Percussion instruments, there are many!


We highlighted a few membranophones of the world a while back. Now seems like a good time to touch on some culturally significant drums from Asia, in advance of our trip in January.


Some of our crew will be visiting a few locations in China and Japan early in the new year. In China drums date back as far as 4000 years to the Shang Dynasty. Whereas in Japan they date back around 1500 years to the late 6th century.


In western culture taiko refers to a specific family of percussion instruments. However, in Japan taiko refers to the wide range of percussion instruments included in Japanese culture. Taiko* date back to the 6th century in Japan, and can be noted in history as being used to encourage troops, and to intimidate enemies.


Taiko typically consist of a drum shell with a head on either side of the body. Several fastening systems exist, with the rope being the most common. These drums can be tuneable, or non-tuneable depending on the construction method. There are three size classifications for taiko. Shime, chu-daiko, and o-daiko, from highest to lowest pitch respectively. The chu-daiko is the most common, and is about the size of a barrel.



These ceremonial Chinese drums are split into two categories, the Xiao Tanggu and the Da Tanggu. Tanggu drums are dual headed and barrel shape. Two sticks are used to strike the instrument.


Bell Plate

The Bell Plate is an idiophone with deep roots in China. The thick, hanging metal plates are struck with a mallet to produce a sound similar to a bell. The bell plate is played on it’s own, or in a group. If only one idiophone is required for the particular arrangement the player may hang it from one arm and strike it with their free hand.



Gongs are easily split into three categories. Suspended, bossed, and bowl gongs.


Suspended gongs are flat, or slightly convex and produce a “crash” sound. These are sometimes referenced as tam-tams.


Bossed gongs, also known as nipple gongs, generate a tuned note. These drums produce two unique sounds depending on where they are hit.


Another name for the bowl gongs is standing or resting bell for their inverted form. These idiophones date back to the Shang Dynasty. Small bowl gongs are used at home are called namarini.



The upcoming trip to Asia has been in the plans for quite some time now. The departure date is approaching quickly and we are beginning to feel the excitement! If you saw our posts yesterday you may have caught on that there might be something in the works before the year is though.



*western reference from here

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