Percussion instrument

percussion instrument is any object which produces a sound by being hit with an implement, shaken, rubbed, scraped, or by any other action which sets the object into vibration. The term usually applies to an object used in a rhythmic context or with musical intent.

Anthropologists and historians often speculate that percussion instruments were the first musical devices ever created. The human voice was probably the first musical instrument, but percussion instruments such as hands and feet, then sticks, rocks, and logs were almost certainly the next steps in the evolution of humanity.

The earliest percussion instruments were our hands and feet, then "found" objects such as sticks, logs, and hips. As humans developed tools for hunting and eventually agriculture, their skill and technology enabled them to craft more complex instruments. For example, a simple log may have been carved to produce louder tones (a log drum) and instruments may have been combined to produce multiple tones (as in a 'set' of log drums).

Percussion instruments are classified by various criteria sometimes depending on their construction, ethnic origin, function within musical theory and orchestration, or their relative prevalence in common knowledge.

Percussion instruments are sometimes classified as being "pitched" or "unpitched." While valid, this classification is widely seen as inadequate. Rather, it may be more informative to describe percussion instruments in regards to one or more of the following four paradigms:

By methods of sound production
Many texts, including Teaching Percussion by Gary Cook of the University of Arizona, begin by studying the physical characteristics of instruments and the methods by which they produce sound. This is perhaps the most scientifically pleasing assignment of nomenclature whereas the other paradigms are more dependent on historical or social circumstances. Based on observation and experimentation, one can determine how an instrument produces sound and then assign the instrument to one of the following five categories:

An idiophone is any musical instrument which creates sound primarily by way of the instrument vibrating itself, without the use of strings or membranes. It is the first of the four main divisions in the original Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification (see List of idiophones by Hornbostel-Sachs number). Idiophones are probably the oldest type of musical instrument (not counting the human voice). In the early classification of Victor-Charles Mahillon, this group of instruments was called autophones.

Most percussion instruments which are not drums are idiophones. Hornbostel-Sachs divides idiophones into four main sub-categories. The first division is the struck idiophones (sometimes called concussion idiophones). This includes most of the non-drum percussion instruments familiar in the west. They include all idiophones which are made to vibrate by being hit, either directly with a stick or hand (like the wood block, singing bowl, triangle or marimba), or indirectly, by way of a scraping or shaking motion (like maracas or flexatone). Various types of bells fall into both categories.

The other three sub-divisions are rarer. They are plucked idiophones, such as the jew's harp, amplified cactus, kouxian, dan moi, music box or mbira (lamellophone / thumb piano); blown idiophones, of which there are a very small number of examples, the Aeolsklavier being one; and friction idiophones, such as the singing bowl, glass harmonica, glass harp, turntable, verrophone, daxophone, styrophone, musical saw, or nail violin (a number of pieces of metal or wood rubbed with a bow). Other classifications use six main sub-categories, Concussion, Percussion, Rattle, Scraper, Plucked and Friction Idiophones.


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