Classical Music Timeline

Classical Music History

Instruments Through the Ages

Composers and Masterworks

Classical Music History


The Middle Ages and the Renaissance

The Baroque Era

The Classical Era

The Romantic Era

The Romantic Legacy

The Modern Age

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The Voice: the First Instrument


The capacity of the human voice tor communication one of the most extraordinary aspects of our being distinguishes us from all other creatures on earth. Through the ability to cause controlled changes of pitch to sing the voice is the most ancient, universal, and sophisticated of all musical instruments. Singing is as old as the earliest civilized cultures. According to the Old Testament Book of Exodus, Moses and the Israelites sang their praises to Ciod on being delivered from the Egyptians believed to have been in the thirteenth century не. The Ancient Greeks sang in worship and in the theatre, as did the Romans; and with the advent of Christianity the ancient Jewish tradition of chanting the Psalms of David passed into Christian worship too. It is this link with [udaeo-Christian worship that binds many strands of vocal musical history in the Western world, from plamchant to oratorio, from chanting monks to church choirs and choral societies.

Monks, troubadours, and Paris polyphony

It was the monks of the Middle Ages who first wrote music down m a form that could be transmitted accurately over generations. They committed to paper the previously purely oral tradition, the practice of chanting plamchant. The earliest vocal music to survive as notation is therefore biased towards religious music; church authorities did not encourage notation of non-religious music; and secular music folk songs, ballads, courtly ditties was in any case predominantly improvised.

Until the ninth century every mode of singing was mono-phonic meaning, literally, a single line of sound. The earliest known reference to the coming together of two separate voices is from about ad 860 in north-eastern France. Referred to as organurn, it coupled a line of plamchant with another voice at a different pitch. A major stage in the development of this multi-voiced music ("polyphony") came at the end of the twelfth century when the French composer Perotin, based in Pans at the time the ureat cathedral of Notre Dame was built, wrote the first music for three and four separate voices. From this came the glories of medieval and Renaissance church music, and the rise of the singer as preeminent musician.

The growth of the choir

The singers who were given the task of performing this early polyphony were, of necessity, specialists. Almost certainly, therefore, each part was performed by a single singer. In large monastic establishments, with singing "clerks" numbering 50, the majority sang only the monophonic plamchant. By the beginning of the fourteenth century, a polyphonic choral style had developed in England and northern Europe to the point where the complexities of this multi-lined music had become tamihar, and small choirs began to pertorm it instead of soloists. The wealth and influence of the Church in late medieval society remain apparent all over Europe in the grandeur of its cathedrals, abbeys, and monasteries. As buildings became more architecturally ambitious, so the provision for music became more generous. Choirs increased steadily in size throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and the music written tor them became more elaborate as demonstrated by Thomas Tallis's motet for 40 voices (eight choirs of five parts) Spent in Alitmi. In England, especially, many choral foundations were established during this time in cathedrals and collegiate chapels; establishments still renowned for choral music, such as Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral, and King's College, Cambridge.
In medieval and Renaissance times it was singers from the Low Countries and France whose expertise was most admired; in tact many were specially employed in court chapels and cathedrals all over Europe, particularly in
Italy. It was not uncommon tor this new type ot travelling professional singer to compose as well, and the most distinguished of them included Ockeghem, Dutay. Brumel. Obrecht, and Josquin Desprez. No period of musical history since has tied singing and composing so closely to one another.

Madrigals, opera, and castrati
It was the following generation of Franco-Flemish composers in Italy - Verdelot, Willaert, and Jannequin - that introduced the earliest madrigals, the major secular vocal form of the sixteenth century. Settings of both the elevated courtly love poetry of Petrarch and more emotional, down-to-earth verse created a style of music that was at once highly accessible, expressive, and changeable in mood. Such need tor musical drama was one of the reasons why the vocal ranges m this genre became greatly extended. Medieval plainchant had required of its male singers a range of merely one octave, and the polyphonic writing ot subsequent centuries rarely asked its performers — boy sopranos, adult male altos, tenors, and basses — to sing particularly high or low. Through the late sixteenth-century madrigal, the high female voice found appreciation for the first time. This was particularly so in Italy, and at the noble court of Ferrara a specially trained ensemble of female singers became famous for its virtuosity.
This new taste for the high voice posed problems for the church, which forbade women to sing in acts of worship. Choirs in the English post-Reformation church relied on pre-pubescent boys to sing the top line; the Roman Catholic church in sixteenth-century Italy used falsettists from Spain, specializing in the soprano register. Falsetto, a means of voice production for the adult male, whereby an artificially high voice is created, is inevitably limited in its range and flexibility. Another solution — perhaps the most extraordinary phenomenon in the history of music - was the castrato, a male singer castrated before puberty to preserve his high voice. The first acknowledgment of a castrated male on the payroll of the Sistine Choir in Rome was in 1599. and despite the serious moral questions that this operation raised, such singers became a crucial element of Catholic choirs m Europe over the next two centuries. (In the churches of Rome alone, more than 200 castrati were employed in 17SO; the last eunuch singer retired from the Sistine Chapel in 1913.)
Castrati were not confined to ecclesiastical environments; they became a mainstay of the tastest-growmg and most influential secular genre of the seventeenth century; opera. Opera required a more conspicuous, virtuoso type ot singer, and the castrato was particularly suited to this new mode of vocal performance. Although the vocal apparatus remained immature as a result of emasculation, the rest of the body — in particular the chest — grew to a great size. Thus the main area of vocal production and support, the lungs and diaphragm, developed great power and stamina, enabling the singer to produce sounds of unprecedented volume, intensity, and control. The castrati became the first real singing stars. The finest, such as Farinelli. Senesmo. and Cuadagni, enjoyed international careers in the manner of modern opera stars. Despite their unusual sexuality they were adored on and off stage.

Oratorio and the choral society

Sacred music in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was greatly influenced by opera, the most notable development being the oratorio. With origins, in early seventeenth-century Rome, the oratorio dealt with religious subjects, and took full advantage of a new form of sung story-telling, the recitative. As opera developed into a systematic interplay of recitative and -the more lyrical aria, so too did the sacred oratorio, culminating in the works of Alessandro Scarlatti at the beginning of the eighteenth century. The young Handel heard such works in Rome and it was this influence, together with English church music and a background in Lutheran Passion music, that he later fused in such glorious works as the Messiah andjephtha.

Meanwhile, in Germany, sacred music in the Protestant Lutheran Church emphasized congregational singing (chorales, the immediate ancestors of hymns) and the composition of Passion settings. The dramatic nature of the Italian oratorio did not really affect German religious music until an opera house opened in Hamburg in the 1670s. Choral interjections were added to the recitative-aria pattern - an influence drawn from the Passion settings and this style reached its most sophisticated and sublime form in the Passions and church cantatas or J.S. Bach, written primarily in Leipzig.

Bach's sacred music was intended for performance as worship. Handel's oratorios, with their operatic roots, were invariably performed in theatres. The tendency tor sacred music to be performed outside its "natural" environment became more and more pronounced m the following decades, as religious music steadily became an important part of the late eightecnth-and nineteenth-century phenomenon of concert-going.

The advance of the public concert was made possible by the rise of the middle classes and the resulting emancipation of music from the confines of religion and the nobility. With this came the development of music-making in a broader context, involving non-specialist amateurs. The greatest example of this, which still influences musical life today, is the choral society. These developed first in Germany and 13ntam. and had their origins m workers' co-operatives and the choirs of parish churches and nonconformist chapels. During the nineteenth century, a distinction grew between the highly trained professional solo singer and the ranks of keen amateur choral singers. In this environment the descendant of Handel's oratorios - the large-scale concert oratorio flourished. A succession of works, from Mozart's Requiem. Haydn's Creation, Beethoven s Missa Solei/inii and Mendelssohn's Ulijah, to the hugely scored and unashamedly dramatic Requiems of Berlioz and Verdi, has provided the modern choral society with a corpus of master-pieces. In the twentieth century', perhaps influenced by Handel's pioneering work in this genre, the oratorio has been most extensively developed in Britain, with notable contributions by Elgar, Walton, Britten, and Tippett.


The voice as agent of change

The phenomenal vocal feats of the castrato had created an entirely new awareness ot the mechanics of voice production. Until the seventeenth century, it is likely that the technical aspects of singing were undeveloped, and relied on production only from the throat and the head. From around 1 600. with the dawn of opera, the process of developing greater power, projection and stamina, different colours, and extended ranges had been constant, concentrating in the nineteenth century on diaphragmatic support and the use of resonating spaces in the head and chest. As singers achieved this, composers inevitably wrote music to exploit such skills. This is nowhere more apparent than m the renowned role of Queen of the Night in Mozart's Xlagic flute, in which the soprano singer is required to negotiate a stratosphencally high line featuring several top Fs.

The reverse process has also occurred, with certain musical developments causing singers to adapt their technique accordingly. Examples in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries include the gradual heightening ot "concert" pitch (making notes higher tor the singer); the technological developments in instrument-making, making instruments louder and brighter; the steady increase in the size of the orchestra; and the increase in size of opera houses and concert halls. All had a crucial bearing on the development of singing technique: consider the vast difference between being a choir member singing Renaissance church music, unaccompanied and in a church acoustic with generous reverberation, and a soloist pitched against a full-sized symphony orchestra in a large concert hall with a variable acoustic.

The latter problem was tackled in opera by moving the orchestra into a "pit", sunk below the level of the audience (early opera orchestras had generally been placed at the side of" the stage). The huge orchestras of Wagner's and Richard Strauss's operas necessitated extreme treatment to allow the singers selected tor the weight and colour ot their voices to be heard. Wagner's opera house at Bayreuth is the finest example ot a performance hall built specifically tor a certain repertoire; it features a deeply recessed orchestra pit. with the loud brass instruments set way back from the conductor and far beneath the singers on stage.

Italian opera in the early nineteenth century placed great demands not so much on the size of a singer's voice as on its agility. The coloratura writing of Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti requires extraordinary virtuosity, asking the voice to alter pitch with great speed and deftness. With the operas of Verdi, the emphasis shifted from athletic vocal display to expressive intensity and dramatic power: such roles require heavier and brighter voices. For the first time, different voice types were named according to their suitability for the demands of a particular role. The German term Hcldeuteiior. for example, refers to the voice required for most of Wagner's tenor roles (such as Lohengrin, Tristan, Siegmund, and Siegfried), stipulating a powerful voice of substantial range and a stamina able to withstand the demands of Wagner's long scores.

The use of the singing voice has further diversified in our own century. The advent of Enrico Caruso brought a change in operatic voice production, caused partly by the growing size of theatres, with a new emphasis on power. The tendency has continued to the present day with such tenors as Gigli. Domingo, and Rivarotti, and sopranos such as Maria Callas. Most recently, the voice has had to acquire new disciplines, such as Spnxli$e.<cinx (a type of vocal performance between speech and song) m Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire; and in the works of avant-garde composers has adapted to even wider interpretations of the word "singing" — from screaming, humming, and coughing to generating harmonics and microtones (pitches lying in between the notes ot the traditional scale). All these fill under the heading "extended vocal techniques." And, crucially, the voice has been recorded, allowing the individual voice to live on after the decline and death of the vocalist.

Today, choral societies exist alongside specialist chamber choirs. The music of the Roman Catholic Church, with a tew notable exceptions, is now a mere shadow of its former glory, while the Anglican choral tradition continues to flourish, despite an increasingly secular society. A modern opera star may record chart-toppers in duets with pop singers and perform to thousands in parks and stadiums. And yet, amid all the evidence of immense change over the centuries, one can travel to the monasteries of Europe and still hear monks singing plamchant. hardly altered until the Middle Ages.

Instruments Through the Ages



Ever since prehistoric times, when humans found they could produce agreeable sounds by striking pieces of wood, blowing through an animal horn, or twanging the gut strings of their hunting bows, they have sought to improve these sounds by refining the tools - the instruments - that produce them. This process of refinement has been far from consistent. It has depended on the changing pressures and demands of society, especially the ways people use music, and on the people who make music - composers and performers.

In Europe before I 100, the Christian church presided over all formal music. The church decreed that music be sung, with no accompaniment except the organ. The rise of instrumental music in Europe largely awaited the import of Middle Eastern instruments via the Moorish conquest of Spain (eighth century) and the twelfth- and thirteenth-century Crusades. Nearly all our modern orchestral instruments have distant ancestors in central Asia and distant cousins that survive there.

