Talk:Musical instrument

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Good articleMusical instrument has been listed as one of the Music good articles under the good article criteria. If you can improve it further, please do so. If it no longer meets these criteria, you can reassess it.
Article milestones
January 19, 2004Refreshing brilliant proseNot kept
March 18, 2012Good article nomineeListed
May 5, 2015Good article reassessmentKept
Current status: Good article
WikiProject Musical Instruments (Rated GA-class, Top-importance)
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Working outline[edit]

What should the major topics be in this article? Let's hash out a working outline:

  • Lead
  • Archeology
  • History of musical instruments
    • Primitive and prehistoric
    • Antiquity
    • Middle Ages
      • Seems like a rather big jump to make here, where should another division be made? --Kakofonous (talk) 21:31, 20 May 2008 (UTC)
        • Do you mean the jump between Antiquity and Middle Ages? Or between Middle and Modern? My intent was that Antiquity would take us through the early centuries A.D., Middle Ages would take us until about 1400. Alternate suggestions? --Laser brain (talk) 15:54, 2 June 2008 (UTC)
    • Modern
      • Renaissance
      • Baroque
      • Romanticism
      • Twentieth century
  • Classification of musical instruments
    • Ancient systems
    • Hornbostel-Sachs
    • Schaeffner
    • Range
  • Construction
    • Materials
    • Production (i.e., luthier)
  • User interfaces (need a better name)
  • Culture
    • Mythology
    • Popular culture
      • What type of pop culture references? This seems quite vague and an invitation for random lists. --Kakofonous (talk) 21:31, 20 May 2008 (UTC)
        • I was thinking about some well-referenced text about how musical instruments can be seen as status symbols and how some manufacturers (like Fender Corporation) have grown into brand images on clothing, etc. Thoughts? --Laser brain (talk) 15:54, 2 June 2008 (UTC)
  • See also
  • Notes/references

Add/edit/delete at will. --Laser brain (talk) 19:45, 21 March 2008 (UTC)

This article should discuss the impact of musical instruments on musical acts (bands and solo), and also how cheaper guitars and the hundreds of cheap synths in the 80s/90s meant more and more people could start making their own music. There should also be some mention of how computers are now a big part of making music. Computers are often used as a musical instrument in the production of newer releases, most commonly with software-based synthesizers. Another thing to make sure of is that we represent a world view, instead of focusing on one country/region of the world. Various musical instruments have all originated from different parts of the world. — Wackymacs (talk ~ edits) 13:17, 3 June 2008 (UTC)
Great ideas! I was thinking your first idea would fit into the Popular Culture section. Your second idea, about computers, is what I was trying to get at with "User interfaces" but I think we need a better heading. The section would be about modern ways people make music outside of "traditional" musical instruments. --Laser brain (talk) 15:17, 3 June 2008 (UTC)
Since the computer-related stuff is basically synthesizers, it could go into Modern History. The first common synthesizers date back to the 1960s, and the Fairlight CMI was introduced in 1979, which is basically a powerful (for its time) computer connected to a music keyboard. The recent software-based stuff dates from the 90s to present, so all that info seems fitting for 'modern history'. — Wackymacs (talk ~ edits) 15:49, 3 June 2008 (UTC)
Agreed. Thanks for the ideas. --Laser brain (talk) 16:08, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

Working bibliography[edit]

I thought I'd list some books I've obtained to work on this article. Please add to the list if you have other good sources. --Laser brain (talk) 04:15, 26 March 2008 (UTC)

  • Marcuse, Sibyl (1975). A Survey of Musical Instruments. Harper & Row. ISBN 0060127767.
  • Sachs, Curt (1940). The History of Musical Instruments. W. W. Norton & Company.
  • Kartomi, Margaret J. (1990). On Concepts and Classifications of Musical Instruments. University of Chicago Press.
  • Remnant, Mary (1989). Musical Instruments: An Illustrated History from Antiquity to the Present. Batsford. ISBN 0713451696..

