Instruments of the world

Students will categorise instruments from other countries according to their source of sound production.

They will develop deep knowledge of the instruments, their families, expressive techniques and the role of a professional musician.


4.8 demonstrates an understanding of musical concepts through aural identification and discussion of the features of a range of repertoire.


4 - 5 lessons.


Exploring varied sound sources of instruments from around the world.


There are five categories to which any instrument in the world can belong. This is different to the four instrument families to which only instruments of the orchestra can belong. The five categories are: chordophone, aerophone, membranophone, idiophone and electrophone.

  • information and communication technology
  • literacy
  • environment
  • difference and diversity
  • Aboriginal and Indigenous.


All activities require students to demonstrate their learning and are all assessment for learning activities.

Teaching and learning activities

Students will

  • discuss the differences between the five categories and brainstorm instruments that belong to each category.
    • Aerophones - instruments that use the vibration of air to generate sound. This can be air that is blown or pumped. For example, flute, shakuhachi, bagpipes, pipe organ, harmonica, piano accordion, recorder, saxophone.
    • Chordophones - instruments that use the vibration of strings to generate sound. These strings can be plucked, hammered, bowed or strummed. For example, koto, bouzouki, acoustic guitar, cello, banjo, ukulele
    • Membranophones - instruments that use the vibration of a skin (membrane) to generate sound. For example, bass drum, timpani, djembe, bodhran, snare drum, tambor
    • Idiophones - instruments that use the vibration of their own body to generate sound (i.e. all percussion instruments except drums). These instruments can be struck, scraped, shaken or rattled. For example, angklung, xylophone, triangle, cymbals, cabassa, maracas, claves. A tambourine with a skin can fit into membranophones and idiophones.
    • Electrophones - instruments that use the vibration of electricity to generate sound. For example, electric guitar, bass guitar, synthesiser, theremin.

The teacher can make a list of all the different nationalities present in the class. Each student can then investigate the instruments of their culture that belong to one or more of the five categories.

Try to emphasise the first four categories and instruments indigenous to particular countries or areas, rather than the more recent introduction of electrophones. This allows students to explore the heritage of instruments and their cultural background.

  • Observe the Sway Music of the World. Students could create a table of the area/country and the name of the instrument and whilst watching the Sway, identify the category from which each instrument comes.
    • Point out that these are indigenous instruments that are hundreds of years old which is why they are made from the resources on the land - often animal skin, hair or intestines (for strings).

Students will:

  • learn the categories and their differences.
  • create a mind map of categories of instruments from around the world with examples.



Students could:

  • investigate and explore instruments and their categories from a specific or student chosen culture.

Life skills


  • LS 7 experiences music from a variety of social, cultural and historical contexts.
  • LS 8 communicates responses to a variety of music.

Students could:

  • identify the settings of some of these instruments. Eg. personal enjoyment, a concert or ceremony, a formal occasion, quiet reflection etc.
  • indicate, physically or verbally, their like or dislike of different instruments sounds.


Formative feedback: students will contribute to class discussion.

Summative feedback: students can complete a Kahoot! on instruments from around the world.


Please note:

Syllabus outcomes and content descriptors from Music 7–10 Syllabus (2003) © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2017.

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