Around the World in 80 Musical Instruments

Around the World in 80 Musical Instruments

By Author / Illustrator

Nancy Dickmann


Non Fiction

Age range(s)



Welbeck Editions








How on Earth do you play a bass that's 3.5 metres tall?   How can you play a theremin without touching it?  Can you turn a cave's stalactites into an organ? (spoiler alert: yes, you can!)

This beautifully-illustrated book is a visual celebration of the huge variety of instruments played across the world, from those you know to those you almost certainly don't. Grouped into percussion instruments, wind, and string, as well as the weird and wonderful that defy categorization, readers will discover how they are all related to each other in 'families', and enjoy exploring the musical family tree as a fold-out poster.

Around the World in 80 Musical Instruments covers traditional instruments from various cultures, such as the gamelan and mbira, as well as the creations of modern artists and musicians, such as the Wintergatan Marble Machine and the eerie-sounding yaybahar. Readers will even discover a band that plays exclusively on instruments fashioned from fresh vegetables, and makes the offcuts into soup to serve to the audience!

Including Percussion, String, Wind and Weird and Wonderful (Vegetables, Sea organ and more) sections.



Around the World in 80 Musical Instruments, a striking hardback, begins with a Contents list and brief explanation of how musical instruments can be categorised and, hence, how this book is arranged - into sections devoted to Percussion, Stringed and Wind, as well one on 'weird and wonderful' instruments. Each section concludes with a 'Make Your Own' idea, and the entire work concludes with encouragement to explore further, before the final Index.

In similar style to other titles in this series, the centre-fold opens out to reveal 'A Musical Family Tree' which, at a glance, shows the creative diversity of music-making around the world. The branches are labelled (e.g. Strike, Scrape/Rub, Bowed, Plucked, Free-Reed Membranophones), each ending with a number of familiar or, more often, unfamiliar (to me) instruments (e.g. treshchotka, glass armonica, erhu, sitar, hulusi, talking drum).

Musically literate readers will find plenty to interest, while mere enthusiasts will delight in the way this book brings its subject to life, helped by the bold illustrations (including maps). I learned a lot, e.g. that steelpans are not drums but a type of gong, as well as being reminded of how music has been used not just for pleasure, but also as a weapon of war. I also liked the inclusion of information about 'The Orchestra', 'The Amazing Human Voice' and even 'Marvellous Mods' (e.g. MiMU gloves which match hand/finger movements to particular sounds and a one-handed 3D printed recorder).

This is a fascinating volume which should find a place in every primary school library, given its obvious appeal to children and those who teach music. It could also be used imaginatively to convey a message about how diversity makes us all richer.

64 Pages / Reviewed by Jane Rew, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 7+


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