Week 2 – Sachs-Hornbostel instrument classification system

The Sachs-Hornbostel instrument classification system was created in the early 1900’s and is an extension of the original classifications using the orchestral system.

The Orchestral system has four categories which include of

  1. Strings
  2. Brass
  3. Wood Winds
  4. Percussion

The Sachs-Hornbostel system takes these (Orchestral) categories and elaborates on them to make more detailed categories, it also includes an additional category that includes electronic instruments.

The Sachs-Hornbostel system is categorized as follows:

Chordophone (Strings)

  • Violin
  • Viola
  • Shamisen
  • Koto

Aerophone (Brass & Wood Winds)

  • Didgeridoo
  • Shehnai
  • Melodica
  • Euphonium
  • Flugelhorn

Membranophones (Percussion)

  • Timpani
  • Concert Bass Drum
  • Concert Snare
  • Taiko Drums
  • Djembe

Idiophones (Instruments with no Membranes or strings, Instrument vibrating)

  • Maracas
  • Mallet instruments
  • Xylophone (Wood Keys)
  • Glockenspiel (Metal)
  • Marimba (Wood Keys)
  • Vibraphone (Metal)
  • Washboard
  • Rain Stick

Electrophones (Electronic Instruments)

  • Theremin
  • Synths
  • Laptops (Reason, FL, Pro Tools ect.)

Compare & Contrast

Aerophone (Brass & Wood Winds)


The Didgeridoo is an Australian based instrument and can be 10 feet in length. The instrument requires the musician to circular breath in order to create a fluid experience for the listener. The instrument is usually cylindrical and the length of the instrument is crucial to it’s construction. Most of the time, the longer the Didgeridoo, the lower the pitch.


The Shehnai is based out of India, Pakistan and Iran. It is a double reed Oboe with a metal flare bell on the end of the instrument. It is viewed as an instrument that carries a sound that represents sanctity and is commonly used in marriage ceremonies and temples.


The Melodica has been around since the 1950s and is popular in Asia and within reggae music. This instrument is considered apart of the Aerophone family because it functions like a WoodWind instrument. It is a free reed instrument in which the user blows air through the instrument and has a keyboard mechanism instead of a fingering mechanism that you would normally find in the traditional WoodWind family.  The instrument is primarily made out of plastic but has been constructed out of wood, however, wood versions of this instrument are not commonly used. Many people use these instruments as lead melodies within an ensemble, they have a piercing tone that can cut through a mixture of sounds.


The flugelhorn was created in Germany in the late 1800s and was primarily an orchestral instrument. In the 1930s the flugelhorn was introduced into jazz music and eventually pop music. The instrument has three or four vales and a larger bell which offers a warmer tone with a fatter presence. The construction of the instrument is similar to a trumpet, which is why most trumpet players can play this instrument fairly easily. The flugelhorn is a welcomed addition to any ensemble and solo project, it is currently being used in top 40 hits to give their orchestra sections a bulkier sound.


DidgeridooShehnaiMelodicaFlugelhorn – Jewelry Genius/Wikipedia

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