Percussion Instruments

Percussion instruments are instruments that produce sounds by striking, hitting, scraping, or shaking. Every orchestra has a percussion section. This includes instruments such as snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, triangles, and tambourines, among the other non-percussion instruments. The key is that all percussion instruments keep a certain rhythm. In addition, they make specific sounds and add excitement and color to the orchestra’s atmosphere.

A percussionist tends to play more than one instrument for the same piece of music. Percussionists usually play rhythm as well as melody and harmony.

Rhythm: the Key to Percussion Instruments

Rhythm is an essential ingredient in the music universe. Think of how many of the natural systems have a certain rhythm! You find it in ocean waves, the phases of the moon, the seasons, and the movement of the planets. But, even closer to home, there is the rhythm of our beating hearts. Since the beginning of time, human beings have used their bodies as percussive techniques, and use striking sticks and stones to produce rhythm.

Given this, players refer to percussion as the backbone or heartbeat of a musical group. (Let us not forget that percussion instruments usually operate in collaboration with bass instruments.) This is to say, in essence, that percussion plays a crucial role in every music style. Current popular music involves a wide diversity of these instruments.

Pitched and Unpitched: the Classification

They can be classified into two groups: pitched and unpitched. The first produce musical notes with a recognizable pitch; the second, musical notes without it. Unpitched ones are generally used to provide rhythm or accents on a particular harmony or melody.


They can also be classified into percussion idiophones. These include most of this kind that need a hand or percussion hammer. Some examples of percussion idiophones are gongs, hangs, and xylophones.