Percussion Instruments: The Ultimate Percussion Instrument List

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Have you ever heard a beat and wondered which instrument was that? This is a situation many music lovers get themselves into. Most people think that the only instrument is a drum. If they’re thinking of percussion, they’ll probably think of cymbals or gongs. However, many instruments fall under the category of percussion.

What is the Percussion Instrument?

Percussion instruments are sound-producing musical instruments that produce sound through the application of one or more resonant objects. The word comes from Latin percussion, meaning “a striking”. Percussion instruments are most commonly classified as either membranophones or idiophones.

Percussion instruments are an essential part of any band or orchestra, and the list found in this article shows you just how versatile they can be. From the piano-like xylophone to the ratchet-sounding guiro to the steady sound of the timpani, there is a percussion instrument for every occasion.

Percussion instruments can also be used in other genres like jazz or electronic music, which you’ll see in the blog post. Find out more in this article.


Drums are played by slapping, pulling, or pushing the drumhead with one’s hand. A person who drums is called a drummer. Drummers can play a variety of different instruments and may use both hands to play the drums. Drums are often used in types of music genres and dance. They range in size and use across the world and are used in many styles of music.


In some traditions, young men and women practice drums to achieve a particular tradition or as a form of leisure activity. Drums are often used in religious ceremonies, traditional ceremonies have the goal of sending out certain feelings or ideas. Drums are also used in situations to keep time, maintain rhythm, or accompany dances.

Drums are often used by big bands and jazz groups. The drum set is the most widely used drum kit and consists of a mix of drums and hardware available as a unit.

Expert Tip: In the 2000s, digital instruments have been coupled with software modules that enable drummers to create sounds, with the advent of sampling technology, drums can be created or modified without using drumsets and in some cases, drum machines.

Each type of drum will lead to different ways of organizing rhythms, which may then be transcribed into sheet music, or played with drum machines or by a human player.


A snare is a type of drum with wires on the head that can be tightened to change the tone. Snare drums are typically used in orchestral music. The snare drum is the smallest and lowest-pitched of all drums, but it is also one of the most commonly used.


The snare drum’s tensioned head produces more close-sounding tones than any other part of the kit or anything else.


Cymbals are hand-held percussion instruments. They consist of a series of thin metal plates that are struck and deformed with sticks, brushes, or mallets. Cymbals are generally played in a set pattern during performances and have a more percussive quality than other musical instruments.

A cymbal pair is a pair of cymbals that are played simultaneously by the same player in a session or piece. The term is derived from the Greek word kumbalion which means “bell”. The cymbals are typically the second and third-highest sounding instruments in a drum kit.

Cymbals are an important part of the drum kit and are used to provide a wide variety of rhythmic and musical effects.


A tambourine is a small handheld drum with jingles mounted in the frame. It is usually made of wood or plastic but can be made out of any material. Tambourines originated in Egypt. It has been an instrument for many cultures in different parts of the world. For example, in Europe, it has historically been used as an instrument in folk music.


In Africa, it is used in traditional Yoruba music. The tambourine has also played a significant role in American music. It was commonly used by marching bands, such as those present at the Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C. The tambourine is a widely recognized symbol of the U.S Tambourines are often used in Turkish traditional music to signal the end of a song.

If the player holds it with two hands, it is known as a shamayim tambourine. The instrument is frequently listed as one of the most common instruments in the Middle East.


Claves are a type of percussion instrument that is made of two pieces of wood. They are traditionally used in Latin, jazz, Afro-Cuban, and Brazilian music. Claves are usually shaken together to create an open sound or tapped together for a closed sound. Claves are also used in ceremonial music.

Expert Tip: Contemporary claves are made of metal and thinner wood. Clavichords are made of metal and thin wood, while classical models are made of wood and metal. Claves are also known as clavos (Spanish).


A timpani is a large drum that is used in orchestras and drum corps. It has a tight, focused sound and it’s played with a drumstick that has a ball on the end of it. The name “timpani” comes from the Italian word for “kettledrum” because the instrument was originally made of copper.

Its modern counterpart is the snare drum. Traditionally, timpani was played with sticks that had a wooden head and a ball end. The wooden head of the stick was placed on the bell (or skin) of the drum and struck with a drum stick.

The Guiro


The guiro is a percussion instrument that is played similarly to a washboard or a scrape-board. It’s created by scraping the teeth of the comb into the bumps of the board with a stick. The sound is similar to that of a ratchet. This instrument can be found in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. The instrument can be made of wood or bamboo.

The African Kana-kara Drum (ankudu)

The African Kana-kara Drum (ankudu) is a traditional African drum. It’s made of wood, and it’s played by striking the skin with a stick. It’s typically tuned to a specific pitch, which is usually determined by the person who’s playing it. This instrument is often used to accompany an ensemble of musicians.

The drum can be either a frame drum or a skin-on-frame drum. It’s played in the same pattern as the Okeke drum in Africa, where it’s a rhythmic accompaniment to an ensemble of musicians. The drum is often used like the African Kora where the drum is struck with two sticks.


A ride, also called a cymbal, is a metal percussion instrument in the percussion family. The name of the instrument is derived from its capability of producing sustained, loud sound or “rides” without ever completely striking it. Rides are typically circular with a hole through the middle to allow for changing their pitch.

These circular discs are usually made of copper though any metal may be used, and are played by being struck on one side with a drumstick or mallet Rides are a type of percussion instrument that was first used by ancient cultures in Sumer and India before being popularized in the Middle East.

The earliest evidence of the use of rides dates back to 6,000 BCE. The instrument is thought to have originated from Sumerian times. Rides consist of a piece of hollow metal that is struck with a drumstick or mallet and produces a ringing sound.

The circular shape of the disc allows for multiple sounds to be produced, which are often interchangeable and can be adjusted by rotating the instrument. Rides come in various forms they can be hollow or solid, circular or flat, and long or short. The length may vary depending on the size of the drumstick used.

The discs are typically made of copper, bronze, brass, or wood, although some may use other materials as well. The instrument can be played in a variety of ways, a drumstick may be used to strike the disc or it may be played with fingers (canna da percussion) or with a bow.



Cowbells were originally designed to notify farmers in the countryside when their cows were ready for milking. These days, cowbells are commonly used in percussion music and dances originating from India, Brazil, and Peru. They come in different shapes and sizes and can be played with a striker or just using their natural timbre.

Cowbells are often made of cast iron and can be played by striking the bell with a wooden mallet or by hitting them with one’s hand.

Expert Tip: The origin of the cowbell can be traced back to the 15th century when a farmer named “Nayak ” invented the first one to call his cattle in India.


Shakers are small, oval-shaped percussive instruments that are often shaken to produce a rattling sound. They are traditionally made of metal, plastic, or ceramic materials. Some shakers have a screw on the top so that they can be screwed tightly for use on various surfaces.

There are many types of shakers, including tambourines, egg shakers, and the Shaker Bottle. Well-known shakers include The large ceramic Shaker Bottle, which was produced by Shakers Inc, in the 1920s and 1930s is one of the most recognizable and sought-after shaker instruments.



A glockenspiel is a percussion instrument made up of tuned metal bars. The bars are held in a frame and played by striking them with mallets. The name “glockenspiel” is German for “play of bells”. It is also known as the bell-kit, particularly in Great Britain. In the United States, it is sometimes called the glockenspiel or the bell piano.

It is also known as a bandore. The glockenspiel is an important instrument in Classical music. The glockenspiel is also widely used in popular music, especially traditional music, and Celtic music. It is a mainstay of the British brass band. In Germany, it is called a Glockenklavier meaning “guitar with bell”.



The marimba is a musical instrument made from a set of wooden bars, metal wires, and a resonator. The instrument originated in the Congo, but it’s known for being popular in Latin American countries such as Peru and Nicaragua. Marimbas are used mainly in orchestras, although they’re also used in traditional African music.

