Tuned Percussion

Tuned Percussion instruments, also called 'pitched percussion,' are percussion instruments with an alterable pitch and are capable of melodic changes of pitch. Today, the newer 'pitched percussion'  reference is a more preferred way of saying the traditional 'tuned percussion.' Both are modern references in use by percussion enthusiasts. To clarify, tuned may mean that it can be tuned to different pitches but though alterable, the pitch tone of most tuned percussion instruments carry only a specific number of pitches they will make when playing them. Both terms are vague and confusing to many including percussionists.

The origins of both untuned and tuned percussion instruments is vast and varies greatly per the specific instrument. Most tuned percussion instruments in use today may actually date back many centuries. Who knows how long people have been making toy instruments for children that rattle, hum, or even sing?

Diagram of Tuned Percussion Instruments

Using Tuned Percussion Instruments


Tuned percussion instruments are numerous including rattles, maracas, triangles, and more. Most tuned percussion are classified as shaken, plucked, or friction membranophones or idiophones.

Playing tuned percussion instruments is typically simple in most cases but do require the usual musical training and expertise as other orchestral instruments in order to read and time musical scores appropriately for a wide range of vastly different percussion instruments. Percussionists are required to be well versed and versatile enough to perform on an array of instruments and devices, both tuned and untuned, used in the composition and performance of music.

The player literally shakes, rubs, plucks, and hums, or the instrument itself makes sound simply through its construction. For example, by humming into a kazoo, it creates a buzzing sound from the hum. By shaking a tambourine, it produces a somewhat melodic rattling sound from its jingles. The player may also beat on the head in rhythm with the hands. The use of tuned percussion varies greatly.

Image right: The tambourine, maracas, and cabacas are perfect examples of tuned percussion instruments.



The Hornbostel–Sachs System classifies most Tuned Percussion as shaken, plucked, or friction membranophones, instruments which produce sound through the vibrations of a tightly stretched membrane which is struck, rattled, rubbed, or shaken. Other percussion instruments are classified as directly or indirectly struck, or singing idiophones and membranophones.


Where in the Orchestra

The Tuned Percussion  is centrally located sharing the space designated for percussion which encircles the rear of the orchestra.

Song Featuring Percussion Instruments

Australian Christian Rock band 'For King and Country' perform 'No Turning Back' during its recording session at the Grand Victor Sound Live Room, Nashville, TN in 2012.

Noteworthy Percussionists


Jack Bell


Elvin Ray Jones


Vic Firth


Jonathan Haas