Membranophone Musical Instruments

Membranophone is a class of musical instrument. It is one of the major classes under Hornbostel-Sachs Classification of musical instrument. There are many instruments under this class. This article is written for the purpose of providing plenty of detailed information in regard to membranophones. To help better understanding about these instruments, you will be introduced to many examples of membranophones.

There are so many different musical instruments all over the world. These instruments are classified under various musical classification. One of the main types of musical instrument includes the Membranophone musical instruments.

Hornbostel-Sachs Classification of Musical instruments

Before learning what Membranophones are, it’s best to first know some facts about musical instruments. There any so many different kinds of musical instruments and they produce sounds differently. All these instruments can be organized and group to different classifications.

The Hornbostel-Sachs Classification of Musical Instrument was created to properly categorize musical instruments. This classification system was created by music theorist, scholars, and enthusiast Erich von Hornbostel and Curt Sachs. The where able to find patterns and commonalities between instruments. With these patterns they were able to figure out how to group these various instruments to different categories and sub-categories.

The Hornbostel-Sachs classification of musical instrument is organized to 4 major categories. These categories are the aerophones, idiophones and chordophones and the membranophones.

Membranophone Musical Instrument Classification

Membranophones is one for the 4 major musical classification of the Hornbostel-Sachs scheme. What kind of instrument are membranophones? Membranophones are composed of a variety of instruments. These instruments have one thing in common. Sound is generated with a use of vibrating membranes.

By definition, membranophones are any musical instrument which produces sound primarily by a vibrating stretched membrane. This membranophone musical classification got its name because these instruments all contain a Membrane.

A membrane is layer of that vibrates in order to produce or transfer sound. Drumheads or drum skins is an example of a membrane. Drumhead is stretched and placed on one or both ends of a drum. It is the portion to strike with a use a drumsticks, mallets or hand and make vibrations which produces sounds resonating from the drum.

There are various materials that can be used in order to create these membranophones. The body of the drum is created using or in combination of metals, plastics and wood.

At the end of the drum’s body is where the membrane or drumhead is attached. The drumheads are traditionally made using animal skins that are dried and stretched. Other materials can be used to make the membrane. This includes plastics, woods and metals.

All membranophones are all part of the family of instruments called Percussions. Percussions are simply instruments that produces sounds by being struck or scraped using a beating material.

Hornbostel-Sachs Membranophone Musical Instrument Classification

Membranophones – is any musical instrument which produces sound primarily by a vibrating stretched membrane

