Please help review the new How to Add Instruments guide + guidelines

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@CatQuest, @Freso and I have been working on a new guide + guidelines combo for requesting instruments. It’s meant to clarify what does and does not belong as an instrument, and also try to make sure instrument request tickets have as much good info as possible.

We think it’s mostly ready now (enough we’ve moved it out of the wiki userspace into the main docs) but we would be very happy to get some feedback on what is confusing or could be better! So if anyone has some time and some opinions, do let us know.


“N-string instruments”: I assume this is supposed to refer to 7-string guitars, 5-string violins, etc. The exceptions are a little unclear to me; 7-string guitars are now pretty widely produced, and are probably “altered” to have wider necks etc.

In a new instrument request, is it useful to list artists who have played/recorded the instrument in question?

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There is a mention that brand names should not be used as an instrument.

I am guessing Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond, Moog Taurus (bass pedal), etc. could perhaps be exceptions though?
If not, perhaps explain a bit better why not?

And what about well-known model numbers of electronic musical instruments?
There are quite a few famous electronic instruments with a history, also being referenced on album covers. (and by musicians as such, even leaving out the brand name)

Such as e.g. the TB-303, DX50, Minimoog, Prophet-5, etc.

Are there exceptions possible for such instruments?


Somewhat sorry to say I find the voluptuous Pattak organ, though wobbling solo in Paulinesian Procession, disqualified as ‘Novelty instrument’; in this case Swedish artist Mikael Pauli’s creation of a pair of bellows shoes in an inflatable suit of an upside down wrooman, dragging her exhaust organ on a trolley behind. On the other hand, an equally fine example of qualified exclusion.

Mrs. Pattak in action, downtown Stockholm performing Hillborg’s piece here.

Maybe the line “Novelty/experimental instruments developed […]” could be added to: “Novelty/experimental/singular instruments developed […]”. And please capitalize sentence beginnings (under Not / To be added).

All in all, I think you have balanced nicely inclusion with practicability (i.e. excluding whims of instance otherwise formally correct) and intelligably so.

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‘Generic items’ should make reference to well-established counterparts i.e. found objects : dito (music), readymades.

The noticed exceptions “musical saw and musical spoons” are both prefixed ‘musical’; If this be SG then say so.

Did you both read the “exceptions” section to these points?

Just listing these, no, not really.
On the other hand, links to websites or esp. videos where people are shown playing the instrument is useful.

(making a separate reply for this.)

The answer depends, are these distinctly different instruments? Do they sound very different? Would anyone buying or playing such an instrument expect it separately like any other instrument?
Do remember that we have both Aliastype: Brand name and the ability for instrument credits
Lastly atleast one of the mentioned already has a separate entry. So I guess that kinda answers your question?
“It depends”
There is also a possibly relevant ticket for this: INST-547
There is still quite some backlog in the instrument tickets, but I will eventually go through each with diligence, This guideline is meant as a help not just to people suggestion instruments, but also to myself, so that I can decide consistently, and make decisions based on a commonly established guideline. `:)


I am sure my eyes saw that section. (but my brains must have been doing something else :wink:
It’s good.

Perhaps add the word/concept of ‘model’/‘type’ to ‘brand’ in this regard?
Questions might come up on what to do with ‘Stratocaster’, ‘TB-303’, etc.

Another thing: The guide does explain if such could be candidates to be added as an instrument in MB’s database, and an editor could then learn and decide that it does not qualify for that.
I think it would be good if the guide would make it a bit clearer how editors would then best enter instruments that don’t qualify to be added (instruments on liner notes such as: “Yamahotashi Acme III synth”, or “Kawailinn Beatzcommander drumbox”).

But perhaps the purview of this guide is strictly to cover “How to add instruments (having them added to the database)”, and not so much “How to add an instrument (entering/editing them as an editor)”?

Yes that is correct. However there *is* a section that deals with this particular question:
It could definitely be expanded though!

Also, and I’m not pointing fingers or admonishing anyone, nor saying that anyone has even done the following yet, (just nipping it in the bud should it start down that road):
But I would greatly greatly appreciate it if any specific instruments where not discussed in the thread, the discussion for that should be on a relevant INST ticket, or a community discussion about specifically instrument brands or similar. That discussion will come, especially since it is so relevant with synthesizers and other electronic (modern) instruments. (this might be why I seem to be putting it off as long as possible 😅)

I knew the Novelty clause would be the most “debated”, however what I really want input on is:
Language, grammar, is any problematic thing excluded? Any more obvious Q&A?
Thank you 😺


Hi! Some thoughts…

It’s interesting this guide considers a sampler to not be an instrument because it’s “not played to make sound”. I would have expected the reason to be more along the lines of “because it reproduces sounds already made by other things”. The thing is, samplers don’t need to be sequenced (even if they usually are). You can often play them via, say, a keyboard, and indeed the Fairlight CMI and Akai S1000KB came with one built in. They can also modify the sampled sounds significantly. When it comes to albums such as You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby or Endtroducing…, which are sort of mash-up collages, the sampler’s the main part of the album’s sound. You could say a similar thing about a record player, which is supposed to simply play back prerecorded sounds, but once you get into scratching and turntablism, the musician starts to turn it into an instrument in its own right. Plus there’s the old analogue precursors to samplers, the playback-only Mellotron and Orchestron which couldn’t be sequenced and could only be played by hand, by a musician. Not that I disagree with anything here, or have proposed solutions, it’s just philosophically interesting what is and isn’t an instrument, with no clear answers.

