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A Theme Tune without lyrics. Often, there is some attempt to thematically match the instrumentals to the tone of the show; a noble, orchestral theme for high drama, something brassy and mysterious for Speculative Fiction, something fast and powerful for an Adventure Series, something quirky and odd for a comedy show. Often, such a theme tune will be adapted from an obscure old symphony piece.

Far and away the most common style of Theme Tune for American drama series.

Note that some Instrumental Theme Tunes actually possess Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics.

Examples of Instrumental Theme Tune include:

Anime and Manga

  • Trigun has, essentially, a long guitar solo as a theme tune.
  • Cowboy Bebop's theme song, "Tank", has a few spoken words in the beginning, but is mostly a Charles Mingus-esque big-band jazz number.
  • Gungrave's theme song, "Family".
  • The OVA of Read or Die opens with an instrumental piece that sounds like a James Bond homage.
  • Monster
  • Like Cowboy Bebop above, Gunsmith Cats also opens its episodes with a jazzy instrumental.
  • Bruce Faulconer's score for the American dub of Dragonball Z contains several highly awesome character theme tunes, spawning the release of several albums and hundreds of fan-created bootleg tracks. Notable examples include "Vegeta's Theme", "Perfect Cell's Theme" and "SSJ 3 Powerup".
  • Gun X Sword opens with what can only be described as a spaghetti western theme played with traditional Japanese instruments.
  • Crest of the Stars and its sequels use a brass-heavy symphonic theme.
  • Mahou Shoujo Tai Arusu/Tweeny Witches
  • Haibane Renmei's Free Bird, later becoming a Leitmotif.
  • Fushigi Yuugi has some instrumentals itself, but in a subversion: What seems like the backing track to an Image Song with lyrics is actually an entirely different song. (i.e. "Inoru You Ni Aishiteru"/"Romantic", "Ai To Iu Na No Tatakai Ni"/"Sassou To...", "I Wish"/"Music Box")
  • There are several versions of the theme song of Lupin III, both instrumental (the majority, including the original second-series one) and vocal (the second opening of the second series, and various Lupin-related jazz albums). The original 1971 series had a completely different theme, but it's not as memorable, and hasn't been used since the new one was written in 1977.
  • The American release of Speed Grapher uses an instrumental opening theme, though the Japanese release uses Duran Duran's "Girls on Film".
  • Baccano! has Gun's & Roses by Paradise Lunch.
  • The Marvel Anime adaptations of Iron Man and Wolverine both have instrumental rock themes as opening and ending songs.
  • Divergence Eve has a metal/techno/rock opening, lyricless.
  • Devil May Cry: The Animated Serieshas "d.m.c." by rungran for its opening song, NOT to be confused with Run DMC.
  • The anime adaptation of Axis Powers Hetalia has an orchestral opening theme.


  • John Carpenter's classic Halloween theme is a good example of a modern version of the trope: a nearly non-musical electronic sound beat designed to create tension whenever it is heard in the movie.
  • There are only three James Bond films with instrumentals over the titles: Dr. No, From Russia with Love and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It's believed the last case was so because John Barry couldn't figure out how to put in all nine syllables into a coherent song.
    • Although From Russia with Love does have a vocal version by Matt Monro, heard on a car radio in the film itself and over the end credits.
  • Um, hello? Star Wars?
  • The Pink Panther. You could never forget the saxophone punctuated piece by Henry Mancini, could you?

