Percussion instruments: Drumming to the beat of your own music

The most popular forms of modern percussion instruments are the drum and piano. Percussion instruments are different from other instruments because they produce sounds that are more consistent with booms, bangs and pings (like the triangle) rather than whistles or plucks as in horns and guitars.

Referred to simply as percussion instruments, they are divided into two board categories, the Mebranophone and Idophone, each of which produce a distinct “timing beat” or sound. Division of them into a sub group of percussion instrument is loosely based on their tuning capabilities – one can be tuned (keyboard types, like a piano) and one cannot (like a drum).

Percussion instruments have quite a colorful history because they were often used in folk music and added a kind of charm to rustic rural communities. Fun and cheap to play and listen to, they have an almost childlike flair that is not seen in other orchestral and string type instruments.

Modern pop and rock music would not be what it is today without the addition of percussion instruments because it the drum and keyboard sounds and beats that bands and other musicians use for timing purposes. A beat or sound produced from a drum or keyboard is what often creates the melody in which stringed musicians follow, singers key into and dancers move to.

You could say that while drummers and keyboardists move to their own beat, everyone moves to the beat of a percussionist.

Percussionists can often play other instruments because they can easily adapt due to their uncanny ability to keep to the beat, but the same cannot be said for other musicians because they are often simply re-producing notes rather than keeping beats.

To further stress the point, it would be almost impossible for you to name a modern pop, rock, classical or jazz song that does not use some form of percussive instrument in its composition. Even master composers like Mozart and Bach included at least one, even if it was playing far away in the background. The unmistakable high hat sound in a Jazz tune can be heard in almost every blues song and it is a well known fact that military bands cannot keep time without the assistance of a bass drum.

One of the most famous rock bands, Pink Floyd used percussion instruments to create futuristic effects in a majority of their songs. It is rumoured that they enjoyed experimenting with the sounds they produced more than actually playing the songs.

It is not hard to see how important percussion instruments where in different cultures and time periods throughout history. They are the back bone of most melodies and songs that we can recognize today.  There is nothing more historic than the sound of native drums being played in cultural ceremonies around the world.

These sounds instantly remind us of our ancestry and bring back memories of times when as a child, we spent hours in the kitchen banging on pots and pans learning to produce sounds of our own.

Playing professionally is one thing, but no one can deny how fun it is to pound on a table or stamp your feet on the ground during a rendition of the song, “We will rock you.” It is in the percussion in that song that makes you feel compelled to do so.

Who knew percussion instruments were so interesting?