Music Bibliography at IUP




The inventors of the most widely known system of classifying musical instruments were Curt Sachs and Erich M. von Hornbostel in their 1914 article "Systematic der Musikinstrumente" [Classification of Musical Instruments].  Their taxonomy is based on the principle of what is the vibrating medium for each instrument.  The primary classes and sub-classes are listed below:


I. Aerophones

                        A. Flutes                      a. end blown

                                                            b. side blown                           

                        B. Reeds                      a. single reed

                                                            b. double reed

                        C. Lip vibrated             a. cylindrical

                                                            b. conical

                        D. Free reed (harmonica, accordion, khaen ...)

                        E. Free (bullroar ...)


II. Chordophones

                        A. Lutes                       a. plucked

                                                            b. bowed

                        B. Zithers                     a. dulcimers

                                                            b. psalteries

                        C. Lyres

                        D. Harps

                        E. Bows


III.       Membranophones

                        A. Single head              sub-divided by body shape

                        B. Double head            sub-divided by body shape

                                                            (cylindrical, conical, barrel, goblet...)


IV. Idiophones

            sub-divided by method of playing (shaken, stamped, struck, bowed, plucked...)


Added to the Sachs-von Hornbostel classification in the 1950s:


V. Electrophones (the sound is generated by electronic means)


Beware of instruments which can fit into two or more classes, such as the tambourine (idiophone and membranophone) or the banjo (chordophone lute, but also arguably a membranophone)


See Musical Instruments of the World: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (New York: Facts on File, 1976) to identify unknown instruments using the Sachs-von Hornbostel classification system.

In the Music Library under: (REF) ML 102 .I5 D5.


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