Live Action TV

  • One of the most famous: John Philip Sousa's "Liberty Bell March", better known as the opening theme to Monty Python's Flying Circus.
  • The entire Star Trek franchise, excepting Star Trek: Enterprise. Gene Roddenberry receives co-writer credit (and a share of the royalties) for the original Star Trek theme, as he wrote the lyrics. If you just said "The theme from Star Trek had lyrics?", you probably know how composer Alexander Courage felt about this.
    • Also a bit of a case of What Could Have Been, as there were plans to integrate it as a song sung by a space station's lounge singer in Star Trek: Enterprise, but well, it was cancelled.
    • Actually, this would've been the entire franchise, had the original Enterprise theme tune not been rejected. You can hear it in the closing credits.
  • The West Wing
  • Doctor Who. The original radiophonic theme tune was modified by addition almost constantly between 1963 to 1980. New electronic and synthesised versions were then tried, followed by an orchestral version for the Made for TV Movie and series 1-3 of the revival series.
    • "Voyage of the Damned" through The End of Time uses a highly rocked-up version of the opening theme.
    • Series 5 onwards uses a version by Murray Gold that mixes a retro-electronic baseline and a grand orchestra (and choir!) to create a haunting but upbeat version.
  • Monk, before they got Randy Newman to do a new song for the second season. The old one still popped up in the underscore, though.
    • Since the original theme won composer Jeff Beal an Emmy, it's strange that Universal decided to change it. Then again, Newman's theme won an Emmy as well...
  • The X-Files
  • Taxi
  • MacGyver
  • Quantum Leap
  • ALF
  • Miami Vice - one of the biggest complaints about the movie adaptation was it's lack of the groundbreaking rock intro and incidental music used in the series.
  • Knight Rider (And note how radically different was the tone of its Revival, Team Knight Rider)
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • The A-Team's dramatic military march
  • JAG, as well as its spinoffs NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles.
  • The emblematic funk-soul tune from Sanford and Son
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Angel
    • Well, the extended version has lyrics.
  • The William Tell Overture as the theme to The Lone Ranger, although this dates back to radio.
  • Another instrumental that was written long before it became a theme tune: "Yakety Sax" from The Benny Hill Show, originally recorded by Boots Randolph.
  • Night Court
  • American Gladiators!
  • Pick a Game Show, any Game Show.
    • Notable exceptions include the 1970s version of To Tell the Truth, the 1990 game show adaptation of Monopoly ("M, ohh, N, ohh, P O L Y"), and The Wizard of Odds (with Alan Thicke singing such lyrics as "Who's the guy with the prizes/That'll light up your eyes-es..."). All Star Blitz briefly used a Surreal Theme Tune with "lyrics" that mainly consisted of the show's title and gibberish, but retired this theme after one week.
  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour used several different versions of Charles Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette" as their theme music, making the composition famous in the process.
  • Dexter's theme song sets the mood perfectly for a show where the protagonist is a serial killer.
  • The theme song for the Canadian series Mentors was a computerized-sounding, piano based tune, with plenty of beeps and blips. Fitting, given that the show revolved around teenagers who could bring back historical figures with the help of a supercomputer.
  • Most of the Stargate franchise, including Stargate the movie, Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, and Stargate: The Ark of Truth... but notably not Stargate Infinity.
  • Fawlty Towers used a sedate string quartet piece that ironically counterpointed the show's manic events.
  • The theme from Hill Street Blues was set to credits that look like a cross between a sitcom and a police procedural. However, the sad, simple piano chords tie it all into the real mood of the show: an ongoing tragedy and the people who have to cope with it, day after day.
    • And of course it's a blues, punning on the title.
  • According to Jim had a jazz piece as its opening theme.
  • Mork and Mindy had a cheery, upbeat theme tune to match the tone of the show.
    • On the other hand, there was a different but equally upbeat theme in Italy. With lyrics.
  • Mission Impossible - composer Lalo Schifrin actually made a short piece to go with the climactic chase scene but the producers liked it so much they decided to make it the central theme.
