• Musical instruments may be classified or
grouped in several ways
• Traditionally, the European culture classifies
instruments according to orchestral
• Woodwind – most were originally made
from wood; all produce sound by blowing,
some of them by vibrating a reed.
• Brasswind – originally made from brass;
also produce sound by blowing
• Percussion – these instruments are made
from a variety of materials and involve
some physical impact (percussion) to
• String – These instruments have strings
• Orchestral classification does not cover
the wide variety of instruments and
playing styles which are found in
various ethnic groups worldwide.
• Early in the 20th century Erich Moritz
von Hornbostel and Curt Sachs derived
a system to classify all musical
• The Hornbostel-Sachs system is based
on how an instrument creates vibrations
in order to produce sound.
• This is the most widely accepted system
of musical instrument classification used
Classification of Instruments
• Hornbostel-Sachs system identifies
five categories of instruments.
• An aerophone produces its sound by the vibration of air
• The two main families that are aerophones are woodwind
and brass instruments.
• Most Woodwinds use the air and reeds to vibrate.
• Brass use air and the player’s lips to vibrate.
• Some keyboard instruments also use air as
the source of vibration and can be considered
• Can you name any Aerophones?
Dgeridoo - Australia
Panflute - Peru
Bagpipe – British Isles
Shakuhachi - Japan
Shofar – Middle Eastern (Jewish)
• Chordophones are part of the string instrument family.
• They produce sound by the vibrating of strings.
• To make the sounds: pluck, bow or strike the strings.
• This is done by a pick, bow or the musician’s hand.
• Can you name any Chordophones?
Celtic Harp – British Isles
Koto - Japan
Washtub Bass – Southern USA, Jamaica
Harpsichord - Europe
• This is the newest category of instruments. They have
only been around since the 20th century.
• Electrophones produce an electronic sound.
• The two main families of electrophones are electronic
instruments and amplified acoustical
• What are some Electrophones that you have heard?
• Membranophones produce sound
• when a stretched skin (membrane)
• Different materials can be used to make
wood, metal, or ceramics.
• These instruments may have definite or indefinite
pitch. What does this mean?
• percussion family
• These belong to the. How many different kinds of
drums do you know?
• Idiophones produce a
sound by the vibration of
the actual instrument
• These instruments can be
struck, rubbed, shaken or
• This category belongs to
the percussion family.
• How many can you
• Instruments can be classified into what
• Aerophones produce sound by the vibration of
• Chordophones produce sound by the vibration of
• Electrophones produce what kind of sounds?
• Membranophones produce sound by vibrating
• Idiophones use the vibration of what?
• Can you give examples of each category?
• Adapted from a presentation found on LewistonPorter Central School District’s web site.