Published on February 22, 2014
PERCUSSION INSTRUMENT A percussion instrument is a musical instrument that is sounded by being struck or scraped by a beater (including attached or enclosed beaters or rattles); struck, scraped or rubbed by hand; or struck against another similar instrument. The percussion family is believed to include the oldest musical instruments, following the human voice.
Function Percussion instruments may play not only rhythm, but also melody and harmony. Percussion is commonly referred to as "the backbone" or "the heartbeat" of a musical ensemble, often working in close collaboration with bass instruments, when present.
DRUM SET The first drum sets were put together in the late 1800s sometime after the invention of the bass drum pedal. This invention made it possible for one person to play several percussion instruments (snare drum, bass drum, and cymbals) at one time.
BASS DRUM This drum is the largest member of the set and is played by using a foot pedal attached to a beater which then strikes the drum head. This drum produces a low deep sound. SNARE DRUM This shallow, cylindrical drum produces a sound that is very distinctive to the drum (higher in pitch than the bass drum). The snares, which are bands of metal wires, are pulled across the bottom head of the drum.
CYMBALS Cymbals are made of various combinations of metals and are usually six to twenty-two inches in diameter. The most important cymbals in the drum set are: Hi-hat- this horizontally mounted pair of cymbals can either be hit with a stick or closed on each other with a foot pedal. Crash cymbal and ride cymbal- two commonly used cymbals in a drum set. Both are hit with sticks and, depending on their size, produce varied sounds. Tom-toms- a drum set usually has three tom-toms. One is on the floor and the other the other two are mounted on the bass drum.
TIMPANI The timpani is often called a kettledrum because it is shaped like a kettle. The timpani has a large copper or fiberglass shell with a single drumhead. It also has a pedal mechanism which allows the musician to adjust the tension of the drumhead, thereby tuning the drum to different pitches.
OTHER PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS There are many instruments included in the percussion family commonly known as "toys". Some examples of these would be: cymbals, triangle, gong, maracas, tambourine, and hand drums.
CYMBAL Cymbals, thin round concave plates (usually made from copper-tin alloy), have been known since the Middle Ages. Often used in religious ceremonies, they became part of the orchestra around the 18th century and are played by dashing two together or by being struck separately by beaters.
TRIANGLE The triangle is another commonly used percussion instrument. The instrument is made by bending a steel rod into a triangle shape with an opening at one corner. It is suspended by a string and struck with a steel beater to produce a tone.
GONG The gong is a bronze disk which, when struck by a beater, produces a rich ringing sound. Many gongs have a central dome and a turned down outside rim. The gong has obscure origins in the Middle East or South East Asia and by the 9th century had migrated to Indonesia.
TAMBOURINE A tambourine is a single-headed frame drum that has jingling metal disks set in its frame. It can be struck, shaken, or rubbed to produce a tone.
MARACAS Maracas are egg-shaped musical rattles that are played in pairs. They originated in South America and were first made from dried gourd shells that were filled with beans or beads.
XYLOPHONE The xylophone is a mallet percussion instrument. It consists of a set of graduated wooden bars which are hit with mallets to produce a tone. Xylophones were used in Southeast Asia during the 1300s and spread to Africa, Latin America, and Europe.
HARP The harp is a stringed instrument and produces a sound by plucking the strings which are perpendicular to the body of the instrument. The strings themselves run between a neck and a sound box also known as the body or resonator.
Arched Harp - the neck and body form a bow-like curve. Angular Harp - the body and neck form a right angle. Frame Harp - has a third piece called a forepillar which is placed opposite the neck and body creating a triangle
STRING INSRUMENTS String instruments may be played with or without a bow. These instruments produce sound when strummed, plucked, struck or slapped. Under the SachsHornbostel system, these instruments are classified as chordophones.
BANJO A banjo is a stringed instrument that is played using different techniques such as the Scruggsstyle or the "clawhammer". It also comes in different types and some manufacturers even experimented on other forms by blending the banjo with another instrument.
CELLO The cello is essentially a large violin but its body is thicker. It is played the same way as the violin, by rubbing the bow across the strings. But if you can play the violin standing up, the cello is played sitting down while holding it between your legs.
DOUBLE BASS This instrument is like a huge cello and is played the same way, by rubbing the bow across the strings. Another way of playing it is by plucking or striking the strings. The double bass may be played while standing up or sitting down.
GUITAR The origin of guitars may have dated back to 1900-1800 B.C. in Babylonia. Archaeologists found a clay plaque showing nude figures holding musical instruments, some of which resembled the guitar.
HARP The harp is one of the oldest musical instruments; archaeologists discovered a wall painting in Ancient Egyptian tombs which resembled that of a harp and dates back to 3000 BC.
LUTE The lute is another musical instrument popularly used during the Medieval Period and still very much enjoyed to this day. The lute is quite a beautiful instrument, both aesthetically and tonally.
MANDOLIN The mandolin is a plucked string instrument believed to have evolved from the lute and emerged during the 18th century. It has a pear-shaped body and 4 pairs of strings. The mandolin is another musical instrument that belongs to the string family.
UKULELE The ukulele is one of Hawaii's most popular musical instruments. It became more widely used during the 20th century and popularized by musicians such as Eddie Karnae and Jake Shimabukuro. The ukulele is like a small guitar but its tone is much lighter.
VIOLA The viola may look like a violin but it certainly has its own unique tone. It is tuned a fifth lower than the violin and functions as the tenor instrument in a string ensemble. Violas didn't enjoy immediate prominence when it first emerged.
VIOLIN The violin is believed to have evolved from the Rebec and the Lira da braccio. In Europe, the earliest four stringed violin was used in the first part of the century.
ZITHER These instruments can be bowed, plucked or struck with wooden mallets. The earliest types of zithers were called "ground zithers" before it evolved into "board zithers." Zithers have no necks; its strings are stretched from one end of the board to the other.
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