Aerophone Musical Instruments

Aerophone is a classification of musical instrument. Many modern and traditional instruments fall under this class type. On this article we will learn what is an aerophone instrument and how does it produce sound. We will also identify the instruments that fall under the aerophone group.

There are so numerous fascinating musical instruments in the world, and they all generate unique sounds using different ways. In order to properly organize these instruments, they were classified and divided into multiple classes. One of the main classifications of musical instruments includes the Aerophone instruments.

Hornbostel-Sachs Classification of Musical instruments

Before we proceed to introducing what aerophones are, let us first learn how musical instruments are being classified. We will first discuss the Hornbostel-Sachs Classification of Musical instruments.

The Hornbostel-Sachs Musical Instrument Classification is a system to classify musical instruments created by music theorist and scholars, Erich von Hornbostel and Curt Sachs.

According to Hornbostel-Sachs classification of musical instruments, all instruments can be grouped under 4 major categories. The 4 main Hornbostel-Sachs musical instrument classes are idiophones, membranophones, chordophones, and aerophones.

Aerophone Musical Instrument Classification

What is an Aerophone [air-uh-fohn]? According to Wikipedia an aerophone is a musical instrument that produces sound primarily by causing a body of air to vibrate without the use of strings or membranes, and without the vibration of the instrument itself adding considerably to the sound.

In a much simpler explanation, it means that aerophones are musical instruments that generates sound using air that creates vibrations and thus produces the music. The instrument itself does not generate sound, but it is the air alone that circulates and passes through the instrument causing it to vibrate and emit sound waves.

A common example of an aerophone instrument would be the flute. The flute produces sound by blowing wind through the instrument. Other common examples of aerophones are trumpets, clarinet, tuba and harmonica.

According to the Hornbostel-Sachs classification, the aerophone class can also be subdivided further into 2 different subclasses. The 2 subclasses of Aerophones are Free and Non-free.

Hornbostel-Sachs Aerophone Musical Instrument Classification

Aerophones – Uses vibration of air to poduce music

  • Free Aerophones – vibration of air is not confined by the instrument
    • Displacement Free Aerophones - The air-stream meets a sharp edge, or a sharp edge is moved through the air
    • Interruptive Free Aerophones / Reeds - The air-stream is interrupted periodically
      • Idiophonic Interruptive Aerophones or Reeds - he air-stream is directed against a lamella, setting it in periodic vibration to interrupt the stream intermittently.
      • Non-Idiophonic Interruptive Instruments - The interruptive agent is not a reed
    • Plosive Aerophones - The air is made to vibrate by a single density stimulus condensation shock
  • Non-free Aerophones – vibration air is confined by the instrument
    • Edge-Blown Aerophones or Flutes - A narrow stream of air is directed against an edge to excite a column of air in a tube or a body of air in a cavity.
      • Flutes without Ducts - The player himself creates a ribbon-shaped stream of air with his lips.
      • Flutes with a Duct - A narrow duct directs the air stream against the sharp edge of a lateral orifice.
    • Reed Aerophones - The column of air is made to vibrate by the intermittent access of an air stream produced by means of a lamella or lamellae.
      • Double Reed Aerophones - The pipe has a reed (usually a flattened stem) of paired lamellae which periodically open and close, controlling the flow of air.
      • Single Reed Aerophones - The pipe has a single "reed" consisting of a lamella which periodically opens and closes an aperture, controlling the flow of air.
      • Reedpipes with Free Reeds - The air column must be the dominant partner in determining the frequency of vibration, as is the case for instruments with fingerholes, otherwise the instrument belongs to the free reeds
    • Labrosones/Trumpets (Lip-reed instruments) - The air-stream passes through the player’s vibrating lips, so gaining intermittent access to the air column which is to be made to vibrate
      • Natural Labrosones / Trumpets - Without extra devices to alter pitch other than lengths of tube (crooks etc.) to set the nominal pitch preparatory to playing
      • Chromatic Labrosones /Trumpets - With extra devices to alter the pitch while playing

Do you know how to whistle using your mouth and without using any instrument? Did you know that whistling is in fact a form or a way of producing sounds using the principles of an aerophone? When your whistling your mouth serves as the instrument and by simply blowing air out, the aerophone sound gets produced due to the vibration of the air.

Whistling isn’t easy. You have to shape your mouth correctly so when you blow air the wind vibrates inside the mouth and emits sound as it exits. Many of the mouth blown aerophone musical instruments like the flute, recorder, clarinet, saxophone, trumpets and oboes are hard to use. The reason why there is some difficulty in using these instruments is because you have to blow air a certain way in order for the wind to pass through the instrument correctly in order to generate sound. There has to be proper air flow in order for air to vibrate.