Google Books sources[edit]

A search for "history of musical instruments" brings up 2124 results on Google Books (limited preview). I've been using limited preview on Google Books to write several articles, and it works extremely well. Some of the better titles available:

Simply click on the 'Preview' tab to read the books. Similar searches can be made to provide research for the rest of the article, such as "musical instruments culture", "impact of musical instruments" and so on. Hope they become useful. — Wackymacs (talk ~ edits) 13:17, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

Hmm.Just found this in Trumpet's references. Is this reliable? It is certainly informative. --Meldshal42 (talk) 17:12, 26 June 2008 (UTC)
No, it is a teacher's lesson sheet. We need to be using reliable, authoritative sources. --Laser brain (talk) 17:17, 26 June 2008 (UTC)
A general rule of thumb: Books are best, avoid online sources (unless of course its a well-known source such as the BBC, NYT, Time, etc) . I find that almost all books published by a University press are definitely reliable. — Wackymacs (talk ~ edits) 12:03, 27 June 2008 (UTC)


What makes ThinkQuest a reliable source? I took a look at the links, and it seems ThinkQuest does not cite its own sources. — Wackymacs (talk ~ edits) 17:27, 3 July 2008 (UTC)

It's not. But, I think a good strategy for now is to add any prose we can and adjust the sources later. The material sourced to ThinkQuest should be easily sourced to a RS. --Laser brain (talk) 17:33, 3 July 2008 (UTC)
Fair enough, but don't be so sure - Synthesizer has a lot of unsourced prose, and some of it I have not been able to find reliable sources for unfortunately (even with access to Thomson Gale and Google Books and other places). — Wackymacs (talk ~ edits) 17:56, 3 July 2008 (UTC)
Please note that having external references on this page is silly, as it's basically a compilation of the individual Wiki pages about both instrument types and various individual instruments. Why make references to ThinkQuest about the types of instruments that belong to the woodwind family when Wikipedia already has a long article on the subject where all these instruments are listed? Thomas Blomberg (talk) 00:39, 26 August 2008 (UTC)

Length of History section[edit]

I'm getting the feeling that once this section is completed, we're going to have to break it off into History of musical instruments and then write shorter summaries for this article. --Laser brain (talk) 14:46, 24 July 2008 (UTC)

Yes, I agree. But it can still remain in this article, just copy it over. --Meldshal (§peak to me) 16:10, 25 July 2008 (UTC)
Certainly looks that way, otherwise it's going to be much too large. — Wackymacs (talk ~ edits) 16:53, 25 July 2008 (UTC)
Sorry its been solong since I've edited. Try to wait for me at FAC, I'm juggling a ton of future FAs right now and I'm kind of stressed. Thanks for understanding. --Meldshal [Chat] 18:32, 30 July 2008 (UTC)
nominate for GAN? --Meldshal [Chat] 18:33, 30 July 2008 (UTC)
Why? This is far from GA status. I think Laser brain's aim is to go straight for FAC, which makes more sense. — Wackymacs (talk ~ edits) 18:43, 30 July 2008 (UTC)

Musical order[edit]

I am looking for an article or section that has instrumental order for musical instruments, anyone know where I can find it? i.e. flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, etc. (talk) 06:57, 12 August 2008 (UTC)


You need to settle on either {{citation}} or {{cite book}} and its relatives. I did a couple of tweaks on some of the footnotes. Otherwise, the footnotes look fine.

Prehistoric and Primitive[edit]

This section needs major work to bring it up to contemporary standards. The entire section is based on Curt Sachs 1940 (with one minor exception, that doesn't bear keeping anyway), which is a highly outdated POV work. We do not know how prehistoric music developed. We do not know that 3-tone xylophones developed first, followed by larger and more complex ones; we do not know that they began in Southeast Asia and then spread north and west. All of this is Sachs's speculation based on his reading of minimal historical evidence through the lens of linear cultural evolution, and supported by his insistence that present-day "primitive" music represents an unchanged patrimony from ancient times. Illustrating prehistoric music with an Aztec instrument is no more appropriate than illustrating it with a Farfisa organ. If the Sachs theories are kept in the entry, they should be clearly contextualized as no longer widely held, and developed within a particular context that also no longer exists.Rikyu (talk) 22:34, 27 June 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for the feedback. Can you recommend some updated sources for this time period? I tentatively composed this section with Sachs because I haven't found any better books. I suspected it would need to be updated with more contemporary research, but no one here has been forthcoming with sources. I do have newer sources (Brown and Baines, for example) that cite Sachs as being authoritative. --Laser brain (talk) 19:06, 28 June 2009 (UTC)
Perhaps Rikyu, you can bring up sources that suggest Sachs is outdated and no longer useful, so it can be fully evaluated? Just because something's old does not necessarily mean it is biased (limited, perhaps, but that's not the same). --Der Wohltemperierte Fuchs (talk) 02:01, 2 July 2009 (UTC)
Thanks to both of you for commenting. I'll build something here on the talk page before making any changes to the entry itself. For the record, the problem with Sachs's POV is not its age but his belief that cultures evolved in a unilinear fashion. Other scholars even of his generation disagreed (Boas and Kunst, just to name two), and therefore strongly resisted his equation of some present-day societies with long-dead ones simply on the basis of shared technologies, which in turn implies a developmental scale on which societies can be ranked, and justifies those higher on the ranking (Europe, eg.) in colonizing those lower on the ranking. This is not to say that Sachs favored colonialism, just that his approach provided intellectual support for it, and this was recognized at the time, even by Sachs himself. Anyway, more to come. Rikyu (talk) 20:04, 6 July 2009 (UTC)
No idea if you're still around or if you're interested in working on this, but I've essentially been waiting for you to bring in sources to back up your objection. I don't want to complete this article using Sachs if it's not the best source. Despite his shortcomings, I'm more interested in knowing if what I've sourced to Sachs is correct or if there are scholarly works debunking his history of musical instruments. If there aren't or you don't reply, I'm not sure how to proceed because I've exhausted all my resources trying to find other books. --Andy Walsh (talk) 22:04, 14 January 2010 (UTC)


