Many people choose instrumental songs for funerals due to their versatility. Plus, bringing your own music players instead of hiring a professional allows families to save a little extra money to buy those precious things like memory lockets and other keepsakes.
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A well-chosen combination of both uplifting and sad funeral songs will add dimension to your playlist. Choose from instrumental versions of well-known classics and a few pieces that’ll invite you to think outside the box.
Uplifting Instrumental Funeral Songs
Some of the best funeral songs of all time have been adapted or altered in uplifting ways for suitable renditions that are appropriate for funeral settings.
1. “Abide with Me” by Music-Themes
If you’re familiar with the original version, then you can probably hum the tune already. But this version starts with a solo piano to guide you through the first half of the song. Then, a flute joins the final half to accompany the piano. Finally, a cello completes the trio, giving the song depth.
2. “God Will Make a Way/Be Still My Soul” by Barbi Franklin
Barbi is a Midwest native who not only is an accomplished singer/songwriter but ministers to followers of Christian/Gospel. Her song, “God Will Make a Way/Be Still My Soul is a violin-led piece that walks the line between sad and uplifting.
3. “Give Thanks” by Phillip Keveren and David Angell
Pachelbel’s Canon in D is an unmistakable original. Here, artists Keveren and Angell adapt the famous song to create something heartening for the funeral mass. With just a piano and a violin, they developed a new favorite.
4. “On Angel’s Wings” by John Sarta
The original lyrics of “On Angel’s Wings” were derived from a psalm and scripture from the Old and New Testaments. Sarta’s adaptation could easily be adapted to an organ but works best when played on the piano.
5. “Harp and Bells” by Snowman Clear
Seasonally themed music playing in the background while mourners gather can influence the feeling of the funeral. Therefore, instrumental music such as “Harp and Bells” will act as a soft guide while combining the typical generous feelings that accompany winter-themed music.
6. “Wintersong” by Snowman Clear
Here’s another song by the same artist you may wish to bring into your seasonally themed music choices. It’ll work twofold as meditative music and one that invites the mourners to acknowledge the season alongside their grief as many religions recognize the fullness of time.
7. “Bluebird” by Alexis Ffrench
As one of the UK’s most popular and rising pianists, artist Alexis Ffrench is as you would expect. His music is filled with melodic tones but equal mysteriousness. A solo piano accompanied by an orchestra resonates deeply inside, making “Bluebird” an inspiring choice for the funeral of any loved one.
8. “Montana” by Le Verne
Some songs feel like their title, and “Montana” certainly makes you feel like you’re in the middle of the state somewhere looking up at the mountains as the sun rises over a field and stream. Listen for the fullness of the plucked strings as they resonate with classic country music.
9. “Song for Wermland” by Rasmus Jenzen
Rasmus Jenzen’s song combines a hint of Latin with European folk and new age influence for a piece that guides thoughts forward rather than force them to stay in one abyss of sadness. While there’s not much known about the artist, his music is available on online platforms.
10. “Blackbird” by Simon Martin Perkins
Perkins’ adaptation of Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” brings in a little Hendrix-style strum that’ll suit any classic rock lover. The song is tame enough to fit a church funeral but may be more appropriate for a memorial or any other nontraditional funeral.
11. “Wildfire” by Simon Martin Perkins
“Wildfire” above and by far changes the script on typical funeral music so that it won’t work for traditional church settings. There’s a combination of southern soul, jazz, and some understated twang that will undoubtedly sound uplifting for any attendee ready to pay tribute to any friend.
12. “Frog” by Helen Jane Long
Helen Jane Long’s original composition of “Frog” embodies childlike qualities with quick, light piano notes. At just 1:09 runtime, it’ll make for a brief interlude or an excellent addition to a photo memory album.
13. “Basher” by Slightly Stoopid
“Basher” may push the convention of funeral songs for some, but its toned down, California-style reggae influence will work for those that aren’t conventional themselves. With a short run time, all funeral guests can enjoy a moment of repose while listening to this “spiritual bath.”
