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Unpitched Percussion

Someone recently found my blog by searching for a definition of "unpitched percussion."  This post is for you!  Welcome to my blog.

Unpitched percussion is a family of instruments that you hit that do not have assigned pitches in the Western tempered scale.  That is not to say that the instrument cannot have ascending and descending pitches.  Indeed, most percussion instruments have sounds that change pitches.  Here are some notable examples.

Frog Guiro

Bongos and congas

Wind Chimes

Wood blocks or temple blocks


Other unpitched percussion instruments are textural.  They add flavor to the stew of the orchestra.  Here are some examples.
Snare drum

Cymbals, triangle, tom toms, and other unpitched percussion are shown in this San Francisco Symphony segment.  Pitched percussion is shown too (timpani).

Virtually any object can be made into an unpitched percussion instrument.  The show, "Stomp" is all about this phenomenon.

Pitched percussion is any instrument that does have an assigned pitch in the Western scale.  Among these instruments are timpani, piano, chimes (church chimes, not wind chimes), glockenspiel, xylophone, metalophone (usually only in Orff ensembles), and marimba.  I can't mention the marimba without mentioning Dame Evelyn Glennie.  Here she is giving a Ted Talk.


Joi Duncan said…
The video of the STOMP dancers with the brooms is phenomenal! I can't wait to begin organizing a field trip to see these guys in action.... I think my older students will enjoy this. It never ceases to amaze me how much they love to "hit" things!
Joi Duncan said…
Thanks for posting the video of the STOMP dancers! They are absolutely amazing! I can't wait to organize a field trip to see them... My older students (who enjoy "hitting" items) will definitely enjoy this one....

I want to incorporate drum sticks into my curriculum (I teach Elementary General Music). Anyone have ideas? I know that the wooden drum sticks are inexpensive but I need a lesson plan around them.
Unknown said…
Thanks for posting!

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