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Definition of percussion

Percussion instruments

A percussion instrument refers to a musical instrument whose sound emission resulting from the striking or scratching of a membrane or a resonant material.

This family of instruments can be used in all types of music, traditional music great symphony orchestra music classical - for example in the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta Bela Bartok (the celesta is also a percussion instrument with a keyboard).

They formed probably the first musical instruments and an integral part of most musical genres.

Generally, some elements of percussion instruments used by the drummer in a band. But sometimes, the percussionist has a full place in the orchestra with or without a drummer, and possibly even take the place of some or all of the other instruments with the advent of electronics, echoing the box rhythms position dominant that it had.

We distinguish percussion skin (or membranophones) idiophones. Also found in this category Chordophones few, but it is quite exceptional.

The Membranophones

A membranophone is a percussion instrument whose sounds are produced by the vibration of a membrane stretched over a frame.

The membrane may be hit by a hand like a djembe , an instrument (wands, brooms, etc..), as on the snare. It may also enter into vibration by the friction of a rod fixed to the skin stretched over a resonating drum like cuica (friction drum).

The striking of a skin (animal or synthetic) stretched over a drum, with sticks or hands, creates a sound that is amplified by the soundboard and the possible addition of stamps. The pitch depends on the size of the drum (eg bass drum delivers a sound more serious than the snare) and the tension of the skin. Membranophones count the snare drum, bass drum, drum, tambourine.

The Idiophones

A idiophone is a percussion instrument in which the material itself produces the sound at impact, either by an external instrument (like a stick) or by another part of the instrument itself.

Idiophones (or autophone) are probably older than membranophones because of the simplicity of their design. The family gathers instruments that are not strings (Chordophones) or membrane (membranophones) or wind (aerophones). The vegetable matter, animal or mineral such as wood, bamboo, horn, or plastic, glass, metal, and stone ... are used as such. The term comes from the Greek idios idiophone which refers to the notion of "self". Many of these instruments have a simple structure and is the totality of the instrument itself (idio-) that vibrates, producing sound (phone).
Idiophones are divided according to their mode of "shock". There are basically seven modes:

  • by rapping (implies a striking element and an element struck motionless in general)
  • by scraping,
  • by clash (two hit-striking elements are twins and mobile, one goes to meet each other),
  • by pounding (usually element struck by several strikers)
  • by shaking
  • by pinching
  • by friction (some may clash idiophones to temporarily use this class, by their mode of play: the case of cymbals can be clashed as much as rubbed).

Idiophones instrumental family are certainly the most represented and the most performed worldwide.

The Chordophones

Some string instruments are percussion instruments because the strings are struck in rhythm and can produce a sound instrument given they accompany.

A stringed instrument, also called cordophone, is a musical instrument in which sound is produced by the vibration of one or more strings.

These vibrations are calculated to obtain a specific frequency (eg 440 Hz for A3 piano), which itself is amplified by the body of the instrument.

The strings have undergone many changes, notably due to the technology available at the time of manufacture of the device (plant fibers to primitive civilizations, synthetic fibers, nylon, actually) but the location (in horsehair Asia, Far East silk ...). To improve the elasticity, the makers of the rope around a steel wire, then, to improve the strength, they decided to surround him with a metal wire (copper, iron, ...).

There are four main modes of play (excluding contemporary modes) on Chordophones:

  • by pinching the strings with the fingers, a plectrum (or pick), tabs or a mechanism
  • by hitting with sticks or small hammer (like the piano)
  • by rubbing with a bow (the breach of braccio, violin ...)
  • with open strings (sympathetic strings, viola d'amore).

The history of stringed instruments goes back thousands of years. Initially, the instrument was probably only one string (like the bull-roarer ), and this is that over the centuries that this type of instrument was perfected. From ancient Egypt, we knew the players on the harp, the Middle Ages, minstrels accompanied the lute , etc..

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Creation date : 06/02/2009 10:21
Category : Files - Dossiers musique-Definitions
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The bull-roarer or rhombe

The rhombe or bullroarer (in English) is a primitive wind instrument using the friction of the air to produce sound.
This aerophone is probably the oldest known instrument (we have found some old models of 17 000-25 000 years according to sources in the Dordogne or the Amazon.
It is universally prevalent among first peoples (New Guinea, Australia, North America, South Africa) where it is associated with hunting or rituals.
The roaring sound was compared to that of wind, thunder, the cries of gods, spirits or ancestors intercessors between the earthly and the supernatural world natural, sometimes associated with rites of passage or initiations (in Irian Jaya for example).
The rhombe also served as a bogeyman to deer and elephant (eg Malaysia).
In Australia, the rhombes (called tjurunga or churinga) are pieces of wood lying and flat, carved, painted (or both) on both sides of sacred designs.

Classical period

The Music "Classic" includes music written by agreement between the death of Johann Sebastian Bach is 1750 and the beginning of the Romantic period or the 1820s. By extension, called  "classical music" all european art music, music from the Renaissance to contemporary music. It is therefore necessary to separate the classical music, composers whose headlights are Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Christoph Willibald Gluck, and classical music opposed to popular music in the West or elsewhere (referred to "Indian classical music," for example).

The djembe

The djembe is an African percussion instrument consisting of a wooden barrel-shaped calyx on which is mounted skin of a goat or antelope with a tensioning system (originally wooden pegs or ropes skins, now mostly synthetic ropes and iron rings of concrete), which is played with bare hands and with very wide sound spectrum generates a great richness of tone.


The dominant

In tonal music, the dominant means of a fifth degree range.

Whatever the mode - major scale or minor scale - the degree is always a fifth located just above the main level, the tonic, or a perfect fourth below, under the rule reversals.

For example, the note G is the dominant lines of C major and C minor.

The lute

The lute is a musical instrument with plucked strings. The term also refers generally any instrument with strings parallel to a handle. Although close to the guitar, the lute has been a different story and separate the two instruments have coexisted during the main periods of music.  It is of Persian origin (barbat) for the general shape and Arab for the case in striped-glued together.


The plectrums or picks

A plectrum (or pick in the jargon of other guitarists and mandolin players, or just pic or pick in Quebec) is a small accessory that is held between the thumb and index finger to play some stringed instruments. He plays the role of the thumbnail, more resistant.


The rythm

The rhythm is in music, which determines the duration of notes to each other. The rhythm, melody, tempo and nuance are the four main facts to characterize a given musical phrase.

The Symphony Orchestra

A symphony orchestra is a musical ensemble consisting of four families of instruments: strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion.
It comes from the string orchestra of the baroque period which was gradually expanded the oboe, bassoon, sometimes horns, trumpets, and timpani.
The classical period with Gossec, Haydn and Mozart often seen winds s'architecturer by two (2 flutes, 2 oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets).
The desks of the Romantic period s'ordonnancent rather with the addition of three more or less systematic instruments like the piccolo, English horn, bass clarinet, saxophone, contrabassoon, trombones and tuba.
It is also the time who knows the great evolution of percussion.
In the early twentieth century, the symphony can be large, generally, more than eighty musicians, sometimes exceeding the number hundred instrumentalists.
Since the late seventeenth century, its main function is dedicated to the performance in the concert hall, symphonic works and concertos, secular or sacred.
This course is also used for accompaniment in the pit in the opera houses, performances of opera or dance.
The composers of film scores, incidental music heiresses, they too use all the resources and expressive music of the symphony orchestra.