The History of Percussion

This website will attempt to deliver general information about the contemporary percussion section and its common instruments. This includes the general percussion instruments used in common wind and orchestral ensembles, as well as those used in more percussion-specific groups. This site takes advantage of the Real Player, and Quicktime files as well. Clicking pictures of instruments sometimes yields an appropriate sound file.

The following is a GENERAL list of characteristics that correspond to most of the standard percussion instruments (exceptions always exist):

  • all pitched instruments are non-transposing, except by octave on occasion
  • sound is produced by practically any means, orally-driven air being the least common method (whistles and sound effects)
  • most instruments comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, or types, and mass production is not always conducive to 100% cloning
  • almost every contemporary instrument used today is a derivative of an older instrument, and is still under development or improvement
  • many instruments require a mounting device and\or piece of hardware in order to play
  • many instruments require a stick, mallet, hand-stroke, or collision to produce sound
  • percussion instruments fall into these categories:
    • idiophones - instruments that produce sound through the vibration of their entire body (cymbals, triangles, shakers, keyboards)
    • membranophones - instruments that produce sound through a vibrating membrane (head)
    • chordophones - instruments that produce sound via the vibration of a string(s) stretched over or through a resonating chamber (cimbalom, zither, piano)
    • aerophones - instruments that produce sound via the vibration of an enclosed air column (whistles etc.)