History of Percussion Instruments
There are few certainties about the percussion family. No one can
say how many instruments it contains; few have agreed on playing
techniques; and few could name one orchestral piece specifically written
with percussion in mind. However, one thing is certain, percussion has been
shown over time that it is not merely a matter of beating out rhythm (“
History of Percussion” 1). The family of percussion instruments is the
first musical instrumentation introduced to the world. To this date there
are countless percussion instruments. Each group of instruments has a
different ethnic origin and history in different societies. From the
shallow drums of fourth century B. C. to the giant cot rattles of the
fifteenth century, percussion instruments have had a unique history.
Percussion instruments have had an extensive background on many
factors of their sound, and playing style. All percussion instruments fall
into two main categories, idiophones and membranophones. Idiophones
produce their sound from vibrations without the use of a stretched membrane.
This could include castanets, rattles, and mallet instruments.
Membranophones are those that produce a sound from the vibrations of a
stretched membrane. These include any type of drum hit with a stick. Both
of these instruments are tunable in many different ways and forms;
therefore, these instruments can be used as melodic instruments (“
Basic idiophones (also refereed to as concussion instruments) are
struck together. This includes clappers, cymbals, stones, and castanets.
Percussive idiophones are hit by nonsonorous strikers. These types of
instruments include gongs, triangles, and xylophones. Shaken idiophones
were usually cups or shells that contained rattles or pellets, the shaking
of the shells and cups produced a sound. There are many other idiophones
including scraped, split, and plucked kinds. (“Percussion” 653). These
certain instruments are very important in the percussive arts field.
Membranophones are commonly referred to as just drums. They fall
into many categories such as kettledrums, bowl shaped drums, tubular drums,
friction drums, and mirlitons. Kettledrums and tubular drums are sometimes
tunable drums that can be played with hands or beaters. Friction drums are
rubbed together to produce their sound. Rattle drums have pellets enclosed
within to membranes that produce a different sound when the membranes are
hit. Mirlitons are those that the membranes are vibrated by the voice;
some think that these are not true musical instruments (“Percussion” 658).
Many though think that these instruments are the most energizing and
driving instruments of all musical instruments.
The history of idiophones dawns very early in civilization.
Clappers were the earliest forms of idiophones. The Sumerians used these
clappers in 3000 BC. Later on, Phoenicia derived...