Instrument Encyclopedia

About the Voice

The voice may be the most popular and the most misunderstood instrument on the face of the Earth. You can’t just pick up a guitar and play a song without first taking a few lessons. But you can sing a song without ever taking voice lessons. Of course, most people aren’t very good singers. Just like any other instrument, there’s a technique to singing that you have to learn before you can sound good. However, unlike other instruments, the technique behind singing lies almost entirely in human physiology.

About the Piano

Anyone who's ever taken music lessons or pursued music in any way probably learned at least a little piano along the way. It's a popular tool for learning music and composing songs. Its versatility means it's used world over and equally represented in all forms of music.

This piano is considered to be a chordophone, meaning its sound is produced from vibrating strings. Piano may also be called a keyboard, which refers to the set of keys used to play the instrument.

About the Guitar

The guitar is an incredibly popular instrument known the world over. Its roots are ancient, and early derivatives of the guitar can be found across the globe, from central Asia to Scandinavia. The six-string model is most popular, but you can also find four- and twelve-string guitars, as well as everything in between. Guitars feature prominently in most genres, including blues, country, flamenco, rock, and pop. It's also used as a solo classical instrument.

About the Drums

A drum kit (also known as a drum set or trap set) is a collection of drums, cymbals, and sometimes other percussion instruments (cowbell, wood block, chimes, or tambourines, for example) arranged into a single, compact set playable by one drummer. Along with these instruments are different forms of "hardware," stands, pedals, and other accessories that keep the instruments in place and make them playable.

About the Flute

Through it doesn't use a reed, the flute is part of the woodwind family. Instead, its sound comes from the flow of air against an edge. For this reason, the Hornbostel–Sachs style of classification puts the flute in the family of edge-blown aerophones.

The flute is one of the oldest instruments known to man, and because of this (along with its relatively easy method of construction), there are many different forms of flutes all over the world.

About the Saxophone

Though made of brass, the saxophone is actually part of the woodwind family. That's because it uses a single-reed mouthpiece. But the saxophone's dual nature is part of its creation, as it was initially meant to fill the gap between brass and woodwind.

The saxophone has proved to be extremely versatile, used widely in nearly all genres, though most prominently in jazz, rock, classical, and military band music.

About the Clarinet

The clarinet is a musical instrument in the woodwind family. The name derives from adding the suffix "-et," meaning "little" in French to the Italian word clarino, which is a particular type of trumpet, as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has a mostly cylindrical shape, and uses a single reed.

About the Cello

The violoncello, usually abbreviated to cello, is a bowed string instrument. A person who plays a cello is called a cellist. The cello is used as a solo instrument in chamber music and as a member of the string section of an orchestra. Next to the double bass, it is the second-largest string instrument in the orchestra.

Cellos are traditionally made from wood, spruce and maple in particular, though modern models use a variety of materials. Substantially smaller electronic cellos--usually about a quarter of the size of acoustic models--are also available.

About the Violin

The violin is the smallest, highest-pitched, and likely most popular member of the string family. Violins are used the world over for a variety of different music styles. They're equally suited for solo pieces, small groups, or orchestras. The "violin quartet" is a popular arrangement of musicians.


Bowed instruments (instruments that use a bow to produce sound) are likely derived from Central Asia and Mongolian equestrian cultures. Even the earliest of these instruments used horsehair strings--a tradition still followed today.

About the Bass

In modern times, the term "bass" can mean two things in music: the upright bass or bass guitar. The former precedes the latter by about 400 years, but they are both tuned the same and serve more or less the same purpose in a band.

For the most part, the bass guitar has overtaken the double bass in nearly all styles of music, save classical. However, some forms of rock, country, and jazz still use the double bass.

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