Idiophone Musical Instruments

Idiophone is one of the main classifications under the Hornbostel-Sachs Classification of musical instrument. There are many idiophones instruments in the world. They are used in producing modern, classical and traditional music. In this article, you will acquire detailed information and understanding on what idiophones are and how these instruments produce music. I will also introduce many examples of idiophones. Some of which you may not have heard of before.

In every continent in our world, you can find many musical instruments and they are all used to create music. There are many types of musical instruments. One of the main types of musical instrument includes the Idiophone musical instruments.

Hornbostel-Sachs Classification of Musical instruments

Before we advance with familiarising whit what exactly are idiophones, let us first know how the different musical instruments are organized. We will first discuss the Hornbostel-Sachs Classification of Musical instruments, which it is derived from.

The Hornbostel-Sachs Classification of Musical Instrument is a structure to categorize musical instruments. This classification system was first crated by Erich von Hornbostel and Curt Sachs. They created this in order to find a way to properly organize the many instruments all over the world.

This classification is based on how sounds are produced by each of these instruments. Erich von Hornsbostel and Curt Sachs noticed that there is pattern between instruments. These patterns are used to create categories and sub-categories for the various groups of instruments.

In the Hornbostel-Sachs classification, the instruments are grouped into 4 major categories. These are aerophones, chordophones, membranophones and lastly the idiophones.

Idiophone Musical Instrument Classification

Idiophones, what are these instruments? In the Hornbostel-Sachs system idiophones are listed as the first classification of instruments. According to Wikipedia an idiophone is any musical instrument that creates sound primarily by the instrument as a whole vibrating—without the use of strings or membranes.

Idiophones are musical instruments that requires the use of a solid materials to make vibrations in order to produce sounds. The sound is produced by hitting the instrument in order for it to resonate.

There are various materials that can be used in order to create these idiophones. You can use metals, stones and wood. The instruments made of these materials and then struck together to produce sounds are the idiophones.

By the way idiophone instruments can be made of any materials with the exception of strings and membranes or drums. What this means that any instrument that primary creates sounds through resonations from string and membranes instruments does not count because they have their own category. String instruments are under the Chordophones and the membrane instruments are the Membranophones categories.

Have you heard of percussions before? What are percussions? These are musical instruments that produces sounds by being struck or scraped using a beating material. That means all idiophones are percussion instruments with the exception of drums which the membranophones.

Idiophone instruments comes in different forms. Many of these are made of normally available materials like wood, stones and metals. here are 8 basic types idiophones which are concussion, friction, percussion, plucked, scraped, shaken, stamped, and stamping.

Hornbostel-Sachs Idiophone Musical Instrument Classification

Idiophones – is any musical instrument that creates sound primarily by the instrument as a whole vibrating—without the use of strings or membranes

