I would like to know who the first people to come up with the idea of reed instruments of any kind


Well, people in the outdoors with leisure time. Now outdoor jobs in prehistoric times were not all that unusual, but leisure time may have been. Hunters might have started reed instruments from primitive bird calls. Shepherds are obvious candidates for perfecting those in leisure time, and are also associated with ancient flutes. Shawms are medieval instruments but have antique predecessors: Egypt with its papyrus-grounded culture would be an obvious candidate for pre-antique versions of reed instruments.

  • 3
    Sources for any of this? Comes across as speculation and postulation. – jjmusicnotes Jun 12 '15 at 7:29

This is more of an archaeology question than a music question, but it is generally agreed upon by the scientific community that the oldest known instruments are paleolithic-era bone flutes dating back to at least 42,000 years ago. As flutes are a type of reed instrument, this should answer your question!



  • @ I dont consider the flute as reed instrument. Even if a pan flute is made of reed, it does not fit the definition of being involved in sound wave production. – guidot Jun 12 '15 at 7:54
  • 1
    @guidot I wasn't talking about the pan flute at all -- from a physical perspective, the flute is considered a reed instrument (by the professionals that play it, at least) because it requires splitting an airstream with a sharp edge. Strictly speaking it's not in the Hornbostel-Sachs 422 classification, but the physical mechanism is fundamentally the same. – NReilingh Jun 12 '15 at 8:23
  • Seems clear to me that the op isn't asking about air reeds. – Todd Wilcox Jun 12 '15 at 10:18
  • 2
    Whatever dudes; 42,000-year-old bone flutes from the upper Paleolithic are freaking cool and worth talking about. Gimme dem downvotes – NReilingh Jun 12 '15 at 15:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.