Aerophone Construction

When crafting an aerophone instrument it is very important to make sure that the structure of is designed so that when winds passes within, it will perform well and generate great sound.

There are many kinds of aerophone instruments. These instruments come in different shapes and sizes. Depending on the shape and size of the musical instrument, it can produce different aerophone sound.

The volume of the sound differs depending on the size and shape of the aerophone instrument. This can also be easily done by adjusting the amount of wind force applied. The stronger the wind force applied, the stronger the volume, the weaker the wind force, the weaker the volume.

The tone of the aerophone instrument also differs depending on the construction of the instrument. Most of the thin shaped instruments can produce sharper sounding kind of music. For wider shaped instruments, it will produce music on a much lower sound.

Aerophones on Orchestra

There are many different kinds of aerophones. They vary on how they are used to play music. When many instruments are performed together as an ensemble, they create a delightful music.

A few examples of the most well-known aerophone instruments include the trumpets, clarinet, piccolo, flute, saxophone, accordion, tuba, harmonica, horn, accordion, and whistle. These instruments sound well when they are played as a band.

Have you ever seen an orchestra before? An orchestra is a large ensemble that uses multiple musical instrument of various kinds. Many aerophones are included as part of the orchestra. The orchestra mostly use these instruments to play western classical music.

The famous aerophone orchestra instruments includes the woodwind instruments which are the flutes, clarinets, saxophones. The orchestra also includes aerophones under the brass family that are trumpets, horns tubas and trombones. With these combined with other string, keyboard and percussions instruments creates the most delightful orchestra music ensemble.

List of Aerophone Musical Instruments


  • Free Aerophones
    • Displacement Free Aerophones
    • Interruptive Free Aerophones / Reeds
      • Idiophonic Interruptive Aerophones or Reeds
        • Accordion
        • Harmonica
        • Harmonium
        • Mouth Organ
        • Sheng
      • Non-Idiophonic Interruptive Instruments
        • Acme Siren
        • Bull-roarer
    • Plosive Aerophones
  • Non-free Aerophones
    • Edge-Blown Aerophones or Flutes
      • Flutes without Ducts
        • Alto Flute
        • Flute
        • Organ
        • Panpipes
        • Piccolo
        • Slide Flute
      • Flutes with a Duct
        • Boat Whistle
        • Boatswain's Whistle
        • Bird Whistle
        • Duct Flute
        • Fipple Flute
        • Flageolet
        • Ocarina
        • Police Whistle
        • Recorder
        • Train Whistle
        • Whistle Flute
    • Reed Aerophones
      • Double Reed Aerophones
        • Bassoon
        • Contrabassoon
        • Crumhorn
        • Curtall
        • English Horn
        • Oboe
        • Rackett
        • Shawm
        • Sordun
        • Tenor Oboe
      • Single Reed Aerophones
        • Alto Clarinet
        • Alto Saxophone
        • Baritone Saxophone
        • Bass Clarinet
        • Bass Saxophone
        • Basset Clarinet
        • Basset Horn
        • Clarinet
        • Contra-alto Clarinet
        • Contrabass Clarinet
        • Double Bass Clarinet
        • Hornpipe
        • Saxophone
        • Soprano Saxophone
        • Tenor Saxophone
      • Reedpipes with Free Reeds
        • Bagpipe
    • Labrosones/Trumpets (Lip-reed instruments)
      • Natural Labrosones / Trumpets
        • Alphorn
        • Bugle
      • Chromatic Labrosones /Trumpets
        • Baritone Horn
        • Cornet
        • Euphonium
        • Flugelhorn
        • French Horn
        • Herald Trumpet
        • Horn
        • Keyed Bugle
        • Keyed Trumpet
        • Piccolo Trumpet
        • Serpent
        • Sousaphone
        • Tenor Tuba

List of Aerophone Orchestra Instruments

  • Bass clarinet
  • Bassoon
  • Flute
  • Clarinet
  • Contrabassoon
  • English horn
  • Horn (French horn)
  • Oboe
  • Piccolo
  • Saxophones
  • Trombone
  • Trumpet
  • Tuba

Bamboo Aerophone Instruments

Countless other music can be played using aerophones. Several common traditional music from around the world are played using these instruments. Traditional Asian music are performed using aerophones, just like the bansuri, venu and dizi, which are all bamboo flutes.

Bamboo is a wonderful material. It has many uses. You can easily create different kind of useful products and various instruments with it. One of the most enjoyed invention made of bamboos are the aerophones.

Bamboos has many good properties that makes it a perfect material for crafting musical instruments like aerophones. Bamboo aerophones are just a few of the many types of bamboo musical instruments. To find more about these magnificent bamboo instrument, visit our website

Bamboo Instruments
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