Drums, cymbals, xylophones, triangles in fact anything that has to be hit in order to make a sound is included in the percussion section.
The Percussion section first carved out its place in the orchestra as a result of the vogue for Turkish marching music in Mozart´s time (the late 18th century) bringing bass drums, snare drums, triangles and cymbals into play. But it is since the start of the 20th century that the variety of other percussion instruments has really taken off. Untuned instruments such as gongs from east Asia or tuned instruments like the marimbas of Africa have been adopted and adapted for use in the modern orchestra and today composers take a truly global approach to using percussion instruments. This process is further encouraged by the percussionists themselves, many of whom are enthusiastic adopters of new instruments and pride themselves on perfecting their skills with an enormous range of instruments.
Percussion instruments provide an enormous range of timbres. Although the word "percussion" means "struck", the percussion family traditionally includes effects that are blown or produced in other ways. In these pages, the various instruments have been classified by timbre and pitching. Some of the instruments classified as 'unpitched' do in fact have pitch, but this is unpredictable or uncontrollable. A catalogue of percussion can never be complete, and it is true to say that any percussion instrument may be integrated into the modern symphony orchestra. These pages cover the most common instruments and a range of more unusual timbres.
Photograph courtesy of Bell Percussion