Most percussion instruments have a distinct tone; even drums are tuned. However, a distinction is usually made based on whether the instrument can play a definite pitch or not.
The timpani, xylophone, vibraphone, bell, tubular bells, crotales and glockenspiel all play a definite pitch. The snare drum, bass drum, afuche, castanets, claves, cowbell, cymbal, doyra, güiro, maracas, mendoza, ratchet, temple blocks, tom-tom, timbales, triangle, vibraslap, washboard, whip and wood block do not in general. However, some percussionists tune drum heads to specific pitches when recording albums or in preparation for specific composer requirements. Gongs can be tuned or untuned – the most familiar type of gong in the west, the chau gong (sometimes called a tam-tam), is untuned. Tuned cymbals exist but are rare.
The two major categories are membranophones, which add timbre to the sound of being struck, such as drums, and idiophones, which sound of themselves, such as the triangle. The tambourine is both membranophone and idiophone, having both a head and jingles.
Names for percussionists
The general term for a musician who plays percussion instruments is percussionist.
- drummer: someone who primarily plays drums including the drumset and hand drums.
- timpanist: a timpani player
- marimbist, marimbero : a marimba player
- timbalero , timbero : someone who plays timbales
- congalero , conguero : someone who plays congas
Percussionists are also called upon to play a variety of instruments which are not percussive or are not generally thought of as percussion instruments. These include the lion's roar , wind machine s, whistles and duck call s, air raid sirens, doorbells, car horn s, pistols, typewriters and the glass harmonica.
- drum (including a list of drums)
- tuned percussion
- orchestral percussion
- Latin-American percussion
- Percussive Arts Society