Percussion instruments

Percussion instruments make up the largest part of an orchestra. These instruments include any other instrument that makes a sound when struck, shaken, or scraped. Some percussion instruments are tuned and may sound different notes, such as the xylophone, kettle drum or piano, and some do not have a defined tone, such as the bass drum or cymbals. Percussion instruments are responsible for maintaining the proper rhythm, emitting special sounds and adding a little emotion and color to music.

What are percussion instruments?

They are the instruments that produce a sound when they are hit with the hand, rapper or some instrument made for this purpose, such as drum sticks, and they are responsible for maintaining music' rhythm.

Characteristics of the percussion instruments


Percussion musical instruments were the first instruments used in human history, basically since prehistoric times. At that time, these instruments were used to fill everyday aspects of life, such as hunting and games. Drums are found in almost every culture in the world and have existed since before 6000 B.C. Over time, they have been associated with ceremonies, sacred and symbolic. Scientists have managed to find during several expeditions, some clay drums and animal bones that were used for this purpose. When Constantinople was conquered by Turks, they began using some percussion instruments such as triangles and drums. They also played a very important role in medieval Europe and the Renaissance era. The drum and its relatives were used during wars, to send coded instructions to the soldiers.

Classification of the percussion instruments

Percussion instruments can be seen from two points of view, the musical and structural.

From the musical point of view we can classify them in:

From a structural point of view, there are three different types:


Wooden percussion instruments

Its sound cannot be distinguished. Among the percussion instruments made of wood we can mention the castanets and percussion sticks that produce their sound crashing their parts; the maracas that have small components inside the instrument; and the guiro, made of cane with small grooves by which a stick of wood or another material is rubbed.

Metal percussion instruments

They are also idiophone instruments and as their name indicates they are made of metal. For example, we can mention saucers, gong, triangles, bells and bells.

With membrane

This group of instruments includes the instruments known as membranophones which produce their sound through tight membranes. Within this group we can mention the timpani, that can be tuned and produce certain frequencies and are a semi-oval box made of copper or bronze with a parchment membrane on it being held by a metal ring; the bass drum is a large drum that produces a well-defined bass sound.


They produce an indeterminate sound and some of their notes cannot be identified. Among them, we have cymbals or plates which have a circular shape with a leather or skin string in the center; the bell is usually hit by a clapper hanging inside; the triangle which produces a sound from the metal vibration of which it is made.

Without membrane

They are also known as idiophones. They have their own sound since they use their own body to produce it through vibrations, they do not use strings, membranes or air. They are generally made of wood, metal or stone. Among them we can mention castanets and xylophones.

African Instruments

Among them we can mention:


An orchestra is a group of musicians who perform musical works by means of different instruments. The word comes from the Greek and has as meaning place to dance. The orchestra is made up of different groups of instruments such as strings, woods, metals and percussion.

Written by Gabriela Briceño V.

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