    • Schifrin's original theme for Starsky and Hutch also came from the pilot's climax.
    • Lalo Schifrin also composed a theme for the early 70s TV show Medical Center that could have worked for an action show too!
  • Many TV westerns had instrumental themes. Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Wagon Train are among the most famous.
  • The Kids in The Hall had "Having an Average Weekend" by instrumental band Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet.
  • Relatively common in sitcoms, such as Roseanne (excluding the final season) and The Cosby Show. However, the whole "thematically match the instrumentals to the tone of the show" part doesn't exactly work for the latter, which for one season used a grand orchestral piece for the opening of a comedy show.
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm: Frolic by Luciano Michelini.
  • A staple of J.J. Abrams creations, including Fringe and Alias. Strangely, Lost bucks the trend, with a single Sound Effect similar to BWROOOOOONG...
  • For Real Song Theme Tune par excellence, see the use of Eagles' "Journey Of The Sorcerer" for The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy. Famously chosen because Douglas Adams thought that the theme for a show about hitch-hiking should have a banjo in it somewhere.
  • Andromeda
  • Pushing Daisies.
  • Twin Peaks had... The Twin Peaks Theme, a slow synthesizer/bass piece composed by Lynch's long time collaborator Angelo Badalamenti.
  • Barney Miller's jazzy theme. Actually, a lot of the detective and police shows from late '70s/ early '80s. Magnum, P.I., Simon and Simon, Remington Steele...
  • Danger Man, starring Patrick McGoohan, had a weird but upbeat (for a spy series) jazz-march hybrid theme, with the lead melody played on harpsichord. Granted, a new theme (with lyrics) was commissioned for the US airings of the series (as Secret Agent), but the American audiences still heard the original theme anyway -- it played over the opening scene of every episode, and was often used to set the mood whenever secrets were being passed around.
  • Mash had an instrumental theme, "Suicide is Painless". The song had lyrics in the movie.
  • Starsky and Hutch had a different instrumental theme for each of its four seasons. Season 1 Season 2, Season 3 and Season 4
  • Both the original Hawaii Five-O and the new 2010 revival.
  • Knot's Landing.
  • Mike Post, who wrote many of the themes already mentioned(Magnum PI, Law & Order, The A-Team, MacGyver, Quantum Leap) started it all with The Rockford Files, one of the first TV themes he ever wrote.
  • The first two seasons of Eureka used a whimsical, whistled tune. Seasons 3 and 4 used an abbreviated version.
  • Bottom memorably uses two seedy pieces of blues music over its opening and closing credits: ""BB's Blues" for the opening, and the more bouncy and upbeat "Last Night" for the crazy-dancing end credits.
  • Babylon 5, a slightly different one for each season.
  • Top Gear uses a remake of The Allman Brothers Band's instrumental "Jessica," making this a Real Song Theme Tune as well.
  • All of the shows in the Law and Order franchise use the same tune, but with unique arrangements for each show.
  • Hockey Night in Canada had an unforgettable instrumental theme in "The Hockey Theme", which was so ubiquitous in its home country that it was actually considered Canada's second national anthem. Unfortunately, thanks to licensing issues, that song is now the theme for The NHL on TSN. HNIC's replacement song, "Canadian Gold", is mostly instrumental, but includes a few samples of crowds cheering "Hey!" during the piece.
  • Dallas One of the best!
  • Or speaking of Henry Mancini, how about the extremely well-known Peter Gunn theme.
  • Kamen Rider Hibiki was the only Kamen Rider series to have one. It ended up being one of the victims of the show's tragic Executive Meddling.
  • Both Garo and its sequel Makai Senki use instrumentals (or at least operatic chanting) as the opening themes for the first halves of the series, before switching to JAM Project songs.
  • Boy Meets World had a different one each season for seasons 1-4. Seasons 5-7 had a Thematic Theme Tune.
  • Home Improvement
  • Furuhata Ninzaburo
  • The Comic Strip Presents had a brief, cheery organ passage, played against a title card depicting an atomic bomb with "Have A Nice Day" spray-painted on the side falling toward a dot on a road map marked "You Are Here".
  • Without a Trace, the only show in the CSI Verse not to use a Real Song Theme Tune.
  • Bones
  • The Office
  • Parks and Recreation

Video Games


Western Animation