What is a percussion instrument?
A percussion instrument is any musical instrument that’s played by being struck or scraped – that could be by a beater like a drum stick, by the player’s hand, or by another instrument.
As you might have guessed, that means this is an instrument family with a huge amount of variety, ranging from the triangle to large keyboard percussion instruments like the xylophone.
But broadly speaking, there are two types of percussion instrument: pitched and unpitched. Pitched percussion instruments produce notes that have an identifiable note or pitch. This type includes the keyboard percussion instruments. Unpitched instruments produce a sound that doesn’t have an identifiable pitch. This class include snare drums, most types of cymbals, maracas and castanets.
Percussion instruments are believed to be some of the oldest in the world because they’re the simplest to create and use – after the human voice. The first drums are believed to have existed before 6000BC.
Today, percussion soloists are expected to be able to play a large number of the instruments in the percussion family and some, like the great percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, even create their own.