WHICH IS THE BEST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT?

In the fifth in our series of Big Questions, we invited five writers to decide which musical instrument they think is the best. Richard Morrison, the chief music critic at the Times, introduced the debate. While a standard orchestra has 14 or 15 instruments, the next edition of the "New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments" will list 20,000. Morrison wrote that "the biggest differences come in the social functions they fulfil", and that "the same instrument can fulfil totally different roles in different cultures or ages". So how do you decide between them?

Over the next couple of weeks we will be publishing the arguments of our five other contributors online. But voting starts now. Perhaps you will agree with the composer and broadcaster Michael Berkeley, who went for the piano, an instrument that "opens up the whole world of music because, uniquely, it can translate into sound the full range of harmony of orchestral and choral scores." Laura Barton voted for the "extraordinary articulacy" of the guitar, while Richard Williams chose the "exultant" sound of the Hammond organ. Jasper Rees looked to the instrument he learnt as a child, the French horn, for the "profound, all but prelapsarian beauty of the sound". Finally Edward Carr argued for the instrument we all share, the voice.

Have your say by voting in the poll below. Or if you're inspired by the violin or the viola, the sitar or the sousaphone, please tell us why.

The piano
38% (539 votes)
The guitar
18% (249 votes)
The Voice
17% (243 votes)
The French horn
7% (102 votes)
Violin (other)
2% (25 votes)
Cello (other)
2% (24 votes)
The Hammond organ
2% (22 votes)
The Violin (other)
1% (8 votes)
The cello (other)
0% (7 votes)
Theremín (other)
0% (7 votes)
Clarinet (other)
0% (7 votes)
you cant compare. can choose one in each category, but wrong to compare (other)
0% (6 votes)
The oboe - capable of expressing great joy, melancholy or sorrow (when played by an expert-otherwise it should be left alone) (other)
0% (5 votes)
TRUMPET (other)
0% (5 votes)
Flute (other)
0% (5 votes)
the saxophone (other)
0% (4 votes)
THE HARMONICA (other)
0% (4 votes)
Cello as it is close to the human voice, yet requires fine motor skills and exercises the brain as do all string instruments (other)
0% (4 votes)
The Trumpet (other)
0% (4 votes)
Bassoon (other)
0% (3 votes)
mandolin (other)
0% (3 votes)
The Electric Bass Guitar (other)
0% (3 votes)
The mandolin. Duh! (other)
0% (3 votes)
cello - ddeply rich and resonates directly through to my heart (other)
0% (3 votes)
Flute because of its pure, clear tone. (other)
0% (3 votes)
Euphonium (or baritone horn, or tenor horn, or tenor tuba, depending on your region). The name means "beautiful sound". (other)
0% (3 votes)
Drums (other)
0% (3 votes)
Cello! It's just so smooth and earthy and deep and mellow and lovely (other)
0% (3 votes)
Bass (other)
0% (3 votes)
saxophone (other)
0% (3 votes)
ukulele (other)
0% (3 votes)
Bass as it can contribute both to the rhythm and harmony of a piece (other)
0% (3 votes)
Electric bass (other)
0% (3 votes)
Celo (other)
0% (3 votes)
Veena is the best musical instrument I think there is, if you want to know why just go and listen to it. (other)
0% (3 votes)
Cello- most vocal string instrument. (other)
0% (3 votes)
trumpet, there's a trumpet playing style for every personality. From macho(wo)man to the (fe)male side in us. (other)
0% (3 votes)
The Flute (other)
0% (3 votes)
The violin, because it is capable both of immense, sweeping passion, and soft peaceful melody. The musical spectrum of people. (other)
0% (3 votes)
Bass guitar (other)
0% (2 votes)
Saxaphone. It is expressive of emotions (other)
0% (2 votes)
Drums because they are provide the foundation of musical expression - rhythm. (other)
0% (2 votes)
one's lips, whistling! versatile, portable, requires little training, creates a charming visual picture (other)
0% (2 votes)
banjo (other)
0% (2 votes)
violin/fiddle (other)
0% (2 votes)
THE CELLO - uncannily emotive, velvet tone, enormous range (other)
0% (2 votes)
Cello--sounds most like human voice listen to Bloch's Shlomo) (other)
0% (2 votes)
shakuhachi - the mos beautiful sound of all (other)
0% (2 votes)
Double Bass (other)
0% (2 votes)
