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Music & Performing Arts Library
Identifying and studying unfamiliar instruments is an important part of world music research. There are various resources that focus on this specifically and can be very helpful.
Before exploring some books, it is helpful to become familiar with the Hornbostel-Sachs system of instrument classification. It is used frequently in discussions of instruments from around the world.
Musical Instruments of the World
Call Number: ML102.I5 D42 (Reference)
Details the forms, decoration, evolutions, methods of sounding past and present, and mechanical and electrical instruments from around the world, ranging through folk, popular, orchestral, and national instruments of every kind.
The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments
Call Number: ML102.I5 N48 (Reference)
Like the other resources, this focuses primarily on Western instruments but does cover quite a few non-Western instruments. It also has information about well-known makers and manufacturers.
Images of Instruments
There are also online resources that can provide images of music instruments.
Sounds of Specific Instruments
Smithsonian Global Sound
You can browse this resource by instrument or world region in order to identify recordings with a particular instrument.