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An aerophone is any musical instrument that produces sound primarily by causing a body of air to vibrate, without the use of strings or membranes, and without the vibration of the instrument itself adding considerably to the sound.[1]

It is one of the four main classes of instruments in the original Hornbostel-Sachs system of musical instrument classification; which further divides aerophones by whether the vibrating air is contained in the instrument itself or not.[2]

The first class (41) includes instruments which, when played, do not contain the vibrating air. The bullroarer is one example. These are called free aerophones. This class includes (412.13) free reed instruments, such as the harmonica, but also many instruments unlikely to be called wind instruments at all by most people, such as sirens and whips.

The second class (42) includes instruments which contain the vibrating air when being played. This class includes almost all instruments generally called wind instruments - including the didgeridoo, (423) brass instruments (e.g., trumpet, french horn, baritone horn, tuba), and (421 & 422) woodwind instruments (e.g., oboe, flute, saxophone, clarinet).

Additionally, very loud sounds can be made by explosions directed into, or being detonated inside of resonant cavities.[citation needed] Detonations inside the calliope (and steam whistle), as well as the pyrophone might thus be considered as class 42 instruments, despite the fact that the "wind" or "air" may be steam or an air-fuel mixture.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "aerophone - OnMusic Dictionary". Connect for Education Inc. December 4, 2014. Retrieved December 4, 2014. 
  2. ^ Volume 46 (1914) of the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie is available online in a variety of formats, as part of the digital collection of the University of Toronto. The article on the Hornbostel-Sachs system of musical instrument classification is to be found on pages 553–90.