In honour of our Music Makes Lives Better Because... article for December 2020, we've put together a bumper playlist this month of all things 'unplugged'. Sometimes, music is fantastic without the mics, wires or use of technology of any kind... We've taken a few liberties (equipment would be needed to capture these performances, of course), but generally, we're showcasing stuff that is produced without all the gadgets.

You could say, perhaps, that almost all classical music is 'unplugged', unless it is being broadcast. And that there are no sound engineers or 'techies' at a normal classical concert, except for the guy who tunes the piano. Here’s the Royal National Scottish Orchestra’s Christmas Concert for children, which you can watch until 10 January. There are a few microphone stands (for the recording only), and it is of course, socially distanced!

Church music is different to classical, however, and the church organ was (for hundreds of years), the cutting edge of music technology. Air is pumped mechanically through pipes to make the sound, a principle invented in the 3rd century BC. And, seeing as we’re also at the appropriate time of year, here’s an 'unplugged' Coventry Carol with voices only, and a contrasting carol where the organ fills the space (even though the organist is playing it very quietly... those machines can make the walls rattle!).

In a lot of other music styles, playing entirely unplugged is unusual. But then comes the new album from Taylor Swift. When recording the songs as part of her new documentary about the album, the microphones were just used for recording, with very little added tech (it seems technology was used simply to enable the performers to play together across a long distance!):


And this very talented woman proves here she can perform with only a microphone:

Ed Sheeran is well known for unplugged performances. Some of his early ones were as a busker, and so he’s well practiced at performing with no help at all, and in quite unpromising places. The setting for these is warm and dry:

Finally, a couple of YY&M staff have been long Pentatonix fans. This is one of our favourites (an oldie but a goodie). Just their voices are used to produce this brilliantly inventive Daft Punk medley: