Unit 5 – Percussion Instruments
Activity 1 – Tuned or Untuned
The heartbeat of the orchestra is located in the percussion section. Percussion instruments sound when they are struck, scraped or shaken. The name percussion means ‘the hitting of one body against another’. In the orchestra, the percussion section provides rhythm and tone colour.
Percussion instruments are made from many materials, but usually consist of either a solid material or a stretched membrane (thin material). Drums, the most well-known members of the percussion family, come in many shapes and sizes, but are all constructed with a membrane stretched across a frame or hollow container.
Percussion instruments are classified as tuned or untuned. Tuned instruments play specific pitches or notes, just like the woodwind, brass and string instruments. Untuned instruments produce a sound with an indefinite pitch, like the sound of a hand knocking on a door.
With the use of IT and other audiovisual aids, the teacher introduces the percussion family and their position in the orchestra. Besides keeping the rhythm, they can also be used for effects which will enhance the full
orchestral sounds. The teacher explains the difference between tuned and untuned percussion. Where percussion instruments are not available, the use of IT and audiovisual aids is encouraged.