Classification of Musical Instruments

Musical instruments may be classified in several ways, but traditionally musical instruments are grouped according to orchestral instrument families. In orchestras musicians sit together in orchestral instrument families. Musical instruments are grouped into families according to how they make sounds. Of course, there are some musical instruments which do not fit neatly into these groups, for example, the piano has both strings and hammers, therefore, it can be both string instrument and percussion instrument. Let’s see the major classes of musical instruments.


Brass instruments are usually made of brass or other metal. Brass instruments make sound when the air is blown inside of them. Brass instruments can be expected to work similarly to wind instruments with few modifications – the length of air column is changed with press valves or slide mechanism. Brass instruments include such instruments as trumpet, trombone, tuba, cornet, bugle, conch and French horn.


The majority of percussion instruments make sound when they are hit, shaken, rubbed or scratched, causing vibration and thus sound production. Musician has to strike the surface of percussion instrument to generate vibrations to produce desired note. Percussion instruments can be divided in two groups – the first group includes tuned instruments which produce definite pitches, for example, marimba and xylophone, but the second group includes instruments which produce indefinite pitches, for example, tambourine and castanets. Percussion instruments include such instruments as drums, kettle drum, tambourine, triangle, timpani, tubular bells, bells, xylophone, cymbals, tam-tam, chimes, castanets, rattle, vibraphone, marimba, anvil, gong and glockenspiel.


Sounds of string instruments come from their strings which can be plucked, bowed or struck, creating a vibration which causes a unique sound. The sound depends on the length of air column, as well as on the type and thickness of strings which are used. Strings include such instruments as guitar, bass, double bass, harp, cello, violin, viola, mandolin, banjo and dulcimer.


Woodwinds, like brass instruments, produce sound when the air is blown inside of them, blowing it across an edge, between a surface and a reed, or between two reeds. Woodwinds can be expected to work depending on principles of sound waves, frequencies, resonance, acoustics and harmonics. Woodwinds include such instruments as flute, saxophone, clarinet, bassoon, oboe, English horn, piccolo and recorder. Less known windwoods are shakuhaci, shehnai, pianica, bagpie and pianica.

Electronic instruments

Electronic instruments are instruments which are produced, using the latest technologies. Electronic instruments are made in a way which makes it simpler and easier to produce sounds. The most popular electronic instruments are piano keyboards, synthesizers, sampler, octopads and rhythm machines.