Talk:List of musical instruments

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Musical Instruments (Rated List-class, High-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Musical Instruments, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of musical instruments on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
 List  This article has been rated as List-Class on the project's quality scale.
 High  This article has been rated as High-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Lists (Rated List-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Lists, an attempt to structure and organize all list pages on Wikipedia. If you wish to help, please visit the project page, where you can join the project and/or contribute to the discussion.
 List  This article has been rated as List-Class on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.

Turntable Added to Electronic Instruments[edit]

I added the turntable to the list of electronic instruments as you can control pitch and tempo. Source

Percussion instruments[edit]

I don't know you but I would never consider violin and viola like percussion instruments — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:41, 29 December 2011 (UTC)

Your point escapes me, sorry. Andrewa (talk) 15:18, 23 March 2012 (UTC)

Keytar Added[edit]

I added the Keytar: the piano-guitar thing that is seen in so many bands. I can't believe this wasn't there, its been popular .+cbhadha 16:54, 21 June 2008

Ipod Removed[edit]

although I suppose one could be used in an intstrument context similar to a sequencer, it is primarily a sound reproduction device. at the very least Ipod should be changed to mp3 player. 01:36, 22 September 2007 (UTC)

Contiuum Added[edit]

I added a Contiuum to electronics. However im not sure if it actually goes there or not. Anybody know? 02:13, 1 June 2007 (UTC)
Woah, I found out that there are more then one meaning for Contiuum, so I added (instrument) to go to the page.. How do I get rid of the text (instrument) but let it go to page Continuum_(instrument)? 02:13, 1 June 2007 (UTC)

Multiple categorizations?[edit]

Is there a reason why some instruments are listed in only a single category? Piano, for instance, could be listed as string and percussion? Would it be worth adding any discussion of the limitations of the organological scheme used and the fact that there are members of multiple categories? +Fenevad 19:21, 1 January 2007 (UTC)

Tenorshawm Horn??? Hmmm. Maybe (1) I am bonkers, it is a legit instrument, it's just that I never heard of it - please enlighten me; (2) someone was fooling around on purpose; or (3) someone had a cutting-and-pasting-moment involving both the shawm and the tenor horn?!

Assuming for the moment it is 2 or 3, I have separated it into the tenor horn (and the identical alto horn), and the shawm.

Anyone wanting to persuade me it's (1) will have to provide slightly better evidence than you get by Googling "Tenorshawm"! No offence intended, of course, - if I am wrong I will eat humble pie.

(removed failed smiley chiz chiz)

Nevilley 23:56 Nov 21, 2002 (UTC)

I'm a little disappointed that no-one has taken me up on the "tenorshawm horn" but hey! :)

Now then, the serpent. I moved it to Brass from Hybrid because I don't think it is really a hybrid. Like the cornett it produces its sound in a brasslike way (i.e. it is a lip-vibrated aerophone) - I think what happens after that is of less importance in categorizing it. Same goes for the cornett, which I've added. Hybrid could be a really unhelpful classification - you will get people wanting to put the sax in as a ww/brass hybrid because it has a metal body and all that nonsense. I think it's better just to decide on a group for an instrument, based on how the sound is made, and stick with that. Nevilley 21:56 Dec 6, 2002 (UTC)

Well, it depends how you want to categorise of course - one of the problems with the brass/woodwind division is that it isn't really all that clear where the line is drawn between the two. Intuitively, it ought to be by construction material, but of course in practice it comes down to whether it's lip vibrated or not. So yes, the serpent is a brass instrument. Still, it's no surprise that people get confused about these things, and no surprise that Hornbostel-Sachs (and later systems) is so popular in specialist music works.
In the same spirit as you moving serpent, I'm going to move the slide whistle to the woodwind category - I've never actually played one (regrettably), but I assume it has a fipple like a recorder. It certainly isn't lip vibrated, anyway.
And, yes, tenorshawm horn is a new one on me as well. I'll look it up in Grove when I get the chance, but I expect it's an accidental conflation of the shawm and the tenor horn, as you suggest, like a double flutebassoon (the stuff of nightmares...). --Camembert
OK and thanks - seems entirely reasonable. And yes the double flutebassoon does sound like some sort of terrorist weapon along with the percussive viola and contrabass tambourine ... Nevilley

