What is Musical instruments: Definition and 29 Discussions

A musical instrument is a device created or adapted to make musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can be considered a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. A person who plays a musical instrument is known as an instrumentalist. The history of musical instruments dates to the beginnings of human culture. Early musical instruments may have been used for rituals, such as a horn to signal success on the hunt, or a drum in a religious ceremony. Cultures eventually developed composition and performance of melodies for entertainment. Musical instruments evolved in step with changing applications and technologies.
The date and origin of the first device considered a musical instrument is disputed. The oldest object that some scholars refer to as a musical instrument, a simple flute, dates back as far as 67,000 years. Some consensus dates early flutes to about 37,000 years ago. However, most historians believe that determining a specific time of musical instrument invention is impossible, as many early musical instruments were made from animal skins, bone, wood, and other non-durable materials.
Musical instruments developed independently in many populated regions of the world. However, contact among civilizations caused rapid spread and adaptation of most instruments in places far from their origin. By the Middle Ages, instruments from Mesopotamia were in maritime Southeast Asia, and Europeans played instruments originating from North Africa. Development in the Americas occurred at a slower pace, but cultures of North, Central, and South America shared musical instruments.
By 1400, musical instrument development slowed in many areas and was dominated by the Occident. During the Classical and Romantic periods of music, lasting from roughly 1750 to 1900, many new musical instruments were developed. While the evolution of traditional musical instruments slowed beginning in the 20th century, the proliferation of electricity led to the invention of new electric instruments, such as electric guitars, synthesizers and the theremin.
Musical instrument classification is a discipline in its own right, and many systems of classification have been used over the years. Instruments can be classified by their effective range, material composition, size, role, etc. However, the most common academic method, Hornbostel–Sachs, uses the means by which they produce sound. The academic study of musical instruments is called organology.

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  1. Daniel Petka

    I Why is saxophone growling produced by modulation of the sound waves?

    My clarinet teacher once showed me a trick: you can play any note and then sing a fifth above that note and it will create the illusion of sounding an octave deeper. On a different sub, I asked about this technique: It turns out that this is called saxophone growling. And it's no coincidence...
  2. A

    Music Fusion of Western musical instruments

    Western musical instruments Western musical instruments images Trumpet and Saxophone. Is it possible to design and construct western musical instruments as a fusion of two or more functions and features? I mean to say Guitar, Violin, Trumpet, Saxophone, Piano etc integrated into a single...
  3. A

    Musical instrument training software

    Similar to Flight and Power plant training simulation softwares, is it possible to design and develop musical instruments training software simulators? Examples : Guitar,Piano,Violin,Trumpet, Drums,Saxophone etc. If Not, What are the challenges for designing and developing Musical instruments...
  4. E

    Effect of temperature on vibrational frequency of a violin string

    Variables: Dependent: Vibrational frequency of violin string (Measured using mobile tuning app) Independent: Temperature in which string is plucked (Measured using infrared thermometer) Controlled: Violin String, Tension of violin string, Length of violin string, Method of plucking...
  5. F

    How does a Western free reed work? (musical instruments)

    In this post, I will describe, as best I have been able to determine, how a Western free reed works. As it is unlikely I will run into a physicist here who specializes in reeds, I will just ask people to speculate on the behavior of a reed given what you know about fluid dynamics or the...
  6. E

    I Helmholtz resonator with multiple necks--formula?

    Does anybody happen to know the formula for resonant frequency of a Helmholtz resonator having N necks? Physics is not my field and I'm a bit over my head. I need the formula for a computer program related to musical instruments--this is the only thing holding me up. It seems like it would...
  7. W

    Flute player initial frequency?

    Homework Statement A flute player hears four beats per second when she compares her note to a 587 Hz tuning fork (the note D). She can match the frequency of the tuning fork by pulling out the "tuning joint" to lengthen her flute slightly. What was her initial frequency? Homework Equations Not...
  8. S

    Music Musical instruments layout in an orchestra?

    I listen to rock music and usually in the musical mix, the drum is placed at the center/back of the soundstage, the vocal is at the center/front, and other instruments like guitar, piano are either are the left or right and slightly up front. So this gives a nice weight to the soundstage with...
  9. R

    Why don't bowed musical instruments deaden their sound?

    Horsehair is a string of tiny bead-shaped growths -- from what I have read. Even that slides over strings until rosin allows the "beads" to grab temporarily. But if one bead pulls and releases the string, wouldn't the other strings in the horsehair "hank" dampen that sound? It obviously doesn't...
  10. Avatrin

    Musical instruments and mechanics

    Hi I have been curious about the relationship between the geometry of a musical instrument and the sound it produces. What should I read and learn to understand this? I know I will probably need to learn fluid mechanics, but what else? Surely fluid mechanics cannot be enough. I already have a...
  11. E

    Odd (pretty) waveform for third harmonic of violin E-string

    I lightly placed my finger a quarter of the length down the E-string of a violin and drew the bow, forcing the third harmonic. I used an oscilloscope app to look at the waveform. I got this unusually regular pure pattern...
  12. J

    A question about resonant frequency

    hello, I'm a first year science undergrad, currently learning about mechanics and waves and so on there's this vine that's been going around, which shows someone playing a harp - here is the video in question; I personally find it quite beautiful and fascinating. Apparently the phenomena is...
  13. A

    Why are spherical instruments not more common?

