Make your own free website on



Home Ensemble Category Acknowledgment


> Extracted from the summary of "An introduction to a classification system for all musical isntruments" by Catherine Schmidt-Jones.

In idiophones, it is the vibration of the instrument itself that is the main source of the musical sound. Idiophones are classified according to what you do to them to make them vibrate.


 Illustration by Margaret Jones

Figure 1

Figure 2

Bells and steel drums are percussion idiophones; Steel drums are hit with sticks held by the player; a bell is hit by the clapper inside the bell.


2.1    Percussion idiophones are hit with sticks, beaters, or clappers such as the bells, steel drums, gong, saron, bonang and gambang.

Gong: the circular gong is most ubiquitous in Malaysia. It comes in various sizes, ranging from the small canang with a diameter of 5 to 6 inches to the large hanging gongs called tawak, with a diameter of between 13 to 23 inches. The small gongs, from 2 to 15 inches in a set are arranged horizontally.

Saron: The Saron is a metal xylophone consisting of six keys resting on a rectangular wooden resonator. The keys are seperated from the wooden resonators by a thin cord which line the resonator edges.

Wooden xylophone: Known as the gambang kayu, the wooden xylophone is four-octave long and consists of 20 graduated keys laid on a trough-like structure.

2.2    Shaken idiophones are shaken (Angklung, maracas, eggs, jingle bells).

2.3    Concussion idiophones are played by clashing two of them together. For example castanets, claves, spoons, and cymbal.

Finger cymbals: Known as cing or kesi, the finger cymbals consist of with one or two pairs of small cymbals, each about two inches in diameter and joined to each other with a string.

2.4    Friction idiophones are made to vibrate by rubbing them (as when you make a wine glass ring by rubbing its rim).

2.5    Scraped idiophones are played by scraping a stick across a set of notches or corrugations on the instrument (guiro, washboard).

2.6    Stamping idiophones are stamped on the ground, floor, or hard surface. (Tap shoes are in this category.) If the main sound is coming from the surface that is being stamped on, it is a stamped idiophone.

2.7    Plucked idiophones have a thin tongue of metal or bamboo that vibrates when plucked (jew's harp, mbira or thumb piano).