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Inventing Musical Instruments

The History Behind Musical Instruments


Music is an artistic form of sound communication via musical instruments that produce sounds and tones. Music is as old as mankind. All cultures past and present have music. The "oldest known song" dates back 4,000 years ago and was written in ancient cuneiform. It is not certain how or when the first musical instrument was invented, however, most historians point to early flutes made from animal bones that are at least 37,000 years old. Below you will find the stories behind several popular musical instruments.


Clarinetists and bassoonists performing in orchestra, side view
Michael Blann/ Iconica/ Getty Images
Charles Wheatstone invented the accordion in 1829. The accordion is played by pressing and expanding the air bellows, while the musician presses buttons and keys to force the air across reeds that produce sounds.

Baton - Louis Spohr

Classical Music Conductor Raising His Arms in an Auditorium
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In the 1820s, Louis Spohr introduced the conductor's baton.


Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images
Bells may be categorized as idiophones, instruments sounding by the vibration of resonant solid material, and more broadly as percussion instruments. The picture to the left shows the bells at the Agia Triada Monastery in Athens, Greece. Monks and hermits have found refuge for over 1,000 years at the gigantic rock formations in central Greece, which still puzzle scientists as to how they came to be formed and are visited today by thousands of tourists.


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The clarinet's predecessor was the chalumeau, the first true single reed instrument. Because of his improvements of the chalumeau, Johann Christoph Denner is accredited as the inventor of the clarinet.

Double Bass

The earliest known double bass type of instrument dates from 1516. Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846) was the first great virtuoso of the instrument, and largely responsible for the double bass joining the orchestra.


The name dulcimer comes from the Latin and Greek works dulce and melos, which combine to mean "sweet tune."

Electric Organ

Morse Robb of Belleville, Ontario, patented the world's first electric organ in 1928.


An early flute, which was found in China, was the ch'ie.

French Horn

The modern orchestral brass French horn was an invention based on early hunting horns. Horns were first used as musical instruments during 16th century operas. German Fritz Kruspe, who has been credited most often as being the inventor of the modern double French horn, combined the pitches of the horn in F with the horn in B Flat in 1900.


The history behind the universally popular string instrument played by plucking or strumming.
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