For Xalan, I couldn't get any info from search engines, hence putting it under the Others section. Maybe some practitioners can assign it to the right category and create a page for it. Jay 11:03, 5 Oct 2003 (UTC)

I think it's xalam with an M rather than xalan with an N (at any rate, the Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, which is pretty comprehensive, has xalam but not xalan). Possible ancestor of the banjo, apparently. --Camembert
Thanks for that piece of info. I was misled by the site which says that the Xalan project name has been taken from a rare muscial instrument. I wouldn't know why they would change the m to an n. Also apparently Xalam is not a rare instrument as one site says, but a common instrument in Senegal. Jay 09:29, 18 Oct 2003 (UTC)

I wonder if it might be a good idea to have a more simplified classification - into say "winds", "strings", "percussion" and "electronics" with some duplication under "keyboards" and no subsections - at this page. We could then have something like "list of musical instruments by Hornbostel-Sachs number" where we could get all technical. I think something simpler here might be more useful for the layman (who probsbly doesn't, after all, know what a "membranophone" is). Alternatively, we could just strip the classification system out altogether and have a simple alphabetical list, but annotate it with brief descriptions, giving something like:

  • Flute - edge-blown wind instrument
  • Mbira - plucked metal keys
  • Oboe - double reed wind instrument
  • Violin - bowed strings

and so on. I'm just throwing ideas out there, but I do think that having a simple and accessible classification (or no classification at all) as well as a more complex, technical classification on a separate page, would not be a bad thing. --Camembert

This sounds like a good idea to me. I think for the layman, simple alphabetical order would be better. -- Ortonmc 16:18, 15 Dec 2003 (UTC)

I don't know why laypeople, of whom I consider myself a member, would be confused by the new knowledge that stringed instruments are chordophones. The advantage to the current list is that it includes both lay and technical classificiations. Of course, I would argue for keeping the Hornbostel-Sachs classifications, because I added them, but the page has always been classified. I think that a simple list is only useful for the experienced who are looking to write new articles for instruments, while a classified list contains actual information that a layperson may find useful.-Hyacinth 16:42, 15 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Yes, I can see the sense in that. I suppose (to get specific about this) I see two problems with things as they stand: firstly that we're using technical terms which most people don't understand (yes, they can look them up easily enough, but I'm not sure they should have to); and secondly that combining these technical terms with more familiar ones to make it more accessible is appealing but also a bit troublesome. For example, we have membranophones (technical term) as a subsection of percussion (lay term)--the problem is that not all membranophones are percussion instruments (the kazoo is an example). Similarly, not all idiophones are percussion (musical saw) and not all instruments likely to be thought of as percussion are idio- or membranophones (hammered dulcimer). I'm not sure there's any neat way of getting round this difficulty without going whole heartedly down the Hornbostel-Sachs route and scrapping divisions like "percussion" altogether--but then, of course, it really does get trickier for the layperson--or scrapping all the "technical" terms and sticking to the vaguer, but more familiar, ones.
Anyway, here's what I'll do: I'll make list of musical instruments by Hornbostel-Sachs number sometime this week and I'll make it quite techincal. Then we can see how much that overlaps with this page, and... well, it might cast new light on the problem (if a problem it is). --Camembert

I got it started for you.-Hyacinth 20:28, 15 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Great - thanks Hyacinth :) --Camembert

I agree that this page should be kept a simple, alphabetical list. I would like to be able to add instruments here, but don't have a clue how to know if they are chordophones or idiophones or anything else. Tuf-Kat 03:24, Dec 16, 2003 (UTC)