Brand names and synths are an interesting one, I think… Yes, they often fall into that exception quite well of sounding distinct enough from each other… And sometimes one’s popular enough that several clones appear, but somehow no generic term arises, so if anything they could all be lumped together as sounding like a specific different brand it’s purposefully copying. (The TB-303, for example, has many clones, and they’re not always what someone might think – the MC-303 sounds very different despite its similar name and being made by the same company, while a smaller company’s M-303 module sounds very similar indeed.) I guess what people probably care most about is “does this recording sound as if it’s got this particular instrument on it, regardless of if it’s a clone?” but then again it’s a question of where to draw the line. (Higher State of Consciousness is one of the more famous TB-303 tracks… except it apparently uses an MC-202 instead, which most people assume doesn’t sound anything like a TB-303, and certainly isn’t a clone of one. It’s certainly acid house, only without the famous acid house instrument.)

Samplers also complicate things here too, because, for instance, a TR-808 and TR-909 drum machine sound very distinct from each other, and can both easily be identified on many albums… except a sampler can sound like either. Again, I guess the main concern is helping out someone who might be in the mood to listen to something which sounds like it’s got an 808 in it? In which case, you might not care if it’s real or sampled or a clone (such as a DrumStation, or R-8 with the appropriate card). Then it’s less about the instrument used, and more about what it sounds like was used… Except you’re probably going for something more encyclopedic than that… (And might disqualify drum machines anyway, on the grounds that they’re not played?)


“Interesting” is not the choice of word I would have used.
If a sampler is not an instrument then neither is an electronic piano. Both are basically the same thing: You record sounds, map them on keys and play the keys to create melodies from those sounds.

What will happen to all the sampler relationships that already exist?

Or is the Wikidata rule higher?

Instruments in Wikidata

Instruments with a Wikidata page, especially if there are also Wikipedia pages in several languages and/or Wikimedia Commons categories with images.

First, let’s make sure no-one’s talking at crossed purposes: a sampler plays back sounds that already existed. A sequencer automatically plays an instrument, controlled by its electronics instead of directly by a musician. That instrument may or may not be a sampler.

I think the guide these people are writing (and please correct me if I’m wrong), saying “they are not played to make sound”, is talking about a sequencer, but conflating it with a sampler, perhaps? Which would be very understandable, as the popular Akai MPC range, and the Fairlight CMI, are both in a single device. Microcontrollers happen to be good at both these things, so they tend to get lumped together.

So if it’s direct human control of each note as it’s sounded that’s the criterion of what is and isn’t an instrument, then it’s sequencers, not samplers, that should be excluded.

(If making original sounds is the criterion, then samplers would be excluded.)

Having said that, we’re getting deep into the philosophy now of what is and isn’t an instrument. Maybe “instrument” is the right word, maybe not, but quantised, automatically played, sequenced music has a very distinctive sound, and I for one would appreciate the opportunity of browsing my music collection based on which releases have that sound. You’ve got the eight-looped-equidistant-notes sequencing of the Moog that’s integral to the whole Berlin school genre; the sixteen-looped-equidistant-notes-with-portamento-and-accents of the TB-303 that’s integral to the whole acid house genre. You’ve got the Art of Noise, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and the rest of the ZTT label building a distinctive sound out of the CMI. The MPC series is well represented in hiphop. The 808 with its sixteen-looped-equidistant-notes is integral to techno and electro. The sequencer may or may not count as an instrument, but it’s something that’s helped to spawn whole genres. I’m not sure it can be dismissed. But it might be considered a distinct piece of studio gear, separate to instruments… Except sometimes it’s a small part of those instruments. So perhaps an attribute. Or not.

I certainly wouldn’t consider the MPC-60, TB-303, or Moog System 55 to not be instruments, just because they have a sequencer in them.

As with all of this, it can get messy and nuanced when you try to assert anything definitively.


was added in 2014.

The guide is a guide. It’s not meant to be thoroughly comprehensive, and also consider the exclusions. That said, this topic is not for discussing individual entries:


Yep, fair enough, as you were!

What I said earlier:

  • Maybe the line “Novelty/experimental instruments developed […]” could be added to: “Novelty/experimental/singular instruments developed […]”.
  • And please capitalize sentence beginnings (under Not / To be added).
  • ‘Generic items’ should make reference to well-established counterparts i.e. found objects : dito (music) , readymades .
  • The noticed exceptions “musical saw and musical spoons” are both prefixed ‘musical’; If this be SG then say so.

Also, documentation is not a release, but should it not follow SG at least on typography? For instance

“backwards guitar”, “two flutes glued together” or “piano smasher”

, should it not have curls: “backwards guitar”, “two flutes glued together” or “piano smasher”?

Non-instruments \ Rationale should, so as not to counterwise without rationale established definitions (of ‘music’, ‘musical instrument’), have “these aren’t instruments!” changed into “These are not conceived as musical instruments.”

Too little information \ Exceptions has a logical loop in its present wording with “too little” against “enough”: If “enough data is found”, then there is not “too little information” and the instrument thus not an exception (anymore). Either have heading changed to “Scarse information” or something else not explicitly meeting short of the bar, or have “Exceptions” be explicit on the proposed object be[com]ing no exception and try for rare/historical/traditional/Wikidata.