The Instruments Behind the Sounds of Soul

Soul Music is a melodic meeting of sound and style. Motown was inspired by soul making it a timeless genre in the industry. With the suave moves and suits meeting the Motown motion of the music, the behind the scenes star of the show is often overlooked. Soul or Motown in a word is self-describing bringing images of our favorite songs over the years. Just as there is a figure behind the curtain, there is always music behind the song.

When you are tapping your feet to the beat of your playlists, it is not often you pay attention to the specific instruments creating the soulful sound. While there are no two songs exactly alike, an array of instruments were used to express the setting into a Motown way of life.

Drums and Bass

Let’s face it, drums and Bass can highlight any genre with a soul driven rhythm. The importance to note in Motown is the escalation of instruments and how they were used. Electric versions were spawning with an experimentation of multiple sounds at one time. This offered a forerunning experience of having a collage of beating bass added to the mainstream musical collection.

Pianos and Organs

As Motown spurred from Soul which was derived from Gospel, it makes sense the piano and organ would be mainstays of the group. Keeping in tune with the originating music, the keys gave a special harmony to each song. Nostalgia fills the song with an old fashioned tempo. Electronic forms were adapted and introduced to the generation which ultimately bridged the Motown scene into the future of pop.


In addition to the drums and bass of a song, some artists brought in the swanky sound of a tambourine to add a blended mix of depth. The instrument is a two sided coin allowing for an array of notes and music to be complemented by its use. You will see many bands using the tambourine for its dexterous nature. It is small yet a mighty addition to Soulful tunes.

Brass and Woodwind


Jazz and big band genres had a high usage of brass and woodwind instruments. Motown includes the tradition in many forms. From flutes to saxophones, there is a wide variety of musical legends in the making. The harmonica, like the tambourine, became a sensation in music. Using the differentiated tones lent a good balance to the song.


There are few genres that do not widely use instruments in the string family. Guitars are the most popular of the group with acoustic and electrical versions. Motown was no stranger to the use of strings in their musical sections. In fact, some of your favorites are led with guitar sounds throughout the chorus. Solo grooves became an art form for many bands keeping Motown on the top ten of the listening lists.

Now that you know the instruments behind the song, you can fully appreciate the moving sway of Motown. With collaboration and ingenuity, Motown continues to be a present day icon of the ages.