With the Renaissance came ideals that greatly increased the scope of instruments. The Church no longer held exclusive rights to literacy, knowledge, or classical music. Composers began to use instruments to double or replace human voices in polyphonic music. Instrument makers varied the sizes and shapes of instruments to create sounds from bass to soprano, to match vocal ranges. During the later Baroque period, the burgeoning orchestras demanded instruments that could blend with each other and satisfy the subtle tastes of an increasingly sophisticated audience. Instrument makers beccame skilled artists in their own right, and the same of some, such as Antonio Stradivari, even rivalled that of the greatest composers.


Stringed instruments-bowed

Viol Family

This family of bowed instruments first appeared in the late fifteenth century in the Valencia region of Spain. Viols were probably carried to Italy by the famous Borgia family, two of whom became popes, and their use is recorded at the wedding ot Lucrezia Borgia in
1502. Their delicate, nasal sound soon made them popular as chamber instruments, though they lacked the percussive quality useful for dance music. Viols were eventually superseded by the louder and more expressive violin family, but Bach was still using the bass viol in his Passions and m the last Bniihlenbiiiv concerto m the early eighteenth century. Also known as the viola da gamba. the bass viol was held body downwards between the legs like a cello. Unlike violins, smaller viols were also held body downwards, on the lap.

viol, also called viola da gamba, bowed, stringed musical instrument used principally in chamber music of the 16th to the 18th century. The viol shares with the Renaissance lute the tuning of its six strings (two fourths, a major third, two fourths) and the gut frets on its neck. It was made in three sizes: treble, tenor, and bass, with the bottom string tuned, respectively, to d, G (or A), and D. To these sizes was later added the violone, a double bass viol often tuned an octave below the bass.

Viols are characterized by sloping shoulders; deep ribs; thin, flat backs; and, above all, a vertical playing position, with the bottom of the instrument resting on the knee or held between the legs—hence viola da gamba (Italian: “leg viol”). The breadth of the bridge, which was arched to give the bow separate access to each string, made forceful playing impossible, and the supine position of the bow hand, palm uppermost, encouraged a smooth playing style. The frets gave to each note the clarity of an open string—a clear, ringing, penetrating tone that was much prized.

By the second half of the 16th century the viol acquired a significant repertory of music for ensemble, for solo bass, and for the lyra viol, a small bass viol (also called viola bastarda). But as the style of instrumental composition changed during the 17th century, an expressive, vocal sound in the soprano register was emphasized, and the tenor and treble viols declined in favour of the violin, with which they were unable to compete because their deep bodies created a hollow, nasal timbre.

The bass viol, however, had by the mid-16th century developed a repertory of complex solo divisions, or ornate variations on a melody, often played on a small bass called a division viol. When that fashion died out in the late 1600s, the normal-sized solo bass viol, or viola da gamba (the name became synonymous with the bass viol as the other viols fell into disuse), was used in the instrumental forms of the Baroque period. Solo bass-viol playing continued in Germany and France into the 18th century. Elsewhere the bass viol survived chiefly because its sustained tone lent a pleasing support to the harpsichord. This combination, using the basso continuo, or thorough bass, technique, provided harmonic support for the Baroque instrumental ensemble. When composers in the newer Classical style began to write complete harmonies in the upper instrumental parts, the viol, deprived of its last useful function, dropped out of use altogether. In the 20th century viols were successfully revived for the performance of Renaissance and Baroque music.


Baryton Family

Joseph Haydn brought the baryton to its high point in musical history when he composed 175 works for the instrument tor his patron Prince Nicolaus Joseph Esterhazy. himself an enthusiastic player. Otherwise, the instrument played a minor role m music and was little known outside Austria and southern Germany. Mozart's father Leopold admired both the baryton and its shoulder-held relative, the viola d'amore. tor their loveliness of tone. Developed from viols, they have additional strings that vibrate m sympathy with the bowed strings a feature that points to possible Islamic origins. The great violin maker Stradivari planned to make a viola d'amore in 1716 (though if he did, it has not survived) and Bach made expressive use of the instrument in solo parts in the St John Vissiou.

Violin Family

The development of the violin family was a triumph tor instrument making. The violin offered an unprecedented range of expression, intensity, and nuance, and inspired great music and great performers. It derived from various medieval bowed instruments, descendants of central Asian models brought into tenth-century Spam and southern Italy by the Arabs. The rebec was popular at dances and later evolved into the kit. while the fiddle was widelv used by troubadours and developed into the lira da braccia (the violin's closest ancestor). Northern Italy, the cradle of violin making, remained the major centre until the eighteenth century, especially under the Amati family of Cremona. The family's hist and most distinguished member, Nicolo, also taught Antonio Stradivari, perhaps the greatest violin maker ever.

violin, byname fiddle, bowed, stringed musical instrument that evolved during the Renaissance from earlier bowed instruments: the medieval fiddle; its 16th-century Italian offshoot, the lira da braccio; and the rebec. The violin is probably the best known and most widely distributed musical instrument in the world.

Like its predecessors but unlike its cousin the viol, the violin has a fretless fingerboard. Its strings are hitched to tuning pegs and to a tailpiece passing over a bridge held in place by the pressure of the strings. The bridge transmits the strings’ vibrations to the violin belly, or soundboard, which is made of pine and amplifies the sound. Inside the instrument, beneath the treble foot of the bridge and wedged between the violin belly and back, which is made of maple, is the sound post, a thin stick of pine that transmits the string vibrations to the instrument’s back, contributing to the characteristic violin tone. The belly is supported from beneath by the bass bar, a narrow wood bar running lengthwise and tapering into the belly. It also contributes to the resonance of the instrument. The sidewalls, or ribs, are constructed of pine-lined maple.

The violin was early recognized for its singing tone, especially in Italy, its birthplace, where the earliest makers—Gasparo da Salò, Andrea Amati, and Giovanni Paolo Maggini—had settled its average proportions before the end of the 16th century. During its history the violin has been subject to modifications that have progressively adapted it to its evolving musical functions. In general, the earlier violins are more deeply arched in the belly and back; the more modern, following the innovations of Antonio Stradivari, are shallower, yielding a more virile tone. In the 19th century, with the advent of large auditoriums and the violin virtuoso, the violin underwent its last changes in design. The bridge was heightened, the sound post and bass bar were thickened, and the body became flatter. The neck was angled back, giving greater pressure of the strings on the bridge. The result was a stronger, more brilliant tone in place of the delicate, intimate tone of the violin of the 18th century.

The earliest violins were used for popular and dance music. During the 17th century it replaced the viol as the primary stringed instrument in chamber music. The Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi included violins in the orchestra of his opera Orfeo (first performed in 1607). In France the king’s orchestra, les 24 violons du roi, was organized in 1626. Arcangelo Corelli, a virtuoso violinist, was among the earliest composers to contribute to the new music for the violin, as did Antonio Vivaldi, J.S. Bach, and the violinist Giuseppe Tartini. Most major composers from the 18th century on wrote solo music for the violin, among them Mozart, Beethoven, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Edvard Grieg, Paul Hindemith, Arnold Schoenberg, and Alban Berg. Such virtuosos as Francesco Geminiani, Niccolò Paganini, Joseph Joachim, Fritz Kreisler, David Oistrakh, Yehudi Menuhin, and Isaac Stern stimulated the composition of fine violin music. The violin was assimilated into the art music of the Middle East and South India and, as the fiddle, is played in the folk music of many countries. The tenor violin, known from the 16th century through the 18th century, was midway in size between the viola and cello. It was tuned F–c–g–d′. “Tenor violin” also occasionally referred to the viola.

Mozart : Violin Concerto No. 3 (Hilary Hahn)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
"Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K. 216"
(Cadenzas by Hilary Hahn)

The First Movement : Allegro

Violin : Hilary Hahn

Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Conductor : Gustavo Dudamel


cello, also called violoncello, French violoncelle, German cello or violoncello, bass musical instrument of the violin group, with four strings, pitched C–G–D–A upward from two octaves below middle C. The cello, about 27.5 inches (70 cm) long (47 inches [119 cm] with the neck), has proportionally deeper ribs and a shorter neck than the violin.

The earliest cellos were developed during the 16th century and frequently were made with five strings. They served mainly to reinforce the bass line in ensembles. Only during the 17th and 18th centuries did the cello replace the bass viola da gamba as a solo instrument. During the 17th century the combination of cello and harpsichord for basso continuo parts became standard. Joseph Haydn, Mozart, and later composers gave increased prominence to the cello in instrumental ensembles. Notable works for the instrument include J.S. Bach’s six suites for unaccompanied cello, Beethoven’s five sonatas for cello and piano, the concertos of Antonín Dvořák and Darius Milhaud, the sonatas of Zoltán Kodály and Claude Debussy, and the Bachianas brasileiras of Heitor Villa-Lobos, for eight cellos and soprano. One of the outstanding cellists of the 20th century was Pablo Casals.

Rostropovich Bach Cello Suite No. 3 Prelude
Stringed instruments-plucked
Guitar Family

The guitar (also gittern) developed as an offshoot of the lute family, distinguishable by its flat back and incurved sides. The earliest guitar shapes are again found in central Asian sources, from the first to the fourth century Al). reappearing in tweltth-centurv carvings at Santiago de Compos-tela m northern Spain. Chaucer mentions gittcrns in his Canterbury l\ilcs, describing their use in a boisterous dance and noting elsewhere their soft and gentle sound. The Spanish guitar and its Italian relation, the chitarra battente. superseded the gittern in southern Europe m the sixteenth century, and the guitar became the national instrument of Spain. It became more widely popular during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, partly because it was easier to play than the lute, and Boccherim used it m some of his chamber music.
Lute Family

The earliest known lutes are represented on Mesopotamian figurines from before 2000 DC, and since then various kinds of lute have spread throughout the world. The European lute developed from the Arabian ud. introduced into Europe during the Moorish occupation of Spain (Al) 711 — 1492). Illustrations show non-Moors using it from the thirteenth century on. and records from 1396 list a lute player in the service of the Duke of Orleans. During the Renaissance the lute, like other instruments, evolved into a family of different sizes and pitch ranges corresponding to those of the human voice, as well as a number of variants such as the theorbo. Its heyday came in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, particularly through the intimate and expressive song accompaniments or John Dowland.

Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck (either fretted or unfretted) and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes.

The European lute and the modern Near-Eastern oud both descend from a common ancestor via diverging evolutionary paths. The lute is used in a great variety of instrumental music from the Medieval to the late Baroque eras and was the most important instrument for secular music in the Renaissance. It is also an accompanying instrument, especially in vocal works, often realizing a basso continuo or playing a written-out accompaniment. The player of a lute is called a lutenist, lutanist, "''lewtist" or lutist, and a maker of lutes (or any string instrument) is referred to as a luthier.

History and evolution of the lute

Ancient Egyptian tomb painting depicting lute players, 18th Dynasty (c. 1350 BC)
  The origins of the lute are obscure, and organologists disagree about the very definition of a lute. The highly influential organologist Curt Sachs distinguished between the "long-necked lute" (Langhalslaute) and the short-necked variety: both referred to chordophones with a neck as distinguished from harps and psalteries.

Smith and others argue the long-necked variety should not be called lute at all because it existed for at least a millennium before the appearance of the short-necked instrument that eventually evolved into what is now known as the lute. It also was never called a lute before the 20th century.

Various types of necked chordophones were in use in ancient Greek, Egyptian (in the Middle Kingdom), Hittite, Roman, Bulgar, Turkic, Indian, Chinese, Armenian/Cilician cultures. The Lute developed its familiar forms as Barbat in Persia, Armenia, and Byzantium beginning in the early 7th century.

These instruments often had bodies covered with animal skin, and it is unknown exactly when it became replaced with a wooden soundboard.

As early as the 6th century, the Bulgars brought the short-necked variety of the instrument called Komuz to the Balkans, and in the 9th century, Moors brought the Oud to Spain. The long-necked Pandura had previously been a quite common variety of the lute in the Mediterranean. The quitra did not become extinct, however, but continued its evolution. Besides the still surviving Kuitra of Algiers and Morocco, its descendants include the Chitarra Italiana, Chitarrone and Colascione.

Christian and Muslim playing lute,
miniature from Cantigas de Santa Maria by king Alfonso X.
Middle Ages
In about the year 1500 many Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese lutenists adopted vihuela de mano, a viol-shaped instrument tuned like the lute, but both instruments continued in coexistence. This instrument also found its way to parts of Italy that were under Spanish domination (especially Sicily and the papal states under the Borgia pope Alexander VI who brought many Catalan musicians to Italy), where it was known as the viola da mano.

