Percussion Idiophones


Idiophones (sometimes also called autophones) produce their sound by vibrating themselves rather than the vibration strings, membranes or air columns. Examples are the triangle, the bell, the marimba or the maracas, etc. Idiophones come in all shapes and sizes and often make unique sounds. Musicologists divide the idiophones into four groups. Struck idiophones include most percussion instruments that are not drums (ie. don't use membranes). The other three groups are small in comparison and include rare forms such as the jews harp or jaw harp (plucked idiophones) the singing bowl and the glass harp (friction idiophones) or the aeolsklavier (blown idiophones).

Although mallet instruments like the xylophone or the vibraphone are idiophones they are usually treated as a distinct category, principally because they are pitched. The mbira or thumb piano is often regarded as a plucked idiophone. However, some experts place it into a separate category, the lamellophones, arguing that its metal tounges can be moved and thus tuned against each other.

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