Important Information On Percussion

A percussion instrument is defined as any object that is struck, scraped, or moved upon by, or with, another object to create a sound. Percussion instruments were among the first used by humans as they required no real construction; any two objects could be found and then used by early humans to create a myriad of sounds and tonal qualities. While the first instruments were simple, they eventually evolved into the drum after humans had developed skills in tanning animal hides for drum heads, as well as clothing and shelter.

The drum as modern society knows it has been in existence since 6000 B.C. and was used in cultures all over the world. In some cultures drums were a sign of royalty and were gifted to other tribes or civilizations. Drums have been seen in cave drawings and have been used as a type of book for keeping history and events recorded in a society.

As the drum progressed, it led to other percussive instruments such as the guitar and piano. These are pitched percussion instruments in that they produce a tone and not just a sound. Due to the fact that guitars and pianos make sounds because they are struck with a hammer, in the case of a piano, and with the hand or pick, for the guitar, these are percussion instruments.

The imagination of humans has led to the development and invention of a wide variety of percussion instruments form the drum to the piano, and from the guitar to the xylophone. In medieval Europe drums, particularly the snare drum, were used to send instructions to soldiers on the battlefield and to sound an advance. A few other percussion instruments that most would not think of are bells, clavichord, harp and chimes.

Bass Drum
- is a percussive instrument with a low indefinite or definite pitch and can be referred to as a kick drum as well. This is the largest drum of any given orchestra, and is usually played in tandem with other sized bass drums in marching bands.

Celeste - is a keyboard instrument that uses keys connected to hammers that strike metal, usually steel, plates that are allowed to resonate over wood.

- cymbals have their origins in ancient Egypt and have changed little in over three thousand years. They are made from varying kinds and alloys of metal and are extensively used in rock music, as well as marching bands and concert orchestras. Some of the types of cymbals are as follows: crash, ride, hi-hat, splash, and sizzle. The gong is considered to be a type of cymbal by some in the music world.

- is of Asian origin and are made from a variety of metals, it is the Asian version of the cymbal being hit with a mallet or long stick; three forms of gongs exist and are as follows: suspended gongs, bossed gongs, and bowl gongs.

Hammered Dulcimer
- is a stringed instrument consisting of strings stretched across a trapezoidal sound board. The player uses hammers to hit the strings and the instrument is usually set on a stand and at an angle.

Marimba - made of wooden bars that are cut to different sizes in order to produce different tones and pitches. The marimba, sometimes referred to as a kalimba in Africa, is hit with small hammers by its player.

Orchestra Bells
- or glockenspiel is a small instrument made from varying length bars made from metal and struck with mallets or hammers to produce tones. Mallets are typically made of rubber or plastic but historically were made from wood wrapped in a fabric.

Steel Drums - also called steel pans are made from 55 gallon drums that oil is shipped in and originates from Trinidad. The drums, although technically they are considered idiophones, are tuned by making small impressions in the metal to varying tones and pitches; they are usually tuned chromatically.

Taiko Drum - means drum in Japanese. These drums are made from, typically speaking, keyaki wood and have material either stretched or nailed to the drum to create the head or the material is attached to metal rings and then laced into each other for tension. Taiko drums have become the generic term for all Japanese drums.

Tom-Tom Drum
- is a cylindrical drum with no snare most commonly seen in rock music, but has its origins in Native American and Asian cultures as a form of communication.


Musical Instrument List

Musical Instrument Acoustics

Musical Library of Washington University

Bizarre Musical Instruments

Edinburgh University Musical Instruments Lists

Percussive Instrument Lists

Other Percussion Instruments

Percussive Family of Instruments


Persian Percussion