List of musical instruments by Hornbostel–Sachs number

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The following lists contain musical instruments, categorized according to the Hornbostel–Sachs system by how they make sound.


  1. List of idiophones by Hornbostel–Sachs number


  1. List of membranophones by Hornbostel–Sachs number


  1. List of chordophones by Hornbostel–Sachs number


  1. List of aerophones by Hornbostel–Sachs number


Electrophones are instruments in which sound is generated by electrical means. While it is not officially in any published form of the Hornbostel–Sachs system, and hence, lacking proper numerical subdivisions, it is often considered a fifth main category.

Instruments that do not fit into any of the above five categories[edit]

A number of instruments neither fit wholly into any one of the above 5 categories, nor can they be properly described as belonging to some combination of these categories. Within the Hornbostel Sachs system they therefore do not have a number (hence the label NaN = Not a Number).


The first three Hornbostel Sachs numbers describe instruments that make sound from matter in its solid state. The fourth HS number describes instruments that make sound from matter in its gaseous state (air). The fifth HS number describes instruments that make sound from electricity and/or electrical energy.

Recently a number of instruments have been invented, designed, and made, that make sound from matter in its liquid state. This new class of instruments is called hydraulophones. Hydraulophones use an incompressible fluid, such as water, as the initial sound-producing medium, and they may also use the hydraulic fluid as a user-interface.


Another category of instruments has recently been invented that use matter in higher energy states, such as plasma, to produce the initial sound. These instruments are called plasmaphones. As flame is matter in a high energy state the class comprises the much older pyrophones.

Non-electrophonic quintephones[edit]

A number of computational musical instruments that are not electrophones have been invented, designed, built, and used in performances. These instruments are sound synthesizers that use mechanical, optical, or other forms of non-electric computation, sampling, processing, or the like.

It has been proposed that music synthesizers that perform computation, and/or that work by recording and playback of sound samples, or the like, be referred to as quintephones. This class of instrument includes electrophones as a special case.[1]


  1. ^ "Natural Interfaces for Musical Expression: Physiphones and a physics-based organology," Proceedings of the 2007 Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME07), Pages 118-123, June 6–10, New York, NY, USA.

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