Cello. It produces a sweet, honeyed, but deeply grounded sound which evokes these emotions in the listener (other)
0% (2 votes)
The Clarinet (other)
0% (2 votes)
The bass clarinet. It carries a mellow tone throughout all octaves, and the lower register is mesmerizing. (other)
0% (2 votes)
THE OBOE (other)
0% (2 votes)
The oboe, bitchezzzzzzz (other)
0% (2 votes)
harpsichord (other)
0% (2 votes)
flugelhorn (other)
0% (2 votes)
The Pipe Organ (other)
0% (2 votes)
The pipe organ - no instrument can invoke such a range of sounds and be used in so many ways. Four strings and two hands? Bah! (other)
0% (2 votes)
The saxophone-it is its own voice (other)
0% (2 votes)
the kalimba (other)
0% (2 votes)
Tuba (other)
0% (2 votes)
Viola - the rich medium between the glittery sound of the violin and deep timbre of the cello. (other)
0% (2 votes)
viola (other)
0% (2 votes)
HURDY-GURDY (other)
0% (2 votes)
Oboe (other)
0% (2 votes)
Harmonica (other)
0% (2 votes)
Euphonium (other)
0% (2 votes)
Bamboo flute. One of the simplest instrument, yet produces beutiful, captivating music (other)
0% (2 votes)
Violin - because she's an inspiration for lots of people and it's one of the hardest instruments to play. (other)
0% (2 votes)
The violin - its got the beautifulest sound (other)
0% (2 votes)
the organ, a very complete, diversified instrument with pretty great impact (other)
0% (2 votes)
Trombone (other)
0% (2 votes)
ukulele. Love by Paul Harrison. Called by Zee Avi, "the most jovial instrument". Easy to begin, hard to perfect. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Oboe - The extreme purity of the tone. (other)
0% (1 vote)
The oboe - it's moody and peculiar, a little duck-like and nasal, certainly unique and melancholy among bland woodwinds. (other)
0% (1 vote)
PICCOLO (other)
0% (1 vote)
cello! (other)
0% (1 vote)
The vioin: it is transportable and can express every human feeling without words (other)
0% (1 vote)
The Cello - closest instrument to the human voice in range and color (the voice technically is not an instrument) (other)
0% (1 vote)
Percussion...the wide array of transcendental styles that comprise the family itself. (other)
0% (1 vote)
the organ because it is the only instrument which allows you to play multiple notes simultaneously for an extended period of tim (other)
0% (1 vote)
Violin, because the guitar is easily learned when one has a foundation of knowledge of a stringed instrument. (other)
0% (1 vote)
trumpet. Every note seems like a struggle - the instrument wants to run away and the player has to control. Such vivid tension. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Bandonion (other)
0% (1 vote)
Electric Guitar (other)
0% (1 vote)
Clarinet--The clarinet is the most versatile instrument, as it exhibits the broadest range of dynamics and style (other)
0% (1 vote)
banjo (5 string bluegrass - for its percussive, tuneful vibrancy + ability to merge the sounds of happiness with deep melancholy (other)
0% (1 vote)
The Drum (other)
0% (1 vote)
bassoon. not as often heard, not as easily forgotten. (other)
0% (1 vote)
The viola - it's the perfect blend of violin and cello (other)
0% (1 vote)
cello - it sounds most like the human voice but doesn't get all warbly (other)
0% (1 vote)
Djembre hand drum. Cuz it is easy to play, just keep banging till your instinctive rhythm come out (other)
0% (1 vote)
Pipe Organ: more than the piano,it opens up the world of music because,it can translate into sound the full range of harmony.. . (other)
0% (1 vote)
Flute (it's the closest to the human voice) (other)
0% (1 vote)
Percussion ! No percussion no time kepeer. All others self indulgent . (other)
0% (1 vote)
Ukulele (ultra portable and impossible not to be happy while playing) (other)
0% (1 vote)
english horn; sizzling butter (other)
0% (1 vote)
brain (other)
0% (1 vote)
CELLO. The richness and depth of sound that can be achieved on a cello is unparalleled. Also, it's range is the most pleasing. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Bayab (other)
0% (1 vote)
Cello. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Flute for its simplicity and versatility. The flute is used across all genres of music, from classical to hip-hop to jazz. (other)
0% (1 vote)
electric bass : mix between rythmic and melodic tool. Anchor of today structure: band/group. Base of all modern musical styles (other)
