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    

1954 Buescher 400 Tenor Saxophone, Top Hat & Cane, Original, Plays Great, Nice!Vintage 1956 The Martin Alto Sax Saxophone !noreserve!1970 Cg Conn 12m Baritone Bari Saxophone # N148xxx Buescher Aristocrat Tenor Sax Saxophone !noreserve! S-cat (0922) Circuit Bent (desktop) Casio Pt-80 Keyboard (15 Modifications)Antique Wooden Rudall Carte & Co. Flute With Silver KeysVery Old Antique Full Size Violin With Case And Bow King Zephyr Bari/baritone Sax/saxophone,1941, Reverse Socket Neck, Plays Great!Ludwig Black Beauty De Luxe Snare Drum 4x14 1926 1927 1928 1929 Vintage 1920 SMidas M32 Digital Mixer ConsoleVintage Uke Ukulele Favilla Dale Wimbrow 6 String Soprano "the First Wimbrola"Monette Ajna Ii Bb TrumpetRoland Jd-800 Digital Synthesizer Project Parts Or Repair! Powers Up No Reserve Vintage 1930s Ludwig Cob 4x14 10-lug Snare Drum Very Nice And Rare ! Very Pretty Full Size Old Antique Violin With Case & BowSilver Conn New Wonder Chu Alto Sax/saxophone, Recent Pads Complete,plays Great!Vintage Moog The Source 341-a Analog Monophonic Synthesizer Synth KeyboardVintage 1970s Univox Japan Mini-korg K-2 Monophonic Synthesizer Synth Keyboard Wurlitzer 200 Electronic PianoSebastian Kloz Very Old Violin Viola Bratsche Fiddle GeigeRare Bach Stradivarious New York TrumpetWurlitzer Model 200a 1960's Vintage Electric Piano Keyboard With Pedal Legs Rare1940 Cg Conn 22b Prodessional Model Trumpet #334xxx - Good Condition !!!Oberheim Dmx Programmable Digital Drum Machine Antique 1914 Buescher Elkhart True-tone Silver Soprano Sax, Saxophone.no ReserveVintage 1966 Ludwig Red Sparkle Wood 5x14 Snare Drum !noreserve!Buescher True Tone Stencil Baritone Saxophone - VintageJupiter Jps-547 Soprano Student Saxophone Bb Deluxe Model ~no Reserve & Free S/hPdp Concept Maple 4-piece Drums Pearlescent WhiteVintage 14" 8-lug Ludwig Usa Snare Drum Sn 20475872004 Kamaka Koa Soprano Ukulele W Case Fom Hawaii No ReserveOlds Mendez Bb Jazz Trumpet (late 1960s)Vintage Made By C. G. Conn Ltd. Sax Saxophone With Case Nice!Vintage 1966 14" X 5" Ludwig Supraphonic Snare Drum Keystone Badge Sn# 261444Roland Td-9kx2 Electric Drum Set Complete (including Extras)Vintage Ww2 Slingerland Radio King Rolling Bomber Snare Drum 7.25x14 Ww ShippingGrand Rapids ( York ) Valve Trombone # 10xxx - Good Used Condition !!!1972 Thinline Telecaster Style Electric Guitar Project Kit-top Quality Tone WoodLate 20's King Silvertone Artist Bore Trumpet Fresh Anderson Valve Replate Early 1970's Olds Custom Crafted Ultra Sonic Professional Trumpet Meeblip Se By Cdm Hackable Digital Synthesizer Module Tabletop Synth Eurorack Midas M32r Digital Console With 40 Input Channels And 25 Mix Buses Demo StockDolnet "artist" Model Eb Baritone SaxYamaha Ytr-8335la Custom Series Bb Trumpet W/ Mouthpiece - 08/b5984aNumark Ns7ii Digital Dj Controller (very Good Condition) Slight Damage - ReadBuffet E11 A Clarinet Dw, Drum Workshop Craviotto Maple Snare Fantastic Old Violin With Label N. Lupot Viola Geige Bratsche1923 Soprano Saxophone Bueshert Elkhart Ind True Tone Low Pitch Ready To PlayVintage Buescher Aristocrat Tenor Sax Saxophone !noreserve!Old, Antique Fullsize Violin With Grafted Scroll. PlayableEstate Find 1950's Silver Plated Olds Ambassador Los Angeles Trumpet Sn 87874Vintage Olds Special Trumpet Sn 211059 W/ Mute, Mouthpiece, & CaseZoom H4n Handy Portable Digital Recorder Audio Dual Microphone Stereo RecordingVintage 1930s King Voll-true 11 Saxophone,case,strap,reeds,mouth PiecesGetzen Eterna 700 Trumpet W/ Mouthpiece & Original Case VgcMasterpiece Old Italian Violin P. Guarneri Geige Violon Violino Viola ViolineTama Starclassic Performer B/b Shell Pack Molten Brown Burst Drum Kit - As IsConn Model 6m Lady Alto Saxophone Made In Usa A SaxCorton Tenor Saxophone