Another important point of transfer of the lute from Arabian to European culture might have been in Sicily, where it was brought either by Byzantine or later by Saracen musicians. There were singer-lutenists at the court in Palermo following the Norman conquest of the island, and the lute is depicted extensively in the

  ceiling paintings in the Palermo’s royal Cappella Palatina, dedicated by the Norman King Roger II in 1140.
By the 14th century, lutes had disseminated throughout Italy. Probably due to the cultural influence of the Hohenstaufen kings and emperor, based in Palermo, the lute had also made significant inroads into the German-speaking lands by the 14th century.
Medieval lutes were 4- or 5-course instruments, plucked using a quill as a plectrum. There were several sizes, and by the end of the Renaissance, seven different sizes (up to the great octave bass) are documented. Song accompaniment was probably the lute's primary function in the Middle Ages, but very little music securely attributable to the lute survives from the era before 1500. Medieval and early-Renaissance song accompaniments were probably mostly improvised, hence the lack of written records.

Painter David Hoyer playing a lute, painted by Jan Kupetzky, ca. 1711
  In the last few decades of the 15th century, in order to play Renaissance polyphony on a single instrument, lutenists gradually abandoned the quill in favor of plucking the instrument with the fingertips. The number of courses grew to six and beyond. The lute was the premier solo instrument of the 16th century, but continued to be used to accompany singers as well.

By the end of the Renaissance the number of courses had grown to ten, and during the Baroque era the number continued to grow until it reached 14 (and occasionally as many as 19). These instruments, with up to 26-35 strings, required innovations in the structure of the lute. At the end of the lute's evolution the archlute, theorbo and torban had long extensions attached to the main tuning head in order to provide a greater resonating length for the bass strings, and since human fingers are not long enough to stop strings across a neck wide enough to hold 14 courses, the bass strings were placed outside the fretboard, and were played "open", i.e. without fretting/stopping them with the left hand.

Over the course of the Baroque era the lute was increasingly relegated to the continuo accompaniment, and was eventually superseded in that role by keyboard instruments. The lute almost fell out of use after 1800. Some sorts of lute were still used for some time in Germany, Sweden, Ukraine.

Lute in the modern world
The lute enjoyed a revival with the awakening of interest in historical music around 1900 and throughout the century. That revival was further boosted by the early music movement in the twentieth century. Important pioneers in lute revival were Julian Bream, Hans Neemann, Walter Gerwig, Suzanne Bloch and Diana Poulton. Lute performances are now not uncommon; there are many professional lutenists, especially in Europe where the most employment is to be found, and new compositions for the instrument are being produced by composers.

During the early days of the early music movement, many lutes were constructed by available luthiers, whose specialty was often classical guitars. Such lutes were heavily built with construction similar to classical guitars, with fan bracing, heavy tops, fixed frets, and lined sides, all of which are anachronistic to historical lutes. As lutherie scholarship increased, makers began constructing instruments based on historical models, which have proven on the whole to be far lighter and more responsive instruments.

Lutes built at present are invariably replicas or near copies of those surviving historical instruments that are to be found in museums or private collections. They are exclusively custom-built or must be bought second hand in a very limited market. As a result, lutes are generally more expensive than mass-produced modern instruments such as the guitar, though not nearly as expensive as the violin. Unlike in the past there are many types of lutes encountered today: 5-course medieval lutes, renaissance lutes of 6 to 10 courses in many pitches for solo and ensemble performance of Renaissance works, the archlute of Baroque works, 11-course lutes in d-minor tuning for 17th century French, German and Czech music, 13/14-course d-minor tuned German Baroque Lutes for later High Baroque and Classical music, theorbo for basso continuo parts in Baroque ensembles, gallichons/mandoras, bandoras, orpharions and others.   Lutenistic practice has reached considerable heights in recent years, thanks to a growing number of world-class lutenists:

Robert Barto, Eduardo Egüez, Edin Karamazov, Nigel North, Christopher Wilson, Luca Pianca, Pascal Monteilhet, Lex van Sante, Ariel Abramovich, Evangelina Mascardi, Luciano Contini, Hopkinson Smith, Yasunori Imamura, Paul O'Dette, Jozef van Wissem, Anthony Bailes, Peter Croton, Jakob Lindberg et alii.

Singer-songwriter Sting has also played lute and archlute, in and out of his collaborations with Edin Karamazov, and Jan Akkerman released two albums of lute music in the 1970s while he was a guitarist in the Dutch rock band Focus.
Lutenist/ Composer Jozef van Wissem composed lute music and vocals for the Sims Medieval video game.

Orazio Gentileschi's young lutenist, painted ca 1626, plays a 10-course lute, typical of the time from around 1600 AD through the 1630s. Music stands appear very rarely in paintings of the period—the music is most commonly laid flat on a table, as seen here.
Greensleeves - Anonymous - Cutting - Lute

Harp Family

A history of the harp in Europe could be roughly traced through a succession of illustrations and paintings of the biblical King David: continually updated versions of the instrument appear from the eleventh century onwards. Spreading from Ireland and Wales to the European continent during the twelfth century, it was highly regarded by the troubadours. The double harp, first described by Vin-cenzo Galilei in 1581, and the triple harp that soon followed, added second and third rows of strings that gave the harpist the full range of notes in all keys. Jakob Hochbrucker of Bavaria invented a pedal action in 1697 that could change the pitch of the strings, enabling a return to the more convenient single row of strings, and Sebasticn Erard's double-action pedal harp of 1810 perfected the system.

The harp is a multi-stringed instrument which has the plane of its strings positioned perpendicularly to the soundboard. Organologically, it is in the general category of chordophones (stringed instruments) and has its own sub category (the harps). All harps have a neck, resonator and strings. Some, known as frame harps, also have a pillar; those without the pillar are referred to as open harps. Depending on its size, which varies, a harp may be played while held in the lap or while it stands on a table, or on the floor. Harp strings may be made of nylon, gut, wire or silk. On smaller harps, like the folk harp, the core string material will typically be the same for all strings on a given harp. Larger instruments like the modern concert harp mix string materials to attain their extended ranges. A person who plays the harp is called a harpist or harper. Folk musicians often use the term "harper", whereas classical musicians use "harpist".

Various types of harps are found in Africa, Europe, North and South America and in Asia. In antiquity, harps and the closely related lyres were very prominent in nearly all cultures. The harp also was predominant with medieval bards, troubadors and minnesingers throughout the Spanish Empire. Harps continued to grow in popularity through improvements in their design and construction through the beginning of the 20th century.

Structure and mechanism
The basic structural elements and terminology of a concert harpHarps are essentially triangular and are made primarily of wood. Modern harp strings are often nylon or, less often, metal; tuning pins are also metal components. The bottom ends of each string is fed through a small metal eyelet and tied in a knot on the inside of the sounding-board, which is the upward-facing surface of the resonating cavity (the sound box or body).

The body is hollow and when a taut string is plucked, the body resonates, projecting sound both inward towards the harp player through a series of usually oval openings (whose principal purpose is to allow access to the strings and only secondarily to enhance resonance) and, much more importantly and powerfully, outward through the flexible and taut-strung sounding board. The crossbar, or neck, contains the mechanism or levers which determine the pitch alteration (sharps and flats) for each string. The upper ends of the strings are attached to pins in holes drilled through the neck at specific intervals and at specific distances from the soundboard.

The longest side of the harp is called the column or pillar. In those harps which have pedals, this side is a hollow column and encloses the rods which control the pedal mechanisms. At the base of a pedal harp are seven pedals, which activate the rods when the pedals are downwardly pressed.

  The modern sophisticated instrument spanning 6½ octaves in virtually all keys was perfected by the 19th-century French maker Sébastien Érard and because of its pedal-driven ability to play all sharps and flats of all notes within its range, it continues today as the standard style of most large professional concert harps.
Lever harps, however, do not have pedals or rods, and the pillar's only purpose in these instruments is to hold up the neck against the great strain of the strings. Lever harps use a shortening lever (usually shaped like a capital letter L) on the neck next to each individual string which is to be activated (i.e., turned) manually to shorten the string and raise the tone a half step. A string tuned to natural may be played in sharp, but not flat. A string tuned to flat may be played in natural, but not sharp. Also, in order to change a string from one tone to another during a performance, a harp player must take one entire hand off the harp for a moment and switch the lever—this may cause an acoustic gap in a performance, as for a brief moment only one hand will be in use. Lever harps are considerably lighter in weight than pedal harps and are smaller in size and number of strings. They are also much easier to manufacture, less easily damaged, easier to repair, and far less expensive to produce and maintain. Finally, many harps are built without either pedals or levers. These harps can only play in a single key during any given performance, though any string on a harp can be tuned to a corresponding sharp or flat before a performance and then be returned to its regular tension (key) afterwards with little effort.

The basic structural elements and terminology of a concert harp
Harpist Anne van Schothorst

Stringed Instruments-plucked and struck

Harpsichord Family

The invention of the harpsichord may be credited to Hermann Poll, according to a record of 1397. Its earliest depiction is in a 1425 altarpiece sculpture at Minden in northern Germany. Improvements to the instrument made in Italy around 1500 increased its effectiveness and popularity. Within a century Flemish Antwerp had become the focus of harpsichord development. Prominent members of the keyboard instrument makers' Guild of St Luke, the Ruckers family, dominated harpsichord making in the Netherlands until 1700. The instrument's mechanism limits how varied a sound it can make. When a key is depressed a piece of wood is thrown up and an attached quill plucks the string. Clean tone and precise attack, however, made the harpsichord a favourite among some composers, including Byrd, Scarlatti, and Rameau, in solo and chamber works. It continued in use in opera orchestras until Mozart's time. Smaller versions of the harpsichord more suitable for domestic use were made by placing the strings parallel to the keyboard (the virginal) or diagonal to it (the spinet). The clavichord used a different mechanism, by which the depression of a key pressed a small brass plate onto the string. This produced a delicate, subtly variable tone.

Zither Family

The medieval zither was normally known as the psaltery, from the Greek word psalterion for both "harp" and the Book of Psalms. The psaltery was a trapezoid or rectangular soundbox with the strings stretched across it and plucked to produce the sound. The addition of a keyboard with plucking mechanism gave rise to the harpsichord. In the same way, the dulcimer, similar in shape but played with light wooden beaters, is an ancestor of the piano. Originating in Persia and Assyria, the psaltery spread to Europe with the Moorish conquest of Spain, appearing in reliefs at Santiago de Compostela from 1184, and also through Turkey as the forerunner of the Hungarian cimbalom. The term "zither" usually refers to a Bavarian or Austrian instrument, little different from the psaltery, that was current in folk music until the nineteenth centurv.

Wind Instruments-pipes

Recorder Family

Thought to have originated in northern Italy in the fourteenth century, the recorder became popular throughout Europe; an instrument from as early as I 350 was found at a house in Dordrecht in the Netherlands. Henry VIII of England, himself an accomplished player, had 76 recorders of various sizes as well as 72 flutes. The two differ in that the recorder works like a whistle, whereas the tar older and more widespread flute is played by blowing over a hole as one might over the top of a bottle. Ehe transverse or sideways-flute became the standard in Europe but for a long time remained a relatively coarse-sounding instrument compared with the sweeter-toned recorders. The flute gradually superseded the recorder during the eighteenth century, although Bach continued to use both.


Shawm Family

Shawm-like instruments are thought to have entered Italy at the rime of the fifth Crusade
(1217-21) and were used in outdoor ceremonial or dance music. In the fifteenth century, shawms and trumpets became the mam instruments of the so-called "high", or loud, outdoor ensembles, and appear in paintings by Hieronymus Bosch. In France after 1500 they were known as hiiiitbois (meaning high or loud woodwind) and this name was eventually transferred to their more refined descendant, the oboe, in the late seventeenth century. During the sixteenth century, the rough-sounding shawm became less popular in ensemble music, giving way to a mellower blend of strings, cornetts. and trombones. Although the shawm was Middle Eastern in origin, the later development of its two vibrating reeds probably owes a debt to the indigenous European bagpipe. The air supply distinguishes the shawm and the bagpipe the shawm is blown, the double reed held between the lips, while the bagpipe's windbag acts as a bellows operated under the player's arm. A number of other instruments developed in Europe using the double-reed principle. The racket, which appeared in the nnd-sixteenth century and was similar to the shawm, was made of tubes folded several times to fit inside a compact cylinder. In Michael I'raetonus's 1619 compendium of early seventeenth-century musical knowledge, the Syiitiionid Musician, the racket's sound is described as "quiet, almost like blowing through a comb." Another van-ant, the curtal. with its U-shaped tube within a single piece of wood, was the forerunner of the modern bassoon.

