Types of Instruments
Since the first animal skin drums and bamboo flutes, humanity has always desired a way to create something akin to what today is called music. Whether it was for communication, intimidation, or imitation of animal calls, music has been a part of humanity for thousands of years.
Obviously, the first instruments available to humans were their own bodies, whether it was percussion from clapping or vocals from their voices. In time, various tools created by humans through history to create music can be roughly categorized into five main classes: percussion, woodwind, brass, keyboard and string.
Of course, these classes have their difficulties, as some instruments blur the lines. An American Banjo, for example, can be used as both a string instrument and as a percussion instrument. Others, such as synthetic sounds produced on a computer, do not really fit into any existing category. However, for the vast majority of instruments, this system works relatively well.
From the earliest hominids clapping their hands, the sounds of percussion have filled the ears of humanity. Percussion instruments are strictly defined as instruments that are played primarily by striking them. As such, this does not only include drums, but cymbals, tambourines, xylophones, and wood blocks. These instruments are further divided into those that can create musical notes, and those that do not produce such an identifiable pitch.
Given the ease of finding instruments that could qualify as percussion, it is little surprise that percussion instruments soon followed the human voice in the development of musical instruments. This has also led to a great deal of innovation in percussion instruments, as evidenced by the use of steel drums in Caribbean music.
Woodwind instruments also come in two varieties, flutes and reed instruments. Flutes create music by causing air to vibrate in a pipe, whereas reed instruments create sound by causing a reed, a small flexible wooden piece often near the mouthpiece, to vibrate air in a pipe. In either case, vibrating air is then released from the instruments at certain pitches as governed by holes on the pipe. The concert flute and piccolo are both examples of flutes, whereas the reed family includes clarinets, bagpipes, and oboes.
Woodwind instruments are also quite ancient, with the first flutes made from animal bones dating from 43,000 BC. Likewise, reed instruments are also quite ancient, having first been used at the end of the Neolithic Period, almost 10,000 years ago.