The History Of Musical Instruments


The history of musical instruments dates back to the beginnings of human culture.The human voice was probably the first musical instrument, the earliest known invented musical instruments are however considerably different from those what man discovered of course. Most early instruments were made in the Upper Paleolithic age.


1. Percussion Instruments [165,000 years ago]

A percussion instrument is any object which produces a sound by being hit with an implement, shaken, rubbed, scraped, or by any other action which sets the object into vibration. The human voice was although the first discovered musical instrument, but percussion instruments such as stones, sticks, rocks, and logs were almost certainly the next steps in the evolution of music especially the stones, they were cut in different shapes and designs to change quality and pitch of sound.

2. Flute by Bob Flink [67,000 years ago]

The date and origin of the first device of disputed status as a musical instrument dates back as far as 67,000 years old. In July 1995, Slovenian archaeologist Ivan Turk discovered a bone carving in the northwest region of Slovenia. The carving, named the Divje Babe flute, features four holes that Canadian musicologist Bob Fink determined could have been used to play four notes of a diatonic scale. Researchers estimate the flute’s age to be 67,000 years old, making it the oldest known musical instrument and the only musical instrument associated with the Neanderthal culture.

3. Mammoth Ivory Ice-Age Flute [43,400 years ago]

Second world’s oldest known musical instruments has been discovered by German archaeologists. The 18.7-centimetre-long flute, which is carved from mammoth ivory, has three finger holes and would have been capable of playing relatively complex melodies. The flute was found in 31 pieces in the Geißenklösterle cave in mountains near Ulm in southern Germany. Carving a flute from solid ivory is much more demanding than making a flute from bird bones, which are already hollow. The crooked mammoth tusk had to be split and the two halves carefully hollowed out, then bound and glued together along a perfectly airtight seam.

4. Elephant Skin Drum [37,000 years ago]

The earliest known drum was 30,000 years old when man used animal hide stretched to create sound. The first discovered is from an elephant skin used since it was preserved from scavenging in Antarctica’s ice age.

5. Pan pipes [30,000 years ago]

The pipes are one of the oldest made instruments dating back to 30,000 years ago, these were typically made from bamboo or giant cane. The pan flute is named for its association with the rustic Greek god Pan. Another term for the pan flute is syrinx, 

6. Bullroarer [17,000 BC]

The bullroarer or rhombus or turndun is an ancient ritual musical instrument and means of communicating over extended distances. It dates back to the Paleolithic period, being found in Ukraine dating from 17,000 B.C. The cord is given a slight initial twist, and the roarer is then swung in a large circle in a horizontal plane. The aerodynamics of the roarer will keep it spinning about its axis. In ancient Greece it was a sacred instrument used in rituals.
7. Rattle [11,000 BC]

Earliest known rattle consisted of a hollow cane with sand and small stones in it. Rhythmical shaking of this instrument produced repetitive, rather dry timbre noises.

8. Slit Drum [7,500 BC]

The earliest slit drums, dating back 75 ,00 BC, were made by cutting, burning or gouging a slit in the wall of a hollowed-out piece of wood.Made of tree logs having three slits, cut into the shape of an “H“. If, as is usual, the resultant tongues were different lengths or thicknesses, the drum produced2 different pitches. The ends of a slit drum were closed so that the shell becomes the resonating chamber for the sound vibrations created when the tongues are struck, usually with a mallet.

9. Cuneiform Tablet [2,000 BC]

A cuneiform tablet from Nippur in Iraq dated to 2000 BC indicates the names of strings on the lyre and represents the earliest known example of music notation. Although these tablets were fragmentary, these tablets represent the earliest melodies found anywhere in the world.

10. Xylophone (2000 BC)

Gusikow’s ‘wood and straw xylophone.

The earliest evidence of a xylophone is from the 2000 BC in southeast Asia according to the Vienna Symphonic Library, and there is a model of a similar hanging wood instrument, dated to ca. 2000 BC in China. The original instrument consisted of wooden bars seated on a series of hollow gourds, with the gourds generating the resonating notes that are produced on modern instruments by metal tubes. Tuning the bars was always a difficult procedure. Old methods consisted of arranging the bars on tied bundles of straw, and, as still practiced today, placing the bars adjacent to each other in a ladder-like layout. Ancient mallets were made of willow wood with spoon-like bowls on the beaten ends.