Organ Family

The organ originated from the ancient panpipes principle of nsing a row of pipes, one for each note, rather than a single pipe with finger holes. The first instance of a true organ is a keyboard instrument with mechanical air supply made by Ktesibios of Alexandria in about 250 He. By the Middle Ages the organ was highly developed. An organ in Winchester Cathedral installed under Bishop Elphege (died 951) reportedly had 400 pipes. 26 bellows, and two keyboards. The organ was the only instrument the church did not prohibit during the so-called dark ages; as the uses of classical music broadened, it remained largely in church use. Because of its cumbersome size, a mobile self-contained version, the positive organ, was developed in the fourteenth century, along with the even more portable portative, depicted in paintings with Dufay as performer. The different tone qualities of these smaller instruments (the regal organ used reed rather than flute pipes) were later incorporated into larger organs, eventually with mechanical "stops" that could divert the airflow to a different sets of pipes. By the sixteenth century the organ had almost reached its final form, and enjoyed a golden age during the next two centuries that culminated in the great corpus of organ works by Bach.

J.S. Bach - "Pedal Exercitium"
J.S. Bach's etudal composition exclusively for the organ pedals is here performed on the three-manual 84-stop Allen 632-D organ in my home. Since Bach left this piece "unfinished" (the composition is in G minor, but the last note Bach wrote is a D), I have composed my own ending.
Wind Instruments-brass

Brass Family

Pipe instruments whose sound is produced by the player's vibrating lips date from prehistoric times, but only relatively recently did they evolve into instruments capable of playing sophisticated classical music. The horn and trumpet, which began as simple animal horns, remained coarse-sounding instruments even in their brass form. They were used mainly for hunting, military or ceremonial purposes until the late seventeenth century. Monteverdi used trumpets in his opera La favola d 'Orfeo in 1607, and by the late Baroque period, skilled musicians could play complicated florid melodies. In the instrument's high range, the natural resonances are close-together, so players had to attach "crooks" (brass tubing of different lengths) to achieve all the notes they wanted. Purcell and Bach wrote trumpet parts lor choral sections of their cantatas, and Bach gave the instrument a virtuoso role in his Brandenburg concerto No. 2. The saekbut. a lower-pitched version of the trumpet, entered classical music much earlier, appreciated for its mellow tone and a slide that could lengthen or shorten the tube, allowing all the notes of the scale to be played. It was used to accompany motets by Dufay and others, and by the end of the fifteenth century had taken on the appearance of its modern successor, the trombone. The cornett belongs m the brass family because of how its sound is produced; but it was actually made of wood and had a gentle sound that worked well with strings and voices. Its bass relative, the serpent, dates from the sixteenth century and was used until the mid-nineteenth in works by Rossini, Wagner, and Verdi.

The percussion family includes the oldest instruments in the world. The most numerous, the hundreds of types of drum, are usually made by stretching an animal skin over a wooden rim, forming a taut surface that is hit with a beater. Common during the Middle Ages, the Arabic tabor — a two-headed cylindrical drum was used by early troubadours to accompany rhythmic dances. The kettledrum had a single skm stretched over a large metal pot, producing a deep, resonant tone, which was eventually tuned to give a definite note. It gradually came into orchestral use during the seventeenth century and may have been used in Monteverdi's Orfeo in 1607. Instruments using vibrating metal such as bells and cymbals are most likely as old as metal itself and were used in Europe after the thirteenth century.

Instruments Through the Ages


1750 onwards


By 1750 the piano and most of our modern orchestral instruments already existed, though many were still far from their final form. The violin family, already established as the main body within the orchestra, was the most clearly defined. But in the Romantic era, composers wanted greater volume and increased expressiveness, and even the violin family went through further changes. In addition, public concerts in large concert halls became common, which increased the need to make instruments louder.

Musicians themselves were looking for technical improvements. Pianists, harpists, and woodwind and brass players wanted to play faster and with easier access to all the notes in every key. They wanted improved tuning, tone quality, and consistency. Sebastien Erard responded with critical additions to the piano and harp, Theobald Bohm invented an elaborate keywork system for the woodwinds, and Bluhmel and Stolzel developed the valve for the brass instruments, all within the first 30 years of the nineteenth century. The age of virtuoso performers soon followed, and instrument makers and composers responded variously to their demands.

In the twentieth century, composers continue to experiment with an increasing variety of instruments and have once again turned to non-Western musical traditions, particularly in search of new percussion effects. Using electronic computers and synthesizers they have added mathematical precision and a new range of colours to the composer's musical palette. A revival in early music has also prompted musicians to take up the instruments of earlier ages again, both for "authentic" performances of older music and to provide ever more resources for the new.

Wind Instruments-pipes

Flute Family

The transverse flute replaced the recorder as an orchestral instrument, largely because of its ability to play louder. Some credit is due to the virtuoso flautist Quantz (1697—1773). whose treatise The True Art of Flute Playing is still used tor teaching. He was in the service of Frederick the Great of Prussia (17 12-17X6). himself an able player and composer for whom Quantz wrote over 300 concertos. During Haydn s time, the flute became a permanent member of the orchestra. Mozart wrote several works for the instrument including two solo concertos and one with harp. The modern flute dates from developments introduced by Theobald Bohm around 1830. Bohm's system used a series of pads to cover the finger holes, allowing them to be better placed acoustically, and enabling the player to perform in any key.


Oboe Family

The oboe developed during the mid-seventeenth century as a more refined version of the shawm. In the eighteenth century it was still a relatively loud and coarse instrument but Bach, at least, recognized its potential for subtlety and it became one of the first wind instruments to win a permanent place in the Classical orchestra. During the nineteenth century oboe makers added the Bohm keywork system, bringing it close to its modern form. The oboe's alto cousin, the cor anglais, is not a full member of the orchestra but is used frequently for its expressive, mournful sound. The bass of the family, the bassoon, developed as a short step from the curtal, and quickly became the bass woodwind instrument in Haydn's orchestra. Mozart considered it expressive enough to deserve a concerto.

Mozart - Flute Concerto No.2 In D Major, K 314 Allegro
Mozart-Oboe Concerto in C Major(K. 314) I. Allegro aperto
Heinz Holliger(oboe)
Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne
conducted by Jesus Lopez Cobos
Wind Instruments-brass

Clarinet Family

Much of the clarinet's development was the work of jobann Denner and his son at Nuremberg from 1690 to 1720. With its single reed it belongs to a tar smaller and younger family of instruments than the double reeds, and has only one possible ancestor, the chalumeau. It rapidly became popular, though, because it possessed a smoother, fuller (some might say blander) tone than the oboe. Haydn barely used it, but Mozart was deeply impressed with the instrument, particularly in the hands of the virtuoso Anton Stadler. tor whom he wrote his final concerto. Mozart also wrote for the basset horn - the lower, mellower cousin of the clarinet in his Requiem. But apart from its use m a few works by Beethoven and Mendel-ssohn, the basset horn went quickly out of fashion, replaced by the alto clarinet.


Brass Family

By 1750, horn makers had significantly mellowed the horn's sound though to achieve all necessary notes they still used inconvenient crooks - and horns soon became permanent members of Haydn's orchestra. Then around 1815 the valve was invented simultaneously by Bluhmel in Silesia and Stolzel m Berlin. By pressing a key. the player could divert the airflow through extra tubing, as if adding a crook. The valve was also added to the trumpet. Experiments with key-covered holes and slides, as on a trombone, had resulted in compromised tone; but with valves the trumpet became an agile melody instrument. The trombone, little altered since the 1500s, entered the orchestra in Beethoven's Fiftli symphony, and the serpent was eventually replaced by the tuba.

Mozart - Horn Concerto No.3 In E Flat Major, K 447 Allegro
Stringed Instruments-struck

Piano Family

There was much interest around 1700 in the idea of a hammer-action (rather than plucked) harpsichord, inspired by Pantaleon Hebenstreit (1669-1750) and his enlarged dulcimer. Credit for the invention of the piano goes to Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1730) of Florence. His orai'icembalo col pian'e forte was the first instrument to use a hammer mechanism to produce a soft {piano) or loud (forte) sound depending on how hard the player depressed the key. He refined the mechanism, and it remained basically unaltered until 1821, when Sebastien Erard introduced the "double-escapement"' action for more rapid repetition of notes. Stem in Vienna and Broadwood in England developed rival piano designs during the 1770s. These coincided with the first true piano compositions in the sonatas of Haydn and Mozart. Soon the piano had replaced the harpsichord as the composers' preferred keyboard instrument. It has since attracted a huge and rich repertoire through its wide expressive and dynamic range. The last major development came m 1825 with Alpheus Babcock's one-piece cast-iron frame. Much heavier strings under tar greater tension (about 18 tons on a modern grand) could now be used, allowing the piano to compete in volume with large orchestras in concertos by Brahms. Liszt, and Rachmaninov. As music making in the home became more popular, various space-saving adaptations were explored. 1 he giraffe piano from the early 1800s simply up-ended the concert grand, but this idea was improved by lowering the string frame to floor level, forming the basis for the modern upright instrument.

MITSUKO UCHIDA Mozart Piano Sonata in D major K.576
The Most Beautiful Piano Pieces
Howard Shore - Papa George Made Movies (Hugo OST) [0:00]
Chopin - Waltz Op. 70, No. 3 in D-flat [0:47]
Scott Joplin - The Entertainer [1:21]
Yiruma - River Flows in You [2:02]
Chopin - Nocturne Op. 27, No. 2 [3:17]
Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 [4:40]
Michael Giacchino - Married Life (UP Soundtrack) [10:04]
Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 21: II (Piano Solo) [10:55]
Bach - Invention No. 1 in C Major [12:12]
Rachmaninov - Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini [13:35]
Chopin - Waltz Op. 70, No. 1 in G-flat [14:17]
Schubert - Impromptu Op. 90, No. 3 [15:00]
Thomas Newman - Any Other Name (American Beauty) [15:42]
Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata [18:11]
Mozart - Rondo Alla Turca (Turkish March) [19:37]
Bach - Invention No. 8 in F Major [21:01]
Gold & Oden (One Piece Soundtrack) [22:05]
Debussy - Arabesque No. 1 [23:42]
Yiruma - Do You? [25:35]
Chopin - Etude Op. 10, No. 5 (Black Key) [26:56]
Maksim Mrvica - Somewhere in Time [27:41]
Yanni - One Man's Dream [28:35]
Roy Todd - Child of the Troubles [29:46]
Debussy - Claire de Lune [30:51]
Beethoven - Fur Elise [32:57]
Bach - Italian Concerto in F Major: I [34:08]
Craig Armstrong - Piano Theme (World Trade Center OST) [35:08]
John Williams - Jurassic Park Theme (Jurassic Park OST) [35:41]
Satie - Je te Veux [37:10]
Chopin - Grande Valse Brillante [37:52]
Alan Silvestri - I'm Forrest... Forrest Gump [39:28]
Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 8 (Pathetique): II [40:55]
It Is You (I Have Loved) (Shrek Soundtrack) [42:06]
Bach - Piano Concerto No. 5 in F minor: II (Piano Solo) [43:48]
Chopin - Waltz Op. 64, No. 2 [44:47]
Yiruma - May Be [46:30]
Rachmaninov - Prelude in C Sharp minor [47:51]
Satie - Gymnopedie No. 1 [48:52]
John Williams - With Malice Toward None (Piano Solo) [50:33]
Bach - Golberg Variations: Aria da capo [52:04]
James Newton Howard - Central Park (King Kong OST) [53:23]
Chopin - Minute Waltz [54:21]
Bach - Musette in D [55:12]
Chopin - Polonaise in A Major (Military) [56:03]
Above & Beyond - Small Moments Like These [56:57]
Far Horizons (Skyrim Soundtrack) [58:17]
Chopin - Etude Op. 10, No. 3 (Tritesse) [58:47]
Satie - Gymnopedie No. 3 [59:31]
Dvorak - Humoresque No. 7 [1:00:15]
Brahms - Waltz No. 15 in A-flat [1:01:20]
John Williams - Remembering Emilie, and Finale [1:01:55]
Chopin - Funeral March [1:02:44]
Mikael Sapin - The Rain [1:03:20]
Bach - Prelude in C Major [1:04:11]
Mozart - Twinkle, Twinkle Little Stars Variations [1:04:55]
Yiruma - Moonlight [1:05:39]
Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 20: II [1:06:37]
Liszt - Liebestraum No. 3 (Love Dream) [1:07:07]
Mozart - Piano Sonata No. 16: I [1:07:55]
Chopin - Nocturne Op. 9, No. 2 [1:08:35]
Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue [1:09:32]
Satie - Gnossienne No. 1 [1:10:32]
Chopin - Polonaise in A flat (Heroic) [1:11:21]
Yiruma - Love Me [1:12:07]
Yann Tiersen - Comptine d'Un Autre Été (Amelie OST) [1:13:04]
Yiruma - Kiss The Rain [1:13:51]
Mozart - Piano Sonata No. 11: Andante Grazioso [1:14:37]
Chopin - Berceuse Op. 57 in D-flat Major [1:15:37]
Yiruma - Love Hurts [1:16:20]
John Williams - The Peterson House and Finale (Lincoln) [1:17:00]
Composers have continued to use an increasing variety of drums and other untuned percussion instruments that have become louder and more resonant with the use of modern materials under higher tensions. But their most significant expansion has been in the realm of tuned percussion. The kettledrums, now more commonly called timpani, have pedal mechanisms that change the note by altering the tension of the skin. Bartok explored the possibility of glissando effects m Music for strings, percussion and celeste. The xylophone, known in Europe since 1500, finally took an orchestral role as a set of musical rattling bones m Saint-Saens' Dciuse Macabre (1874). The glockenspiel and its keyboard version, the celeste, won respect after they featured in dances from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet of 1892.
Ensembles and Orchestras


Early religious music

The earliest musical instruments date from prehistoric times. In the classical Greek and Roman cultures, more sophisticated instruments took form; yet their development in the West stagnated after the fall of the Roman Empire. The early Christian church strongly discouraged the use of instruments in religious music, owing to their pagan associations, and consequently the system of chant used by the church, known as plamchant, made no provision tor them.

