Musical Instruments

The 39-foot-long violin is made out of around 12 different kinds of wood.

Why a String Quartet Set Sail on a Giant Violin in Venice's Grand Canal

Local artist Livio De Marchi views the wooden replica as a symbol of the Italian city's rebirth following Covid-19

The worn hands and nubby fingernails of Bentonia, Mississippi, bluesman Jimmy "Duck" Holmes reflect his years of experience. Holmes is one of the last bluesmen who play a style known as Bentonia blues.

At an Old Juke Joint in Mississippi, the Blues Are Alive

Jimmy Holmes is the last in a line of music legends as he seeks to keep a singular American art form thriving

The Ifesowapo dùndún ensemble performing in Igbo Ora, southwest Nigeria

How Does the West African Talking Drum Accurately Mimic Human Speech?

A new study explores how the dùndún replicates tones and patterns of the Yorùbá language

Researchers took cross sectional scans of a spider web with a laser to make this 3D image of its structure that they eventually translated into music.

Art Meets Science

Researchers Turn Spider Webs Into Music

The eerie compositions offer humans an approximation of how spiders experience their surroundings through vibrations

The yazh's design is based on detailed descriptions of the ancient instrument.

Listen to the First Song Ever Recorded on This Ancient, Harp-Like Instrument

Tharun Sekar, a luthier based in southern India, has painstakingly recreated the long-lost yazh

One of the most versatile harmonica players in pop history is Stevie Wonder, shown here in Paris in 1963 at age 13.

A Brief History of the Harmonica

How the world’s handiest instrument took over American music

Black Banjo Reclamation Project founders Hannah Mayree and Carlton “Seemore Love” Dorsey, with banjos made by Brooks Masten of Brooks Banjos in Portland, Oregon.

Smithsonian Voices

A Quest to Return the Banjo to Its African Roots

The Black Banjo Reclamation Project aims to put banjos into the hands of everyday people

Artist's rendering of a prehistoric human playing the ancient conch instrument

Cool Finds

Hear the Musical Sounds of an 18,000-Year-Old Giant Conch

The shell was played for the first time in millennia after being rediscovered in the collections of a French museum

Ory in November 1945, during his comeback after working as a janitor.

Kid Ory Finally Gets the Encore He Deserves

The childhood home of the musician who put New Orleans jazz on the map will soon open to the public

Cotton coverlet quilted in Texas, 19th century.

Artisan America

The State of American Craft Has Never Been Stronger

Today’s craft renaissance is more than just an antidote to our over-automated world. It renews a way of life that made us who we are

A portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven by August Klober, circa 1818

How Young America Came to Love Beethoven

On the 250th anniversary of the famous composer’s birth, the story of how his music first took hold across the Atlantic

Notre-Dame's Grand Organ, as seen before the April 2019 fire

Inside the Monumental Effort to Restore Notre-Dame's Grand Organ

Workers spent four months painstakingly dismantling the musical instrument, which is only set to sound again in 2024

Russian physicist and engineer Lev Sergeyevich Termen—who later came to be widely known as Léon Theremin—invented his namesake instrument around 1920. Here, he's pictured in 1928.

Art Meets Science

The Soviet Spy Who Invented the First Major Electronic Instrument

Created by a Russian engineer, the theremin has delighted and confounded audiences since 1920

Guitarist Eddie Van Halen performs at a September 2015 concert in Chula Vista, California.

Eddie Van Halen on How Necessity Drives Innovation

The rock star, who died on October 6 at age 65, said that perfection is boring and mistakes are the "most exciting element of music"

This 2016 image shows one of the instruments included in Amnon Weinstein's Violins of Hope collection, which features pre-World War II violins once owned by Jewish musicians and music lovers.

Pandemic Temporarily Silences Violins That Survived the Holocaust

Organizers found ways to make the instruments' voices heard after the cancellation of planned concerts in California

“Freeman's Hands"

The Remarkable Life and Work of Guitar Maker Freeman Vines

For nearly half a century, the North Carolina native has created instruments out of found wood—including some from a notorious hanging tree

A fire at Nantes Cathedral destroyed stained-glass windows and a 17th-century organ.

Arsonist Confesses to Starting Nantes Cathedral Fire

The July 18 blaze, which inflicted less damage than the devastating April 2019 inferno at Notre-Dame, destroyed the French church's organ, stained glass

The sequencer on the 808, a row of 16 color-coded buttons, offered artists a way to store beats they programmed.

The TR-808 Drum Machine Changed the Sound of Pop Music Forever

Sometimes, technology has more impact after it's obsolete

Some U.K. crafters are dedicating their spare time to making masks and drawstring bags for medical professionals.

Covid-19

Arts and Crafts Are Experiencing Surge in Popularity Amid COVID-19

Stay-at-home orders have inspired those with ample free time to pick up hands-on projects

American jazz musicians Charlie Parker, on alto sax, and Thelonious Monk, on piano, perform at the Open Door Cafe, in New York City on September 14, 1953.

The Long Journey of Charlie Parker’s Saxophone

The newly acquired instrument, played by the father of bebop, is on view at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

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