A chordophone is a type of string instrument that uses strings to vibrate and produce sound, such as the guitar. String instruments that use this system to vibrate and create sound are referred to as chordophones.
In this article, I’ll discuss the difference between chordophones and other string instruments, as well as the guitar’s place in that instrument family.
So without further ado, let’s just get straight into it, shall we?
What instruments are Chordophones?
Chordophones are usually classified into three categories:
- Membranophones (a type of chordophone that uses drums or membranes to create sound)
- Aerophones (instruments that make sound by causing air to move through it)
- Idiophones (instruments whose sound is caused by vibrating parts of the instrument)
Some examples of chordophones include:
- Double bass (also known as the string bass, upright bass, and contrabass)
What distinguishes Chordophones from other String Instruments?
The easiest way to define “string instrument” is to say that it’s an instrument that makes sound by way of vibrating strings—and while all chordophones are string instruments, not all string instruments are chordophones.
Here are some types of string instruments that aren’t classified as chordophones:
All of these instruments make sound by way of vibrating strings, but they’re not classified as chordophones because they don’t use a system wherein the strings vibrate and create sound. Instead, they rely on other methods to produce their unique tones.
How is the Guitar a Chordophone?
In order to have a better understanding of the guitar as a chordophone, it’s important to know how chordophones are classified.
So far we’ve learned that chordophones are any string instruments that use strings to create sound.
We also know that three categories make up chordophones: membranophones, aerophones, and idiophones.
Idiophones are instruments whose sound is caused by vibrating parts of the instrument, while membranophones and aerophones use drums or air to create sound, respectively.
So where does the guitar fit in?
Technically, the guitar is an idiophone because its sound is caused by vibrating strings.
However, although the guitar is technically an idiophone, it’s more commonly considered a chordophone because its strings are used to create chords—which means that in addition to creating solos and melodies, the guitarist uses the guitar to strum chords for rhythm.
Because of this unique characteristic, most people classify the guitar as a chordophone, and not an idiophone.
What is the difference between Chordophones and Idiophones?
As briefly mentioned above, chordophones and idiophones are both types of string instruments—but they’re not the same thing.
Strictly speaking, chordophones make sound by way of vibrating strings; idiophones make sound by way of vibrating parts of the instrument.
However, people usually classify guitarists as chordophones because they play chords on the guitar, as opposed to single notes.
This distinction is important because it’s what separates the guitar from other string instruments like autoharps and lyres, which are classified as idiophones.
The guitar is considered a chordophone because, in addition to creating solos and melodies, it’s used to strum chords.
Chordophones are a type of string instrument that uses strings to create sound.
Three categories make up chordophones: membranophones, aerophones, and idiophones—with idiophones being instruments whose sound is caused by vibrating parts of the instrument, and chordophones being instruments whose sound is caused by vibrating strings.
Classifying the guitar as a chordophone rather than an idiophone distinguishes it from other string instruments and allows us to better understand its unique place in the world of string instruments.
So, is a guitar a chordophone? Yes, it most certainly is! 🙂