Whether it's a clarinet or an accordion, a piano or a trombone, musical instruments are beautiful pieces of engineering, which are lovely to look at but even better to listen to when played by someone who has practiced, practiced, practiced.

Instruments can be divided into general categories such as woodwinds, horns, strings, and percussion, although there is often a lot of crossover. For example, a piano is a percussion instrument with strings, while a saxophone is actually classified as a woodwind even though it is usually part of a band’s horn section.

Flutes are considered the oldest musical instruments, whose hollow-bone forebears have been dated to 40,000 years old. Duct flutes such as recorders feature a mouthpiece on one end, while transverse or side-blown flutes are held horizontally, with air blown by the performer across what’s known as the instrument’s embouchure hole.

Drums may be just as old. Hand drums, which are called membranophones by technical types, feature a solid, cylindrical frame made of wood, earthenware, or dried gourd, plus a drumhead that’s usually fashioned from some sort of dried hide. As with most early instruments, drums were probably used to send signals, herd animals, and celebrate religious rituals. Their application as musical instruments likely came later. The drum kits that are familiar to concertgoers, with their various toms, bass drums, snares, and cymbals, evolved out of instruments played by military bands.

Trumpets also have ancient roots, as in the use of ram’s horns as “shofars.” Metal trumpets appeared beginning around 1500 BC, while the cousin of the trumpet, the trombone, is comparatively new, evolving in the 15th century. Wind instruments such as clarinets came of age in the 17th century, while the saxophone, the invention of a Belgian named Adolphe Sax, is a 19th-century creation.

All the while, people were playing stringed instruments, too. Banjos came to the United States with African slaves as hide-covered gourds affixed to a stick before developing, in the early 19th century, into the instruments we recognize today. Guitars and mandolins evolved during the same period, especially after C.F. Martin was founded in 1833. Ukuleles, in contrast, became popular in the early 1900s, especially after the 1915 Pan-Pacific Expo in San Francisco, where the ukulele and hula-dance demonstrations at the Hawaiian pavilion were a huge hit.

A similarly democratic instrument was the harmonica and its fixed-reed relation, the accordion. Both were used to play the people’s music, from German polkas and Cajun ballads (accordions) to cowboy songs and the blues (harmonicas). At the opposite end of the music-appreciation spectrum is the piano, an early 18th-century creation of Italian instrument maker Bartolomeo Cristofori, whose pianoforte was embraced by composers such as Bach and Mozart. Eventually the piano would be electrified (Wurlitzer and Rhodes made pianos that were both electric and mechanical) and the keyboard would be repurposed by synthesizer guru Robert Moog, and countless others, to produce other-worldly sounds.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Music Museum

National Music Museum

The National Music Museum, which is located at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, features 15,000 instru… [read review or visit site]

Most watched eBay auctions    

Buffet Crampon Paris Wood Bass ClarinetYamaha Ybs52 Baritone SaxophoneNice Early Gibson A 2 Mandolin With Original CaseNorberto Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Metal 7 Otto Link Ted KlumRoland Juno-60 61 Key Keyboard Synthesizer *usedVintage Rogers Cleveland Dynasonic Cob 7 Line Snare Drum For Kit Set Superb Yamaha Ybs52 Baritone Saxophone 020829Martin Mandolin 1957 C.f. Martin 'a' Model. Vintage BeautyVintage 60's Ludwig Cob 6.5x14 Supraphonic Snare Drum Chrome Over BrassMonette Chicago Model C Trumpet 日本へ送れますVintage Martin 3-m Soprano UkuleleVintage King Zephyr Tenor Saxophone #269385 W/ Selmer Paris Mouthpiece / HscH Couf Superba 2 Baritone Saxophone Low ABuescher New Aristocrat True Tone Alto Sax/saxophone, Silver, Little-used, Nice!Euphonix Mc Mix (avid Artist Mix) - 8-fader Control Surface 6 String Vox Electric Guitar Builder/ Luthier Supply Kit 6 String Vox Electric Guitar Builder/ Luthier Supply KitRoland V-pro Series Td-20s Electronic Drum Set With Expanded Tdw-20 Sound ModuleMam Adx 1 Analogue Drum Machine ~ Rare ~ Massive Syncussion Alternative ~ Adx1Old Lion Head Violin RestoredKing Hn White 2b Liberty Bb TromboneSelmer Tenor Saxophone Series Iii Henri Paris France Mint Condition Smoke Free1946 Martin "the Martin" Tenor Saxophone (listen)Leblanc Metal Contra Bass Clarinet089 Theo Wanne Gaia 8 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece QuinntheeskimoVintage Martin Tenor Saxophone092 Dave Guardala Crescent Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece QuinntheeskimoOld Italian 4/4 Violin Labeled D.tecchler 1720 From 19th Century Violon Geige Tascam Dp-24 Digital PortastudioExcellent Selmer Paris Super Action 80 Series Ii Alto Saxophone Sax W/orig Case!Vintage Antique F.e. Olds Super Silver Tenor Saxophone RareBehringer S16 Digital Snake I/o Box For X32 Console. Unit 1 Of 2Vintage Slingerland 36x16 Mahogany Concert Bass Drum !noreserve!Old C F Martin Guitar Ukulele Brass & Wood Plaque Advertising Sign Nazareth Pa Lightweight Swamp Ash Diy Tele Style Electric Guitar Kit-top Quality WoodsYamaha Ycl621ii Bb Professional Bass Clarinet Serviced And Play ReadyBehringer S16 Digital Snake I/o Box For X32 Console. Unit 2 Of 2Vintage 1960s Classic Slingerland Red Sparkle Metal Flake 4 Pc Drum Set + SnareTascam Dr-680 8-track Digital Recorder. Dr680 Field Audio RecorderYamaha M7cl-32 32 Channel Digital Audio Console In Ata Road CaseAntique 1901 French Cello By Paul Bailly , Full Size1959 Hn White King 3b Model Trombone Slide Valve Combo - Nice Used Condition!!Gretsch New Classic Nc1-f604vg Shell Pack Drum Set 20 10 12 14 Excellent Nr!Yamaha Yts-62 Iii Tenor Saxophone New DisplayVintage Slingerland 26"x16" Bass/kick Drum 1970'sSelmer Bundy Plastic Contra Alto ClarinetLoar Lm370e-vsm F-style Mandolin Acoustic/electricNice Selmer Paris Super Action 80 Series Ii Tenor Saxophone Sax W/nice Gig Bag!Conn Chu Berry New Wonder Ii Tenor Sax --no Reserve! Nice! See Video1946 The Martin Alto Saxophone # 160xxx Elkhart In - Excellent Used Condition!!1926 Buescher True-tone Tenor Saxophone Rare Vintage Project Complete Need RepadProfessional Schilke X3 Bb Jazz TrumpetBrady 6.5x14 Wandoo Block/stave Snare DrumRoland Spd-s Sampling Pad Electronic DrumsVery Fine Quality Old Violin - Montegarza Milan 1792 - Amazing Colour & Patina New Heinzman Single Ply Maple 5" X 14" Snare Drum: Low Serial # 98, Re-ringsYamaha Ls9-16 32-channel Digital Mixing Console In Road CaseCoolest Tenor Sax I Ever Listed King Tenor SaxophoneRme Audio Fireface 800 Digital Recording InterfaceAntique American Violin Making Tools Clamps Forms Large Lot