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Musical instrument

A musical instrument is an instrument created or adapted to make musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can be a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates to the beginnings of human culture. Early musical instruments may have been used for ritual, such as a trumpet to signal success on the hunt, or a drum in a religious ceremony. Cultures eventually developed composition and performance of melodies for entertainment. Musical instruments evolved in step with changing applications.

The date and origin of the first device considered a musical instrument is disputed. The oldest object that some scholars refer to as a musical instrument, a simple flute, dates back as far as 67,000 years. Some consensus dates early flutes to about 37,000 years ago. However, most historians believe that determining a specific time of musical instrument invention is impossible due to the subjectivity of the definition and the relative instability of materials used to make them. Many early musical instruments were made from animal skins, bone, wood, and other non-durable materials.

Musical instruments developed independently in many populated regions of the world. However, contact among civilizations caused rapid spread and adaptation of most instruments in places far from their origin. By the Middle Ages, instruments from Mesopotamia were in maritime Southeast Asia, and Europeans played instruments from North Africa. Development in the Americas occurred at a slower pace, but cultures of North, Central, and South America shared musical instruments. By 1400, musical instrument development slowed in many areas and was dominated by the Occident.

Musical instrument classification is a discipline in its own right, and many systems of classification have been used over the years. Instruments can be classified by their effective range, their material composition, their size, etc. However, the most common academic method, Hornbostel-Sachs, uses the means by which they produce sound. The academic study of musical instruments is called organology.

A musical instrument makes sounds. Once humans moved from making sounds with their bodies—for example, by clapping—to using objects to create music from sounds, musical instruments were born. Primitive instruments were probably designed to emulate natural sounds, and their purpose was ritual rather than entertainment. The concept of melody and the artistic pursuit of musical composition were unknown to early players of musical instruments. A player sounding a flute to signal the start of a hunt does so without thought of the modern notion of "making music".

  • Idiophones, which produce sound by vibrating the primary body of the instrument itself; they are sorted into concussion, percussion, shaken, scraped, split, and plucked idiophones, such as claves, xylophone, guiro, slit drum, mbira, and rattle.
  • Membranophones, which produce sound by a vibrating a stretched membrane; they may be drums (further sorted by the shape of the shell), which are struck by hand, with a stick, or rubbed, but kazoos and other instruments that use a stretched membrane for the primary sound (not simply to modify sound produced in another way) are also considered membranophones.
  • Chordophones, which produce sound by vibrating one or more strings; they are sorted into according to the relationship between the string(s) and the sounding board or chamber. For example, if the strings are laid out parallel to the sounding board and there is no neck, the instrument is a zither whether it is plucked like an autoharp or struck with hammers like a piano. If the instrument has strings parallel to the sounding board or chamber and the strings extend past the board with a neck, then the instrument is a lute, whether the sound chamber is constructed of wood like a guitar or uses a membrane like a banjo.
  • Aerophones, which produce a sound with a vibrating column of air; they are sorted into free aerophones such as a bullroarer or whip, which move freely through the air; flutes, which cause the air to pass over a sharp edge; reed instruments, which use a vibrating reed; and lip-vibrated aerophones such as trumpets, for which the lips themselves function as vibrating reeds.
  • Baines, Anthony (1993), Brass Instruments: Their History and Development, Dover Publications, ISBN  
  • Bicknell, Stephen (1999), The History of the English Organ, Cambridge University Press, ISBN  
  • Blades, James (1992), Percussion Instruments and Their History, Bold Strummer Ltd, ISBN  
  • Brown, Howard Mayer (2008), Sachs, Curt, Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians 
  • Campbell, Murray; Greated, Clive A.; Myers, Arnold (2004), Musical Instruments: History, Technology, and Performance of Instruments of Western Music, Oxford University Press, ISBN  
  • Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (30 December 2004), Archeologists discover ice age dwellers' flute, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, archived from the original on 13 August 2010 
  • Chase, Philip G.; Nowell, April (August–October 1998), "Taphonomy of a Suggested Middle Paleolithic Bone Flute from Slovenia", Current Anthropology, 39 (4): 549, doi:10.1086/204771 
  • Collinson, Francis M. (1975), The Bagpipe, Routledge, ISBN  
  • de Schauensee, Maude (2002), Two Lyres from Ur, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, ISBN  
  • Grillet, Laurent (1901), Les ancetres du violon v.1, Paris 
  • Kartomi, Margaret J. (1990), On Concepts and Classifications of Musical Instruments, University of Chicago Press, ISBN  
  • Manning, Peter (2004), Electronic and Computer Music, Oxford University Press, ISBN  
  • Marcuse, Sibyl (1975), A Survey of Musical Instruments, Harper & Row, ISBN  
  • Montagu, Jeremy (2007), Origins and Development of Musical Instruments, The Scarecrow Press, ISBN  
  • Moorey, P.R.S. (1977), "What Do We Know About the People Buried in the Royal Cemetery?", Expedition, 20 (1): 24–40 
  • Pinch, Revor; Trocco, Frank (2004), Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer, Harvard University Press, ISBN  
  • Rault, Lucie (2000), Musical Instruments: A Worldwide Survey of Traditional Music-making, Thames & Hudson Ltd, ISBN  
  • Remnant, Mary (1989), Musical Instruments: An Illustrated History from Antiquity to the Present, Batsford, ISBN  
  • Sachs, Curt (1940), The History of Musical Instruments, Dover Publications, ISBN  
  • Slovenian Academy of Sciences (11 April 1997), "Early Music", Science, 276 (5310): 203–205, doi:10.1126/science.276.5310.203g 
  • Wade-Matthews, Max (2003). Musical Instruments: Illustrated Encyclopedia. Lorenz. ISBN . 
  • Music Library Association (1974). Committee on Musical Instrument Collections. A Survey of Musical Instrument Collections in the United States and Canada, conducted by a committee of the Music Library Association, William Lichtenwanger, chairman & compiler, ed. and produced by James W. Pruitt. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Music Library Association. xi, p. 137,
  • West, M.L. (May 1994). The Babylonian Musical Notation and the Hurrian Melodic Texts. Music & Letters. 75. pp. 161–179. doi:10.1093/ml/75.2.161. 


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