The percussion family is the largest in the orchestra. Unlike most of the other players in the orchestra, a percussionist will usually play many different instruments in one piece of music.

The most common percussion instruments in the orchestra include the timpani, xylophone, cymbals, triangle, snare drum, bass drum, tambourine, maracas, gongs, chimes, celesta, and piano. 

Percussion instruments include any instrument that makes a sound when it is hit, shaken, or scraped. Some percussion instruments are tuned and can sound different notes and some are un-tuned with no definite pitch. There are many percussion instruments that are unique to different cultures, so these are just a few examples of the more well-known types. 

  • Tambourine


    A tambourine is a percussion instrument resembling a shallow drum with metal discs in slots around the edge, known as zils.
  • Timpanist in concert


    Timpani, or kettle drums, are large drums made up of a membrane tightly stretched across a copper hemispherical drum.
  • Youth orchestra member playing glockenspiel in concert

    Xylophone and friends

    The xylophone originally came from Africa and Asia, but has a Greek name that means "wood sound”. The modern xylophone has wooden bars or keys arranged like the keys of the piano, which the player hits with a mallet.
  • Trinagle


    The triangle is, of course, a metal bar shaped like a triangle.
  • Cymbals


    A cymbal is a percussion instrument of indefinite pitch consisting of a thin circular piece of brass, which vibrates when clashed together with another cymbal or struck with a stick.
  • Drum kit being played in youth band concert

    Drum kit

    The drum kit is a collection of instruments including drums and cymbals and other additional instruments that are grouped together and played by one musician.

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