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Musical instruments

Classification of musical instruments

A musical instrument is an object that is made or used specifically to produce music. In principle, any object that can produce sounds or noises can serve as a musical instrument. However, the term is usually only used for items that have been manufactured exclusively for this purpose. It can be difficult to distinguish between these two terms.

Classification according to the type of sound production for musical instruments

The world of musical instruments is divided into different categories, each of which has its own merits and occasional exceptions. The classification is mainly based on the type of sound generation:


These include “self-sounding” instruments such as bells or triangles, where the sound is produced by the vibration of the entire instrument.


The group of “skin ringers” includes instruments such as drums whose sound is produced by vibrating skins.

Chordophones (stringed instruments): Sound production by vibrating strings. This group includes string instruments such as the violin, plucked instruments such as the guitar and keyboard instruments such as the piano.


Here the sound is produced by a stream of air. Wind instruments include woodwind instruments such as the flute and brass instruments such as the
. Keyboard aerophones such as the organ or hand-pulled instruments such as the accordion also belong to this group.


The sound is generated by an electric current. These include electromechanical instruments such as the electric guitar and electronic musical instruments such as the trautonium or the analog synthesizer. Digital musical instruments such as the digital piano, the groovebox or the computer with purely digital sound generation complement this category, e.g. through sampling technologies.

Classification according to player usage

In addition to sound production, a classification according to use by the player provides further insights into the world of musical instruments. The instruments are divided into the following categories:

Wind instruments: These include instruments such as flutes and trumpets, where the sound is produced by the airflow of a blown or blown-on instrument.

Percussion instruments: These include drums, cymbals and other instruments where the player produces the sound by striking or tapping the surface of the instrument.

String instruments: These include instruments such as violins, whose strings produce sounds by rubbing them with a bow or plucking them.

Keyboard instruments: This group includes pianos and organs in which the sound is produced by pressing keys.

Plucked instruments: These include guitars and harps, where the sound is produced by plucking or striking the strings.

If no player is required to produce the sound, they are referred to as music automatons. This is the case with mechanical music machines, for example.

Here you will find a complete

list of musical instruments

that are played all over the world.