Sad Instrumental Funeral Songs
Choose from either classical or modern composers in this list when searching for appropriate sad instrumental songs.
14. “Un Jour d’Été” by Dominique Charpentier
Sitting somewhere in the middle between sad and uplifting is the extended version of “One Minute and a Half of Peace” from Dominique Charpentier. Because it moves back and forth between both emotions, it works well as an accompaniment to a funeral slideshow.
15. “Lament” by Balmorhea
Listening to “Lament” feels like you’re somewhere alone in the wilderness or drifting on a lake. Midway through this piano piece, a solo stringed instrument appears to encourage not just tears but memories. The music guides the mourner to a place filled with recollection.
16. “Healah Dancing” by Keaton Henson and Ren Ford
While many appreciate the classics for funeral music, Henson and Ford’s music defines the move into modern funeral music. Although Henson’s album is called Romantic Works, the full album feels like you should be sitting alone inside your thoughts.
17. “The Lord’s Prayer” by The O'Neill Brothers
The O’Neill Brothers hail from SE Minnesota. Their music has been heard around the world, receiving cross-cultural honors and accolades. Their rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer” stays faithful to the original but gains some sweet, soulfulness.
18. “How Great Thou Art” by Jon Sarta
“How Great Thou Art” was written in 1885 by a Swedish evangelist named Reverend Carl Boberg. While it’s a familiar funeral hymn and the second most loved Christian hymnal next to “Amazing Grace,” it’s also somber. Sarta’s rendition removed the lyrics for a purely instrumental song.
19. “Cold” by Jorgé Mendez
Mendez hails from Monterrey, Mexico, and began his composing at just 13 years old. “Cold” was such a success that it received global acclaim within a year of release. Its intense sadness amplifies the listener’s experience, similar to hearing a heartbeat between breaths.
20. “Chasing Cars by Wayne O’Brien
Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” has been adapted by Wayne O’Brien in this modern song for funerals. With the lyrics missing from the music, the instruments and composition stand out. Levels of intensity and curvatures in the volume will undoubtedly produce intense feelings.
21. “With or Without You” by Vesislava
With a Cello in hand, independent artist Vesi has curated a new go-to for the classic U2 song. It is neither heartbreaking nor uplifting, though it remains somewhere left of center. The social familiarity with the music and its place in pop culture make it a modern funeral song.
22. “Someone You Loved” by Metrixx
Even as an instrumental song, “Someone You Loved” still has a haunting lyrical presence. With every strike of piano keys or move of the bow, intensely sad feelings arise from them. It’d work in both a memorial and a funeral setting, especially if your loved one appreciated modern pianists.
23. “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber
Any list of sad funeral songs would not be complete without the original “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber. His nine-minute composition climbs three separate times to elicit intense reactions but lulls throughout the final minute into a kind of acceptance. It’s a classic funeral song.
Pro-tip: A plethora of options for composers are available, including abbreviated run times.
24. “Canon in D” by Johann Pachelbel
Another classic sad instrumental funeral song is “Canon in D.” The solo piano version played by Brian Crain will echo delicately throughout any small locale but is intense enough to capture a large church or hall as well.
25. “Tears of Love” by Danny Rayel
Danny Rayel is an independent musician whose works are found in online music hubs. You’ll find his rendition of “Tears of Love” on the 2016 album Blue Skies.
26. “Gymnopédie” by Emile Pandolfi
Erik Satie’s early 19th-century composition of the Gymnopédie work is understatedly phenomenal. Since then, artists have been studying and playing his music. Check out Emile Pandolfi’s version, and you’ll hear the passion of a seasoned artist at work.
Let the Instruments Say It All
Listening to fitting music during a funeral service can enhance any feelings one might have for their lost loved one. When planning a funeral for your loved one, you’ll discover that some songs stretch the brain a bit while others provide familiarity to days gone by.