Musical Instruments Of Ancient Times And Early Ages

Since early days of human culture man’s love for sounds of nature has led to musical instruments coming to life. Musical instruments that were earlier made in their crude form have taken new shapes over the years. However, it’s the sounds of musical instruments in ancient times and early ages that have left us spellbound with awe and admiration.

Some of the earliest elements associated with music were natural sounds. Human voice, sounds of birds chirping, water gushing in a stream, rain falling to ground, and sound of withered leaves making a crackling sound inspired man to make crude musical instruments. Some of the earliest sound man produced was hitting two objects together. The sound of wooden sticks is considered the earliest crude instrument that took shape as a musical instrument.

Earliest Musical Instruments

While the earliest musical sounds created by man were produced on water surfaces, its crude woodwind instruments made from bone and wood that first made musical sounds

imbibing nature’s elements. Sharp stones and sharp edges made from wood, animal horns and teeth were used to give shape and make holes in woodwind instruments. The flute is known to be one of the oldest musical instruments. Many historians are of the opinion it was crude versions of the flute that made their way in the Paleolithic age. Percussive sounds were produced by two objects either hitting each other, rubbing each other for a sound vibration.

While the earliest flutes made by man are believed to be made from bones of the dead, there is no conclusive evidence in regard with this theory. Some of the earliest crude woodwind instruments that have been found during archeological studies at excavation sites have been found to be made from mammoth ivory tusks. Through the earliest years in human culture, different types of woodwind instrument have taken shape. Crude pan flute instruments producing shrill melodic high notes were used by man in their clan to make signal calls during hunting.

In ancient times man made the use of animal hide to make crude drum instruments to produce hollow depths in sound. Even today, most drums used in traditional music are made from animal skin. While drums made from different animal hide have been found at excavation sites, experts are of the opinion the earliest crude hand drums were made with elephant skin. Some of the earliest slit drums made from tree logs dates back to 75,000 BC. Also, crude cane rattles were used in early times as a symbolic ritual in clans. Crude and ethnic musical instruments of ancient times have paved the way for design and construction of modern musical instruments.

The space below showcases an epic list of musical instruments used in ancient times and the early ages.

Ancient Greek Musical Instruments

  • Lyre- A String Instrument used in Ancient Greece
  • Cithara- A string instrument belonging to the lyre family
  • Aulos- A Wind instrument
  • Kollops- An instrument used as a tuning device for strings.
  • Chelys- A Stringed Musical Instrument
  • Phorminx- One of the oldest Greek instruments considered as the earliest crude guitar-like instrument
  • Salpinx- A trumpet like instrument used in Ancient Greece
  • Pandura- An Ancient Greek musical instrument
  • Trigonon- A small harp triangular in shape
  • Psaltery- Stringed musical instrument belonging to the zither class
  • Barbiton- A Stringed Musical instrument known to produce erotic tones
  • Epigonion- A Stringed Instrument
  • Varvitos- An instrument associated with the lyre family. This instrument had longer arms and like the lyre the soundbox was made of tortoise shell.
  • Water Organ- A crude pipe organ when the power source of pushing air is through water.
  • Pan Flute- A group of multiple pipes in gradually increasing length
  • Tympanum- A frame drum

Ancient Egyptian Musical Instruments

  • Tutankhamun’s Trumpets- A pair of trumpets, one of bronze/copper and the other of sterling silver considered the world’s oldest trumpets.
  • Mizmar- An ancient double reed or single reed musical instrument used in ancient Egypt
  • Arghul- A single reed woodwind instrument constructed with double pipes
  • Castanets- A percussive instrument used in Ancient Egypt and Greece
  • Sistrum- A percussive instrument that is shaken to produce a sound
  • Ney- An end-blown flute with a unique sound

Ancient Roman Musical Instruments

  • Roman Tuba- A signal trumpet instrument used in the ancient Roman army
  • Buccina- A musical instrument used in the ancient Roman army
  • Cetra- Stringed Musical Instrument of the chordophone family
  • Lituus- High-pitched brass instrument
  • Cornu- An instrument used by the Ancient Roman Army to give commands and orders during battle
  • Sambuca- An ancient Triangular-harp like instrument with Asiatic-Roman origins

