The Astonishing World of Musical Instruments

© Laboratoire de recherche sur les musiques du monde, Université de Montréal 2002.


Present in most civilizations, musical instruments constitute a privileged access to the cultural understanding of those who play them. Their cultural diversity, their rich sound palettes, the variety of their techniques, the refined craftsmanship that goes into their making, the role they play in rituals: all these elements and many more, testify to the symbolic and physical power of musical instruments.

The study of musical instruments is the domain of organology. In order to describe, classify and catalogue them, we generally refer to the mechanical principles of their sound production. Aerophones are instruments whose sound emanate from the vibration of air (a flute for example). Chordophones are instruments that resort to a string's vibration (like a guitar). Idiophones are instruments whose sounds are neither produced by air, a membrane or a string's vibration (bells, for example). Membranophones are instruments whose sound is the result of a vibrating membrane (the skin of an animal).

The University of Montreal Music Faculty World Music Research Laboratory is pleased to present a portion of its collection of unique musical instruments from all corners of the world in this Learning Object Collection.

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