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The History of Musical Instruments (Dover Books on Music) and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
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The History of Musical Instruments Paperback – Sep 22 2006

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
An aged must-read April 19 2005
By Alfredo Sanz Hervas - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book provides a thorough description of the evolution of musical instruments from a multidisciplinary point of view from prehistoric times to mid-20th century. It comprises most historical epochs and geographical regions.
Good things about the book: it's a classic, very comprehensive (except for the electrophones), very clear in the technical descriptions, nice figures and pictures (although not enough for the many instruments discussed), it's a must-read for people interested in musical instruments and its evolution. I've learned a lot reading the book.
Bad things: it's aged in many respects. The language isn't politically correct when referring to some countries and peoples; it's too European-focused; gives too much importance to several simphonic orchestra instruments in comparison to other very popular instruments (the guitar family and its evolution is poorly treated, for instance); the electrophones are very badly treated and with some contempt. I know this is a 1940/1968 book and the electromechanical and electronic instruments were still in it's infancy, but some were already there (theremin, ondes Martenot, electric guitar, early synths) which would have deserved a much better treatment. Finally, I didn't like the author's remarks about some other people's work. Although he is an acknowledged scholar, sometimes he sounds very petulant.
I also disagree with the author in some technical aspects. For instance, his classification of musical instruments, although universally accepted, has several weak points in my opinion. Many scholars have followed Sachs' terminology too literally; that's why nowdays some people call 'lute' to any stringed instrument with a handle and neglect its original local name. The results is that a Spanish 'bandurria' is a 'lute' as well as a German 'Laute', or a North African 'gnbri'. That is very confussing and wrong.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Exhaustive but Aged Sept. 27 2000
By Daniel O. Ludwigsen - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As it is really the first complete work on the history of musical instruments, this is a foundational text. In the sixty years since its publication, though, opinions and interpretations have changed, and better research has been done.
Nonetheless, the very readable style and global scope make this a worthwhile investment. The illustrations are very good for the time it was published. The organization is clearly structured by chronology and geography, yet connections are made across these boundaries. I enjoy the book immensely, both as a reference and for pleasure.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
and this is perfect, especially the section on the origins of music July 14 2014
By B. Marold - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I cannot praise this book too highly if your intention is to find material suitable for teaching a class of lay students (not professional musicians). I am reading it for a class I will be giving to kids 8 - 12, and this is perfect, especially the section on the origins of music.

The flip side is that this book may not be suitable for the professional, as it is not festooned with references to scholarly works. However, the "Reference" section does give sources in other books, including some not in English, for research into particular instruments. To be sure, you will need a college library and a good interlibrary loan service to get most of the sources, but they are there.

Highly recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Very Thorough! May 7 2015
By S. J. Green - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a bit dry at times but it is *very* thorough and it has been an interesting read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Five Stars Nov. 30 2014
By Donna - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
All good and solid info. Sincerely, Winston Scott