Inventing Musical Instruments

The History Behind Musical Instruments

Music is an artistic form of sound communication via musical instruments that produce sounds and tones. Music is as old as mankind. All cultures past and present have music. The "oldest known song" dates back 4,000 years ago and was written in ancient cuneiform. It is not certain how or when the first musical instrument was invented, however, most historians point to early flutes made from animal bones that are at least 37,000 years old. Below you will find the stories behind several popular musical instruments.

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Clarinetists and bassoonists performing in orchestra, side view
Michael Blann/ Iconica/ Getty Images
Charles Wheatstone invented the accordion in 1829. The accordion is played by pressing and expanding the air bellows, while the musician presses buttons and keys to force the air across reeds that produce sounds.

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Classical Music Conductor Raising His Arms in an Auditorium
Classical Music Conductor Raising His Arms and Baton in an Auditorium. Getty Images/Digital Vision
In the 1820s, Louis Spohr introduced the conductor's baton.

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Ancient Monasteries Bells. Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images
Bells may be categorized as idiophones, instruments sounding by the vibration of resonant solid material, and more broadly as percussion instruments. The picture to the left shows the bells at the Agia Triada Monastery in Athens, Greece. Monks and hermits have found refuge for over 1,000 years at the gigantic rock formations in central Greece, which still puzzle scientists as to how they came to be formed and are visited today by thousands of tourists.

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Clarinet. Getty Images/C Squared Studios
The clarinet's predecessor was the chalumeau, the first true single reed instrument. Because of his improvements of the chalumeau, Johann Christoph Denner is accredited as the inventor of the clarinet.

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The earliest known double bass type of instrument dates from 1516. Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846) was the first great virtuoso of the instrument, and largely responsible for the double bass joining the orchestra.

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The name dulcimer comes from the Latin and Greek works dulce and melos, which combine to mean "sweet tune."

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Electric Organ

Morse Robb of Belleville, Ontario, patented the world's first electric organ in 1928.

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An early flute, which was found in China, was the ch'ie.

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The modern orchestral brass French horn was an invention based on early hunting horns. Horns were first used as musical instruments during 16th century operas. German Fritz Kruspe, who has been credited most often as being the inventor of the modern double French horn, combined the pitches of the horn in F with the horn in B Flat in 1900.

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Guitar. freephotos
The history behind the universally popular string instrument played by plucking or strumming.

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Harpsichord. C Squared Studios/Getty Images

The ancestor of the harpsichord was most likely a handheld plucked instrument called the psaltery circa 1300, which later had a keyboard added to it. The popularity of the harpsichord diminished with the development of the piano. Harpsichord Video

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In 1696, Etieune Loulie made the first recorded attempt to apply the pendulum to a metronome.

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Robert Moog designed his first synthesizers in collaboration with the composers Herbert A. Deutsch, and Walter Carlos.

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The oboe (hautbois in French) was invented in the 17th century by the French musicians Jean Hotteterre and Michel Danican Philidor. The oboe evolved from the shawm, a double-reed instrument.

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Giuseppe Donati invented the modern 10-hole ocarina. The ceramic ocarina is a musical wind instrument that is a type of vessel flute.

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Piano. freephotos

The piano first known as the pianoforte developed from the harpsichord around 1720, by Bartolomeo Cristofori of Padua, Italy.

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Canadian, Hugh Le Caine (1914-1977) not only built the world's first voltage controlled music synthesizer (1945), touch sensitive keyboard, and variable speed multi-track tape recorder, he also composed unique works that helped to popularize electronic music. he designed over twenty analogue musical instruments.

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Saxophone - Adolphe Sax
The saxophone was invented by a Belgian manufacturer, Adolphe Sax. freephotos
The saxophone was invented by a Belgian manufacturer, Adolphe Sax (1814 - 1894) and exhibited to the world for the first time at the 1841 Brussels exhibition.

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The trombone is certainly the most recognizable wind instrument, being the only one with a true slide section

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Trumpet. freephotos
The trumpet is the instrument that Mozart's father Leopold, and Haydn's brother Michael, wrote concertos for in the second half of the eighteenth century. The first trumpet was a very different instrument from the modern valve trumpet. The trumpet has evolved more than any other instrument known to modern day society. Its long history began with ancient people using hollow materials such as animal horns and sea. A conch shell was one of the first brass family instruments produced, mostly resembling a trumpet.

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The modern tubas owe their existence to the invention of valves or pistons (Ger. Ventile) by two Prussians, Stolzel and Bliimel, in 1815.