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History & Facts About Percussion Instruments

Percussion instruments are some of the oldest music-makers in the world, perhaps only second to the human voice itself. This diverse family of instruments is integral to music in every known culture, and includes a vast array of musical sounds.


A "percussion instrument" is any instrument whose sound is generated via striking, rubbing, shaking or otherwise impacting a surface to create audible vibrations.


The first percussion instruments were likely human hands and feet used to clap or stomp a rhythm. Eventually, cultures discovered that they could create louder, more varied sounds with crafted surfaces and implements.


All percussion instruments must have a vibrating body or surface. There must also be an impacting tool or striking surface.


The two main types of percussion instruments are idiophones, or "body vibrators," such as cymbals, bells and xylophones; and membraphones, commonly called "drums," which create sound via a single stretched surface.

Fun Fact

Because a piano creates music by striking a taut chord with a hammer, it is technically a percussion instrument called a chordophone.


It is impossible to say where the first percussion instruments were made, though it is likely that the earliest cultures in Africa and Asia had them. Today, percussion instruments are found in every culture around the globe.

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