Percussion – Xylophone

November 17, 2006



Xylophones are used for special sound effects and sometimes for solo playing.  This instrument can be traced by to similar instruments used by oriental and Slavic people.  The early xylophones were constructed from glass or pinewood.  Now the wooden bars are typically made from rosewood.  The tone is created when these bars are struck by mallets.  The first xylophones were made without resonators and produced a higher pitch than marimba.  However, Xylophones now incorporate metal resonators in construction.




Percussion – Triangle

November 17, 2006


In the 14th century triangles were used in Europe.  The term was first used in 1589.  This instrument is made from a steel rod shaped into a triangle.  The triangle is hung from a string and hit with a steel beater.




Percussion – Timpani

November 17, 2006


Timpani are also called kettledrums.  One drumhead, made from calfskin is placed over a globe.  This is the only drum that can be adjusted to a definite pitch.  The pitch can be altered by changing the screws which keep the head in place.  A few timpani have petals, which allow for faster changes in tone.  There are typically two globes constructed from brass or copper.  Padded sticks are used, and different sticks create various tones.



Percussion – Tamborine

November 17, 2006


Tambourines are used in orchestras and by folk dancers.  This instrument is made from a wooden hoop with metal disks attached.  A skin is stretched across one side of the hoop.  There is no definite pitch and the sound is produced by shaking or striking the instrument.





Percussion – Snare Drum

November 17, 2006


Drums are the oldest musical instrument known to man.  Throughout history drums have been used as a way to communicate, ceremonial dances, and in battlefield.  This instrument is constructed by using an open cylinder which has two drumheads.  A drumhead, which is a skin, is placed across the opening.  The dimension of a snare drum is 14 or 15 inches across and 5 to 10 inches deep.  Located inside the drum are strings of wire called snares.  Two wooden sticks are used to tap the drumhead.  The snares vibrate to create an incisive tone.



Percussion – Gong

November 17, 2006

Gongs are created from bronze and produce a deep tone.  These round flat pieces of metal are struck with a hammer or mallet.  Size, pitch, and tone can differ from each gong.  First documented in writings produced by the Chinese in 500’s A.D., they were then brought to
Europe in the late Middle Ages.




Percussion – Brass Drum

November 17, 2006


Made from wood, brass drums have an indefinite pitch.  The breadth diameter is two times the span of the cylinder.  Metal tension rods are used to keep the drumhead in position, which may be tightened to increase resonance.  A beater that is wrapped with felt or sheep’s wool is used by the player.  Used in marching bands the base drum creates deep, full tones.