music for a Funeral Slideshow
Keep that in mind if you’re planning a memorial service or funeral and are struggling to come up with music ideas. The following instrumental songs for a funeral might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Classical Songs for a Funeral
Classical music often sets the tone for funerals and similar occasions. Classic funeral pieces to consider include the following:
1. “Air on a G String” by Bach
This stunning Bach piece evokes a sense of dignity and pride, making it a perfect work of instrumental funeral music if you want to honor someone who lived an admirable noteworthy life.
2. “Come, Sweet Death” by Bach
This is another Bach piece worth considering when you’re searching for ideal instrumental music for a funeral. While the piece’s name may be somewhat morbid, the composition is a stunning piece of work that will ensure anyone attending a funeral treats the service with the reverence it deserves.
3. “Canon in D” by Pachelbel
“Canon in D” is an iconic baroque composition that often shows up on playlists for various important occasions. Along with funerals, many choose to play “Canon in D” during weddings, family reunions, holiday gatherings, and similar events.
4. “Adagio for Strings” by Barber
This haunting piece served as instrumental funeral music after the passing of Albert Einstein and Princess Grace of Monaco. Additionally, radio and TV stations throughout the world played it to honor the memories of such figures as Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy.
Sad Instrumental Music for a Funeral
The sadness we feel when a loved one dies is one of the most difficult emotions to authentically express. These pieces of instrumental funeral music illustrate how sometimes the right melody can say much more than any words ever could:
5. “Adagio in G Minor” by Albinoni
“Adagio in G Minor” is achingly beautiful, with the strings almost sounding as if they were weeping in despair at times.
6. “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven
The almost sinister quality of “Moonlight Sonata” may not appeal to everyone trying to strike a respectful tone at a funeral. To some, it may sound too despairing or bleak.
However, there’s a reason some still decide it’s the right choice for a funeral: The piece does not shy away from expressing deeply painful emotions. In some instances, the type of blunt honesty is appropriate when mourning someone. Just consider the effect music will have on others in attendance when choosing this or any other piece for a funeral song.
7. “Edge of Darkness” by Eric Clapton
“Edge of Darkness” is a very unique song. Throughout the piece, Clapton plays mournful blues-and-jazz-inspired guitar licks over a track that sounds much like a classical composition. The result resembles a combination of a traditional funeral dirge and a personal expression of grief.
8. “Blue in Green” by Miles Davis
Any track from Miles Davis’ classic Kind of Blue album could earn a spot on the list of the best instrumental funeral music. Consider listening to the entire album to find one that speaks most to you. In general, “Blue In Green” may simply be the most traditionally “sad” of the mix, but that’s entirely up for debate.
Upbeat Instrumental Music for a Funeral
Instrumental funeral music doesn’t need to solely consist of dirges and other mournful compositions! As these pieces prove, sometimes the best choice for a funeral is a tune that sparks feelings of joy instead of sadness.
9. “Scandinavia” by Van Morrison
“Scandinavia” starts out quite slow, but it builds to a joyful rhythm. The almost folksy quality of the music seems to express honor and praise for a simple life well-lived without a single line of lyrics.
10. “The Shire Theme” or “Hobbiton Theme” by Howard Shore
Don’t overlook movie scores when choosing instrumental funeral music! This section from the score to The Lord of the Rings, which many refer to as “The Shire Theme” or “Hobbiton Theme,” strikes a balance between a whimsical rhythm and a nostalgic melody. It may be perfect for a funeral, particularly if the deceased was a fan of these films.
11. “Jessica” by The Allman Brothers Band
This classic is so remarkably upbeat that it may not be appropriate instrumental funeral music for all services. You’ll have to use your judgment to determine whether you think this choice would make the wrong impression on some mourners, who may take issue with its gleeful melody during what would otherwise be a somber occasion.
However, some people make it very clear that they don’t want anyone to mourn them excessively when they pass. Such a person may want their funeral to be a celebration of their life. If that’s the type of funeral you’re planning, keep this track in mind. It’s unorthodox, yes, but some find it’s a perfect funeral song for dads who were devout classic rock fans.
12. “The Entertainer” by Marvin Hamlisch
Many recognize this track as the main theme of the film The Sting. Like “Jessica,” it’s upbeat to such a degree that it’s probably not the best choice for every funeral, but it’s almost definitely an option worth considering for the service of someone who had a playful sense of humor and (as the name implies) loved to entertain others.
Instrumental Music for a Funeral Slideshow
The images on display are just one component of a strong funeral slideshow. To ensure a slideshow truly captures the spirit of someone who’s passed on, it helps to choose the right backing music. These are all options worth keeping in mind:
13. “Last Exit to Brooklyn” by Mark Knopfler
This theme from the film of the same name is ideal for a funeral slideshow because the music evokes a sense of nostalgia without being intrusive. It’s slow, and the melody is fairly basic, allowing it to serve as the perfect backdrop to a slideshow without distracting from the images on screen.
14. “Your Hand in Mine” by Explosions in the Sky
If you’re considering putting together a fairly long funeral slideshow to cover all the years of a long life, and you don’t mind stirring up some strong emotions in your audience, consider using “Your Hand in Mine” by ambient music group Explosions in the Sky.
Sometimes, this track consists of a gentle and haunting melody that expresses a vague but undeniable sense of longing. At other times, it’s energetic and triumphant, like a raucous celebration of life.
15. “No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)” by The T-Bones
Funeral slideshows often consist of nostalgic pictures from decades long past. If you’re creating a slideshow featuring vintage pictures from the 1960s, you may want to complement the images with this piece.
Those who were alive back when this track was popular might know that it actually started as a piece of music for an Alka-Seltzer commercial. Despite this, the track’s jangly appeal resonated with music fans, making it a genuine hit. It’s nearly impossible not to think of the ‘60s when you hear it.
16. “Let It Be (Instrumental Version)” by The Beatles
Yes, “Let It Be” technically has lyrics, but a quick search on Google reveals there are many versions of the classic Beatles song that do away with the lyrics while preserving the instrumental tracks. The result is a simple melody that adds emotional depth to a funeral slideshow.
This example brings up a point worth remembering. There are instrumental versions and covers of many popular songs. If you’re looking for instrumental funeral music, but most of the music you’re familiar with has lyrics, you can make a list of your favorite tunes and then search to find instrumental takes on them.
17. “Last Train Home” by Pat Metheny
This beautiful track from legendary jazz guitarist Pat Metheny somehow manages to capture the hopeful feeling of being on a long journey back to a place we’ve deeply missed. Like all the best funeral songs, it doesn’t shy away from sadness, but its essence is thoroughly optimistic and joyful.
Instrumental Funeral Music: When Words Aren’t Enough
Again, there are some emotions that can be extremely difficult to express in words. Luckily, when words fail us, instrumental music can say exactly what we want to say.