musical instruments are classified in various ways, but the system devised in 1914 by Kurt Sachs and E. M. von Hornbostel has been accorded recognition by both anthropologists and musicologists because it is applicable not only to modern Western instruments but to primitive and exotic instruments as well. This system divides instruments into five main classes: idiophones, membranophones, aerophones, chordophones, and electrophones. Most idiophones, which are instruments made of a sonorous material needing no additional tension, and membranophones, whose sound is produced by the vibrations of a membrane stretched over a hollow resonator, are popularly grouped as percussion instruments; certain instruments, however, such as the jew's-harp and the glass harmonica (see harmonica
See K. Sachs, The History of Musical Instruments (1940); K. Geiringer, Musical Instruments (1943, 2d ed. 1978); A. Buchner, Musical Instruments: An Illustrated History (rev. ed. 1973).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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