Untuned Percussion

Untuned Percussion instruments, also called 'unpitched percussion,' are percussion instruments with a set or unalterable pitch though some instruments may seem to possess certain melodic changeable pitches when playing them. Today, the newer 'unpitched percussion'  reference is a more preferred way of saying the traditional 'untuned percussion.' Both are modern references in use by percussion enthusiasts. To clarify, untuned may mean that it can't be tuned to a specific pitch but though seemingly alterable, the pitch tone of the instrument actually remains the same, as in the case of most basic drum types.

The origins of both untuned and tuned percussion instruments is vast and varies greatly per the specific instrument. Most drums in use today are modern versions or inventions though drums actually date back as far as primitive times. People have been beating drums literally for millenniums.

Diagram of Untuned Percussion Instruments

Using Untuned Percussion Instruments


Untuned percussion instruments are numerous including drums, gongs, chimes, xylophones, and more. Most untuned percussion are classified as directly struck membranophones, producing their sound by directly striking a stretched membrane with a beat stick or mallet.

Playing untuned percussion instruments is 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 holds a beater, beat stick, drumstick, mallet, all either hard of soft-headed to strike the head, keys, or pipes of the instrument.

Image right: The drum kit, bass drum, timpani, and xylophone are perfect examples of directly struck untuned percussion instruments.



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


Where in the Orchestra

The Untuned Percussion  is located to the left rear sharing the space designated for percussion which encircles the rear of the orchestra.

Song Featuring Untuned Percussion Instruments

Rock recording artists 'The Ventures' with Max Weinberg  perform 'Wipe Out,' released in 1963.

Noteworthy Percussionists


Jack Bell


Elvin Ray Jones


Philip D C Collins


Don Hugh Henley