So we don't do the same work twice, let it be known that I've made a simple alphabetical list at User:Camembert/instruments - I think briefly annotating each entry would be good as a next step. I don't know what we're to do with that list - at the very least it can live at alphabetical list of musical instruments, but I'd be happy for it to be here - I'll probably wait a bit and see if any more comments are made (others should feel free to do something before me if they like). --Camembert

Lamellophones (e.g. the Mbira are a separate class. They are tunable, so they cannot be classified as idiophones. The percussion instruments should also be subcalssified. The classification currently given here (one one hand several fine distinctions are made in wind instruments, on the other hand different classes of "percussion instruments" are lumped together) is eurocentric. Nannus 23:38, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

The Hornbostel-Sachs-Classification in itself is eurocentric e.g. in not recognizing lamellophones as a separate class. It might be appropriate for European music traditions but is biased and therefore violates the NPOV-principle underlying Wikipedia. It should therefore not form the only basis of this list. Nannus 23:45, 4 August 2006 (UTC) --Hansenb1

I don't think instruments should find themselves in multiple categories. If we're going to have a keyboard section, piano and harpsichord shouldn't also be under "stringed instruments". If worse comes to worse, we could always make another section called "unclassifiable". —Preceding unsigned comment added by Hansenb1 (talkcontribs) 15:40, 22 July 2008 (UTC)

I don't think instruments should find themselves in multiple categories. If we're going to have a keyboard section, piano and harpsichord shouldn't also be under "stringed instruments". If worse comes to worse, we could always make another section called "unclassifiable". Hansenb1 —Preceding undated comment was added at 15:42, 22 July 2008 (UTC)


Who cares how many entries there are in each section? Why is this information even presented? Many items appear in more than one section. This is pointless information which is destined to become inaccurate as people edit but do not update the numbers. I suggest removing this information altogether. (talk) 21:02, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

I agree. Many, if not all, of the numbers are already inaccurate. (talk) 18:33, 16 August 2008 (UTC)


I added the reactable to the electronic instruments section. It was used by Bjork in a recent tour.Hypershock (talk) 22:33, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

Electronic instruments[edit]

According to the page on Electronic musical instrument, An electronic musical instrument is a musical instrument that produces its sounds using electronics. Consequently, i am removing the following from the list, because they largely acoustic instruments that have an "electronic" post-stage so that they can be amplified more easily.

I've also removed

because there is no page on it, so it's not clear what that even means.

Additionally, some of the listed devices are not really instruments -- they do not produce any sound themselves, they are controllers:

I think we should remove them, too, but will wait for comments. Doceddi (talk) 14:23, 26 October 2009 (UTC)

The continuum both makes a sound of its own, and and can act as a controller. Only the early versions were without built-in sound capability. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:02, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Just noting that the Theramin is not on the list
would be interested to know its classification — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:51, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

Keyboard Instruments[edit]

I hardly think there is such a category. Accordion and Bandoneon are wind instruments. You open and close holes for the wind to pass through by keys, but still the sound is produced by vibrations of the wind. Similarly piano is a string instrument and church organ is a wind instrument as well. I strongly urge a professional to look into it. (talk) 17:04, 3 February 2013 (UTC)

Did someone give up on putting pictures to the instruments?[edit]

It seems important to me to put pictures with everything. For example, someone who sees a unique looking instrument somewhere but doesn't know its name could look at this page for reference. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:32, 17 October 2014 (UTC)

Guitolão[edit] — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:51, 30 October 2014 (UTC)


Frankly, I think a list like this is of questionable value and probably a waste of time. There are literally tens of thousands of musical instruments in the world, even before you start dredging up historical examples that are no longer in use. Plus new instruments are being designed, daily. Already the list lacks a whole category of instruments: lamellophones. The existing Wiki article on these alone lists at least thirty instruments in this category, and that barely scratches the surface. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:34, 11 February 2015 (UTC)