But the situation began to change with the advent of polyphony in church music. Polyphony, which combined several separate lines of music rather than using the single line of plamchant, became prevalent from around the twelfth century. To achieve richer textures, composers gradually introduced organs, doubling plamchant lines. As more complex forms developed, the long, held notes of the vocal bass line almost certainly were doubled at times by string or wind instruments. Many surviving manuscripts also show textless polyphonic introductions or interludes that could have been played by an unspecified combination of instruments without voices.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, extensive use of instruments in church music, at least on ceremonial occasions, became standard. A chronicler of the time reports the use of trumpets, vielles (a precursor of the violin), and other instruments during the consecration of Florence Cathedral in 1436. In 1569. Massimo Troiano reported that the musical accompaniment at a Bavarian court marriage included eight trombones, eight viols, eight flutes, a harpsichord, and a large lute.


Secular music in the Middle Ages

In secular music, too, composers gradually introduced instruments to augment existing vocal forms. The troubadours of twelfth- and thirteenth-century southern France were accompanied in their love songs by jongleurs on vielles, citterns (an early guitar), or harps. These versatile entertainers could usually play several instruments as well as act and perform acrobatics. They found their way into court life as meiicsrrels (minstrels) and increased their status by organizing themselves into guilds.

The courts had the necessary resources to organize and support larger groups, referred to as "high" or "low" ensembles, so called not on the basis of pitch but on their generally "loud" or "soft" nature. High ensembles, including pipes, shawms (a forerunner of the oboe), and various percussion instruments, accompanied hunting, warfare, and certain kinds of dance. Low ensembles, using harps, lutes, recorders, psalteries, small organs, bells, and cymbals, accompanied the festivities of the nobility in dances or interludes to other entertainments.

Dance music was largely improvisatory, requiring little more than characteristic rhythms and meters. Consequently the leading composers of the day concerned themselves mainly with vocal forms. But instruments figured prominently m accompaniments to the secular songs that later developed into the chansons (three-part songs) of Machaut and the Burgundian School in the fifteenth century; the popularity of the chanson ensured its place among the earliest printed musical editions. The first fully printed music book was the Harmonicc Xhisica (Jdhccatou (Hundred Pieces of Harmony Music), published in Venice in 1501 by Ottaviano dei Pctrucci. Most of the collection's chansons have no text, probably because their performance was wholly instrumental.


The High Renaissance

At the start of the sixteenth century, composers still did not specify the combination of instruments required to play a piece; this began with the aesthetic developments of the High Renaissance. In both sacred and secular music, the various lines in a polyphonic piece had hitherto served distinct functions supplying melody, bass line, or accompaniment. It was therefore an asset to have an ensemble of instruments of contrasting timbres to avoid contusion a rebec (an early bowed string instrument), a psaltery, a harp, and a flute, for example - as there was little difference among most instruments in terms of their pitch range. But with the new Renaissance ideals of clarity and balance came polyphonic music, particularly by Josquin Desprez, in which all lines or parts were equally important. This prompted the development of different-sized versions of the same instrument. By varying the size of such instruments such as lutes, viols, and recorders, it was possible to make up ensembles of standardized timbre and extended range of pitch.

In England in the seventeenth century, these single-family ensembles of three to eight instruments became known as "whole consorts", as opposed to the "broken consorts" that retained the older mix of different types.

The growing body of exclusively instrumental music reflected the growing status of instruments. But such compositions as the new keyboard toccata (a form that could not be sung), though written for a particular type of instrument, still avoided more specific instrumentation indications. It is generally accepted that such indications were first made in Giovanni Gabneli's Sacrac Syniphoiiiac ot 1597, which were written expressly tor various combinations of cornetts, trombones, and violins.

In one of these compositions, the Sonata pian' с forte, Gabrieli also explored for the first time the possible contrasts between "soft" and "loud" groupings of instruments in a single ensemble. More often these two options were still confined to separate ensembles performing in differing circumstances. The louder, high ensembles had become open-air ensembles of town musicians playing horns, sackbutts, shawms, and early violins during public festivities, while the low ensembles had developed into a variety of chamber ensembles consisting of softer, more intimate flutes, viols and other instruments, for the entertainment of wealthy patrons.



The Baroque era

Monteverdi's opera La favola d'Orfco of 1607 (an example of socially exclusive entertainment) signalled the Baroque period's departure from the harmony of the Renaissance in favour of a richer, more sophisticated form of expression. Novel use of instrumentation became crucial, and in Orfco the term "orchestra" began to acquire its modern meaning. The orchestra had its roots in the sixteenth-century intermedio (a musical interlude, an important part of Renaissance court entertainment). Intermedi involved harpsichords, viols, trombones, tenor recorders, cornetts, flutes, and lutes, among others. Monteverdi's innovations were the addition of violins to lead a body of bowed stringed instruments (with viols), and the careful selection of instruments for particular dramatic effects. In the Underworld scenes, tor example, he used the mellow, sombre timbres ot a small organ, sackbutts. and cornetts.

After Orjco composers downgraded the operatic orchestra to provide an unassuming background to increasing vocal virtuosity, mainly using strings rather than wind instruments. The louder, more expressive violin gradually superseded the viol, and the leading seventeenth-century orchestra, established by Jean-Baptiste Lully, actually went under the name "Les vingt-quatre violons du Roi" (the King's 24 violins). By 1700 it included a wind section of flutes, oboes, and horns, as well as the lower-pitched members of the violin family.

The developing orchestra soon gained a role in religious music as well, accompanying the opera-related genres ot oratorio, Passion, and cantata, notably in the works of Schiitz, Purcell. Handel, and Bach. Handel's opera orchestras were limited by the size of orchestra pits in London theatres, but m his oratorios effectively sacred operas for concert performance the orchestra took its place on the stage and expanded to 15 violins, five violas, three cellos, three double basses, various wind instruments, and kettledrums. Such an ensemble was, however, still a rarity7, and composers wrote for a variety of forces, depending upon the resources available to them.

In all these operatic genres, composers used their instrumental forces sparingly and restricted the full orchestra to instrumental overtures or smfomas, and to large chorus numbers. During solo arias, a small group ot strings and perhaps a few solo wind instruments accompanied the singers; instrumentation was even further reduced in the recitatives to a bass-dommated accompaniment known as the basso continue). This consisted of one or two bass instruments (lute, theorbo, gamba or, later on, cello, double bass, or bassoon) and a keyboard instrument (harpsichord or organ) to till out the harmony.

The contmuo was an important element in the growing number of purely instrumental forms. In both chamber and orchestral music, it provided the consistent foundation of a bass line and harmony. In chamber music, it provided the third part in the trio sonata format (the first two being solo violins or wind instruments), which therefore often, somewhat confus-ingly, comprised four instruments in all.


Some of the new instrumental forms developed from dance music, and the names of the various dances persisted long after they had evolved into purely concert works. Gigues, sara-bandes. minuets, courantes, bourrees, and gavottes were arranged into suites and could be scored tor orchestra (Handel's Water music and Bach's Orchestral suites), for keyboard instruments (works by Couperin and Rameau), or even for a solo melody instrument (notably for cello and violin by Bach).

But instruments really began to come into their own in concertos, where increasing technical skill was required. Gabneh's experiments with contrasting groups of instruments were furthered m 1620 m works that juxtaposed a solo or concertino group with the full orchestra or npieno ensemble. These developed into the concerto grosso works of Corclh and Handel, reaching a high point in Bach's Brandenburg concertos. Vivaldi and others reduced the concertino group to a single instrument (most commonly the violin, but also cello, harpsichord, trumpet, flute, oboe, bassoon, or others) and the virtuoso solo concerto was born.


The Classical era

During the eighteenth century, the orchestra was gradually standardized, although its total size, and the composition of the wind section, still varied according to available resources. In 1756, the Mannheim court orchestra, the leading ensemble of the day, consisted of 20 violins, four each of violas, cellos, and double basses, two each of flutes, oboes, bassoons and timpani, four horns, and a trumpet.

This kind of ensemble became the standard accompanying group for operas, oratorios, and concertos, but it found its ideal expression in the symphony. Developed initially by Haydn from the earlier orchestral sinfonias, and later by Mozart and Beethoven, this was the largest instrumental form so tar. a showpiece for colouristic orchestral effects. The continue gradually disappeared (and the harpsichord with it) as the distinction between solo and accompaniment blurred. The functions of melody and harmony were spread among various instruments as composers searched for novel timbres and sonorities. In pursuit of these goals larger and more versatile

orchestras came into being. The chamber orchestra thus grew into the symphony orchestra. Haydn began writing symphonies for the Esterhazy court orchestra, which in 1766 numbered only 17 players; by the 17Ws he was writing for a London orchestra of more than 50. Mozart added clarinets to the symphonic configuration, while Beethoven added trombones, piccolo, contra-bassoon, and various percussion instruments. Orchestras that had once been directed from the harpsichord, or by the first violinist, began from about 1800 to need specialist, baton-wielding conductors.

The demise of the continue) combination coincided roughly with the arrival of the piano. As well as possessing the ability shared by all keyboard instruments to render a number of parts simultaneously, the piano had a much stronger, more flexible, and therefore more expressive sound than the harpsichord. It soon became the most popular solo instrument in both concertos and sonatas. In trio sonatas it not only replaced the harpsichord but also took over much of the melodic role. Composers even wrote sonatas for the solo piano with the accompaniment of a violin or cello. Mozart's and Beethoven's solo keyboard sonatas were probably all written for the new instrument, and their violin and cello sonatas included pianos very much as equal partners.

The increasing use ot a variety ot instruments tor supplying melody and accompaniment meant that the harpsichord in a trio sonata configuration could be replaced by a viola to form a string quartet of two violins, viola, and cello. This combination proved immensely successful and became the vehicle for some of the greatest music of Haydn and Beethoven, while Mozart seemed equally inspired by the addition of another viola to form a string quintet. Piano trios (with violin and cello), wind octets, and single wind instruments with strings were also popular, but the string quartet reigned supreme and has held a special attraction tor composers ever since.

The symphony orchestra

orchestra, instrumental ensemble of varying size and composition. Although applied to various ensembles found in Western and non-Western music, orchestra in an unqualified sense usually refers to the typical Western music ensemble of bowed stringed instruments complemented by wind and percussion instruments that, in the string section at least, has more than one player per part. The word stems from the Greek orchēstra, the circular part of the ancient Greek theatre in front of the proscenium in which the dancers and instrumentalists performed.

