The History of Musical Instruments

History of Musical Instruments
Historians admit the fact that there are not enough ways to comprehend the accurate historical events which can…

Historians admit the fact that there are not enough ways to comprehend the accurate historical events which can unveil the exact history of musical instruments. It is often misleading by the use of comparison and arrangement of musical instruments on the basis of their construction and nature. Still, further progress in musical instruments decreases the complexity of understanding their history. This article will reveal the history of musical instruments, its evolution, classification, and different uses.

The geographical study cannot help to know when two cultures adapted for particular musical events and advanced their musical history. Curt Sachs German musicologist said that one could rely on geographical history and it becomes easier to take note of musical history by following the timetable history before 1400 years. 

The history of the advancement of musical instruments depends on artistic illustrations, citations of literature, and archaeological objects. This combined knowledge can lead to knowing the chronological order of musical instruments as these research-based sources present a better insight into pathways. 

Evolution and Development of Musical Instruments

Various writers and Researchers have proposed that the previous musical instruments were formed by little modifications of natural things like shells, bones, and gourds. Initially, they used to perform one pitch, and then there was an evolution of more complex objects of music. But it seems like flutes made of bones found within Neanderthal caverns possessed hollow cavities like fingers. From current findings in China, one pipe of bone associated with 700 BC is said to possess an extra hollow cavity that seemed to replace an earlier hole along with 7 types of finger holes. Therefore, previous humans seemed to be more conscious of only the pitch and tone of musical instruments. But it is early to say that there was an evolution of instruments from simple to complex ones.  

Since ancient times, there have been various assumptions about the evolution and beginning of musical devices. The writer of Britain John Frederick has proposed that there was initially a drum phase, then proceeded to use pipe and in the end the last one lyre phase. But according to Richard Wallaschek, an Australian writer, there was an initial stage of pipe, then song stage and finally a drum stage. Sach had developed three main orders. The first one which is well-acknowledged by all the world is idiophones and aerophones. The second-order includes stringed objects and drums which are less famous and the third one is stratum which occurs in certain regions like drumsticks, xylophone, and flutes. 


Many considerations are kept in place when classifying musical instruments such as material, color, and shape of the instrument, the uses of the musical instruments, how music is created by these objects, the object’s range and order of artistic object, and certain other things. Many systems for classification depend on the culture, geographical area, but specific classification does not imply outside the geographic location. Historians agree on one type of classification: Hornbostel and Sachs. The most typical and well-known classification is such as first strings, second, brass, woodwind, and last percussion. 

Traditional Musical Instruments

The local or traditional musical instruments present the cultural, traditional heritage, and history of people of any region. The traditional musical instrument classification is done as per the culture and geographical area, the uses of instruments in different ways.

1. Stringed Instruments or Chordophones

The uses of these instruments include the creation of vibration and the sound of strings. Their classification consists of two types of instruments.

  • Plucked (Stringed) instruments: these include tar, bozuk, Carta, kopuz , santur, tambur, etc.
  • Bowed (Stringed) instruments: these are violin, kemence, Kemane, etc

2. Wind Instruments (Aerophones)

Production of sounds of wind or air is the primary use of these instruments.

Harmonica is a world-famous mouth organ used for musical events—Tulum, kaval, cifte, etc.

3. Skinned Instruments of Membranophones

It uses the skin to create the sound of vibrations. 

Small drums, double drums all are membranophones.

4. Ideophones

The instruments are created by robust objects and create sound by vibrations of these objects such as the bell, band bells, fork, cymbal, etc.

List of World Musical Instruments

There are following world recognized and famous musical instruments with their uses in music in almost all regions of the world. 

1. Accordion

comprises of buttons and several keys to produce many tones and pitches from this instrument. It is used to produce sound from air and particularly from reeds. Reeds create sound vibrations when air is passed over these as these are filament-like strips of soft material.

2. Bell

classified as an idiophone or percussion object. The bell is used as a ritual and religious instrument to call for prayers. 

3. Clarinet

Johann Christoph Denner invented it as it is a solo reed-based instrument. It is used to create sound vibrations also by striking reeds. 

4. Double Bass

The instrument possesses many names such as Bass, upright Bass, and contrabass, violin- based Bass. The evolution tells its origin from the 16th century. It is categorized as the greatest bowed (string instrument) in recent orchestra history. 

5. Electric Organ

The forerunner of the electric organ is said to be harmonium, and it was trendy in houses and monasteries in two past centuries. It produces sound by exerting air on pairs of reeds, and proper pedaling is utilized to operate it. 

6. Flute

it is classified as woodwind instruments, and it comprises reeds. The evolution of this instrument proposes its origin about 35000 years ago. A single opening is utilized to produce a sharp sound.

7. French Horn

The evolution of this brass instrument dates back to the earliest use of horse horns as musical instruments. Fritz Kruspe is said to be the innovator of the recent 20th-century French horn.

8. Guitar

It is a stringed instrument and comes in the chordophones category of instruments.  It is used by one hand to strike strings, and the other hand is used to press the lines, and the movement of strings alters the pitch or tone of the music. 

9. Ocarina

The flute type of musical instrument having the shape of a vessel. It is composed of about 12 fingers shaped cavities and a mouth-based object that hollow out within the body of the main instrument.

10. Piano

The instrument is proposed to have been invented by Bartolomeo of Italy in the 17th century. It is a stringed instrument. Produces the sound of various tones when fingers are stammered on specialized keyboards. 

11. Old Synthesizer

Canadian Hugh Le Caine invented the electric sackbut in 1945. It was regarded as the only electrically controlled musical instrument of that time. It produces sound by playing the keyboard with the right hand, and the left hand is used to alter the sound. 

13. Saxophone

The object is associated with the family woodwind musical instruments. It is developed of one reed and has holes in the body like clarinet, and it lowers or raises the pitch of the sound by utilization of keys. 

14. Trombone

The brass instrument creates sound by the vibration of the lips of the player on an instrument that produces sound inside the column of the instrument. It changes the pitch of the sound by utilizing a slide system of the telescope.

15. Trumpet

This object is mainly a brass instrument and was recognized in 14 and 15 the century as musical instruments. It was initially used to give signals in battle or for hunting purposes. 

16. Tuba

The brass family of musical instruments is responsible for producing a unique sound that captivates listeners. These instruments utilize the power of vibration to create beautiful melodies, accomplished by passing air across their lips. One such instrument that exemplifies this technique is the mouth organ. The mouth organ, also known as a harmonica, converts the vibrations of passing air into rich musical tones.

Final Thoughts

It’s not certain when or how the first musical instrument was created. Some historians believe the ancient flute made out of animal bones was the first musical instrument where some believe the musical bow was the first one. The history of musical instruments goes way back than one can imagine and the world has developed advanced and modern musical instruments ever since. Modern music has been adopted by almost everyone but one cannot deny the roots of today’s music were grown through the seed from yesterday.

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