Musical instrument

A musical instrument is an object that has been constructed or modified with the aim to produce music. In principle, any object that sounds or noises can also only brings forth, serve as a musical instrument, but the term is normally used only for those items that have been manufactured or modified for this purpose. Sometimes, the human voice is referred to as a musical instrument.


There are many different attempts to classify the diversity of music instruments in groups. In almost all classification systems show advantages and disadvantages as well as more or less numerous exceptions.

Classified by type of tone

Classification by type of tone

  • Idiophone ( "Even Klinger " - sound generation by blades of the instrument as a whole ) as the bell
  • Membranophones ( " fur Klinger " - tone by vibrating fur ) as the drum
  • Chordophones ( " strings Klinger " - sound production by strings ) Stringed instruments such as the violin
  • Plucked instruments such as guitar
  • Keyboard instruments like the piano
  • Wind Instruments Woodwind instruments such as the flute
  • Brass instruments such as the trumpet
  • Electromechanical musical instruments such as the electric guitar with electromechanical sound pick-up and analog signal processing of a mechanical oscillation process
  • Electronic musical instruments such as the Trautonium or analog synthesizer with fully electronic sound production
  • Digital musical instruments such as the digital piano, the Groovebox or the computer with pure digital sound production, such as by means of the so-called sampling

In 1914 published classification scheme by Curt Sachs and Erich von Hornbostel, instruments are divided according to the group of "power phone" was supplemented by Karl -Heinz Draeger 1948. Within these schemes Mixed forms are possible.

Physical classification

The growing understanding of the physics behind the phenomena, the introduction of " electrical " instruments and even electronic music made ​​in the 20th century, a classification of musical instruments physical point of view necessary to the ever prevails among professionals of instrument making. Here a distinction is made:

  • Mechanical musical instruments, instruments in which classical mechanics can be used to describe. (eg, violin, drum, flute, xylophone) Often, these instruments are "acoustic" as or "natural " although all musical instruments necessarily have an acoustic component, since no acoustic wave propagation is no perception by the ear is possible. These instruments are human artifacts highest perfection and precision and not of natural origin. The operations are described in terms of static friction or sliding friction, fluid mechanics, mass, spring, damper etc..
  • Mechanical music machines such as mechanical musical instruments, but with automatic performance device. (eg, juke, Pianola )
  • Electromechanical musical instruments, based on mechanical-electrical energy conversion (eg, electric guitar, Hammond organ ). "Electrical " musical instruments there are in this sense, not as a circuit that is not actively involved in the sound production of only passive components such as coil, resistor and capacitor as it comes, for example, in electric guitars are used, but only the gain of the output swing is. Thus, such instruments are actually the groups to which the producers of the actual oscillations are attributable to ( an electric guitar to the Chordophonen ).
  • Electronic musical instruments are based on analog circuits, wherein the sound is generated by the oscillators on the basis of electronic devices such as vacuum tubes or transistors ( e.g. Theremin ), which is often a number of additional circuitry (such as Trautonium ) filtered, or supplements. A modular synthesizer combines a large number of electronic sound generators of different waveforms with numerous analog effects, which allow you to change the analog sound signal on.
  • Digital musical instruments generate sound mathematically with the help of universal microprocessors or special processors for digital signal processing. The transformation into a physical oscillation is performed at the end of the signal processing of a digital-to -analog converter. Such instruments can be implemented both in the form of dedicated hardware (eg digital synthesizer) as well as a software application (such as software instrument, software synthesizers).

Classification according to use by the player

Regardless of the type of tone, a classification by use of the player is also possible. Here a distinction is made:

  • Wind Instruments
  • Percussion instruments
  • String Instruments
  • Keyboard Instruments
  • Plucked

If no player for sound generation is necessary, one also speaks of a music machine (see in particular mechanical music machine ).

Classification according to the raw material

In East Asia, musical instruments were distinguished by their raw materials. The system of eight tones (Chinese八音, Pinyin Bayin, Japanese " Hatchi -in system " ) distinguishes eight groups of materials: metal (gold, bronze, steel ), Stone, yarn (silk, wool), bamboo, gourd fruits, clay, leather and wood.

Other classifications

  • After geographical- cultural backgrounds
  • After determination ( Concert, Practice, child, toy instruments, harmony, instrument, noise, rhythm instrument or effect )
  • By music genre
  • After emergence time ( prehistoric musical instruments)