Antecedents of the modern symphony orchestra appeared about 1600, the most notable early example being the ensemble required in the Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi’s opera Orfeo. In the late 17th century, the French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully directed for the royal court an orchestra dominated by stringed instruments but including woodwinds, such as oboes and bassoons, and sometimes also flutes and horns. In the 18th century in Germany, Johann Stamitz and other composers in what is known as the Mannheim school established the basic composition of the modern symphony orchestra: four sections, consisting of woodwinds (flutes, oboes, and bassoons), brass (horns and trumpets), percussion (two timpani), and strings (first and second violins, violas, cellos, and double basses). Clarinets were adopted into the orchestra during this period, while earlier mainstays, such as the harpsichord, lute, and theorbo (a bass lute), were gradually phased out.

The 19th century was a fertile period for the orchestra. Woodwinds were increased from two to typically three or four of each instrument, and the brass section was augmented by a third trumpet, third and fourth horns, and the inclusion of trombones. Composers such as Hector Berlioz, Richard Wagner, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, and—into the 20th century—Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, and Igor Stravinsky postulated, and in many instances created, orchestras of unprecedented size and tonal resources. The large orchestra typical of the late 19th through the mid-20th century incorporated an average of 100 performers and might include a wide variety of instruments and devices required in specific works. In the 1920s, however, many composers began to turn toward smaller, chamber-size ensembles, sometimes maintaining and sometimes discarding the traditional instrumental complements.

Hector Berlioz: Roméo et Juliette: Introduction - Codarts Symphony Orchestra

The orchestra tor which Beethoven wrote is recognizable as a relative of the modern-day symphony orchestra, but there were still further changes in store. The Romantic era ushered in a desire for an even greater range ot expression. New forms such as the symphonic poem, with its inclusion of elements inspired by literature, gave freer rein to the composer's imagination.

Berlioz's 1830 Symphonic ftiiiriistiqiic set the tone, creating brilliant orchestral effects with harps, enlarged brass and percussion sections and the shrill E flat clarinet to depict a Ball, the March to the Scaffold, and a Witches' Sabbath. In his 1844 Treatise on Instrumentation Berlioz listed a "finest orchestra", consisting of 21 first violins. 20 second violins, 1 8 violas, 8 first cellos, second cellos, 10 double basses, 4 harps, 2 piccolos, 2 flutes. 2 oboes. I cor anglais. 2 clarinets. 1 basset horn or bass clarinet. 4 bassoons, 4 French horns. 2 trumpets, 2 cornets, 3 trombones. 1 bass trombone. 1 tuba, 4 timpani, 1 bass drum, and a pair of cymbals. This closely approximates to the modern symphony orchestra, though such an orchestra was rare in Berlioz's day.

Most ot Berlioz's aspirations for the orchestra were realized later in the nineteenth century, particularly with the growth ot public concerts, giving composers and impresarios greater influence over the assembled instrumental forces than tinder their previous aristocratic or church patronage. Around this time many ot today's famous orchestras were founded, including the Berlin Philharmonic (1882). the Chicago Symphony (1891). and the London Symphony Orchestra (1904). With them the specialist conductor was firmly established, not only coordinating large numbers ot performers, but playing ,i crucial role in the artistic interpretation of the music.

Composers such as Wagner, Mahler, and Richard Strauss continued to write tor ever larger forces. Mahler scored his lUglitli symphony (1907) for a combined woodwind and brass section ot 45 players plus timpani, bells, mandolin, organ, piano, and celeste, as well as the normal strings, a huge chorus

and eight solo singers. Debussy and Ravel achieved breathtaking and subtle effects through virtuoso orchestrations for a slightly more modest ensemble, to which Ravel added saxophones m some of his larger works.

During the twentieth century professional orchestras have developed into virtuoso ensembles, particularly with the advent of high-definition recorded sound. Bartok, Lutoslawski. Carter, and others have written "concertos tor orchestra", recognizing the solo capabilities ot instruments and their players throughout the orchestra. Ever new possibilities for the symphony orchestra were signalled in Messiaen's massive I itrdnoatild symphony ot 1948, which added a solo piano, vibraphone, glockenspiel, celeste, the electronic ondes martenot, and Indonesian gamelan gongs to an already inflated orchestra.

Chamber ensembles

The works ot the Classical period were (and still are) frequently performed, and chamber orchestras were formed parallel to the symphony orchestras with the aim of specializing in such repertoire. They also found a role m more recent works, such as Stravinsky's neoclassical compositions. Composers such as Tchaikovsky, Elgar, and Tippett explored more deeply the rich resonances oft stringed instruments in works for string orchestra.


The range of instruments used in smaller chamber ensembles continued to grow during the nineteenth century, with compositions for anything from one to more than ten players. A wealth of solo piano music was written by Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, and many others, and sonatas for other instruments still called for a more or less equal piano part. The more successful larger groups continued to feature a core of strings, particularly in Brahms's majestic trios, quartets, quintets, and sextets for strings alone, or with piano.

All these combinations live on into the present, though none more robustly than the string quartet. Bartok gave the combination new impetus in the earlier part of this century, and notable contributions followed, in particular from Shostakovich and Carter.


The twentieth-century ensemble

Generally speaking, the twentieth century has witnessed the development of an "anything goes" approach to scoring for chamber groups, as well as a narrowing of the gap between chamber and orchestral music. The dividing line is now hard to draw. Part of the impetus came from a desire to achieve a clearer definition of the individual timbres of the instruments, as opposed to overblown orchestral effects.

Stravinsky largely abandoned traditional combinations and geared his choice ot instruments precisely to the particular colours and effects that he sought. In Ragtime (1918) he used an ensemble ot 1 1 contrasted instruments including a cimbalom; he scored the Ebony concerto (1 946) for jazz band with solo clarinet: and in Les noces (1923) he created an ensemble of four pianos and percussion for an impersonal and mechanical counterpart to the chorus and solo singers.

Folk, non-Western, and jazz instruments, particularly percussion, were early additions to the twentieth-century ensemble. From Africa came a variety of drums and other unpitched instruments, and the marimba a deeper version of the xylophone - which contributed to the development of the vibraphone. From Indonesia came the gamelan gongs used by Messiaen and others.

Since World War II, most composers, especially the avant-garde, have experimented with a variety of non-traditional instrumental combinations. Boulez scored his Eclat (1965) for piano, celeste, harp, glockenspiel, vibraphone, mandolin, guitar, cimbalom, tubular bells, alto flute, cor anglais, trumpet, trombone, viola, and cello. In an age of such choice, no single work can be described as typical, but this example gives some indication of the possibilities. To perform this repertoire various groups have been formed, with a variable personnel from which the necessary combinations can be drawn.

Electronic music and beyond

Around the middle of the century, composers began to explore the possibilities of electronic instruments such as the ondes martcnot, the electric organ, and later, tape machines, synthesizers, modulators, amplifiers, oscillators, and computers. Stockhausen and others worked in electronic studios and became composer-engineer-performers, synthesizing and modifying sounds m performance or for recordings. Such resources have also been combined with natural instruments to produce sounds that may be electronically modified.

John Cage, more than anyone else, opened the door to using as a musical instrument just about any object capable of producing a sound, or even nothing at all. He began with the "prepared piano", inserting various items among its strings to produce a theoretically unlimited range of sounds, and later moved on to radios, food processors, plant materials, and fire.

The "original instrument" revival

With the inventive spirit in the realms of modern music thriving, more attention has turned in recent years to the ways in which the music of previous ages was originally performed. Research has led to the rediscovery, restoration, and reconstruction of so-called "period" instruments, and the formation of a number of specialist ensembles, using as near to the original forces as can be determined. Coincidental or not, it is interesting to reflect that this stage in music history of apparently limitless possibilities for new instruments is also a time of vigorously renewed interest in old ones.

Musical instrument
Encyclopædia Britannica
A musical instrument is a device created or adapted for the purpose of making musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates back to the beginnings of human culture. The purpose of early musical instruments was ritual: a hunter might use a trumpet to signal success on the hunt, or a shaman might use a drum in a religious ceremony. Cultures later developed the processes of composing and performing 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. Solid consensus begins to form about early flutes dating to about 37,000 years old. 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 that were used in their construction. 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 resulted in the rapid spread and adaptation of most instruments in places far from their origin. By the Middle Ages, instruments from Mesopotamia could be found in Maritime Southeast Asia and Europeans were playing 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.

The classification of musical instruments is a discipline in its own right, and many systems of classification have been used over the years. One may classify musical instruments by their effective range or their material composition; however, the most common method, Hornbostel-Sachs, uses the means by which they produce sound. The academic study of musical instruments is called organology.

Definition and basic operation
A musical instrument is broadly defined as any device created or adapted for the purpose of making musical 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".

Musical instruments are constructed in a broad array of styles and shapes, using many different materials. Early musical instruments were made from "found objects" such a shells and plant parts. As instruments evolved, so did the selection and quality of materials. Virtually every material in nature has been used by at least one culture to make musical instruments. One plays a musical instrument by interacting with it in some way—for example, by plucking the strings on a string instrument. The sounds produced by musical instruments vary in timbre and pitch, the principle characteristics by which the human ear perceives musical sounds.

Researchers have discovered archaeological evidence of musical instruments in many parts of the world. Some finds are 67,000 years old, however their status as musical instruments is often in dispute. Consensus solidifies about artifacts dated back to around 37,000 years old and later. Only artifacts made from durable materials or using durable methods tend to survive. As such, the specimens found cannot be irrefutably placed as the earliest musical instruments.

Drawing of the Divje Babe flute by Bob FinkIn July 1995, Slovenian archaeologist Ivan Turk discovered a bone carving in the northwest region of Slovenia. The carving, named the Divje Babe flute, features four holes that Canadian musicologist Bob Fink determined could have been used to play four notes of a diatonic scale. Researchers estimate the flute's age at between 43,400 and 67,000 years, making it the oldest known musical instrument and the only musical instrument associated with the Neanderthal culture. However, some archaeologists and ethnomusicologists dispute the flute's status as a musical instrument. German archaeologists have found mammoth bone and swan bone flutes dating back to 30,000 to 37,000 years old in the Swabian Alps. The flutes were made in the Upper Paleolithic age, and are more commonly accepted as being the oldest known musical instruments.

Archaeological evidence of musical instruments was discovered in excavations at the Royal Cemetery in the Sumerian city of Ur. These instruments, one of the first ensembles of instruments yet discovered, include nine lyres, two harps, a silver double flute, sistra and cymbals. A set of reed-sounded silver pipes discovered in Ur was the likely predecessor of modern bagpipes. The cylindrical pipes feature three side-holes that allowed players to produce whole tone scales.[8] These excavations, carried out by Leonard Woolley in the 1920s, uncovered non-degradable fragments of instruments and the voids left by the degraded segments that, together, have been used to reconstruct them.[9] The graves these instruments were buried in have been carbon dated to between 2600 and 2500 BCE, providing evidence that these instruments were used in Sumeria by this time.

Archaeologists in the Jiahu site of central Henan province of China have found flutes made of bones that date back 7,000 to 9,000 years, representing some of the "earliest complete, playable, tightly-dated, multinote musical instruments" ever found.

A cuneiform tablet from Nippur in Mesopotamia dated to 2000 BCE indicates the names of strings on the lyre and represents the earliest known example of music notation.


Scholars agree that there are no completely reliable methods of determining the exact chronology of musical instruments across cultures. Comparing and organizing instruments based on their complexity is misleading, since advancements in musical instruments have sometimes reduced complexity. For example, construction of early slit drums involved felling and hollowing out large trees; later slit drums were made by opening bamboo stalks, a much simpler task.

Curt Sachs argued that is misleading to arrange the development of musical instruments by workmanship since all cultures advance at different levels and have access to different materials. For example, contemporary anthropologists attempting to compare musical instruments made by two cultures that existed at the same time but who differed in organization, culture, and handicraft cannot determine which instruments are more "primitive". Ordering instruments by geography is also partially unreliable, as one cannot determine when and how cultures contacted one another and shared knowledge.

German musicologist Curt Sachs, one of the most prominent musicologists and musical ethnologists in modern times, proposed that a geographical chronology until approximately 1400 is preferable, however, due to its limited subjectivity. Beyond 1400, one can follow the overall development of musical instruments by time period.

The science of marking the order of musical instrument development relies on archaeological artifacts, artistic depictions, and literary references. Since data in one research path can be inconclusive, all three paths provide a better historical picture.

