Musical instruments are things used to make music. Anything that somehow produces sound can be considered a musical instrument, but the term generally means items that are specifically for making music.
Musical instruments can be divided by type into:
An orchestra has instruments from four families:
- bowed string instruments (e.g. violin)
- woodwind (e.g. flute)
- brass (e.g. trumpet)
- percussion (e.g. drums)
The materials used in making musical instruments vary greatly by culture and application. Many of the materials have special significance owing to their source or rarity. Some cultures worked substances from the human body into their instruments. In ancient Mexico, for example, the material drums were made from might contain actual human body parts obtained from sacrificial offerings. In New Guinea, drum makers would mix human blood into the adhesive used to attach the membrane. Mulberry trees are held in high regard in China owing to their mythological significance—instrument makers would hence use them to make zithers. The Yakuts believe that making drums from trees struck by lightning gives them a special connection to nature.
Musical instrument construction is a specialized trade that requires years of training, practice, and sometimes an apprenticeship.
Regardless of how the sound in an instrument is produced, many musical instruments have a keyboard as the user-interface. Keyboard instruments are any instruments that are played with a musical keyboard. Every key generates one or more sounds; most keyboard instruments have extra means (pedals for a piano, stops and a pedal keyboard for an organ) to manipulate these sounds.
Sometimes, instruments that do not usually have a keyboard, such as the glockenspiel, are fitted with one. Though they have no moving parts and are struck by mallets held in the player's hands, they have the same physical arrangement of keys and produce soundwaves in a similar manner. The theremin, an electrophone, is played without physical contact by the player.
Images for kids
Two Aztec slit drums (teponaztli). The characteristic "H" slits can be seen on the top of the drum in the foreground.
Musical instrument Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.