Free Materials For Teachers
Image©2020 ABS Collage of musical instruments using part of the logo from the Grinnell College Musical Instruments Collection
Grinnell Musical Instruments

This site is a great resource for teachers doing a unit on musical instruments. There are photos and descriptions of instruments from every continent, and also of historical instruments.

For many of the instruments, there are short audio samples. This collection includes the instruments owned by the music department of Grinnell College, which are used by students and in classroom teaching.

You can search for instruments by name, by general type, or by location. Beware: this is a fascinating collection. You may start off looking for specific information, only to get lost exploring instruments you’ve never heard before. What could you play on an instrument with only one string? The chipendani, from Zimbabwe, may surprise you! How can you get a sound out of the strange-looking kubing from the Phillipines? You’ve always heard about music on fife and drum, but what does a fife really sound like?

Some groups of instruments are recorded as ensembles, giving you a better appreciation of how the instruments would be combined. For example, you can hear a short piece played on an ensemble of gamelan instruments from West Java, a consort of renaissance crumhorns, or a samba ensemble from Brazil.

There also are interesting articles under the Topics tab. Some of these were far too technical for me, but I saw one that would be interesting even for very young students. It is a side-by-side comparison of modern instruments with their ancestors.

For many instruments, the comparison is between photos, but for several of them, including the piano, violin, and horn, you have a chance to hear the sound of the old and new. For these, there are short audio clips of the same musical passage played on the historical and modern instruments.

There are specific instructions and attribution information for including photos from the site in publications under the About tab, but no information on using the photos, information, and audio clips in a class. It’s easy to save the audio clips, which are short samples rather than entire pieces, by right-clicking on the control bar.

Because there is a credit line supplied with each audio sample and article, as well as attribution information for the photos, I think you could simply include those credits if you use anything in a lesson. If in doubt, contact Peter Vetter, the person who set up the site, took some of the photos, and wrote most of the articles. His email is

Applications needed: Any modern web browser.
Subject area: Music, History.
Level: Grades 1-7, Author.

Online Link-Resources

Grinnell College Musical Instruments Collection link: Click Here. Photos and audio samples from the musical instruments owned by the Grinnell College music department. Web browser.

May 6th, 2020 at 3:16 pm


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