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Welcome to Percussion

Tuned Percussion

As the title suggests, tuned percussion instruments are pitched and include xylophone, glockenspiel and tubular bells.  Having been a fixture in the orchestra for over a century, recent film scores have helped seen a surge in popularity.


The timpani or kettle drums were first used in orchestras in 1675.  They have developed over the years and now use a pedal to increase/decrease the tension of the skin to alter the pitch of the drum.  In an orchestra or band it is common to see them in groups of three or four, each being a different size, thus being able to play different pitches.  Here is an excerpt of Elliott Carter's Moto Perpetuo showing how versatile the instrument can be.

Useful information

Who can play percussion

Any age; pupils start out on the snare drum and can learn other percussion instruments as they progress.


If it is not suitable for everyone, what alternative instrument would you recommend and why?

Percussion is suitable for everyone!  A similar instrument is the piano – like percussionists, pianists can play most styles and uses similar skills, such as spatial awareness.

What qualities of percussion are special?

Easily transferable skills; you can play a huge variety of percussion instruments using the same basic techniques. 

Percussionists often get to play sound effects and comical sounds in ensembles as well as traditional percussion instruments!

Learning to play any instrument develops lots of new skills.  What are the particular benefits of playing percussion?

You develop good hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness.

You can play most styles of music from around the world (classical, folk, pop, jazz, rock, latin, etc.)

Playing in ensembles develops musicianship and teamwork skills.

How is percussion similar/different to other instruments?

There are a great variety of percussion instruments from around the world; the most common in British music are the Snare Drum, Drum Kit, Xylophone (tuned wooden bars), Glockenspiel (tuned metal bars) and Timpani (Kettledrums).

Percussion is unique because pupils are able to learn and play a wide variety of instruments quite quickly compared to other disciplines.

Are there any famous musicians or pieces associated with percussion?

Evelyn Glennie; Blue Man Group; Stomp, Nebojsa Zivkovic, Jim Kilpatrick.