Musical instruments: classification

A musical instrument is an object created in order to produce sound in one or more tones in order to create music.

A musical instrument is an object constructed for the purpose of producing sound in one or more tones that can be combined with an interpreter or musician to produce a melody. In principle, anything that produces sound could serve as a musical instrument, but the expression is generally reserved for those objects made for that specific purpose.

There is the classic division of instruments into three families: wind, string and percussion. However, this classification, being oriented to the instruments of the orchestra, leaves aside a series of instruments that do not fit within that scope. This is why some music scholars expand this classification by adding up to three more categories, such as voice, keyboards, and electronic instruments.

String Instruments

String instruments or cordophones are those that produce sounds by means of the vibration of one or more strings, which resonates in the box they have. These strings are stretched between two points on the instrument and are played by scraping or rubbing the string. Within the classical orchestra, groups of violins, violas, violoncellos and double basses are called strings. Also, within the popular instruments, we can classify as string instruments the guitar and the charango.

Percussion instruments

In the family of percussion instruments we can find two categories of instruments, according to their tuning:

– Of definite height: those that produce identifiable notes. That is to say, those whose sound height is determined. Some of these instruments are: the timbal, the xylophone, the bell, the tubular bell and the metallic drums of Trinidad among others.

– Of indefinite height: they are those whose notes are not identifiable, that is to say, they produce notes of an indeterminate height. Among them are: the bass drum, the box, the cajón, the castanets, the claves, the güiro, the ratchet, the zambomba, among others.

There is another type of classification in the orchestras, which usually differentiate between:

– Percussion of membranes or membranophones: such as timbales, bass drum, drum, and tambourine.

– Percussion of sheets or plates: such as cymbals, bells, and gong, which sound when the metal plates collide.

– Rod percussion or idiophones: like the xylophone, the triangle, and the celesta.

On the other hand, the keyboard instruments, group several instruments, that belong to completely different families. However, all of them have three common aspects:
-They are operated with the fingers of both hands.

-They are polyphonic, that is, they can produce several sounds at the same time. This is their most important characteristic, which makes them the most appropriate instruments for simultaneously playing a melody and its harmonic accompaniment.

They use the same distribution of keys in two colors: white for the so-called natural sounds, and black for the altered sounds (sharp and flats).

Inside these instruments is the organ, although from the point of view of sound production, the organ belongs to the family of wind instruments, since to emit a sound it needs two primordial elements: a tube and air in motion.

The harpsichord, harpsichord, pianoforte, and piano also belong to this group of keyboards.

Wind Instruments

Finally, there are the wind instruments or aerophones which produce the sound by the vibration of the column of air inside, without the need for strings or membranes and without the instrument itself vibrating by itself.

The winds can be of two types, either metal as the trumpet or wood, as a flute or pan flute.

Although classified in the wood group because they were originally made of wood, today some of these instruments are made of metal. However, they are considered within the woods because of their timbre and characteristic sound.

Woodwind instruments have a soft, melodious and deep sound. In this instrument, the vibration of the air inside the tube produces the sound. The length of the tube determines the height of the sound. Within this classification, we can see the clarinet, bassoon, flute, oboe, and saxophone.

The winds/metals have a funnel-shaped mouthpiece and the sound is produced when the air is introduced by the movement of the lips in the mouthpiece. Some of these instruments also have keys (pistons) and have a muffler to modify the resulting sound. Here is the trombone, trombone, trumpet, and tuba.

There is another classification that classifies instruments according to the materials with which they are made: metal, wood, clay, leather, among others.

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