Shopping For Percussion

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    Percussion drum sets are a popular component of musical groups across many styles. Individual components
       of the drum sets are used in orchestral compositions and these drum sets are also used in rock bands.
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                                                       Shopping For Percussion
                                                              By Leon Groom

    Percussion is one of the ancient musical instruments used by early human civilizations. These
instruments are widely used not only for musical purposes but also as a symbol of cultural and
religious values. Before shopping for percussion instruments it is always advisable to understand them

All percussion instruments fall under two broad groups tuned and untuned. Shakers and hand drums
that produce undefined pitches belong to untuned category where as marimbas, steel pans, and
xylophone that creates defined tonal ranges falls under tuned category. Today a variety of percussion
instruments are available in the market.

It is widely believed that the percussion instruments are originated from African continent symbolizing
their ancient culture. Djembe is one of the earliest versions of percussions. It is basically a large
goblet-shaped drum carved of wood and fitted with animal skin. This instrument is played using bare
hands and sometimes with sticks. Djembe is gaining popularity among western music lovers recently.

The thumb piano is a melodic percussion musical instrument having a carved wooden body and
flattened nails or similar metals as keys. Tama or talking drum is tied with vertical strings across the
body to produce changed pitches. It is believed to talk with skilled players while playing with curved

Udu is a pot shaped percussion instrument made of clay with narrow mouth and a hole in the side. This
instrument is played by beating the clay surface in one hand and moving the other hand on the hole
and mouth producing magnificent sound effects. Gadam is a similar type of clay instrument widely
used in Indian subcontinent while performing carnatic classical music.

Congas are the widely used Afro Cuban originated percussion musical instrument. Originally congas
were made of wood staves and calfskin heads. Synthetic and fiberglass shells are used in modern
congas which results in louder volume projection. Congas are normally associated with other two types
of drums named tumba and quinto. Usually these three instruments come as a set and are kept in
conga gig bags or cases for better performance.

Bongos are another kind of small hand drums originated from Cuba and are played in sitting position
keeping the instrument between the legs. Timbales were originally iron vessels used in transporting

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sugarcanes. Steel or brass is used in modern timbales to produce powerful cutting tone which is
suitable for any music styles like rock, Latin and fusion.

The xylophone is a kind of tuned percussion instrument made of wooden bars of various lengths with
vibrating tubes below them with piano like keyboards.

Wooden, rubber or plastic headed mallets are used to play such instruments. Xylophones are used in
variety of music styles including ethnic, jazz and classical.

Leon Groom writes about

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                                    You Can’t Have Good Music Without Percussion
                                                            By Lavinia Snider

 Percussion instruments are very old and have quite a history. Often used in folk music, these
instruments add variety and a rural charm to music. In India for example, two pieces of flat metal are
struck to form a bell like sound. This form of instrument is used in temples and prayer places across
the country. Other popular percussions instruments include the drum, piano and xylophone.

All percussion instruments can be divided into two major and broad categories. Membranophone,
which add tambour to the sound of being struck like drums and idiophones, which sound of themselves
like triangles. The division can also be made on tuning basis and other sub groups. For example, some
instruments can be tuned while the others can not.

Percussionists are also called upon to play other instruments that may not be percussive in nature.
These instruments include police sirens, glass harmonica, lion's roar and wind machines. As
percussionists play such a wide variety of instruments generating so many different types of melodies,
they are usually the most skilled in the music industry.

Percussive instruments are the heart of a musical performance. It is difficult to name 3 or 4 songs from
the classical or pop charts, which do not use percussive instruments. Since the times of the earliest
composers like Mozart, all compositions include at least one pair of timpani's playing in the

Some instruments like the xylophones are a pleasure to listen to. They sound like tinkling fountains in
beautiful gardens. Bringing out the romantic side in us. There is another instrument where you strike at
bottles filled with different levels of water that give forth delightful sounds.

If we talk of jazz, the high hats are easily associated in our minds. The ride cymbals are another
percussion based instruments we look for in a jazz song. Even in military bands, soldiers can not keep
time with out a bass drum.

No rock group today is complete without percussive instruments. All the bands a complete drum kit and
several other percussive instruments. Pink Floyd used percussive instruments to great effect in their
songs dealing with sci fi worlds and fantasy music.

Various cultures have there own percussive instruments. As I said earlier, the Indian bells are a
classical example. In the west, gongs are untuned percussive instruments used in churches and other
important occasions. As cultures have evolved, so has this category of instruments.

Through their diversity and wide choice, percussion instruments are the back bone of every musical
ensemble. The players are brilliant and multi faceted people who can take up and play different
instruments at will. The piano experts like Yanni are percussionists after all. An ensemble with full
percussion is a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to hear. Chances are good that you have never
heard music with out some sort of percussion accompaniment. They are the finishing touch on a great

Lavinia Snider is the editor of Drums And More. A meeting place for music enthusiasts with forums, - Make Up To $150/hr
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