The Hornbostel-Sachs system of classification for musical instruments
Today, the most widely used system of classification for musical instruments in the museum world is the Hornbostel-Sachs system, developed during the 1910s. This was the first system that could be applied to instruments the world over.
In this system, there are five families established according to the component that vibrates to produce a sound:
1) The drum family, or membranophones
The family of membranophones is made up of instruments, like the drum, whose vibrating element consists in a membrane. Drums all have a skin or membrane that is struck either with a stick or the hands or a combination of stick and hand.
They can be single-headed i.e. have a single membrane at one end of their body. Drums can also be double headed i.e. have a membrane at either end.
They are classified according to the shape of their body. In the exhibition you will find frame drums (teueikan) and tubular drums.
Tubular drums include:
2) Stringed instruments or chordophones
The family of chordophones includes instruments whose one or more strings, stretched between fixed points, vibrate when they are plucked (like the guitar), struck (like the piano) or rubbed with a bow (like the violin).
Chordophones are also subdivided into five main categories according to the shape of their body or resonator and the relationship of the strings to the body:
3) The winds or aerophones
The primary vibrating agent of the family of aerophones is a column of air contained in a tube, as is the case for flutes and trumpets.
In the exhibition we find three different categories of wind instruments classified according to how the air is set into vibration:
A) The air is set into vibration after being directed against a sharp edge:
B) The air is set into vibration by a vibrating reed:
C) The air is set into vibration by the musician's vibrating lips:
4) Percussion instruments or idiophones
In the family of idiophones, sound is produced from the substance of the instrument itself, being solid or elastic enough not to require a stretched membranes or strings.
Percussion instruments form a highly varied family. Idiophones are made from a resonant material - wood, bamboo, gourd, metal - whose resonance is created in various ways, either by striking, shaking, rubbing, scraping or plucking the instruments.
In this family sound is produced by electricity, for example a synthesizer; equipment for a disc jockey competition.