Drums and Percussion Musical Instruments

A variety of factors help determine the most appropriate type of drums and percussions to choose from before making a purchase. Therefore, it is important to know the different types available in the market and what they are specifically meant for. In addition, having some basic knowledge on the history of any musical instrument provides a better experience.

Drums are actually examples of percussions, which refer to musical instruments that produce sound when rubbed, shaken or hit. According to some historians and anthropologists, percussions were the first musical instruments humans invented.

The percussion instruments are grouped into different categories depending on how they are used and the type of sound they produce. The two main categories are membraphones and idiophones.


Membraphones are also known as rhythmic percussions. They have different types of skin that players hit with other objects, including their own hands, drumsticks, soft mallets and brushes. Most of the membraphones do not have definite pitch. Examples of rhythmic percussions are drum sets and timpani.

Drum sets were initially assembled towards the end of the 1800s. The bass drum pedal that had been invented by then enabled one person to play a number of instruments simultaneously. New techniques were developed as more instruments were included in the drum set. Basically, a drum set refers to a group of percussion instruments that one musician plays.

The largest of these instruments is the bass drum, which produces a deep, low sound. It produces this sound when the drum head is hit by a beater that is attached to a foot pedal.

The snare drum, which is made of a shallow cylinder and band of metal wires, produces a higher-pitched sound that is quite distinctive. Sound is generated by pulling the wires across the drum’s bottom head. Depending on how it is played, the snare drum produces either a snapping or buzzing sound.

Timpani, on the other hand, is made of either fiberglass or copper in the shape of a kettle, with a drumhead on top. The player can adjust the drumhead’s tension using a pedal mechanism; thus changing the pitch produced. As a result, it is the only type of drum that produces definite musical notes. Timpani can also be hit with mallets to produce a deeper tone and they are usually played in groups of two or four.

Other instruments in this group include the tabla, tom-tom, octoban, darbuka, bongos and congas. Membraphones are basically the drums, whether they are manual or electronic.


These instruments are often made of a single type of material and they produce sound on their own. Some of the materials used include metal, wood and bone. These musical instruments are also known as melodic percussions.

A good example of melodic percussion is the xylophone, which is made of wooden bars of varying sizes. Mallets are used to strike the bars to generate the required sound.

The South-east Asians were already using xylophones by the 1300s and their use later spread to Europe, Latin America and Africa. The first time a xylophone was used in an orchestra was in 1874, in ‘Dance Macabre’ by Camille Saint-Saens who was a French composer.

Other Percussion Instruments:

Different types of musical instruments also fall under percussions, among of which are cymbals, triangles, gongs, maracas and tambourine. Some interesting things are associated with the instruments. For instance, the tambourine used to be a woman’s instrument during prehistoric times and it is still regarded as such in Islamic nations.

Some of the things determining the choice of instruments include musical genre, financial circumstances and personal preferences.

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