Thursday, August 26, 2004

Chordophone What?

So until now I was under the impression that an instrument which sound was produced by vibrating a string was in the string family however, that is only the simple term for them. The technical term for a string instrument is a chordophone. According to The New Harvard Dictionary of Music editor Don Randal, 4th ed. Chordophone.", "They [strings] may be set in motion by plucking (as in the guitar), by striking (piano), or by bowing (violin.)
The Grove Music Online definition ( ) breaks chordophones into two different categories. Simple chordophones are zither like instruments such as the piano and harpsichord. The strings in these instruments are tuned prior to play. Composite chordophones have necks or yokes and their strings can by tuned to different notes during play. Example of theses are the violin, harp, and guitar.

Update: The Western-style classification of instruments was devised by E.M. von Hornbostel and C. Sachs in 1914 in their book Zeitschrift für Ethnologie. This system included idiophones, membranophones, chordophones, and aerophones.

Update: According to the MSN Encarta Dictionary the etymology of the word chordophone is "Mid-20th century. Coined from chord + -phone." This implies that chordophones are instruments on which more than three notes can be played simultaneously. Hence, chordophones can play chords.