A collage of the instruments.
Instruments of the World – Collage.

The Finest collection of instruments

Did you know that there are approximately 1700 varieties of world musical instruments? How many can you name right now?

Americans spend approximately four hours a day listening to music. You come across buskers playing at stations during your morning commute, bands playing at restaurants during lunch and dinner, and children playing musical instruments during parades.

Music is something that we incorporate into our daily life. But how many people actually identify each individual instrument played in the music? This is the power of world instruments that attract, captivate, and emotionally drive us.

Let’s dive deep into this exciting world of musical instruments and see the ingenuity of human creativity.

But before we begin, here’s a video playlist of each instrument mentioned below in the order of their mentioning. Easy for you to pick your favorite, and see and hear them in action. This article can also be used for early childhood education and in NSW public schools. Please bookmark this page as I add new musical instruments weekly.

A Video Playlist of the instruments

Instruments of the World – A Video Playlist

Stringed instruments

Violin

Picture of a violin
The Violin
  • One of the most important musical instruments of all is the Violin. Designed by Andrea Amati in the 1500s it has carried almost 500 years of tradition and culture.
  • The violin is also the national instrument of Finland.
  • Widely used across all genres of music, this instrument has the capacity to evoke emotions that are unparalleled. Strings of modern violins are made of where is metals and steel.
  • Made mostly of maple and spruce wood, violins are played with a bow. They can start from as low as $100 to absolute astronomical prices. The most expensive violin ever sold was The Messiah Antonio Stradivari for $20 million.
  • Film scores showcase this instrument’s wide range in all its glory. From romantic scenes, and sad scenes to dramatic scenes, and electronic action-packed chases, you will find the violin in almost all these soundtracks.
  • One of the most notable violinists is American violinist Hillary Hahn.

Viola

Picture of a Viola
The Viola
  • A member of the Violin family, the Viola originated in the 16th century. This instrument has also been a part of western music for centuries.
  • With a slightly higher pitch than the cello and lower than that of the violin, this instrument fits perfectly in the middle order as a solo and an accompanying instrument playing the counterparts in a musical piece.
  • The viola is an integral part of any symphonic performance. Chamber music and string quartets will always have the Violin, the Viola, and the Cello as a part of their ensemble in the forefront.
  • One of the most notable violists is American Violist Kim Kashkashian.

Cello

A woman playing a cello
The Cello
  • The Cello is an instrument of the string family. It has four strings.
  • A person playing the cello is called a cellist. It is always played sitting in an upright position.
  • It is made out of wood or modern materials like fiber.
  • The strings of the cello were earlier made out of sheep gut. Modern Cellos have aluminum and metal strings.
  • The Cello is played with a bow which is made of wood or fiberglass. The hair of the bow is made out of horse hair but more modern materials or also used.
  • Like the Violin and the Viola the bow of a cello also uses Rosin. This is made from pine trees and is used to avoid friction and produce a smoother sound.
  • One of the most notable American Cellists is Yo-Yo Ma.

Acoustic Guitar

Picture of an acoustic guitar
The Acoustic Guitar
  • The Acoustic Guitar belongs to the string family of musical instruments. The body of the guitar known as a sound box is the curved part of the instrument.
  • The guitar is a national instrument of Argentina and Brazil.
  • This beautiful instrument comes from Spain and dates back to the 16th century. The term ‘acoustic’ is added to keep it separate from the electric version.
  • A normal acoustic guitar has six strings. These strings are played with a pick or fingers in case of finger-style playing. You can play individual notes or play a set of strings to form a chord.
  • Guitars come in a variety of shapes and sizes. From smaller hands to bigger hands, you can get a version that suits you. It is one of the most famous world musical instruments ever.
  • The guitar can be heard in almost all musical genres.
  • One of the most notable guitarists is American Guitarist Kaki King.