  • Struck drums - The membranes are struck
    • Drums struck directly - The player himself executes the movement of striking; this includes striking by any intermediate devices, such as beaters, keyboards, etc; drums that are shaken are excluded
      • Vessel drums - The single playing head encloses a body in the form of a vessel that is curvilinear or rectilinear in profile Kettledrums
        • Separate vessel drums - European timpani
        • Sets of vessel drums - W. Asian permanently joined pairs of kettledrums
      • Tubular drums - The body is tubular, with membranes enclosing one or both ends
        • Cylindrical drums - The diameter is essentially the same at the middle and the ends. Occasionally the ends will taper slightly or have projecting discs
          • Single-skin cylindrical drums - The drum has only one membrane and the opposite end is open
            • Individual single-skin cylindrical drums - with single membranes and open ends Malacca, now West Malaysia
            • Sets of single-skin cylindrical drums - with single membranes and open ends
          • Double-skin cylindrical drums, the drum has two membranes
            • Individual double-skin cylindrical drums
              • Individual double-skin cylindrical drums one skin used for playing - Side drum, tenor drum, tambourin de Provence
              • Individual double-skin cylindrical drums both heads played - Turkey (davul). Almost world-wide (bass drum in marching band).
            • Sets of double-skin cylindrical drums
              • Sets of double-skin cylindrical drums with single playing heads - USA/Europe drum kit
              • Sets of double-skin cylindrical drums, both heads played
        • Barrel-shaped drums - The diameter is larger at the middle than at the ends; the body is curvilinear Asia, Africa, Ancient Mexico
          Subdivisions as for 211.21
          • Single-skin barrel drums
            • Individual single-skin barrel drums
            • Sets of single-skin double-conical drums
          • Double-skin barrel drums
            • Individual double-skin barrel drums
              • Individual double-skin barrel drums, one skin used for playing
              • Individual double-skin barrel drums, both heads played
            • Sets of double-skin barrel drums
              • Sets of double-skin barrel drums with single playing heads
              • Sets of double-skin barrel drums, both heads played
        • Double-conical drums - The diameter is larger at the middle than at the ends; the body is rectilinear with angular profile India (mrdanga, pakhavaj)
          Subdivisions as for 211.21
          • Single-skin double-conical drums
            • Individual single-skin double-conical drums
            • Sets of single-skin double-conical drums
          • Double-skin double-conical drums
            • Individual double-skin double-conical drums
              • Individual double-skin double-conical drums, one skin used for playing
              • Individual double-skin double-conical drums, both heads played
            • Sets of double-skin double-conical drums
              • Sets of double-skin double-conical drums with single playing heads
              • Sets of double-skin double-conical drums, both heads played
        • Hourglass-shaped drums - The diameter is smaller at the middle than at the ends Asia, Melanesia, E. Africa
          Subdivisions as for 211.21
          • Single-skin hourglass-shaped drums
            • Individual single-skin hourglass-shaped drums
            • Sets of single-skin hourglass-shaped drums
          • Double-skin hourglass-shaped drums
            • Individual double-skin hourglass-shaped drums
              • Individual double-skin hourglass-shaped drums, one skin used for playing
              • Individual double-skin hourglass-shaped drums, both heads played
            • Sets of double-skin hourglass-shaped drums
              • Sets of double-skin hourglass-shaped drums with single playing heads
              • Sets of double-skin hourglass-shaped drums, both heads played
        • Conical drums The diameter at the ends differ considerably; some minor departures from strict conicity, inevitably met, are disregarded here
          • Single-skin conical drums
            • Individual single-skin conical drums
            • Sets of single-skin conical drums
          • Double-skin conical drums
            • Individual double-skin conical drums
              • Individual double-skin conical drums, one skin used for playing
              • Individual double-skin conical drums, both heads played
            • Sets of double-skin conical drums
              • Sets of double-skin conical drums with single playing heads
              • Sets of double-skin conical drums, both heads played
        • Goblet-shaped drums - The body consists of a main section which is either cup shaped or cylindrical, and a slender stem; borderline cases of this basic design like those occurring notably in Indonesia, do not affect the identification, so long as a cylindrical form is not in fact reached Darabukka
        • Cylindro-conical drums - The body is in two sections, a cylindrical upper and a conical lower section
          • Single-skin cylindro-conical drums
            • Individual single-skin cylindro-conical drums - Sometimes the foot is flared
            • Sets of single-skin cylindro-conical drums
          • Double-skin cylindro-conical drums
            • Individual double-skin cylindro-conical drums
              • Individual double-skin cylindro-conical drums, one skin used for playing - Uganda drum
              • Individual double-skin cylindro-conical drums, both heads played
            • Sets of double-skin cylindro-conical drums
              • Sets of double-skin cylindro-conical drums with single playing heads - Uganda (Entenga drum chime)
              • Sets of double-skin cylindro-conical drums, both heads played
        • Vase-shaped drums - The body is waisted and rests on an open foot that may be flared. The upper section is conical, and the lower section, which is rectilinear or curvilinear in profile, tapers towards the foot. These drums have a single membrane
      • Frame drums - The depth of the body does not exceed the radius of the membrane. NB The European side-drum, even in its most shallow form, is a development from the long cylindrical drum and hence is not included among frame drums
        • Frame drums (without handle)
          • Single-skin frame drums - Tambourine
          • Double-skin frame drums - North Africa, Portugal
        • Frame drum with handle - A stick is attached to the frame in line with its diameter
          • Single-skin frame drums with handle - Inuit
          • Double-skin frame drums with handle - Tibet
    • Rattle drums - (sub-divisions as for drums struck directly, 211) The drum is shaken; percussion is by impact of pendant or enclosed pellets, or similar objects India, Tibet
      • Vessel rattle drums
      • Tubular rattle drums
        • Cylindrical rattle drums
          • Individual cylindrical rattle drums
          • Sets of cylindrical rattle drums
        • Barrel-shaped rattle drums
          • Individual barrel-shaped rattle drums
          • Sets of barrel-shaped rattle drums
        • Double-conical rattle drums
          • Individual double-conical rattle drums
          • Sets of double-conical rattle drums
        • Hourglass-shaped rattle drums
          • Individual hourglass-shaped rattle drums
          • Sets of hourglass-shaped rattle drums
      • Frame rattle drums
        • Single-skin frame rattle drums
        • Double-skin frame rattle drums
          • Individual double-skin frame rattle drums
          • Sets of double-skin frame rattle drums
    • Plucked membranophones - Instruments with a string attached to the membrane, so that when the string is plucked, the membrane vibrates (plucked drums) Some commentators believe that instruments in this class ought instead to be regarded as chordophones
    • Friction drums - The membrane is made to vibrate by friction
      • Friction drums with stick - A stick in contact with the membrane is either itself rubbed, or is employed to rub the membrane
        • With inserted stick - The stick passes through a hole in the membrane
          • Friction drums with fixed stick - The stick cannot be moved; the stick alone is subjected to friction by rubbing Africa
          • Friction drums with semi-fixed stick - The stick is movable to a sufficient extent to rub the membrane when it is itself rubbed by the hand Africa
          • Friction drums with free stick - The stick can be moved freely; it is not itself rubbed, but is employed to rub the membrane Venezuela
        • With tied stick - The stick is tied to the membrane in an upright position Europe
      • Friction drum with cord - A cord, attached to the membrane, is rubbed
        • Stationary friction drums with friction cord - the drum is held stationary Europe, Africa
          • Single-skin stationary drums with friction-cord
          • Double-skin stationary drums with friction-cord
        • Friction drum with whirling stick - The drum is whirled on a cord which rubs on a [resined] notch in the holding stick Waldteufel [cardboard buzzer] (Europe, India, E. Africa)
      • Hand friction drums - The membrane is rubbed by the hand
    • Singing membranes (Kazoos) - The membrane is made to vibrate by speaking or singing into it; the membrane does not yield a note of its own but merely modifies the voice Europe, W. Africa
      • Free kazoos - The membrane is incited directly, without the wind first passing through a chamber Comb-and-paper
      • Tube- or vessel-kazoos - The membrane is placed on top of a tube or box Africa; while also E. Asian flutes with a lateral hole sealed by a membrane, exhibit an affinity with the principle of the tube kazoo