  • Struck idiophones - The instrument is made to vibrate by being struck upon
    • Idiophones struck directly - The player himself executes the movement of striking; whether by mechanical intermediate devices, beaters, keyboards, or by pulling ropes, etc., is immaterial; it is definitive that the player can apply clearly defined individual strokes and that the instrument itself is equipped for this kind of percussion
      • Concussion idiophones or clappers - Two or more complementary sonorous parts are struck against each other
        • Concussion sticks or stick clappers - Vietnam, India, Marshall Is.
        • Concussion plaques or plaque clappers - China, India
        • Concussion troughs or trough clappers - Burma [Myanmar]
        • Concussion vessels or vessel clappers - Even a slight hollow in the surface of a board counts as a vessel
          • Castanets - Vessel clappers, either natural, or artificially hollowed out
          • Cymbals - Vessel clappers with everted rim
          • Concussion bells - Nigeria
      • Percussion idiophones - The instrument is struck either with a non-sonorous object (hand, stick, striker) or against a non-sonorous object (human body, the ground)
        • Percussion sticks
          • (Individual) percussion sticks - Japan, Vietnam, Balkans; also the triangle
          • Sets of percussion sticks - Several percussion sticks of different pitch are combined to form a single instrument All xylophones
        • Percussion plaques
          • (Individual) percussion plaques - In the oriental Christian Church
          • Sets of percussion plaques - Lithophone (China), and most metallophones
        • Percussion tubes
          • (Individual) percussion tubes - Tubular bell
          • NB Not slit drums, which are a sub-group of bells, 111.243
          • Sets of percussion tubes - Tubaphon, tubular xylophone
        • Percussion vessels
          • Gongs - The vibration is strongest near the vertex
            • (Individual) gongs - S. and E. Asia including the so-called metal drums, or rather kettle-gongs
              • Bossed gongs, flat gongs (with flange) and intermediate types
              • Gongs with divided surface sounding different pitches - Steel drum (Caribbean)
            • Sets of gongs - gong chimes
              • Sets of bossed, flat gongs (with flange) and intermediate types - S.E.Asia, E. Asia
              • Sets of gongs with divided surface sounding different pitches - Steel drums (Caribbean)
          • Bells - The vibration is weakest near the vertex
            • (Individual) Bells
              • Resting bells - The cup is placed on the palm of the hand or on a cushion; its mouth faces upwards China, Indo-China, Japan
              • Suspended bells - The bell is suspended from the apex
                • Suspended bells struck from the outside - No striker is attached inside the bell, there being a separate beater
                • Clapper bells - A striker (clapper) is attached inside the bell
                • Bells with attached external clapper/s
            • Sets of Bells - [chimes] (subdivided as 111.242.1):
              • Sets of resting bells
              • Sets of suspended bells
                • Sets of suspended bells struck from the outside
                • Sets of clapper bells
                • Sets of bells with attached external clappers
          • Slit Drums
          • Percussion troughs - e.g. some forms of ‘slit drum’ such as Fijian lali where the whole ‘mouth’ is open
        • Percussion bouldersRock gongs
    • Indirectly struck idiophones - The player himself does not go through the movement of striking; percussion results indirectly through some other movement by the player. The intention of the instrument is to yield clusters of sounds or noises, and not to let individual strokes be perceived
      • Shaken idiophones or rattles - The player executes a shaking motion
        • Suspension rattles - Perforated idiophones are mounted together, and shaken to strike against each other
          • Strung rattles - Rattling objects are strung in rows on a cord. Necklaces with rows of shells
          • Stick rattles - Rattling objects are strung on a bar (or ring) Sistrum with rings
        • Frame rattles - Rattling objects are attached to a carrier against which they strike
          • Pendant rattles - Rattling objects are hung from a frame. Dancing shield with rattling rings
          • Sliding rattles - Non-sonorous objects slide to and fro in the slots of the sonorous object so that the latter is made to vibrate; or sonorous objects slide to and fro in the slots of a non-sonorous object, to be set in vibration by the impacts Anklung, sistrum with rods
        • Vessel rattles - Rattling objects enclosed in a vessel strike against each other or against the walls of the vessel, or usually against both. NB The Benue gourd rattles with handle, in which the rattling objects, instead of being enclosed, are knotted into a net slipped over the outer surface, count as a variety of vessel rattle Fruit shells with seeds, ‘pellet bells’ enclosing loose percussion pellets
    • Scraped idiophones - The player causes a scraping movement directly or indirectly: a non-sonorous object moves along the notched surface of a sonorous object, to be alternately lifted off the teeth and flicked against them; or an elastic sonorous object moves along the surface of a notched non-sonorous object to cause a series of impacts. This group must not be confused with that of friction idiophones
      • Scraped sticks - A notched stick is scraped with a little stick
        • Scraped sticks without resonator - S. America, India (notched musical bow), Congo
        • Scraped sticks with resonator - Usumbara, E. Asia (tiger)
      • Scraped tubes - S. India
      • Scraped vessels - The corrugated surface of a vessel is scraped S. America, Congo region
      • Scraped wheels or cog rattles - A cog wheel, whose axle serves as the handle, and a tongue fixed in a frame which is free to turn on the handle; when whirled, the tongue strikes the teeth of the wheel one after another Europe, India
      • Scraped boards - Jazz washboard
    • Split idiophones - Instruments in the shape of two springy arms connected at one end and touching at the other; (in some examples) the arms are forced apart by a little stick, to jingle or vibrate on recoil China (huan t'u), Malacca now West Malaysia, Iran (qašik), Balkans
  • Lamellaphones / Plucked idiophones - Lamellae, i.e. elastic plaques, fixed at one end, are flexed and then released to return to their position of rest
    • In the form of a frame - The lamella vibrates within a frame or hoop
      • Clack idiophones - (cricri) The lamella is carved in the surface of a fruit shell, which serves as a resonator Melanesia
      • Guimbardes (trumps, also known as jew’s harps) - The lamella is mounted in a rod- or plaque-shaped frame and depends on the player’s mouth cavity for resonance
        • Idioglot guimbardes - The lamella is carved in the frame itself, its base remaining joined to the frame India, Indonesia, Melanesia
        • Heteroglot guimbardes - A lamella is attached to a frame
          • (Single) heteroglot guimbardes - Europe, India, China
          • Sets of heteroglot guimbardes - Several heteroglot guimbardes of different pitches are combined to form a single instrument Aura
    • In board- or comb-form - The lamellae are attached to a board or cut out from a board like the teeth of a comb
      • With laced-on, or hooked-inxv lamellae
        • Without resonator - All lamellaphonesxvi on a plain board
        • With resonator - All lamellaphones with a box or bowl below the board
      • With cut-out lamellae - (musical boxes) Pins on a cylinder pluck the lamellae
  • Friction idiophones - The instrument is made to vibrate by friction
    • Friction sticks
      • (Individual) friction sticks - Sandpaper blocks
      • Sets of friction sticks
        • With direct friction - The sticks themselves are rubbed Nail fiddle, nail piano, Stockspiele
        • With indirect friction - The sticks are connected with others which are rubbed and, by transmitting their longitudinal vibration, stimulate transverse vibration in the former Chladni’s euphon
    • Friction plaques
      • (Individual) friction plaques
      • Sets of friction plaques - [livika] New Ireland
    • Friction vessels
      • (Individual) friction vessels - Brazil (tortoise shell)
      • Sets of friction vessels - Verillon (glass armonica)
    • Friction sheet - Theatrical wind machine
  • Blown idiophones - The instrument is made to vibrate by being blown upon
    • Blown sticks
      • (Individual) blown sticks
      • Sets of blown sticks - Aeolsklavier
    • Blown plaques
      • (Individual) blown plaques
      • Sets of blown plaques - Piano chanteur
  • Metal sheets - the vibrating material consists of a flexible sheet of metal
    • Played by friction - Bowed musical saw
    • Directly struck - Hammered musical saw, theatrical thunder sheet played with a hammer
    • Played by shaking - Theatrical thunder sheet (played without hammer)
    • Shaken and indirectly struck - Flexatone
  • Flexed diaphragms - A diaphragm is flexed when a string passing through its centre is pulled, before returning to rest. England, modified yoghurt pot or metal watering-can rose mimicking the sound of a clucking cockerel