    When it comes to waves, spherical harmonics are, like, da bomb. I'm no expert - probably obvious from the question - but it seem to me that an instrument which maximises the utilisation of harmonics/resonances would be spherical. And yet, I can think of no spherical instruments - the most...
  14. I

    What causes musical instruments to have different sounds?

    harmonics... got it.. but for instruments, whether they have a sound cavity (brass instrument or woodwind) or a string, to be resonating at say, 400 Hz, they should both have the same resonant frequencies no? if a string instrument resonates at 400 Hz, it should also resonate at factors of this...
  15. S

    Experience Building Musical Instruments

    Hi everyone. I'm looking to take up electronics as a hobby. I also play the electric bass guitar and I've been seriously contemplating building my own in my spare time. The ominous woodworking aside, I was wondering if anybody had any experience with building instrument electronics from...
  16. C

    Musical instruments - beats phenomenon

    Can anyone give me a description of the beats phenomenon associated with musical instruments (or in general, any waves with which beats are associated). I have looked at numerous textbooks however I feel I don't completely understand the concept still. Thanks
  17. N

    Music Ranks of musical instruments for a Turk

    imo, ranks of musical instruments: 1st ney or nay ( reed flute or Turkish flute) : it is not side-blown or transverse 2nd classical kemence ( a grandson of byzantion lyra): a bowed instrument and should not be confused with ancient greek lyre 3rd tanbur ( a kind of long necked...
  18. C

    Acoustic Analysis of Musical Instruments

    I'd like to learn more about acoustic analysis of musical instruments, but I have no idea where to even start. I've taken some acoustics courses and some fluid dynamics courses as well as structural vibrations. What I'd like to do is model an instrument and then have a numerically predicted...
  19. I

    Simulating musical instruments with tuning forks

    Hi, Would it be possible to simulate the sound of a musical instrument such as a clarinet by finding the Fourier series of the waveform and then hitting a bunch of tuning forks with the corresponding frequencies and amplitudes?
  20. S

    The Physics of Sound Waves in Musical Instruments

    Is the sound of one note generated by a musical instrument an example of a single sound wave or a group of in-phase (coherent) sound waves?
  21. 1

    Why Does a Longer or Thicker String Produce a Lower Note?

    Why does a longer, or thicker string produce a lower note when plucked? What is it about the larger spring that causes a lesser energy output? My common intuition says that a larger spring is harder to move and therefore will vibrate with lesser frequency, but I am not satisfied with that reason.
  22. B

    Musical Instruments and overtones

    Homework Statement Why do different instruments produce different relative amplitudes and number of overtones? Homework Equations N/A The Attempt at a Solution I know that formants affect the relative amplitude of some of the harmonics, but besides that, I do not know. Any guidance or...
  23. tiny-tim

    Music Can Musical Instruments Be Played Underwater?

    i was pondering why no fish have ever become famous musicians :confused: when it occurred to me … are there any musical instruments designed to be played underwater?
  24. M

    Question regarding sound waves in musical instruments

    My question is regarding musical instruments. Their are waves produced in wind instruments and in stringed instruments. If a wind instrument (lets say a tuba) is played directly next to a stringed instrument (lets say a guitar) will the sounds waves (in air) produced by the wind instrument...
  25. W

    Resonance effect in musical instruments

    would it be more accurate to say that Resonance is Essential for musical instruments or Desirable.
  26. DaveC426913

    Music Difficulty of learning musical instruments

    Does anyone know where I might find a rough guide of how difficult it is to learn different musical intruments? I guess I'm specifically interested in the fiddle. I know music theory, I can read music (at least, if given indefinite time) and even mangled a trumpet in high school, but have...
  27. P

    Where Can I Learn About the Physics of Musical Instruments?

    does anyone know of any websites or books relating to the physics of musical instruments (particularly brass instruments)? i have a book by moravcsik called musical sound, but it is pretty elementary and non-mathematical. if anyone is aware of any threads already posted here on this topic...
  28. E

    Rotating Valve Actuation for Musical Instruments

    I am looking for a method of actuating a valve on a musical instrument. This particular valve needs to rotate 90 degrees, but on some instruments, 120 degrees. I will like to actuate via wire control i.e. with a embedded computer. For example, close a switch, the valve rotates 90 degrees and...
  29. T

    Music Musical Instruments, do you play one? I play Keyboard

    January of 2002 I started taking lessons. I play using the new Casio WK 3000. Really a professional board, fabulous sounds. I read music quite well. Just do it as a hobby from 1 to 3 hours per day. What about you all? Oh yes, I play all types of music. I especially like Elton John "I...