Membranophone Construction

There are plenty of different membranophones in the world. Majority of them are in a shape resembling of a drum.

Traditionally, drums created using wooden materials. However nowadays, modern drums are now made using metals and plastics. Drums are hollow shaped and at the end of the drum is where the membrane is placed.

The membrane is also commonly known as the drumhead. It is covering the drum. This is the part of the instrument to hit in order to produce sound. When the membrane is struck, it generates vibration which creates sound. Membranes are traditionally made using stretched animal skin. However nowadays, modern drums are now made using stretched rubber or plastic.

There are many wooden membranophones. Some of the most common examples of membranophones made of wood are bongo drums, djembre, taiko, tambol and wooden tambourines. Many of these wooden drum instruments originated from South America, Asia and Africa.

Many modern membranophones are now made using metal. Using metal as material in making the drum’s body makes the instrument much stronger, durable and long lasting. Serious professional drummers prefer these drums made in metal. These drums are often seen played in together with other musical instruments or in a band.

In a band or rock band, the drums come with a set of multiple drums and cymbals. Most common drums part of this set includes the snare drum, tom-toms, bass drum and floor tom. The cymbals include hi-hat, crash and ride.

Membranophone Instruments of Orchestra

It is fairly common to see Membranophones. 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. These instruments include the congas, bongos, bass drum, snare drum, tambourine and timpani.

The orchestra also includes other instruments from the Hornbostel-Sachs Musical Instrument classification classes including aerophones, idiophones and chordophones.

List of Membranophone Musical Instruments

List of Membranophone Orchestral Instruments

  • Bongo drums
  • Bass drum
  • Conga drums
  • Cuíca
  • Octoban
  • Snare drum
  • Timpani
  • Tom-tom
  • Tambourine

Bamboo Membranophone Instruments

Crafting membranophones requires good material in order to create a good and strong instrument. The traditional material of choice in making membranophones has always been wood. Till to this day, many membranophones have been created out of wood.

One of the best wooden material is Bamboo because it is super strong, and they are very abundant. It’s also very easy to acquire bamboo which makes it ideal wood to craft any instrument or other tools. Bamboo is a notable wooden material to create these membranophone instrument. They are plenty of bamboo membranophones.

Several of the membranophones can be made using bamboos which include taiko drum, tambourine, bongo drums, djembe and congra drums.

Other than the actual membranophones or drums, many of the mallets or drums stick are made of bamboo, because this type of wood is very strong.

For more and other information about bamboos and instruments made of bamboos check out our website bambooinstruments.com.

Bamboo Instruments