Idiophone Construction

There are so many different kinds of idiophones in the world. They have come in starting from very simple designs to complicated designs.

You can even easily make your own idiophone. For example, grab any pots, pans and a spatula. Hit the spatula with the pots and there you have it. Now your making sweet music and created your very own idiophone.

There are many simple idiophones in the world and wood can be a very good material in making this kind of instrument. For example, you can grab 2 pieces of wooden sticks and hit them against each other to produce sound. By hitting them you make a clacking sound. This instrument is actually called the Clave. Similar instruments like the clapper, castanets and coconut shells also other example of idiophone instruments that produce music by simply hitting wooden materials together.

Other examples of a wooden idiophone instruments are the xylophone and marimba. Both of these instruments are very similar in design and how they produce music. Essentially, they are similar because both instruments feature multiple wooden bars that produces different notes when struck using a wooden mallet.

There are countless more idiophones made of wood. Some of the most common example of wooden idiophones includes the kalimba, chimes, maracas, rainsticks, cajón and many more.

Though there are many wooden idiophones, there are also a lot of idiophones made out of metal. Just like the earlier instruments xylophone and marimba, there also exist metallic counterparts of these instruments. The instrument called Glockenspiel is the metallic version of the xylophone. While the Vibraphone is the metallic variation of the marimba.

Some of the other common metal idiophones includes bells, tambourine, gong, tank drum, cymbals, cow bell and triangle and many more.

Idiophone Instruments of Orchestra

Idiophones are many of the instruments that you constantly see. These instruments are everywhere. The best thing about them is that they can be played together with other musical instruments. They can create beautiful music when they are played as part of an ensemble.

There are many famous ensembles in the world but the most famous and distinguished is the orchestra. An orchestra is large ensemble that play multiple instruments. There are many orchestras in the world, and they are known for playing western classical music.

There are many instruments included in the orchestra. This includes the instruments that are part of the idiophone classification. Examples of hese instruments include the cymbals, xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel, triangle, tambourine, gong, chimes, castanets and bells.

These idiophone instruments of the orchestra are more commonly known as percussions. The orchestra also includes other instruments from the Hornbostel-Sachs Musical Instrument classification classes including aerophones, chordophones and membranophones.

