The Membranophones Poll

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So. Ages ago we were planning to make a poll to figure out how to fix the existing membranophone relationships. Now that @FresoBot is back in action, it makes sense to finally do this! So, what should we do with all the “membranophone” relationships that used to be “drums”?

  • Move all to drumset (let people fix the few wrong ones that were meant to be generic drums)
  • Move all to generic drums (let people move to drumset if they’re 100% sure)
  • Leave it all as is and let people deal with it

0 voters

Additionally, we’re also planning to move “guitar family” ones (old “guitars”) to “guitar” - I don’t think there’s much of an actual doubt here on how to act but if someone thinks that’s not a good idea, do let us know why! :slight_smile:


Usually my guitars relationships were following booklets’ “guitars”.
I believed it’s when musician was responsible for several guitar tracks (acoustic, electric) on the same recording.


Yeah, but all of those are “guitar” (one or more of) :slight_smile:

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Ah, I’m OK if you keep the « guitar as guitars » AC (artist instrument credit), for instance.


(hm, I see that jesus2099 beat me to the punch, but I wrote this up before I saw that, so I’m posting it anyway)

I do have a question about instrument ‘families’ that might be relevant to the origin of the issue and how it’s handled further.

There are albums that on the sleeve or in the liner notes say that Artist A plays guitars, or Artist B plays keyboards.
In my understanding that usually means that the artist played more than one guitar or just one keyboard on an album or a song.
The keyboard player might be using both a grand piano with a compact synthesizer keyboard laying on top of it, or he might be using any array of synthesizers, electric piano’s etc.
A guitar player might use different guitars for different tracks, or change guitars within a song for e.g. playing a solo.

So I always understood there was a difference when on an album it says that the guitar player played ‘guitars’ vs. it saying he played ‘guitar’.
The same for the keyboard player playing just one ‘keyboard’ (which often will be specified to be an acoustic piano, a clavecymbel, a Fender Rhodes, etc.), vs. him using several keyboards which are not further specified.

Is MusicBrainz making (and preserving) this distinction for entering and storing this in it’s database?

Without me knowing what actually happened with the ‘families’ mishap, was it perhaps so that entries that said ‘guitar’ were preserved, and entries that said ‘guitars’ were changed to ‘guitar families’?


I don’t understand why a bot is needed for any of these three options. If the decision is that all the relationships should be moved to drums (drum set), this can be done:

  1. Revert Edit #53694516 changing the name of “membranophone” back to “drums”.
  2. Merge this “drums” entity into “drums (drum set)”.
  3. Create a new “membranophone” entity if needed.

That’s an option, but I’d much prefer to keep the MBID for “membranophone” untouched, since that’s what that ID is supposed to mean.


I disagree, that MBID has always been mainly used for drums (meaning drum set), regardless of what it was supposed to mean. I think it’s how an entity has actually been used which is of most importance when considering the management of MBIDs.

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A membranophone is not considered to be an actual instrument is it?
If I understand correctly it’s just a term invented by two guys (Hornbostel and Sachs) in an effort to classify instruments.
Same as chordophone or aerophone. I don’t think they are in MB’s instrument list either?

Or are there actually recordings/performances where musicians are credited for playing membranophone, aerophone etc.?
(outside MusicBrainz)

Sure, it’s not an actual instrument, but a category of them. Same as the original “drums”, which wasn’t a specific drum but a category of instruments :slight_smile:


So, if membranophone is indeed not considered an actual instrument, it would follow that you wouldn’t want that term listed in an instruments list at all is it?

What is the intended instrument name for the (rare) occasion that an artist is credited as playing ‘drums’, but it is clear that it is something else then a traditional drumset or drumkit?

drums (plural), drums (varied), drums (unspecified), something else?

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Sure you want, because for the reason you mention below. The instruments are organized as a tree, and there are plenty other generic terms in this list. E.g. we also have woodwind, but you actually don’t play a woodwind, that’s not a concrete type of instrument. You actually might play e.g. a specific flute. Yet I have seen cases where artists are only credited as playing “woodwind” but we don’t know exactly which instrument, hence it makes sense to be able to credit them to this instrument family.

“membranophone” credited as “drums”.

Edit: We also have drum which is described as “generic drum of any kind”. Might sometimes fit better, not sure. Might depend on the case.


Hm, that still sounds weird to me, but perhaps it is not so wrong as I thought it to be at first and I’ll need to get used to it.
(my first thought and inclination however would be to label those as ‘percussion’, or ‘drums (percussion)’ since that sounds more natural to me, and is a term that to me relates much more to music and the real world than ‘membranophone’)

B.t.w., shouldn’t it be membranophones then?

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Another use for these is in the “Instruments Arranger” relationship. Often an artist will be credited with arranging “strings” or “horns” (brass in our instrument tree).


Yes, indeed. I think that is the main trouble with membranophone and why we take issue on it: That term is really unfamiliar and nobody would use that seriously :slight_smile: But keep in mind that this entry was renamed so that people don’t confused it with any other “drum” entry we have, and I think it serves this purpose well. I’m glad when we finally get rid of all existing membranophone credits.

♩ “The day is ended little membranophone boy…” ♩


A good observation indeed, but if somebody composes or arranges something for drums/percussion/timpani etc., the instrumentation will very likely not be limited to instruments from the membranophone family, but will also include instruments from the family of idiophones. (e.g. cymbals, triangles, castanets, etc.)
So for this purpose the term membranophone would probably also not be very appropriate or satisfying.

I am looking very hard, but it’s still very hard for me to find a situation where in MusicBrainz’ universe, the use of the term membranophone is completely adequate, applicable, justified, and useful.

A while back I spent several evenings paging through the membranophone recordings looking for things that might not be “drum set”. I did find a very few that I changed to ‘drum’ (this release comes to mind) but that vast majority were either verifiably drum set or very likely to be (e.g. a trio with bass and piano, playing jazz standards).

Of course I only visited a tiny fraction of the recordings out there, but still, I think that moving ‘membranophone’ to ‘drums (drum set)’ will be correct in perhaps 98-99% of the cases, so I vote for that option.


As @highstrung’s research shows, setting them all to drums (drum set) would correct more entries that it would make mistakes. Meaning it would be easier to then correct the smaller number of incorrectly allocated drum sets. Especially as once this change goes through I can see a number of people jumping onto their favourite artists to check results.


Cute! :laughing: Can’t wait to change Gene Krupa from Membranophonist to Drummer. Not to mention Sandy Nelsons’ tune "Let there be “Membranophones” back to “Let there be Drums”!

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Can I ask why is titled druⅿ and not drum?