Please add section on who are the major manufacturers of musical instruments (of each type) and the major vendors. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:06, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

The range chart for the "human voice" is rather more restricted than is actually the case. The basso profundos of the RUssian Orthodox church regularly descent to low C (C2), and I've even hit htat note myself on good days, and I'm only a bass-baritone. Some regularly go down to A1, as do the Tibetan monks who include vocal multiphonics in their meditative chant rituals. And a few bassos go even lower. On this recording, Viktor Wichniakov hits a low C1 (about 30 seconds in).


Chopping off the bass range at E2 makes me think that someone has consulted a rather old music appreciation text for their information. -- Dr H —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:57, 22 January 2010 (UTC)

This article is completely missing the Classical era right now...the Classical era was 1750-1830 and the Romantic was 1815-1910 (Beethoven was the major transitionary composer between the two eras). I do not know myself which instruments were invented/improved upon during these two eras, but a distinction between the two and a more in-depth discussion of those would be useful.

Some details that must be attended to: a Modern Era section needs to be added (1900-today), and the saxophone must be included in this section. The saxophone is NOT a fixture in any orchestra - it is only very rarely used (ex. some Ravel orchestrations)!! And when it is, the rest of the musicians look askance at it. FInally, clarinets are named by the key they play in, not their size: Eb clarinet, Bb clarinet, A clarinet, alto clarinet, bass clarinet, and contrabass clarinet is the entire family of clarinets that are currently in use.

The prehistoric section of this article is very extensive, but coverage of more modern developments is pretty thin right now! This already thorough article would be greatly enhanced by such additions. Shawshank 777 (talk) 01:09, 7 March 2011 (UTC)

I've been meaning to do the tasks you mention, but I ran out of gas a while back while working on Baroque. I'll try to put some time into it soon so at least the eras are represented properly. --Andy Walsh (talk) 02:50, 7 March 2011 (UTC)

Additional sources[edit]

I did some checking around with music departments at two universities near here and ordered two more books. They are considered the two major works about musical instrument history since Sachs. I think they will provide nice balance in the article, although Sachs is still considered the authoritative reference and both of these books owe some degree to Sachs. They are:

  • Musical Instruments: A Worldwide Survey of Traditional Music-making by Lucie Rault
  • Origins and Development of Musical Instruments by Jeremy Montagu

I would like to throw a final hook out there and call for additional major references if anyone knows of any. --Andy Walsh (talk) 02:35, 27 October 2010 (UTC)

bjk — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:33, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Death to any person who sees it[edit]

From the Primitive and prehistoric section: "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." On its face, that seems like a pretty outrageous claim. plus, it raises some questions. Who are the sultans? I thought we were talking about pre-history. Wikipedia's Wahinda article has a little bit more to say:

Another reference to the Wahinda in relationship to drums and drumming comes from a Sacred Beat: from the heart of the drum circle, by Telesco and Waterhawk [2]

...[T]here is one "myth" about the drum that needs to be clarified. Many people think of the drum as a man's tool. However, the histories of Egyptian, Semitic, Sumerain, and Wahinda people all tell us of women using these instruments. ... [A]mong the Wahinda of East Africa, it's considered a death wish for a man to even look at a drum. They will only dare to carry it at night, and even better during the dark moon so it cannot be seen. ... Puddytang (talk) 19:08, 12 February 2012 (UTC)

Ah, thank you sincerely for this information. I always thought the Wahinda text to be a bit extraordinary. It comes from Sachs. I actually contacted a ethnomusicologist to get more information on this, but he referred me back to Sachs again, saying Sachs should be considered authoritative. It seems that the text should be updated since the material from your source seems more precise. What's the ISBN of that book? --Laser brain (talk) 19:13, 12 February 2012 (UTC)

