Blog #37
Blog #37: Instrument of the week
Percussion Family

Percussion Instruments

For the last four weeks, we are going to look at the four major families of instruments, to cover the broader topic, and more instruments before the year is out.  This week we will be looking at the percussion family of instruments.
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Overview

Percussion instruments are instruments which are played by shaking or hitting. There are many different kinds of percussion instruments. A person who plays a percussion instrument is a percussionist. Percussionists are usually able to play lots of different percussion instruments, because the basic skills required are similar.

Some percussion instruments can play tunes. These are called “tuned percussion”. Tuned percussion instruments include: xylophone, glockenspiel, vibraphone, tubular bells, and timpani.

Untuned percussion instruments include: bass drum, side drum (snare drum), maracas, castanets, cymbals, tambourine, claves and many more.

In an orchestra there can be more different kind of percussion instruments than in the other families (string, woodwind, and brass instruments). However, older music does not often use lots of percussion. Most music for orchestra by composers like Mozart and Beethoven only use the timpani. In the 19th century, more percussion is added: cymbals, tambourine, triangle etc. In the 20th century, some composers may use very many percussion instruments.

Whenever any unusual instrument is used that does not fit into the category of string, woodwind, brass or keyboard, it is usually played by a percussionist. Sometimes composers have used things like typewriters, milk bottles or vacuum cleaners in their pieces.

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Common Percussion instruments in the U.S.

NOTE: there are an almost unlimited amount of percussion instruments, as almost anything can make a percussive sound, so the instruments in the next two Sections only scratch the surface of the list of percussion instruments.  

Snare drum
Snare drum

Bass Drum
Bass drum


Cymbals
Cymbals

Tambourine
Tambourine


Triangle
Triangle

Congas
Congas

Bongos
Bongos

Drum set
Drum set


Marimba
Marimba

Vibraphone
Vibraphone

Xylophone
Xylophone

Glockenspiel
Glockenspiel


Piano
Piano
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Some Percussion instruments from around the globe

Taiko Drum
Taiko

Cajon
Cajon

Guiro
Guiro

Maracas
Maracas

Singing Bowls
Singing bowl

Steel Drums
Steel Drum

Kalimba
Kalimba

Darbuka
Darbuka

Djembe
Djembe

Parai
Parai

Tabla
Tabla

Hammered Dulcimer
Hammered Dulcimer

Udu
Udu

Castanets
Castanets

Tamtam/Gong
Tamtam/Gong

Bodhran
Bodhran

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Links


Percussion Instrument Breakdown

List of percussion instruments

How percussion instruments work

All about percussion instruments
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Respond

Click this link to respond to the questions below

If you had to pick one of the instruments listed, which one would you be most interested in? Why?

Pick two of the instruments listed above and compare and contrast them. How do they sound similar? How do they sound different? What are the major differences in how they are built or played?