List of Idiophone Musical Instruments

Idiophones

  • Struck idiophones
    • Idiophones struck directly
      • Concussion idiophones or clappers
        • Concussion sticks or stick clappers
          • Claves
        • Concussion plaques or plaque clappers
          • Clapper
          • Paiban
          • Pak
          • Slapstick
        • Concussion troughs or trough clappers
        • Concussion vessels or vessel clappers
          • Castanets
            • Spoons
            • Castanets
            • Coconut Shells
          • Cymbals
            • Ching
            • Cymbals
          • Concussion bells
      • Percussion idiophones
        • Percussion sticks
          • (Individual) percussion sticks
            • Dhantal
            • Triangle
          • Sets of percussion sticks
            • Balafon
            • Gandingan a kayo
            • Marimba
            • Marimbaphone
            • Xylophone
            • Xylorimba
        • Percussion plaques
          • (Individual) percussion plaques
          • Sets of percussion plaques
            • Celesta
            • Crotales
            • Fangxiang
            • Gangsa
            • Gendér
            • Glockenspiel
            • Gloggomobil
            • Lithophone
            • Metallophones
            • Ranat ek lek
            • Ranat thum lek
            • Ugal
            • Vibraphone
        • Percussion tubes
          • (Individual) percussion tubes
          • Sets of percussion tubes
            • Agung a tamlang
            • Alimba
            • Kagul
            • Krin / Kolokolos
            • Slit drum
            • Takuapu
            • Teponaztli
            • Tubular Wood block
            • Chimes
            • Jegog
            • Tubular bells
        • Percussion vessels
          • Gongs
            • (Individual) gongs
              • Bossed gongs, flat gongs (with flange) and intermediate types
                • Agung
                • Babendil
              • Gongs with divided surface sounding different pitches
                • Tank Drum
                • Steel Drum
            • Sets of gongs
              • Sets of bossed, flat gongs (with flange) and intermediate types
                • Gandingan
                • Kulintang
                • Reyong
              • Sets of gongs with divided surface sounding different pitches
                • Steel Drums
          • Bells
            • (Individual) Bells
              • Resting bells
                • Cowbell
              • Suspended bells
                • Suspended bells struck from the outside
                • Clapper bells
                  • Bell
                  • Carillon
                • Bells with attached external clapper/s
            • Sets of Bells
              • Sets of resting bells
              • Sets of suspended bells
                • Sets of suspended bells struck from the outside
                • Sets of clapper bells
                  • Carillon
                • Sets of bells with attached external clappers
          • Slit Drums
            • Agung a tamlang
            • Kagul
            • Slit Drum
          • Percussion troughs
            • Lali
        • Percussion boulders
          • Rock Gong
    • Indirectly struck idiophones
      • Shaken idiophones or rattles
        • Suspension rattles
          • Strung rattles
            • Sleigh Bells
          • Stick rattles
            • Jingle Bells
            • Flexatone
            • Tambourine
            • Vibraslap
        • Frame rattles
          • Pendant rattles
          • Sliding rattles
        • Vessel rattles
      • Frame rattles
        • Pendant rattles
        • Sliding rattles
      • Vessel rattles
    • Scraped idiophones
      • Scraped sticks
        • Scraped sticks without resonator
        • Scraped sticks with resonator
      • Scraped tubes
      • Scraped vessels
      • Scraped wheels or cog rattles
      • Scraped boards
    • Split idiophones
  • Lamellaphones / Plucked idiophones
    • In the form of a frame
      • Clack idiophones
      • Guimbardes (trumps, also known as jew’s harps)
        • Idioglot guimbardes
        • Heteroglot guimbardes
          • (Single) heteroglot guimbardes
          • Sets of heteroglot guimbardes
    • In board- or comb-form
      • With laced-on, or hooked-inxv lamellae
        • Without resonator
        • With resonator
      • With cut-out lamellae
  • Friction idiophones
    • Friction sticks
    • Friction plaques
      • (Individual) friction plaques
      • Sets of friction plaques
    • Friction vessels
      • (Individual) friction vessels
      • Sets of friction vessels
    • Friction sheet
  • Blown idiophones
    • Blown sticks
      • (Individual) blown sticks
      • Sets of blown sticks
    • Blown plaques
      • (Individual) blown plaques
      • Sets of blown plaques
  • Metal sheets
    • Played by friction
    • Directly struck
    • Played by shaking
    • Shaken and indirectly struck
  • Flexed diaphragms

List of Idiophone Orchestral Instruments

  • Castanets
  • Chimes
  • Cowbell
  • Cymbals
  • Glokenspiel
  • Gong
  • Guiro
  • Maracas
  • Marimba
  • Vibraphone
  • Tambourine
  • Triangle
  • Vibraphone
  • Wood Block
  • Xylophone

Bamboo Idiophone Instruments

As mentioned earlier, idiophones can be created using wood as main material for the instrument’s construction. Wood being a very abundant resource, people can easily use it to create musical instruments.

Bamboo is a remarkable wooden material to create these idiophone instruments. The are many great and wonderful bamboo idiophones or percussions.

Some of the common idiophones can be crafted using bamboos included claves, clappers, spoons, castanets, chimes, xylophones, marimba, kagul, kalimba, slit drum, tambourines, maracas, rainstricks and kubing.

For all the many bamboo instruments in the world, the website bambooinstruments.com was created in order to house information about all these instruments

Bamboo Instruments