Patent for musical instruments — what you need to know and past examples

Dvorah Graeser
3 min readApr 23, 2019


The world of music is a place where we’ve seen considerable innovation, even if most IP protections in this industry fall under copyrights. One of the rare elements in music involving patents includes creating musical instruments, something you may think has no market today.

In truth, there’s still a lot of musical inventions, if mostly innovations to improve existing instruments used for decades. Even if you’ve invented an all-new musical instrument, it may not mean it’s going to move into mainstream use.

Regardless, you still need to protect your ideas since you never know when it might take off. You’ll find some examples in music history where famous musicians patented musical inventions under their own accord. Some of these just refined what already existed, however, to demonstrate what’s most common.

Here’s what you need to know about patenting musical instruments as a unique entrepreneurial opportunity.

The Main Criteria For Filing A Patent

Since creating a musical instrument is truly an invention, you’ll have to classify your patent as a novelty. As mentioned, most patents in this field become granted to those who improve known instrument construction. This ranges from pianos to woodwinds.

Even electronic musical instruments have continual new inventions added to them thanks to inventors. Keyboards and electric guitars have had numerous improvements over the years as well based on practical new features.

Once you decide to file a patent, you’ll want to know what classification to file under. This is known as Class D17, which covers keyboards, wind instruments, strings, print, percussion, mechanical, and miscellaneous.

While these are all well-known instruments, it’s still possible to invent esoteric ones, no matter if you have a strong market for them.

Learning From Past Musical Instrument Patents

As with all patents, you need to write an effective description to describe the novelty of your instrument. While you should try to keep this as brief as you can, you’ll find some ways forward by studying how past musical instrument inventors wrote their descriptions.

This is going to also involve sketches to demonstrate what the instrument looks like. You’ll discover how far back innovation goes in this field by merely studying patent descriptions from the 19th and 20th century.

As an example, a patent given out in 1880 for a double-necked dulcimer gives you some visual references for creating a clear sketch. Back then, it involved illustrating the internal parts and placing notes in various places to indicate how it’s built.

The same goes for the first guitar truss ever patented in 1923. In the original sketch, each piece was clearly delineated with numbers, plus an accompanying annotation sheet to indicate individual parts.

Even with unique patented instruments like a 1934 pitchfork instrument, the sketch includes a user representation for better reference.

To give you more inspiration, you’ll want to look at some of the surprising patents added to modern instruments, all thanks to notable names.

Showing What’s Possible With Musical Innovations

We sometimes take musical instruments for granted, yet rock icon names like Eddie Van Halen managed to create and patent a musical instrument support device. His creation let a musician play an electric guitar without having to hold it in their hands.

An idea like this shows how existing ideas can become improved with some smart thinking. In many cases, it involves surprising names you don’t expect. Marlon Brando is another case from the above link who patented a “Drumhead Tensioning Device and Method” for conga drums. The device allowed automatic tuning on the drum to add convenience for a drummer.

All of these innovations should give you an inspiring path forward to do the same and seek patents without trepidation.

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Dvorah Graeser

CEO of KISSPatent, providing strategic patent protection for tech startups