The History of Australia

History of Percussion Instruments

Anthropologists and historians repeatedly speculate that percussion instruments were the first musical apparatus ever came into being. But with the utmost certainty, the human voice was the first musical instrument, and inevitably, percussion tools such as feet, hands, rocks, sticks and logs came in second to the on-going evolution of music. When humans developed tools for hunting and agriculture, their knowledge alongside with skill, enabled them to produce more sophisticated devices. They use slit drum, made from a hollowed-out tree trunk. For instance, a simple log may have been shaped to generate louder tones (log drum) and may have been pooled to create many sounds (set of log drums).



History of Percussion Instruments

As time moved on, so is the evolution of percussion instruments. In the early 10th century, it was known that most tribes in Africa use sorts of percussions such as djembe, mascaras employed in Latin America, kalimbas in Asia and seed rattles in Australia for their recreational and worship rituals and sometimes used in sending signals.

Many of the percussion instruments were familiar with in the western world come from the Balkans, the Levant and elsewhere in the near east. European percussion instruments advanced with the import of drums and other instruments brought back by returning crusaders in the 11th to 13th centuries.

Percussion instruments vary widely in their function within musical ensembles depending on their construction and size; they may produce a strictly percussive sound or have a tonal effect which can be a melodic element. Usually working alongside lower pitched brass and stringed instruments, percussion forms the rhythmic backbone of a composition in performance.

Drums and percussions, as well as bass, are known as the rhythm section of the most popular music genres. Most classical pieces written for an orchestra since the time of Mozart and Haydn are schemed to put emphasis on strings, brass, and woodwinds. However, time and again they include a pair of timpani (kettle drums) although not played continuously. But moderately, they serve to offer new accents when needed.

The 1700s and 1800s saw small percussion instruments such as cymbals and triangles coming into use in the musical setting, though again largely in a supporting role. It wasn't until later that percussion instruments were accorded an equal footing with other tools within the context of the orchestra.

In almost all types of music, percussion plays a fundamental role. In a military parade, it is the strike of the bass drum that holds the soldiers in step and at a normal speed, and it is the snare that endows that crisp, vital air to the tune of a troop. In traditional jazz, one almost instantly thinks of the different rhythm of the hi-hats or the ride cymbal when the word and quote; swing and quote; is uttered. In more current favorite music genres, it is almost impossible to name at least three or four rock, hip-hop, rap, funk, punk, techno, grunge, alternative and blues songs that don?t have some percussive beat maintaining the tune in time.

There are even musical ensembles which perform works consisting entirely of percussion instruments. The range of percussion instruments is varied enough that compositions can express melody, harmony, and rhythm using only percussive elements and of course, these performances are quite a sight to behold.