Electric guitar

Picture of an electric guitar
The Electric Guitar
  • The Electric Guitar is one of the most widely used musical instruments on the planet. It is used in almost every genre of music.
  • This amazing instrument was made in the late 19th century.
  • An electric guitar works on the simple principle of electromagnetism.
  • This instrument was first widely used in jazz and blues music before it became popular with rock music.
  • The guitar can be heard in almost all musical genres.
  • One of the most notable electric guitarists is the late American Guitarist Jimi Hendrix.

Ukulele

Picture of a ukulele
The Ukulele
  • The ukulele is a Portuguese instrument that became famous in Hawaii.
  • The Ukulele is the national instrument of Hawaii.
  • The ukulele comes in 4 sizes to suit every major music style.
  • Due to its compact size, it is extremely easy to carry and learn. It is a perfect pre-starter instrument for a guitar.
  • Like all other musical instruments playing the ukelele announces your brain and muscle potential.
  • One of the most notable Ukulele players is American artist Jake Shimabukuro.

Mandolin

Picture of a mandolin
The Mandolin
  • The mandolin is one of the oldest world instruments in human civilization which dates back to the prehistoric era.
  • The Mandolin has eight strings. This version was designed in Italy.
  • You will find many classic songs in French classical and Italian classical music that are based on the mandolin.
  • Mandolin orchestra was a common entertainment practice used in America till the 1920s. This included up to 50 players with all kinds of mandolins.
  • One of the most notable mandolinists is American artist Christopher Thile.

Banjo

picture of two banjos
The Banjo
  • The banjo has come down from West African world instruments from the Caribbean region.
  • Earlier versions of the banjo, from West Africa, used a dried gourd for the body and a long stick for the neck.
  • This instrument is over 400 years old and its history is rich. The Banjo is always played with a plectrum or a pick like a guitar.
  • There is also another version of the banjo known as the banjo drum. American folk music, bluegrass music, and country music use the banjo a lot. Musicians use the banjo in jazz music as well. 
  • One of the most notable banjo players is American artist Bela Fleck.

Balalaika

Picture of a balalaika
The Balalaika
  • The Balalaika is the most famous Russian stringed instrument. Developed around the 18th century from the original Dombra.
  • Russian musicians use the Balalika a lot in their country music.
  • It has been developed from the original domra. It has a triangular hollow body. A long neck with three strings.
  • The name Balalaika in itself is rhythmic in nature. Denoting melody, rhythm, and notes.
  • An interesting fact is that two strings out of three are tuned to the same note. The third one tuned to the fourth note in the scale.
  • One of the most notable Balalaika players is Elina Karokhina.

Oud

A man playing the Oud
The Oud
  • The first Oud was invented in 3000 BC. It is also the first stringed instrument in the history of mankind.
  • the old is the national instrument of the Arab nation.
  • It is one of the few pear-shaped world instruments played mainly in the Middle East and East Africa.
  • It is called the sultan of world musical instruments.
  • The Oud has a huge influence on musical instruments and world music today. Many big and commercial artists have used the old in their compositions and performances.
  • One of the most notable Oud players is Yurdal Tokcan.

Piano

A piano on the Beach
The Piano
  • The piano originally called the Pianoforte is arguably the most famous instrument of all time.
  • The credit for inventing the Piano goes to Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori of Italy in 1709.
  • 230 strings are needed to make the piano sound to its full potential.
  • The Steinway family is the most famous piano maker globally.
  • One of the most notable pianists is the Greek-American composer Yanni.

Accordion

Girl playing an accordion
The Accordion
  • The first version of the accordion was invented in Berlin, in 1822 by Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann.
  • The accordion is a box-shaped instrument and a person playing the accordion on a song is called an accordionist.
  • It is made out of wood and reed. Keys similar to the piano are used to play the accordion.
  • One of the most notable accordionists is American artist Nick Ariondo.

