A Complete Guide to the Origins of the 7 Most Popular Musical Instruments


It is thought that the flute was the first musical instrument and dates back as far as 67,000 years ago. However, most historians believe that it's nearly impossible to determine the exact date of the first instrument since the actual definition of what an instrument is remains disputed. In general it is widely accepted that instruments are a device used for the purpose of making musical sound. Scientists believe early man initially used instruments for rituals or ceremonies; they are now however used for entertainment, relaxation, and sometimes even medical therapy.
The American Musical Society: A website dedicated to understanding the use of musical instruments in all cultures and from several different periods
World's Oldest Musical Instruments: All different types of musical instruments with images and videos
A Brief History of Musical Instruments: A simple history of instruments starting from the ancient world to modern musical instruments
Australian Music History: A site dedicated to maintaining a permanent record of Australian music

Piano
The piano is undoubtedly one of the most popular instruments in the world. It is used in all kinds of music including classical, jazz, and even certain types of rock. This versatile instrument was first invented around 1700 in Florence, Italy and was originally called the 'Pianoforte'. A harpsichord maker by the name of Bartolomeo Cristofori combined the wooden frame of a harpsichord with a keyboard similar to that of an instrument called a clavichord. The initial piano did not have the distinctive black and white key layout that we're all so familiar with. Instead, they only had seven basic notes. Overall, it's taken a whopping 2,000 years for the piano to become what it is today.
A History of the Piano: An excellent timeline providing details of the history of instruments along with information on the evolution of the piano
Piano Technicians Guild: A virtual piano museum which gives details on the development of the instrument as we know it, with pictures
A Natural History of the Piano: The instrument, the music, the musicians

Violin
Stringed instruments are thought to have originated from Europe back in the 9th century, starting with the Byzantine Lira. The violin is the smallest and most high pitched instrument in the violin family. This instrument as we know it was invented in the 16th century in Italy and continued to be significantly modified up to the 18th century. The Cremonese violin makers in Italy created the foundation of the instrument which is still used today. Though minor technical changes are still being made, the basic structure of this classical instrument remains the same.
The History of the Violin: A brief and simple history of the violin
Stradivarius: A history of the violin with links to sizes, famous violin makers and more
A Brief History of the Violin (PDF File): A brief 2 page history on the violin with information about the best known violin maker of all time

Flute
Variations of the flute have been found as early as 43,000 years ago in Slovenia. It is the oldest member in the wind instruments family. The first fully verified and accepted flute has been traced back to 35,000 years ago in Germany and is the oldest, confirmed find of a musical instrument. It had five holes and was made from the bone of a vulture's wing. The modern flute was created by Theobald Bohm in 1832 and was made of metal. The first golden flutes were made by Louis Lot in 1896 which created the foundation for today's flutes which are primarily made of silver, gold, gold-plated silver and other metals.
FluteHistory.com: A site which includes pages on the people, instrument, music, resources and more
The Flute: Origins and materials plus other information on this popular instrument
Instrumental Insights ' The Flute: A brief history of the flute including modern mastery and flute tips

Drums
The drum is one of the most versatile instruments known to mankind. Other than for ritualistic and ceremonial uses already mentioned, they were used in many countries and cultures for communicating over long distances. They've even been used to motivate troops in battle! The standard drum set that is familiar to so many musicians was created in 1935 in the USA. This complex instrument was derived from a basic ancestor made from a hollow tree trunk covered in animal skin. One of the first drums ever discovered was from 1000 B.C. in Japan.
History of the Drum Set (PDF File): A history of the drum set organized as a timeline with photos
The Recorded History of Jazz Drumming: An article covering jazz drumming including different drummers and their styles
Vintage Drum Guide: A website which helps to identify drums and the history behind them

Guitar
The variety in the types of guitars that exist and the music they're used to play is as diverse as the world of instruments itself. Overall, guitars have been divided into two categories: Acoustic and Electric. The basic guitar being an instrument with a long, fretted neck, flat wooden soundboard, ribs, and a flat back was invented in Europe sometime in the 12th century. Variations of the European instrument were created in Central Asia and India and finally the US. The concept of the electric guitar also began in the 12th century and in the early 1900's telephone transmitter adapters were used to modify the sound of violins and banjos.
A Brief History of the Guitar: Excellent information on the history of the guitar based on different cultures and time periods
The History of the Guitar (PDF File): A paper outlining the history of the guitar along with details on the different types
Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: A slideshow on the history of guitars

Trumpet
Dating back to 1500 BC, trumpets have the honor of being one of the oldest musical instruments. They were initially discovered in China and were made of bronze and silver. Other trumpets of different metals were also discovered in Asia and Peru. As with most instruments, the development of the trumpet during the Renaissance period sky rocketed.
In 1818, Friedrich Bluhmel and Heinrich Stolzel patented what is known as the 'box valve' which has become an important part of the modern day trumpet. In the 19th century it became a part of the orchestra after which more music was written for this instrument.
Virtual Trumpet Studio: A history of the trumpet based on The New Harvard Dictionary of Music
What is the Trumpet?: An excellent resource on the history of the trumpet including images, diagrams and information on the construction of the instrument
Trumpet: A lecture on the trumpet, including details of the history and music of this instrument

Tambourine
The tambourine, also known as a marine or tambo, is a simple instrument used by both children and professional musicians alike. Its diversity has caused it to be absorbed into classical, folk, gospel, rock and many other types of music all around the world. Its origins are traced back to the most ancient civilizations in India, Greece, Egypt, China and Rome and has even been mentioned in the Bible. It became part of military bands in the 1800's and became an important part of popular music in the 1960's.
The History of the Tambourine: An excellent summary of the history of the tambourine
Tambourines: Taking a step back into history to understand the origins of the Tambourine

 


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