Organology is a discipline of musicology dedicated to the study and description of musical instruments. Since its establishment by Curt Sachs, it has made use of interdisciplinary aids and techniques, primarily from art history, but also from ethnology and physics.

Pegbox of a viola da gamba with carved lion's head

Areas of responsibility include the historical classification of musical instruments specifically in relation to music history on the basis of technical, stylistic and performance features, the systematic recording of instruments as well as their description and cataloguing, research into technical playing possibilities (performance practice) and the analysis of acoustic phenomena of instruments. In collaboration with natural scientists, specialist restorers and instrument makers, material tests are also devised and carried out, e.g. at the Rathgen-Forschungslabor of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and historical craft techniques of instrument making are analysed and verified with the help of replicas.

In this way, the latest methods of acoustics help the instrumentologists and conservators at the Musikinstrumenten-Museum to conserve and analyse the sounds of historical instruments and, if necessary, to optimise them during restorations or reconstructions. The instrument as a whole is recorded and analysed, as are individual sound-emitting parts (e.g. soundboard or stringing).

Individual sound phenomena are examined and documented in detail. In this way, for example, an unusual harpsichord string or the transient response of restored old organ pipes can be optimised. Ideally, the acoustic examinations help the instrument expert to decide which components of an instrument are original and which are ingredients from later times. If the materials originally used are no longer available for a restoration, acoustic tests of a wide variety of materials can be used to select those that come closest to the original substance.

One focus is therefore on the systematic recording of the museum's entire playable instrument stock in a sound archive. In addition to recording in-house instruments in museum concerts, various stages in the restoration process itself (e.g. in their old condition and then after successful restoration) are recorded acoustically.

Many of these sound recordings from the SIM studio find their way into the CD seriesKlingendes Museum and Klingendes Museum live.


Dr. Christian Breternitz

Research Associate

+49 30 254 81 148


Dr. Benedikt Brilmayer

Research Associate

+49 30 254 81 198


SPK Research Dossier