Drums And Percussion Instruments

Djembe

Man playing the Djembe
The Djembe
  • The Djembe is one of the oldest African instruments. Found in records from almost 800 years ago.
  • It is a goblet-shaped drum with tuned ropes and skin on top. It is played with bare hands and sometimes sticks.
  • Traditional Djembes had rawhide skin. Modern Djembe drums have synthetic and plastic skins or heads.
  • One of the most notable Djembe players is the late Nigerian artist Babatunde Olatunji

Drum Set

Picture of a drum set
The Drum Set
  • The drum set was invented in the 1800s.  It is one of the most important world musical instruments in music modern music today. 
  • A Drum set belongs to the family of rhythmic world instruments that give the beat to any song or melody.
  • The rhythm that the drummer plays on the drum kit is generally called a groove.
  • We can divide the drum set into two main sections. The hardware consists of parts like stands, thrones, cymbals, etc. 
  • The actual drum shells are the toms and the bass drum. The drummer uses his hands to hold the drumsticks. His feet strike the pedal on the bass drum.
  • One of the most notable drummers is American drummer Dennis Chambers.

Tabla

Picture of a Tabla
The Tabla
  • The Tabla is a percussion instrument from the Indian subcontinent. It comprises two circular drums played with the left and the right hands. It is also the most important rhythmic instrument in North Indian classical music.
  • The history of the Tabla dates back to the Mogul origin.
  • Each drum is made out of hollowed wood, metal, or clay. It requires a lot of practice and patience to master this instrument. The Tabla has been used in movies especially in Bollywood since the 1920s. It is tuned to a particular note with a small hammer.
  • One of the most notable tabla players is Indian drummer Ustad Zakir Hussain.

Taiko

A man playing the taiko
Taiko Drums
  • The Taiko drum is originally a Japanese instrument. It was used in warfare to motivate the soldiers.
  • The basic sound of this drum is like that of a heartbeat aka ‘Kodo’ in Japanese.
  • Because of the physical force that you need while playing the drum, it is very good for your health. Taiko drummers are often seen yelling sounds while playing the taiko drum. This is a part of their performance. It adds value and drama.
  • In Akita, Japan lies the biggest Taiko drum which weighs almost 3.5 tonnes and measures 3.8 m long.
  • One of the most notable American Taiko drummers is Isaku Kageyama.

Percussion

Percussion Instruments from Africa
Assorted African Percussion Instruments
  • African percussion instruments were originally made to communicate, celebrate and mourn within tribes.
  • Some of these include the Djembe, Marimba, Kalimba, Shakers, Shells, Talking drum, and Log drum.
  • Some of the percussions are melodic and can be tuned. Others are played with a single pitch.
  • Percussions are widely used in all genres of music and many movie scores as well.
  • Some of the percussion instruments create rhythm and grooves while others create ambiance and sound effects.
  • One of the most notable percussionists is Brazilian Drummer and Percussionist Airto Moreira.

Brass instruments

Saxophone

Picture of a saxophone
The Saxophone
  • In 1846 Adolphe Sax trademarked his invention and called it the Saxophone. It is made of a metal body.
  • The saxophone is actually a reed instrument where a single reed is played by the musician’s tongue.
  • It is closely related to the clarinet but the playing is much simpler.
  • The most common versions of the saxophone are Alto, Tenor, Bass, and Soprano.
  • One of the most notable saxophone players is the American saxophonist Kenny G.

Flute

Man playing an english flute
The Concert Flute
  • The flute is a part of the wind instrument family and one of the oldest instruments to be invented.
  • It is an empty tube with keys on it, that produce sound when pressed. They create notes by blocking the passing air.
  • Earlier flutes were made of bone, ivory, wood, and other natural elements. Modern flutes are made out of metal.
  • Flute playing requires more air than any other wind instrument.
  • One of the most notable flutists is American artist Jeanne Baxtresser.

Kalimba

Picture of a Kalimba
The Kalimba
  • The kalimba belongs to Africa and is one of the most famous African instruments.
  • Originally the Kalimba was made out of wood. The modern version is made out of wood, plastic, metal, and acrylic.
  • It is also the national instrument of Zimbabwe.
  • An interesting fact is that kalimba players use magnets to change the pitch of certain notes instead of changing the whole instrument.
  • One of the notable Kalimba players is a Canadian singer-songwriter, Laura Barrett.