Ancient Chinese Musical Instruments

  • Xiao- An ancient Chinese flute that was first used during the reign of the Han Dynasty
  • Guqin- An ancient seven-stringed musical instrument
  • Xun- An egg shaped musical instrument made with clay consisting of 10 holes. Considered to be an ancient crude instrument that paved the way for early woodwind instruments
  • Konghou- An ancient Chinese stringed plucked string instrument
  • Sheng- An ancient Chinese wind instrument constructed with several bamboo pipes bound together with a wooden frame and ropes.
  • Pipa- Also popularly known as the Chinese lute, Pipa is known for its wide dynamic range
  • Guzheng- A musical instrument that became popular during the Warring Period. The early versions consisted of bamboo framework with silk strings

    in pentatonic scales.
  • Jew’s Harp- A lamellophone instrument belonging the category of plucked idiophones
  • Dizi- An ancient bamboo flute that came into prominence in 1st century BC

Musical Instruments of the Middle Ages- Medieval and Renaissance times

  • Bladder Pipe- A medieval simple bagpipe consisting of a blow pipe and bag
  • Angelique- A string plucked instrument belonging to the family of lute
  • Bassanello- A double reed woodwind instrument used during the Renaissance period
  • Archlute- A string instrument that came into prominence in 1600s
  • Guitarra Morisca- A lute with a shape of a bulging belly and sickle shaped headstock. This plucked stringed was very popular during the Renaissance
  • Ocarina- A wind instrument with 4 to 12 finger holes.
  • Crumhorn- A musical instrument used during the Renaissance period belonging to the woodwind family
  • Gemshorn- A woodwind instrument associated with the ocarina family
  • Dulcian- A woodwind instrument of the Renaissance era with a conical bore construction
  • Rebec- A bowed stringed instrument popular in the Medieval era
  • Citole- A stringed musical instrument associated closely with the family of fiddles
  • Byzantine Lyra- Bowed String Instrument with rear tuning pegs popular during medieval times
  • Cornett- Also known as zink this wind instrument was popular during the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical era
  • Orpharion- Plucked string instrument.
  • Gittern- A round-backed instrument popular with court musicians
  • Kortholt- A woodwind instrument of the Renaissance period
  • Clavicymbalum- Known to be the earliest keyboard instrument, ancestor to the harpsichord family
  • Sackbut- A trombone-like instrument popular during the Renaissance and Baroque era
  • Virginal- Early Keyboard instrument belonging to the harpsichord family
  • Lira Da Baraccio- A bowed stringed instrument popular with musicians and poets in the Renaissance period
  • Cythara- A variety of stringed instruments used during the Medieval and Renaissance periods
  • Guitarra latina- A single string medieval plucked instrument.
  • Chitarra Italiana- A 4 or 5 string plucked instrument similar to the shape of a lute popular during the Renaissance period
  • Vielle- A bowed stringed instrument popular during the Medieval period
  • Shawm- A double reed woodwind instrument with a conical bore constuction
  • Hurdy-Gurdy- A stringed instrument producing a unique sound
  • Tenor Cornett- Also known as Lizard, Tenor Cornett was a wind instrument common during the Renaissance era
  • Cornamuse- A double Reed instrument from the Renaissance period
  • Lirone- A bowed stringed instrument
  • Rackett- Also known as the sausage Basoon, Rackett is a double reed wind instrument


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  • Sparkster  20-05-2017
    This is an excellent article which deserves a lot more views, so I'm going to share it. I was actually discussing this with someone a few days ago and we were wondering whether music was an invention or a discovery - a bit of a dilemma! As you described at the beginning, there is the music of nature so I would determine that music already existed and was therefore a discovery.
    reply 1
    • realityspeaks  05-12-2017
      Thank you so much. The school of thought varies in regard with whether music was an invention or discovery. If we think about it logically it's fair to determine the sounds of nature were identified by man.
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