0% (1 vote)
The cello - because the sound it makes is beautiful (could there be any other reason for choosing an instrument?) (other)
0% (1 vote)
piano accordian; it's mobile, can be adapted to many genres, beloved of the working class (other)
0% (1 vote)
Ukulele - four strings in treble clef (except low G in tenors) make it highly flexible for both melody and chordal playing (other)
0% (1 vote)
the drum (other)
0% (1 vote)
THE TABLA (other)
0% (1 vote)
Harmonica - the Blues (other)
0% (1 vote)
Cello, Mellow tone, stringy sound. Wide range of repretoire. Loud, but not too loud. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Roland TB-303 Bassline (other)
0% (1 vote)
vibes their voice so rich in so many different types of music (other)
0% (1 vote)
Oboe. Beautiful sound that takes a tremdous amount of time to master. (other)
0% (1 vote)
drum (other)
0% (1 vote)
drum(s) and bass Hard to leave out rhythms both elemental and sophisticated as a basis for music (other)
0% (1 vote)
The Drums (other)
0% (1 vote)
computer, programmed to the player, by the player (other)
0% (1 vote)
cello - a haunting instrument that leaves one both melancholic and elated (other)
0% (1 vote)
Harp - due to its range and the fact that is a basis of the most influential instruments of all time - the piano (other)
0% (1 vote)
Violin for sheer range, melody and ability to draw emotion. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Saxaphone (other)
0% (1 vote)
oboe. It has an especial haunting quality. (other)
0% (1 vote)
violin (most similar to human voice but one need not be blessed with melodious vocal chords) (other)
0% (1 vote)
fiddle (other)
0% (1 vote)
mridangam (other)
0% (1 vote)
the bass (other)
0% (1 vote)
The Organ. an engineering feat. 'king of instruments'. huge range. multiple timbres. everyone's different etc (other)
0% (1 vote)
Hammond B3 Organ (other)
0% (1 vote)
Viola da gamba, the most voice-like instrument (other)
0% (1 vote)
Trumpet...bright and brilliant, the sound of triumph and heroism...or calm and mellow, the voice of pure beauty and emotion. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Double Bbass (other)
0% (1 vote)
My Instrument - Cus it feels good. (other)
0% (1 vote)
duduk-ancestor of clarinet and oboe and closest to human voice-most emotional and moving sound (other)
0% (1 vote)
The organ...not a Hammond...The King of Instruments (other)
0% (1 vote)
The harp. Ancient, universal, and a the stuff of dreams. (other)
0% (1 vote)
drum kit (other)
0% (1 vote)
eletric bass (other)
0% (1 vote)
The Conga Drums - more versatile in modern classical music now; has so many applications. (other)
0% (1 vote)
The Cello - it is the string instrument most similar to the timbre of the human voice: it touches the audience deeply (other)
0% (1 vote)
Viola...I play the viola. Ergo, it's the best. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Tenor Saxophone - sounds like the human voice but can't be sold out as easily (other)
0% (1 vote)
Trumpet because it is the most majestic! (other)
0% (1 vote)
Skin on a frame giving a heartbeat--the drum is us. (other)
0% (1 vote)
cello. all string instruments have the richest sound (in terms of spectrum, formants etc.) (other)
0% (1 vote)
The Sampler (other)
0% (1 vote)
cello- velvety, soul-stretching (other)
0% (1 vote)
the tuba and oncertos (other)
0% (1 vote)
The viola. Not shrill like the violin, not so deep as the cello, perfect. Mozart thought so too. (other)
0% (1 vote)
The Pedal-Steel Guitar. It has the widest range of any instrument, and has more customizing options than any instruement made. (other)
0% (1 vote)
the church organ because of its variety of voices and overwhelming and overpowering sound experience for the audience (other)
0% (1 vote)
Sitar (other)
0% (1 vote)
This is like "What is the best food?". Depends on what 'best' means. (other)
0% (1 vote)
The double bass surely. At home in classical, jazz, bluegrass. Felt as well as heard. And no shortage of gigs! (other)
0% (1 vote)
The Ukulele - it is the most fun to play and there is a real community of players. (other)
0% (1 vote)
TROMBONE - versatile, ability to present itself in many 'voices', the grandeur of a fanfare, and the subtlety of soft jazz (other)
0% (0 votes)
Total voters: 1403