Primitive and prehistoric
Two Aztec slit drums, called teponaztli. The characteristic "H" slits can be seen on the top of the drum in the foregroundUntil the 19th century AD, European written music histories began with mythological accounts of how musical instruments were invented. Such accounts included Jubal, descendant of Cain and "father of all such as handle the harp and the organ", Pan, inventor of the pan pipes, and Mercury, who is said to have made a dried tortoise shell into the first lyre. Modern histories have replaced such mythology with anthropological speculation, occasionally informed by archeological evidence. Scholars agree that there was no definitive "invention" of the musical instrument since the definition of the term "musical instrument" is completely subjective to both the scholar and the would-be inventor. For example, a Homo habilis slapping his body could be the makings of a musical instrument regardless of the being's intent.

Among the first devices external to the human body that are considered instruments are rattles, stampers, and various drums. These earliest instruments evolved due to the human motor impulse to add sound to emotional movements such as dancing. Eventually, some cultures assigned ritual functions to their musical instruments, using them for hunting and various ceremonies. Those cultures developed more complex percussion instruments and other instruments such as ribbon reeds, flutes, and trumpets. Some of these labels carry far different connotations from those used in modern day; early flutes and trumpets are so-labeled for their basic operation and function rather than any resemblance to modern instruments. Among early cultures for whom drums developed ritual, even sacred importance are the Chukchi people of the Russian Far East, the indigenous people of Melanesia, and many cultures of Africa. In fact, drums were pervasive throughout every African culture. One East African tribe, the Wahinda, believed it was so holy that seeing a drum would be fatal to any person other than the sultan.

Humans eventually developed the concept of using musical instruments for producing a melody. Until this time in the evolutions of musical instruments, melody was common only in singing. Similar to the process of reduplication in language, instrument players first developed repetition and then arrangement. An early form of melody was produced by pounding two stamping tubes of slightly different sizes—one tube would produce a "clear" sound and the other would answer with a "darker" sound. Such instrument pairs also included bullroarers, slit drums, shell trumpets, and skin drums. Cultures who used these instrument pairs associated genders with them; the "father" was the bigger or more energetic instrument, while the "mother" was the smaller or duller instrument. Musical instruments existed in this form for thousands of years before patterns of three or more tones would evolve in the form of the earliest xylophone. Xylophones originated in the mainland and archipelago of Southeast Asia, eventually spreading to Africa, the Americas, and Europe. Along with xylophones, which ranged from simple sets of three "leg bars" to carefully tuned sets of parallel bars, various cultures developed instruments such as the ground harp, ground zither, musical bow, and jaw harp.

Images of musical instruments begin to appear in Mesopotamian artifacts in 2800 BC or earlier. Beginning around 2000 BC, Sumerian and Babylonian cultures began delineating two distinct classes of musical instruments due to division of labor and the evolving class system. Popular instruments, simple and playable by anyone, evolved differently from professional instruments whose development focused on effectiveness and skill. Despite this development, very few musical instruments have been recovered in Mesopotamia. Scholars must rely on artifacts and cuneiform texts written in Sumerian or Akkadian to reconstruct the early history of musical instruments in Mesopotamia. Even the process of assigning names to these instruments is challenging since there is no clear distinction among various instruments and the words used to describe them.

Although Sumerian and Babylonian artists mainly depicted ceremonial instruments, historians have been able to distinguish six idiophones used in early Mesopotamia: concussion clubs, clappers, sistra, bells, cymbals, and rattles. Sistra are depicted prominently in a great relief of Amenhotep III, and are of particular interest because similar designs have been found in far-reaching places such as Tbilisi, Georgia and among the Native American Yaqui tribe. The people of Mesopotamia preferred stringed instruments to any other, as evidenced by their proliferation in Mesopotamian figurines, plaques, and seals. Innumerable varieties of harps are depicted, as well as lyres and lutes, the forerunner of modern stringed instruments such as the violin.

Musical instruments used by the Egyptian culture before 2700 BC bore striking similarity to those of Mesopotamia, leading historians to conclude that the civilizations must have been in contact with one another. Sachs notes that Egypt did not possess any instruments that the Sumerian culture did not also possess. However, by 2700 BC the cultural contacts seem to have dissipated; the lyre, a prominent ceremonial instrument in Sumer, did not appear in Egypt for another 800 years. Clappers and concussion sticks appear on Egyptian vases as early as 3000 BC. The civilization also made use of sistra, vertical flutes, double clarinets, arched and angular harps, and various drums.

Little history is available in the period between 2700 BC and 1500 BC, as Egypt (and indeed, Babylon) entered a long violent period of war and destruction. This period saw the Kassites destroy the Babylonian empire in Mesopotamia and the Hyksos destroy the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. When the Pharaohs of Egypt conquered Southwest Asia in around 1500 BC, the cultural ties to Mesopotamia were renewed and Egypt's musical instruments also reflected heavy influence from Asiatic cultures. Under their new cultural influences, the people of the New Kingdom began using oboes, trumpets, lyres, lutes, castanets, and cymbals.

In contrast with Mesopotamia and Egypt, professional musicians did not exist in Israel between 2000 and 1000 BC. While the history of musical instruments in Mesopotamia and Egypt relies on artistic representations, the culture in Israel produced few such representations. Scholars must therefore rely on information gleaned from the Bible and the Talmud. The Hebrew texts mention two prominent instruments associated with Jubal, ugabs and kinnors. These may be translated as pan pipes and lyres, respectively. Other instruments of the period included tofs, or frame drums, small bells or jingles called pa'amon, shofars, and the trumpet-like hasosra.

The introduction of a monarchy in Israel during the 11th century BC produced the first professional musicians and with them a drastic increase in the number and variety of musical instruments. However, identifying and classifying the instruments remains a challenge due to the lack of artistic interpretations. For example, stringed instruments of uncertain design called nevals and asors existed, but neither archaeology nor etymology can clearly define them. In her book A Survey of Musical Instruments, American musicologist Sibyl Marcuse proposes that the nevel must be similar to vertical harp due to its relation to "nabla", the Phoenician term for "harp".

In Greece, Rome, and Etruria, the use and development of musical instruments stood in stark contrast to those cultures' achievements in architecture and sculpture. The instruments of the time were simple and virtually all of them were imported from other cultures. Lyres were the principal instrument, as musicians used them to honor the gods. Greeks played a variety of wind instruments they classified as aulos (reeds) or syrinx (flutes); Greek writing from that time reflects a serious study of reed production and playing technique. Romans played reed instruments named tibia featuring side-holes that could be opened or closed, allowing for greater flexibility in playing modes. Other instruments in common use in the region included vertical harps derived from those of the Orient, lutes of Egyptian design, various pipes and organs, and clappers, which were played primarily by women.

Evidence of musical instruments in use by early civilizations of India is almost completely lacking, making it impossible to reliably attribute instruments to the Munda and Dravidian language-speaking cultures that first settled the area. Rather, the history of musical instruments in the area begins with the Indus Valley Civilization that emerged around 3000 BC. Various rattles and whistles found among excavated artifacts are the only physical evidence of musical instruments. A clay statuette indicates the use of drums, and examination of the Indus script has also revealed representations of vertical arched harps identical in design to those depicted in Sumerian artifacts. This discovery is among many indications that the Indus Valley and Sumerian cultures maintained cultural contact. Subsequent developments in musical instruments in India occurred with the Rigveda, or hymns. These songs used various drums, shell trumpets, harps, and flutes. Other prominent instruments in use during the early centuries AD were the snake charmer's double clarinet, bagpipes, barrel drums, cross flutes, and short lutes. In all, India had no unique musical instruments until the Middle Ages.

Musical instruments such as zithers appeared in Chinese writings around 12th century BC and earlier. Early Chinese philosophers such as Confucius (551–479 BC), Mencius (372–289 BC), and Laozi shaped the development of musical instruments in China, adopting an attitude toward music similar to that of the Greeks. The Chinese believed that music was an essential part of character and community, and developed a unique system of classifying their musical instruments according to their material makeup.

Idiophones were extremely important in Chinese music, hence the majority of early instruments were idiophones. Poetry of the Shang Dynasty mentions bells, chimes, drums, and globular flutes carved from bone, the latter of which has been excavated and preserved by archaeologists. The Zhou Dynasty saw percussion instruments such as clappers, troughs, wooden fish, and yu. Wind instruments such as flute, pan-pipes, pitch-pipes, and mouth organs also appeared in this time period. The xiao and various other instruments that spread through many cultures, came into use in China during and after the Han Dynasty.

Although civilizations in Central America attained a relatively high level of sophistication by the eleventh century AD, they lagged behind other civilizations in the development of musical instruments. For example, they had no stringed instruments; all of their instruments were idiophones, drums, and wind instruments such as flutes and trumpets. Of these, only the flute was capable of producing a melody. In contrast, pre-Columbian South American civilizations in areas such as modern-day Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Chile were less advanced culturally but more advanced musically. South American cultures of the time used pan-pipes as well as varieties of flutes, idiophones, drums, and shell or wood trumpets.

Middle Ages

During the period of time loosely referred to as the Middle Ages, China developed a tradition of integrating musical influence from other regions. The first record of this type of influence is in 384 AD, when China established a orchestra in its imperial court after a conquest in Turkestan. Influences from Middle East, Persia, India, Mongolia, and other countries followed. In fact, Chinese tradition attributes many musical instruments from this period to those regions and countries. Cymbals gained popularity, along with more advanced trumpets, clarinets, oboes, flutes, drums, and lutes. Some of the first bowed-zithers appeared in China in the 9th or 10th century, influenced by Mongolian culture.

India experienced similar development to China in the Middle Ages; however, stringed instruments developed differently to accommodate different styles of music. While stringed instruments of China were designed to produce precise tones capable of matching the tones of chimes, stringed instruments of India were considerably more flexible. This flexibility suited the slides and tremolos of Hindu music. Rhythm was of paramount importance in Indian music of the time, as evidenced by the frequent depiction of drums in reliefs dating to the Middle Ages. The emphasis on rhythm is an aspect native to Indian music. Historians divide the development of musical instruments in medieval India between pre-Islamic and Islamic periods due to the different influence each period provided.

In pre-Islamic times, idiophones such hand bells, cymbals, and peculiar instruments resembling gongs came into wide use in Hindu music. The gong-like instrument was a bronze disk that was struck with a hammer instead of a mallet. Tubular drums, stick zithers named veena, short fiddles, double and triple flutes, coiled trumpets, and curved India horns emerged in this time period. Islamic influences brought new types of drums, perfectly circular or octagonal as opposed to the irregular pre-Islamic drums. Persian influence brought oboes and sitars, although Persian sitars had three strings and Indian version had from four to seven.

Southeast Asian musical innovations include those during a period of Indian influence that ended around 920 AD. Balinese and Javanese music made use of xylophones and metallophones, bronze versions of the former. The most prominent and important musical instrument of Southeast Asia was the gong. While the gong likely originated in the geographical area between Tibet and Burma, it was part of every category of human activity in Maritime Southeast Asia including Java.

The areas of Mesopotamia and the Arabian Peninsula experiences rapid growth and sharing of musical instruments once they were united by Islamic culture in the seventh century. Frame drums and cylindrical drums of various depths were immensely important in all genres of music. Conical oboes were involved in the music that accompanied wedding and circumcision ceremonies. Persian miniatures provide information on the development of kettle drums in Mesopotamia that spread as far as Java. Various lutes, zithers, dulcimers, and harps spread as far as Madagascar to the south and modern-day Sulawesi to the east.

Despite the influences of Greece and Rome, most musical instruments in Europe during the Middles Ages came from Asia. The lyre is the only musical instrument that may have been invented in Europe until this period. Stringed instruments were prominent in Middle Age Europe. The central and northern regions used mainly lutes, stringed instruments with necks, while the southern region used lyres, which featured a two-armed body and a crossbar. Various harps served Central and Northern Europe as far north as Ireland, where the harp eventually became a national symbol. Lyres propagated through the same areas, as far east as Estonia.

European music between 800 and 1100 became more sophisticated, more frequently requiring instruments capable of polyphony. The Persian geographer of the 9th century (Ibn Khordadbeh), mentioned in his lexicographical discussion of music instruments that in the Byzantine Empire typical instruments included the urghun (organ), shilyani (probably a type of harp or lyre), salandj (probably a bagpipe) and the Byzantine lyra (Greek: λύρα ~ lūrā). Lyra was a medieval pear-shaped bowed string instrument with three to five strings, held upright and is an ancestor of most European bowed instruments, including the violin.

The monochord served as a precise measure of the notes of a musical scale, allowing more accurate musical arrangements. Mechanical hurdy-gurdies allowed single musicians to play more complicated arrangements than a fiddle would; both were prominent folk instruments in the Middle Ages. Southern Europeans played short and long lutes whose pegs extended to the sides, unlike the rear-facing pegs of Central and Northern European instruments. Idiophones such as bells and clappers served various practical purposes, such as warning of the approach of a leper.