Harp

Hands playing a harp
The Harp
  • Existing since 15000 BC, the harp is one of the oldest instruments known to mankind. It was invented in ancient Egypt.
  • Angular in shape, the harp is made out of wood.
  • There are 47 strings on a harp. 7 pedals to raise or lower the pitch of the strings.
  • The weight of a harp ranges from 40 pounds to 90 pounds depending on the version.
  • One of the most notable American harpists is singer-songwriter, Joanna Newsom.

Angklung

Picture of a Anklung
The Angklung
  • Angklung originates from the Sudanese people of Indonesia. Also the national instrument of Indonesia, it is now widespread in the Southeast Asian region and beyond.
  • It’s made of bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame. Each tube has a distinct pitch and is harmonically designed to create a melodic sound. They have been designed so that each tube produces a different pitch when struck.
  • It’s a percussion instrument played mostly in ceremonies. During an ensemble of Angklung players, each player plays the instrument with a distinct pitch, thus creating an ensemble sound.
  • This instrument is also played in other countries like the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia.

Musical Instruments are Awesome!

Did you like this post and did you learn something new? I hope this list has given you some idea of the most exciting instruments of the world out there.

This list is regularly updated with new instruments, so don’t forget to bookmark this page and join my mailing list for music-related fun stuff, information, product reviews, and discounts straight to your inbox.

I love sharing what I have learned over 15 years of my journey as a music composer, producer, and educator.

References –

Pavlenko, D. (2020, August 26). Drumset. pexels.com. https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-and-brown-drum-set-5809492/

Brass Saxophone on Gray Table Near Black Bag. (2016, March 26). pexels.com. https://www.pexels.com/photo/brass-saxophone-on-gray-table-near-black-bag-164936/

Photo by Fotograf Jylland: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-of-violin-3120109/

Photo by Teddy Yang: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-playing-wind-instrument-2254140/

Photo by Wendy Wei: https://www.pexels.com/photo/colorful-piano-on-sea-shore-13244401/

Photo by Philip  Boakye: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-yellow-guitar-hanged-on-pink-wall-3428498/

Photo by Rene Asmussen: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-view-of-blue-electric-guitar-1539787/

Photo by cottonbro: https://www.pexels.com/photo/wood-art-hand-dark-7097886/

Photo by NATASHA  LOIS: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-woman-holding-a-cello-4306999/

Photo by Pixabay: https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-wooden-percussion-instruments-158664/

Photo by Hello Massamba: https://www.pexels.com/photo/city-man-people-woman-10509940/

Photo by Nothing Ahead: https://www.pexels.com/photo/wooden-kalimba-on-with-deer-shaped-resonator-6875952/

Shaku8taikoza, S. (2017, November 4). Taikoza drummer performing Taiko drums on an original taiko drum weighing 100 kilo. wikimedia.org. https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Taiko_drums_artist_from_Taikoza.jpg

Anklung Photo by form PxHere

Arent, A. (2005, August 9). Balalaika Tenor. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TenorBalalaika1.jpg

Profonda, V. (2010, October 6). Comparison of Viola Profonda, Viola, and Violin. Wikimedia. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Viola_Profonda_comparison.jpg

Concert Harp – Image by Franz P. Sauerteig from Pixabay 

Dedendi, D. (2020, December 6). Ravanahatha. Wikimedia. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ravanahatha_from_Udaipur.jpg

Rottweiler. (2007, August 9). Japanese Koto. Wikimedia. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Japanese_Koto.jpg

Photo by abed albaset alhasan: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-man-playing-music-with-an-oud-10132008/

Photo by Drift Shutterbug: https://www.pexels.com/photo/blue-and-brown-ukulele-2018367/

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Instrument_perkusyjny_TABLA_firmy_Meinl.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Instrument_perkusyjny_TABLA_firmy_Meinl.jpg

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