I just got that from the Wahinda page, so I can't personally speak for the source. Puddytang (talk) 20:26, 12 February 2012 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Musical instrument/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: Paradoxical 0^2 (talk · contribs) 03:18, 18 March 2012 (UTC) Hello all, starting the review for this article now.Paradoxical 0^2 (talk) 03:18, 18 March 2012 (UTC)

Rate Attribute Review Comment
1. Well written:
1a. the prose is clear, concise, and understandable to an appropriately broad audience; spelling and grammar are correct.
The article is very well written with evidence of rigorous copy editing.  
1b. it complies with the manual of style guidelines for lead sections, layout, words to watch, fiction, and list incorporation.
2. Verifiable with no original research:
2a. it contains a list of all references (sources of information), presented in accordance with the layout style guideline.
2b. all inline citations are from reliable sources, including those for direct quotations, statistics, published opinion, counter-intuitive or controversial statements that are challenged or likely to be challenged, and contentious material relating to living persons—science-based articles should follow the scientific citation guidelines.
2c. it contains no original research.
3. Broad in its coverage:
3a. it addresses the main aspects of the topic.
3b. it stays focused on the topic without going into unnecessary detail (see summary style).
4. Neutral: it represents viewpoints fairly and without editorial bias, giving due weight to each.
5. Stable: it does not change significantly from day to day because of an ongoing edit war or content dispute.
6. Illustrated, if possible, by media such as images, video, or audio:
6a. media are tagged with their copyright statuses, and valid fair use rationales are provided for non-free content.
6b. media are relevant to the topic, and have suitable captions.
7. Overall assessment. Yes very well written article, a credit to all who have contributed.

The review has started for this page.[edit]

Hello all,

This is your friendly GA reviewer. Just reporting in to say I have started the review on this article. Paradoxical 0^2 (talk) 03:21, 18 March 2012 (UTC)

GA Reassessment[edit]

This discussion is transcluded from Talk:Musical instrument/GA2. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the reassessment.

On Wikipedia:Good article criteria#Immediate failures it says:

"Immediate failures:
An article can be failed without further review (known as quickfailing or quick failing) if, prior to the review:

  1. It has cleanup banners that are obviously still valid or needs new cleanup banners. These include {{cleanup}}, {{POV}}, {{unreferenced}} or large numbers of {{fact}}, {{citation needed}}, {{clarifyme}}, or similar tags. (See also {{QF-tags}})."

In 2012, the article Musical instrument was listed as a good article, but today the article contains: {{citation needed}}, {{Refimprove}}, {{citation needed}}, {{dubious}}, {{citation needed}}. --Oldnewnew (talk) 08:19, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

Another problem in the article: Most of the references use citation templates, but some references do not. --Oldnewnew (talk) 14:41, 22 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Comments:
  • I apologize for the delay in responding. You did not follow the instruction at WP:GAR to notify major contributors and I just now noticed this.
  • I've went through and cleaned up the "citation needed" and various other maintenance templates. This article constantly attracts attention from new and inexperienced editors who do not understand our citation system or style guide (for example, that citations are not required in the lead for concepts that are covered and cited in the body). Everything in the article is cited to reliable sources, and I've added additional citations where clarity was requested.
  • As for your comment about citation templates, it is a non-issue as long as the rendered text is consistent and meets WP:V. --Laser brain (talk) 16:27, 7 April 2015 (UTC)
To User:Laser brain: Great job! However, there is a single {{citation needed}} tag left. It is in the end of the section Twentieth century to present.
Dead links are okay in GAs. However, it would be nice if the dead link could be fixed in reference No. 6 in the section References. It has a {{Dead link}} tag. Best, Oldnewnew (talk) 22:21, 18 April 2015 (UTC)
Will look into these shortly. --Laser brain (talk) 14:04, 1 May 2015 (UTC)
Fixed those issues. And... I just noticed you're blocked. --Laser brain (talk) 19:47, 5 May 2015 (UTC)
  • Since they are blocked and the issues raised were resolved, it is alright to close it. Nice work by the way. — Yash! (Y) 22:37, 5 May 2015 (UTC)

Should VOCALS be Considered a "Musical Instrument"?[edit]

I noticed the definition in this article says: "A musical instrument makes 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."

This excludes the human voice. However, most articles on Wikipedia about singers list in the info box that one of their instruments is "Vocals".

I would like to see consistency on Wikipedia. Would it be best just to amend this one article to conform to all the articles that consider Vocals an instrument? --Diligens (talk) 22:45, 11 March 2019 (UTC)

@Diligens: The best place for that discussion would either be the talk page of {{infobox musical artist}}, or one of the Village Pumps. Nikkimaria (talk) 23:54, 11 March 2019 (UTC)