The ninth century revealed the first bagpipes, which spread throughout Europe and had many uses from folk instruments to military instruments. The construction of pneumatic organs evolved in Europe starting in fifth century Spain, spreading to England in about 700. The resulting instruments varied in size and use from portable organs worn around the neck to large pipe organs. Literary accounts of organs being played in English Benedictine abbeys toward the end of the tenth century are the first references to organs being connected to churches. Reed players of the Middle Ages were limited to oboes; no evidence of clarinets exists during this period.




Musical instrument development was dominated by the Occident from 1400 on—indeed, the most profound changes occurred during the Renaissance period. Instruments took on other purposes than accompanying singing or dance, and performers used them as solo instruments. Keyboards and lutes developed as polyphonic instruments, and composers arranged increasingly complex pieces using more advanced tablature. Composers also began designing pieces of music for specific instruments. In the latter half of the sixteenth century, orchestration came into common practice as a method of writing music for a variety of instruments. Composers now specified orchestration where individual performers once applied their own discretion. The polyphonic style dominated popular music, and the instrument makers responded accordingly.

Beginning in about 1400, the rate of development of musical instruments increased in earnest as compositions demanded more dynamic sounds. People also began writing books about creating, playing, and cataloging musical instruments; the first such book was Sebastian Virdung's 1511 treatise Musica getuscht und angezogen (English: Music Germanized and Abstracted). Virdung's work is noted as being particularly thorough for including descriptions of "irregular" instruments such as hunters' horns and cow bells, though Virdung is critical of the same. Other books followed, including Arnolt Schlick's Spiegel der Orgelmacher und Organisten (English: Mirror of Organ Makers and Organ Players) the same year, a treatise on organ building and organ playing. Of the instructional books and references published in the Renaissance era, one is noted for its detailed description and depiction of all wind and stringed instruments, including their relative sizes. This book, the Syntagma musicum by Michael Praetorius, is now considered an authoritative reference of sixteenth century musical instruments.

In the sixteenth century, musical instrument builders gave most instruments, such as the violin, the "classical shapes" they retain today. An emphasis on aesthetic beauty also developed—listeners were as pleased with the physical appearance of an instrument as they were with its sound. Therefore, builders paid special attention to materials and workmanship, and instruments became collectibles in homes and museums. It was during this period that makers began constructing instruments of the same type in various sizes to meet the demand of consorts, or ensembles playing works written for these groups of instruments.

Instrument builders developed other features that endure today. For example, while organs with multiple keyboards and pedals already existed, the first organs with solo stops emerged in the early fifteenth century. These stops were meant to produce a mixture of timbres, a development needed for the complexity of music of the time. Trumpets evolved into their modern form to improve portability, and players used mutes to properly blend into chamber music.


Baroque mounted Jacob Stainer violin from 1658.Beginning in the seventeenth century, composers began creating works of a more emotional style. They felt that a monophonic style better suited the emotional music and wrote musical parts for instruments that would complement the singing human voice. As a result, many instruments that were incapable of larger ranges and dynamics, and therefore were seen as unemotional, fell out of favor. One such instrument was the oboe. Bowed instruments such as the violin, viola, baryton, and various lutes dominated popular music. Beginning in around 1750, however, the lute disappeared from musical compositions in favor of the rising popularity of the guitar. As the prevalence of string orchestras rose, wind instruments such as the flute, oboe, and bassoon were readmitted to counteract the monotony of hearing only strings.

In the mid-seventeenth century, what was known as a hunter's horn underwent transformation into an "art instrument" consisting of a lengthened tube, a narrower bore, a wider bell, and much wider range. The details of this transformation are unclear, but the modern horn or, more colloquially, French horn, had emerged by 1725. The slide trumpet appeared, a variation that includes a long-throated mouthpiece that slid in and out, allowing the player infinite adjustments in pitch. This variation on the trumpet was unpopular due to the difficulty involved in playing it. Organs underwent tonal changes in the Baroque period, as manufacturers such as Abraham Jordan of London made the stops more expressive and added devices such as expressive pedals. Sachs viewed this trend as a "degeneration" of the general organ sound.

Classical and Romantic

During the Classical and Romantic periods of music, lasting from roughly 1750 to 1900, a great deal of musical instruments capable of producing new timbres and higher volume were developed and introduced into popular music. The design changes that broadened the quality of timbres allowed instruments to produce a wider variety of expression. Large orchestras rose in popularity and, in parallel, the composers determined to produce entire orchestral scores that made use of the expressive abilities of modern instruments. Since instruments were involved in collaborations of a much larger scale, their designs had to evolve to accommodate the demands of the orchestra.

Some instruments also had to become louder to fill larger halls and be heard over sizable orchestras. Flutes and bowed instruments underwent many modifications and design changes—most of them unsuccessful—in efforts to increase volume. Other instruments were changed just so they could play their parts in the scores. Trumpets traditionally had a "defective" range—they were incapable of producing certain notes with precision. New instruments such as the clarinet, saxophone, and tuba became fixtures in orchestras. Instruments such as the clarinet also grew into entire "families" of instruments capable of different ranges: small clarinets, normal clarinets, bass clarinets, and so on.

Accompanying the changes to timbre and volume was a shift in the typical pitch used to tune instruments. Instruments meant to play together, as in an orchestra, must be tuned to the same standard lest they produce audibly different sounds while playing the same notes. Beginning in 1762, the average concert pitch began rising from a low of 377 vibrations to a high of 457 in 1880 Vienna. Different regions, countries, and even instrument manufacturers preferred different standards, making orchestral collaboration a challenge. Despite even the efforts of two organized international summits attended by noted composers like Hector Berlioz, no standard could be agreed upon.

Twentieth century to present

The evolution of traditional musical instruments slowed beginning in the twentieth century. Instruments like the violin, flute, french horn, harp, and so on are largely the same as those manufactured throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Gradual iterations do emerge; for example, the "New Violin Family" began in 1964 to provide differently sized violins to expand the range of available sounds. The slowdown in development was practical response to the concurrent slowdown in orchestra and venue size. Despite this trend in traditional instruments, the development of new musical instruments exploded in the twentieth century. The sheer variety of instruments developed overshadows any prior period.

The proliferation of electricity in the twentieth century lead to the creation of an entirely new category of musical instruments: electronic instruments, or electrophones. The vast majority of electrophones produced in the first half of the twentieth century were what Sachs called "electromechanical instruments". In other words, they have mechanical parts that produce sound vibrations, and those vibrations are picked up and amplified by electrical components. Examples of electromechanical instruments include organs and electric guitars. Sachs also defined a subcategory of "radioelectric instruments" such as the theremin, which produces music through the player's hand movements around two antennas.

The latter half of the twentieth century saw the gradual evolution of synthesizers—instruments that artificially produce sound using analog or digital circuits and microchips. In the late 1960s, Bob Moog and other inventors began an era of development of commercial synthesizers. One of the first of these instruments was the Moog synthesizer. The modern proliferation of computers and microchips has spawned an entire industry around electronic musical instruments. Since electronic musical instruments may produce sound without human interaction, there is debate in the modern music community as to whether or not computer musicians may be considered instrumentalists.


There are many different methods of classifying musical instruments. Various methods examine aspects such as the physical properties of the instrument (material, color, shape, etc.), the use for the instrument, the means by which music is produced with the instrument, the range of the instrument, and the instrument's place in an orchestra or other ensemble. Most methods are specific to a geographic area or cultural group and were developed to serve the unique classification requirements of the group. The problem with these specialized classification schemes is that they tend to break down once they are applied outside of their original area. For example, a system based on instrument use would fail if a culture invented a new use for the same instrument. Scholars recognize Hornbostel-Sachs as the only system that applies to any culture and, more important, provides only possible classification for each instrument.

Ancient systems
An ancient system named the Natya Shastra, written by the sage Bharata Muni and dating from between 200 BC and 200 AD, divides instruments into four main classification groups: instruments where the sound is produced by vibrating strings; percussion instruments with skin heads; instruments where the sound is produced by vibrating columns of air; and "solid", or non-skin, percussion instruments. This system was adapted to some degree in 12th-century Europe by Johannes de Muris, who used the terms tensibilia (stringed instruments), inflatibilia (wind instruments), and percussibilia (all percussion instruments). In 1880, Victor-Charles Mahillon adapted the Natya Shastra and assigned Greek labels to the four classifications: chordophones (stringed instruments), membranophones (skin-head percussion instruments), aerophones (wind instruments), and autophones (non-skin percussion instruments).


Erich von Hornbostel and Curt Sachs adopted Mahillon's scheme and published an extensive new scheme for classification in Zeitschrift für Ethnologie in 1914. Hornbostel and Sachs used most of Mahillon's system, but replaced the term autophone with idiophone.

The original Hornbostel-Sachs system classified instruments into four main groups:

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, 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, produce a sound by with a vibrating column of air; they are sorted into free aerophones such as a bullroarer or whip, which moves 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.

Sachs later added a fifth category, electrophones, such as theremins, which produce sound by electronic means.[110] Within each category are many subgroups. The system has been criticised and revised over the years, but remains widely used by ethnomusicologists and organologists.


Andre Schaeffner, a curator at the Musée de l'Homme, disagreed with the Hornbostel-Sachs system and developed his own system in 1932. Schaeffner believed that the pure physics of a musical instrument, rather than its specific construction or playing method, should always determine its classification. (Hornbostel-Sachs, for example, divide aerophones on the basis of sound production, but membranophones on the basis of the shape of the instrument). His system divided instruments into two categories: instruments with solid, vibrating bodies and instruments containing vibrating air.

Musical instruments are also often classified by their musical range in comparison with other instruments in the same family. This exercise is useful when placing instruments in context of an orchestra or other ensemble.

These terms are named after singing voice classifications:

Soprano instruments: flute, violin, soprano saxophone, trumpet, clarinet, oboe, piccolo
Alto instruments: alto saxophone, french horn, english horn, viola
Tenor instruments: trombone, tenor saxophone, guitar
Baritone instruments: bassoon, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, cello, baritone horn
Bass instruments: double bass, bass guitar, bass saxophone, tuba
Some instruments fall into more than one category: for example, the cello may be considered tenor, baritone or bass, depending on how its music fits into the ensemble, and the trombone may be alto, tenor, baritone, or bass and the French horn, bass, baritone, tenor, or alto, depending on the range it is played in. Many instruments have their range as part of their name: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone horn, alto flute, bass guitar, etc. Additional adjectives describe instruments above the soprano range or below the bass, for example: sopranino saxophone, contrabass clarinet. When used in the name of an instrument, these terms are relative, describing the instrument's range in comparison to other instruments of its family and not in comparison to the human voice range or instruments of other families. For example, a bass flute's range is from C3 to F♯6, while a bass clarinet plays about one octave lower.


The materials used in making musical instruments vary greatly by culture and application. Many of the materials have special significance owing to their source or rarity. Some cultures worked substances from the human body into their instruments. In ancient Mexico, for example, the material drums were made from might contain actual human body parts obtained from sacrificial offerings. In New Guinea, drum makers would mix human blood into the adhesive used to attach the membrane. Mulberry trees are held in high regard in China owing to their mythological significance—instrument makers would hence use them to make zithers. The Yakuts believe that making drums from trees struck by lightning gives them a special connection to nature.

Musical instrument construction is a specialized trade that requires years of training, practice, and sometimes an apprenticeship. Most makers of musical instruments specialize in one genre of instruments; for example, a luthier makes only stringed instruments. Some make only one type of instrument such as a piano. Whatever the instrument constructed, the instrument maker must consider materials, construction technique, and decoration, creating a balanced instrument that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Some builders are focused on a more artistic approach and develop experimental musical instruments, often meant for individual playing styles developed by the builder himself.

User interfaces
Regardless of how the sound in an instrument is produced, many musical instruments have a keyboard as the user-interface. Keyboard instruments are any instruments that are played with a musical keyboard. Every key generates one or more sounds; most keyboard instruments have extra means (pedals for a piano, stops for an organ) to manipulate these sounds. They may produce sound by wind being fanned (organ) or pumped (accordion), vibrating strings either hammered (piano) or plucked (harpsichord), by electronic means (synthesizer), or in some other way. Sometimes, instruments that do not usually have a keyboard, such as the glockenspiel, are fitted with one. Though they have no moving parts and are struck by mallets held in the player's hands, they have the same physical arrangement of keys and produce soundwaves in a similar manner.