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UW Ethnomusicology Archives: Aerophones

The UW Eth­no­mu­si­col­ogy Archives has been col­lecting and curating unique ethnographic music recordings, films, and video since 1962.


What is an aerophone? 

Aerophones are instruments that create noise by pushing vibrating columns of air through them. Under the Hornbostel-Sachs classification system, aerophones are broken down into free aerophones and non-free aerophones. Free aerophones are instruments where the vibrating air is not confined to the inside of the instrument itself (eg. accordions and pitch pipes). In non-free aerophones, the vibrating air is confined inside of the instrument (eg. ocarinas and bagpipes). Most instruments traditionally referred to as woodwind instruments are non-free aerophones. Free-aerophones instruments are significantly less common than non-free aerophones. 

Didgeridoo demonstration

Text adapted from: Sachs, Curt (1940). The History of Musical Instruments

Title image sources (left to right):,,,,, (OldWorldHB) 

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