The Percussion family has a number of different instruments, and over time every member of the percussion section in band must learn to play every instrument in the section. In elementary band, there are usually only two instruments studied; the Bells and the Snare Drum.
The Bells are a keyboard percussion instrument. Sound is created by striking pieces of metal with a plastic or wood mallet. The notes are configured like a piano keyboard and usually have the names of the notes printed on each bar. Because of this similarity to the piano, it is desirable for percussion students to have prior piano experience. Click here to hear the bells.
The Snare Drum is the smallest drum in the percussion section. This is the most popular drum and is used in nearly all styles of music. For beginners, practice pads are often used to dampen the sound. Click here to hear the snare drum.
Both bells and snare drum are members of the percussion family. Players of these instrument are unique in that they don’t just play one instrument. Percussion players are responsible for learning an entire family of instruments. Beginning percussion students may learn the bells, snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, and several other small percussion instruments. Young percussionists frequently assume that they will just play the snare drum and move on to a drum set but all instruments have to be learned at some point. Since each of the percussion instruments are quite different, many band directors start students out on one instrument like the bells for the first few weeks of band and then teach the other instruments later in the year.
Beginning percussion kits that can be purchased usually come with two instruments, a set of bells and a practice pad. Some students may want to purchase their own snare drum as well. A set of bells and a snare drum will get most students through an entire year of band and many school band programs do not even require students to own their own snare drum. By the way, the practice pad is a nearly silent version of a snare drum. It has the same feel and bounce but students can practice on a practice pad at home without frightening the pets or parents.
The many instruments included in the percussion family include any instrument that is struck, shaken or scraped in order to produce the sound. Advanced percussion instruments include the timpani drums or kettle drums, the xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, chimes and many, many others. Most of the larger instruments are not used in young bands but all of these instruments are practiced by advanced players.