Expert Tip: In much of Latin America, the marimba is also associated with folkloric celebrations because it was originally an instrument made from natural materials by indigenous people.

Marimbas are also the base of several other musical instruments and ensembles, such as the concertina, the quena, and the charango.



A xylophone is a form of percussion instrument It typically consists of wooden bars mounted on a metal frame, each tuned to a note and laid out in the shape of a keyboard. They have arranged in groups called octaves with each group typically made up of thirteen bars that have their designated place on the xylophone.

The term “xylophone” can be used to refer to both this type of instrument as well as the whole family of instruments that includes this one. The xylophone can be traced back to ancient Egypt, and the word itself is Greek in origin, deriving from xulon (Greek: xylon) meaning wood. The Persian name for this type of instrument is “kamancheh”.

Other names in different languages include the Turkish “saz”, the Greek “saxophone”, the French “xylophone” and the Italian “xilofono”. The first xylophone was made in the 6th century BC. The Greek philosopher Pythagoras is known to have played a type of xylophone in his lifetime.

In the first century BCE, the Roman emperor Nero is said to have had a xylophone orchestra that would accompany him as he played the harp. During the Medieval Era, xylophones were mainly used in monasteries, as a part of religious rituals, and as a result, xylophones became quite popular in Europe.

In the 14th century, an instrument made of wood and metal resembling a xylophone came into use. In the early 17th century, a xylophone with keys in place of wooden bars was invented by Francesco. The instruments are often melodic percussion instruments, but they can also be treated as timpani.

Tubular bells

Tubular bells are ancient instruments that originated in the Middle East. The player rocks the tubes to produce a bell-like sound. In the Middle East and now in parts of Africa and India, they are used as instruments to play religious and other types of music. The traditional Indian version of tubular bells is called the mridangam.

It consists of multiple sets of steel tubes with resonators that are connected, each set tuned to a specific note. The mridangam is played with the hands, drum sticks, and knees.



A vibraphone is a musical instrument that consists of a set of tuned metal bars that are struck with mallets to produce musical tones. The vibraphone is similar to the marimba and like the marimba, it has bars of the graduated length and there are typically two sets, upper and lower.

There are also two types, the common or “straight” vibraphone, and the “bent” or slant-vibraphone, where the bars are bent at a 90-degree angle, making it easier to play the instrument horizontally. The vibraphone is the most widely used instrument in dance music but also occurs in popular music, jazz, rock and roll, country music, and classical music.

Expert Tip: The vibraphone was first patented by Italian instrument maker and musician Giuseppe Carpia in 1908. The name is derived from the Italian word vibrazione, meaning “to vibrate”, which is why it is also called the “vibrating drum”.

Vibrato, a type of vocal embellishment using vibrato effects on the instrument, grew out of the playing style known as “bowing” in early 20th-century jazz.

The gong

Gong is a spiritual or ceremonial percussion instrument, traditionally carried by an individual called the “gong-man”. The gong is one of the most frequently used percussion instruments in various types of music across the world.

The earliest known use of this instrument is as a form of entertainment by Ancient Romans, and since then it has become a popular instrument even for new age music. In the Hornbostel-Sachs classification system, they are classified as Concussion idiophones.


There are many percussion instruments that help create rhythm. They can play on their own or accompany other instruments. A drummer may choose the instrument they want to use depending on the style of music that he or she is playing.

Instruments like cymbals, tambourines, and triangles are used in Latin music whereas drums, xylophones, and maracas are used in rock music. These percussion instruments are very important in a band. The sound of the music depends a lot on the quality of all of these instruments in the band.

Each one of them has a special sound that can enhance the rhythm or even change it completely. After some time, you’ll be able to hear the difference between all of them. They add a lot of excitement when they are played by a professional band. A lot of people say that the music is not complete until they add all of these different sounds.

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