Percussion instruments are an important part of orchestras even though people often think of string instruments when they picture an orchestra. Percussionists in an orchestra will often play several different instruments during a performance. This is unlike other musicians who will usually only plays one instrument, so a violin player will only play the violin and so on.
The Key Instruments
A percussionist though is trained on a range of percussion instruments. Thus, they may play the xylophone, or the snare drum. Other percussion instruments in an orchestra include the cymbals, piano, gongs, tambourine, and bass drum. There are also sometimes tympani, celesta, maracas, castanets or chimes. There are a number of percussion instruments that can be played as part of an orchestral performance. Percussion instruments are those musical instruments that make a sound when they are hit. They play an important role in music in general, whether to keep rhythm or to emphasize important moments in a piece of music.
Percussion instruments are used in various ways to augment the music. The snare drum, for instance, is used primarily to highlight part of music, and to emphasize crescendos and other variations. The bass drum is also used to emphasize parts of the music, particularly strong moments, when it may even be combined with the cymbals to further accentuate the music. The bass drum produces very low notes and can be struck hard or gently depending on what is required for the music. Concert toms are sometimes used as well to provide shading to the music. Concert toms like concert snare drums should have a warm quality to the sounds they make.
The piano can be used for melody and harmony and thus can be played solo. Kettledrums are also known as tympani and can support harmony and rhythm as they are tuned instruments. The tympani are more difficult to play than it may appear because often the percussionist has to alter pitch during the course of a musical performance. In general, the percussion instruments are trickier to master than it may seem, particularly in an orchestra where a percussionist has to be aware of everything that is happening around them.
The Smaller Instruments
The cymbals are one musical instrument that is usually easy to distinguish when listening to an orchestra perform. This is because the sound is very different and really stands out. It can be used to make a loud noise to emphasize a dramatic moment in the music or it can be played more with a delicate touch to create subtle emphasis on some part of the music. Cymbals can be clashed together or gently struck depending on what sort of sound you are looking for.
The triangle, tambourine, maracas or a range of percussion instruments can be used to indicate a change in the music or to accentuate a specific place in the piece of music that the orchestra is playing. Next time you listen to or attend an orchestral performance, you should remember that percussions are a key part of the music being played.