Percussion Instruments – Types and Classification of Percussion Instruments

Percussion Instruments

The percussion musical instruments are played by striking or scraping them using a beater. Scraping or rubbing can also be the other way of playing this instrument. These instruments are often played with music to provide beat like the snare drums, cymbals, bass drums, and so on.

The percussion orchestra constitutes both percussive as well as non-percussive instruments for giving the effects of percussion. The percussion instruments are the tambourine, cymbals, bass drums. The non-percussion instruments include whistles, sirens, various keyboard percussive instruments as well.

Percussion Instruments

The percussion instruments form the most significant part of a musical ensemble. These instruments are also called the ‘heartbeat’ of any orchestra.

Percussion instruments list-

Percussion instruments include-

  1. Dhol
  2. Tabla
  3. Dhap
  4. Mridangam
  5. Xylophone
  6. Drum
  7. Snare drum
  8. Cymbals
  9. Timpani
  10. Piano

Types of Percussion Instruments

Percussion instruments are of two main types: pitched and unpitched percussion instruments. Pitched percussions have specific notes and pitches while the latter lacks the identified pitch.

Classification of the types of percussion musical instruments

Tuned Percussion

Pitched Percussion instruments are also called tuned percussion. These instruments provide a specifically identified pitch to a song. Examples include glockenspiel, marimba, xylophone, tubular bells, and vibraphone.

Untuned Percussion

The unpitched percussions are also called untuned percussions. These do not have any specific pitch or identified pitch. Examples include bass drum, snare drum, claves, gong, suspended cymbal, tam-tam, tenor drum, woodblock, triangle, tom-toms, agogo bells, flexatone, and tambourines.

Latin/Afro – Caribbean and Persian Percussion

These instruments are categorized according to their places of origin. Examples are Tombak, Daf, and Handpan.

Indian Percussion musical Instruments

The instruments of percussion which had their origin and are used in Indian music are known as the Indian Percussion Instruments. It includes,


This is one of the most famous percussion instruments which are played in Indian classical and light music. This includes two pieces of percussion instruments. Tabla is believed to have originated from such instruments, pakhawaj or mridangam.

The left drum is also known as the male drum in tabla is called Duggi or bayan or the Dhaga. On the other hand, the right-hand drum is called the female drum and is known by the name Dayan or the treble. The woods which are attached to the tabla are used to correct the pitch according to the music. The most popular artist of tabla was Ustad Rashid Khan.

kathak instrument tabla
kathak instrument tabla


This is a barrel-shaped instrument and a North Indian version of the Mridangam. Its left side is similar to the bayan of the tabla and the right side is similar to the Dayan of the tabla. One of the oldest percussion instruments of India. Its rhythms are called bol which are mnemonic syllables for playing the instrument.

This instrument is played along with the dhrupad and dhammar singers. Pakhawaj was also played along with the Odyssey dance and Haveli Sangeet in Rajasthan.

Famous Pakhawaj players were Gopal Das, Ramashish Pathak, Laxmi Narayan Pawar, Arjun Shejwal, Ramji Upadhyaya, Kelucharan Mahapatra, Taranath Rao.

Pakhawaj - Indian Percussion Instrument
Pakhawaj – Indian Percussion Instrument


This is the instrument that is used in Carnatic music. Mridangam is used to give rhythm to South Indian music. This instrument has two sides of playing the instrument and constitutes one wooden body. This also has a shape of a barrel with the right-hand side smaller than the left-hand side. The left side of the instrument is called Tappi and has two layers of circles. The right side consists of three rings. The middle ring is like a pasting that is made with its periphery. This instrument also needs the adjusting of the pitch like that of tabla. The famous artists include Palghat Mani Iyer and Umayalapuram Shivaraman.

Mridangam – Indian Percussion Instrument


this is an instrument used to keep the rhythm. One side is hollow while the other side is made up of animal skin. It is made up of wood and is attached with leather stretched to the frame. This is played along with the dance form called Dhap.

Dhap – Indian Percussion Instrument


This instrument is quite a popular one in South India. This is played along with various dance forms in Kerala, like the Kathakali and Koodiyattam. Chenda is also used in Karnataka along with the folk dance-drama Yakshagana. It is cylinder-shaped and made up of jackfruit wood. The size of this instrument is two feet in length and one foot in diameter.

This instrument is hung from the neck of the player and consists of sticks made of the Champpangu tree.


This consists of two heads with treble heads and the bass head on either side of the instruments. This is a common instrument played along with light music, folk music, and bhajans. The presence of metal hooks helps in adjusting the pitch along with the music.


This is a barrel-shaped drum that is used to create rhythm along with the music. Dhol is made up of sesame wood and is worn from the neck. This is played using a thin stick made up of cane and the other one is made up of wood and is thicker.  


This is a South Indian musical instrument and is like a mud pot. This is made up of clay and iron and copper fillings. It is considered to be the secondary percussion instrument of Carnatic music after the Mridangam. The instrument is generally played on its neck. The pitch of the instrument depends according to the size of the mud pot. The player sits cross-legged to play the instrument whereby the open end is kept towards the belly of the player.

Difference between Indian and Western Percussion Instruments

The Indian and the Western percussion instruments are quite different from each other. Its origins are also different. While Indian percussion instruments are mostly very simple, western percussion instruments are quite complex. The percussion instruments of India are used in light music, classical, and are traditional in origin. Western percussion instruments are used in western songs of pop, band performances, rock music.

The Indian percussion instruments include dhols, mridangam, pakhawaj, tabla, ghatam. The western instruments include various kinds of drums, cymbals, tambourines, and so on.


The Indian percussion music is generally used along with various traditional music and is unique. It provides tone and rhythm to the classical, light, and folk music of India.

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